Where to Eat: Dinner at ¡Viva Navidad! in Disney California Adventure

December 9, 2014, 4:32 PM · The holidays are well underway at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, which are reprising the events the resort debuted last year, as well as many long-time favorites.

Disney California Adventure

After last year's media blitz, the resort hosted a much more low-key media day last weekend, and we took the opportunity to take a closer look at one of the elements we didn't focus on so much last year: ¡Viva Navidad! on the Boardwalk at Disney California Adventure.

During ¡Viva Navidad!, the Paradise Garden Grill switches its menu of Mediterranean-inspired skewers to feature Mexican holiday favorites. There are a few changes this year: The Torta al Pastor is up 50 cents; the Chicken Mole no longer comes with a side of tortillas, and the Mahi Veracruzano is gone, replaced by a Ceviche Plate.

For dinner, Laurie and I chose the Chicken Mole ($12.99),

Chicken Mole

and the Ceviche Plate ($8.49).

Ceviche Plate

I couldn't help but compare this chicken to the rotisserie chicken dinner I ate last month at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Rotisserie Chicken
1/2 Rotisserie Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans ($10.99)

Disney World offered more chicken for two dollars less (a half versus the quarter dark at Disneyland), but Disneyland's meal delivered far more flavor, with a decadent, slightly spicy and chocolatey mole sauce covering the meat. The corn salad and achiote rice blew away the simple mashed potatoes and green beans from Disney World, too... which should be no knock on the Disney Word sides. They were well seasoned, and tasty, but just one-dimensional compared with the much more pungent spices in the Disneyland accompaniments. (Potentially interesting side note: I conned my nearly-two-year-old, French-fry-loving nephew into eating several handfuls of the WDW green beans by telling him they were "green Christmas fries." Hey, whatever gets the job done.)

I missed last year's fish entree, but enjoyed this year's ceviche. With a cool, spicy flavor not unlike a gazpacho, the ceviche included mostly bay shrimp with a smattering of white fish. On a cool California evening, I preferred the mole, but wouldn't hesitate to cool off with the ceviche on a warmer weekend afternoon.

Oh, and here's one more big difference between the meals at Disney World and Disneyland: At Disney World, all that chicken balanced on a flimsy paper plate, and we had to eat with those weak plastic utensils you find at all of Disney World's quick service restaurants. Yet here at Disneyland, we ate off real plates with metal flatware — much better for helping your food keep its heat, while also helping you to enjoy it.

Also helping us to enjoy our meal? The live entertainment.


Insiders know that the stage next to the Paradise Garden Grill hosts some wonderful musicians throughout the year, so I was pleased when I saw Adelaide come to the stage for a set as we were walking to a table, food in hand. Hey, that Cosmic Ray animatronic might be cute (the first time you see it, at least), but it's no match for a hot band laying down salsa classics that had other diners up dancing in front of the stage.

The holidays are supposed to be a celebration, a party. With ¡Viva Navidad!, Disney's found the right mix of spicy food and fun music that should put local fans in a festive mood to fit the season.

Replies (7)

December 9, 2014 at 5:10 PM · I can't say enough good things about Viva Navidad! The food is wonderful (the torta is my favorite) and the live entertainment, particularly the street party, is energetic and genuinely fun. With all the negativity that often swirls around Disney park fandom, Viva Navidad is the kind of thing renews one's faith in what Disney theme parks can be.
December 9, 2014 at 5:20 PM · I enjoyed the food & entertainment at Viva Navidad! last year. It seemed like it flew under the radar with all the other holiday offerings (WOC winter debut, holiday overlays, etc), but glad it's back!
December 10, 2014 at 4:13 AM · I love your green bean idea. Green Christmas fries are a stroke of genius.
December 10, 2014 at 8:34 AM · Robert, you should write an article explaining why the food (and everything else) is better at Disneyland. There must be a reason.

December 10, 2014 at 2:33 PM · A reason Disneyland might have better food is better competition. Since there are thousands of relatively nearby eateries in the LA area, and since most visitors to Disneyland don't stay on site, guests can easily take their stomachs (and their wallets) out of the park at dinner time.
December 11, 2014 at 11:04 AM · It's not just competition with other restaurants -- it's competition with itself. Disneyland sees itself as selling to many more repeat visitors than Disney World does, so it needs to provide something that will keep people coming back throughout the year. Disney World these days sees itself as simply needing to be good enough to meet expectations of a first-time visitor.
December 12, 2014 at 2:49 PM · My husband and I are Disneyland Annual Passholders, even though we live in Northern CA and only get to visit about 4 weekends a year (plus a day or two here and there when we attend conventions in Anaheim). I make a list of all the new foods that have been introduced at the DL parks to try each time we visit, mixed with our favorites such as hot link corn dog, Bengal BBQ (especially the bacon-wrapped asparagus skewer), and Plaza Inn fried chicken (did you know you can buy them as individual pieces as a hearty snack, not just with the full 3-piece meal?). And this is only covering quick service dining - gotta make room for the Chef's Counter at Napa Rose and the Monte Cristo sandwich sometimes too! (though really, one Monte Cristo a year, shared between 2 people, is enough. :) ) For us, the tasty treats at Disneyland are absolutely a big part of what brings us back time and again.

We did try the Viva Navidad chicken mole and barbacoa sopes. Both were excellent (though I will say the 1/4 chicken leg of the mole is on the small side). Our friend had the pork pozole which was great too. We enjoyed the street party for the second year - so full of energy, fun, and joy - just the way a holiday celebration should be. I'm so glad Disneyland brought back Viva Navidad! (We watched the show 3 times in 2 days last year, just in case it was a one-time-only thing.)

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