Where to Eat? Lunch at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

March 24, 2015, 10:31 AM · Disney California Adventure is transforming its former Condor Flats land into Grizzly Peak Airfield. The former desert airstrip home for "Soarin' Over California" is becoming a national park's airfield, with more hospitable forest surroundings.

As we await Soarin' Over California's reopening later this spring, the first element of the new land to debut is Smokejumpers Grill, a re-envisioning of the old Taste Pilot's Grill. The burger-driven menu remains, but instead of a theme honoring the test pilots of the Mojave Desert, the refurbished counter-service restaurant honors the "smokejumper" firefighters who fly and parachute down to remote wildfires in the Sierra Mountains.

Smokejumpers Grill

With the clever slogan, "Drop-Ins Welcome," Disney's Imagineers convey the restaurant's theme while communicating that this is a quick-service restaurant where you won't need the reservations recommended for the Carthay Circle Restaurant located just steps away on Buena Vista Street.

Inside Smokejumpers Grill

The Smokejumpers Grill's menu remains focused on burgers and sandwiches as were found at the old Taste Pilots Grill, with a chili cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger, and grilled chicken sandwich the three most prominent selections.

Smokejumpers Grill menu

You'll find abundant decorations around the restaurant, offering a mix of tributes to smoke jumpers as well as to Disney films and shorts set in the Sierras.

Smokejumpers Grill decor

Smokejumpers offers a toppings bar, including lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and peppers. It's a nice selection to dress up your bacon cheeseburger or chicken sandwich, but doesn't offer the more extensive options found on some of Walt Disney World's toppings bars. Where Smokejumpers Grill does mimic Disney World is with its use of the paper serving baskets, instead of the real plates and servingware found more often around the Disneyland Resort. I suppose that's appropriate for the camp-like setting here, but it's not a change I would welcome elsewhere at the resort.

Chili cheeseburger

I chose the chili burger with fries ($10.99). It's your basic Disney quick-service burger, made more flavorful with the addition of the chili. I can't imagine ordering a plain Disney burger or cheeseburger. They need the chili, the bacon, the mushrooms, the crab cake, the French dip roast beef, the toppings bar, or whatever else Disney's various quick-service restaurants let you slather on these patties to give them some flavor. That said, with one or more of these extras atop the patty, Disney's burgers can make for a tasty and satisfying lunch if you're in the mood for a burger and don't want to wait to drive to the nearest In-N-Out for your burger fix, instead. Given the choice, though, I think I'd prefer just getting a bowl of this chili and using the toppings bar to create a nice little side salad.

With the opening of Smokejumpers Grill, the Paradise Garden Grill over in Paradise Pier has returned to its former menu of Mediterranean-inspired skewers, instead of the burgers it was serving during the transformation of the Taste Pilots Grill into Smokejumpers Grill.

Paradise Garden Grill menu

Considering that the Paradise Garden Grill has been the top-rated counter service restaurant in Disney California Adventure among Theme Park Insider readers, seeing its menu's return provides reason enough to cheer the opening of Smokejumpers Grill, no matter what you think about the burgers.

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Replies (4)

March 24, 2015 at 11:15 AM · I noticed that you didn't get cheese on your Chili burger, but on the menu it looks like they are using sliced cheese instead of the more common shredded cheese used on typical chili cheeseburgers. That's pretty disappointing to not have shredded cheese at an establishment where they're serving chili cheese fries (perhaps they're using liquid cheese for those, which I would also prefer to sliced cheese on a chili cheeseburger). Sliced cheese, unless placed between the patty and bottom bun, always slides around when in contact with the liquidy chili, which exacerbates an already messy ordeal. Also, I really dislike restaurants that use a chili heavy in beans as a burger/hotdog topping.

All in all this doesn't look like anything particularly special or groundbreaking, and the more limited toppings bar sounds disappointing.

March 24, 2015 at 11:40 AM · Can confirm - it's sliced cheese on the burgers, including the chili cheeseburger.
March 24, 2015 at 3:28 PM · "Drop-Ins Welcome," but not "Crash-Ins". The waffle fries did not return.
March 25, 2015 at 7:57 AM · I always make time for in-n-out on my trips down. But I would not waste the time during the day as I usually stop on the way in or out of town. This seems like a nice quick option like before but with better theme.

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