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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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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