Bengal Barbecue is a counter service restaurant in Disneyland’s Adventureland, across from Indiana Jones Adventure, specializing in fresh grilled meats…and vegetables, if you’re into that sort of thing. Although it’s categorized as a counter service restaurant, it’s in the same class as restaurants like Corn Dog Castle–small menus and no indoor seating, but more elaborate than basic outdoor vending carts. Bengal Barbecue has a total of 5 meat and vegetable skewers on its menu, plus a few other random things.
Bengal Barbecue is insanely popular. It seems especially popular with locals and Annual Passholders, many of whom still claim to have been part of a successful campaign to “Save the Bengal Barbecue” a few years ago (we have no idea whether this campaign was actually a success, or if Disney’s plans simply changed…we’d lean towards the latter). It took us a while to finally eat here, mostly because the lines have always been fairly long whenever we’ve passed it. After hearing much praise, we finally bit the bullet and tried it a couple of times recently.
To me, Bengal Barbecue seems a lot like a permanent Food & Wine Festival kiosk. Limited menu, long lines, high prices for the portions offered–but pretty good food. I generally give Food & Wine Festival a pass because it’s a once a year (well…not so much anymore) special event, and despite the high prices and small portions, some of the food is fairly ambitious for those small kiosks. I feel about the same way about Bengal Barbecue, but possibly because so many people heap so much praise on this place and because it’s permanent, I’m not so inclined to give it a pass.
The most common praise we’ve heard about Bengal Barbecue is that everything is inexpensive. Well, this is technically true, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Yes, everything on the menu is around $4, but everything is also about one-quarter the size (at best) of an entree you’d order at a regular counter service restaurant. Multiply that out, and you’re looking at spending about $16 dollars to get the same amount of food as you’d get elsewhere, and I can’t think of many counter service dishes that are $16 (even the legendary Plaza Inn fried chicken costs less!). To me, it’s the same idea as those “healthy” boxes of cookies you can buy that have less than 10% of your daily fat in a serving. At first blush, this is awesome. You’ll read this nutrition information in the grocery store, jump high in the air and fist-pump while screaming in elation, “THANK YOU SCIENCE FOR DISCOVERING A HEALTHY COOKIE RECIPE!!!” Then, you’ll read further and see the serving size…one cookie. What kind of fool is only eating one cookie?! If I’m eating cookies, I’m eating no less than 10. All of the sudden, those “healthy” cookies have become all of my daily allotment of fat. I digress, but the idea is the same here. Bengal Barbecue is not a good value as a counter service restaurant even if what’s listed on the menu “only” costs $4 if you have to eat 3-4 menu items to have a filling meal.
Bengal Barbecue also has really long lines at just about any time of day. Perhaps we’re just unlucky, but our average wait time here has been about 10-15 minutes, and this is eating at off-hours when other restaurants would have minimal waits. Since there is no indoor seating here, these long lines mean that you’ll typically need to head over to the River Belle Terrace seating area or Aladdin’s Oasis to eat you’re food, unless you send an advance scout to stake out one of the few tables at Bengal Barbecue.
This isn’t to say Bengal Barbecue is a bad counter service restaurant. When it comes to the food, Bengal Barbecue is great. Not only is everything grilled on the open-air grill right in front of you, but thanks to how popular the place is, nothing ever sits around under heat lamps. What you order is basically always fresh off the grill.
Bengal Barbecue is also an ostensibly healthy place to eat. I have no idea whether the sauce covering some of the meats is healthy or not (probably not), but even if it isn’t, these are still lean meats cooked on a grill. Even assuming the worst about those sauces, Bengal Barbecue is still one of the healthiest restaurants at Disneyland Resort. The only thing that I assume is healthier is the Plaza Inn fried chicken, and that’s only because the magical elves who I presume make that use their magical forces to remove all fat from it…magically.
In terms of how good the skewers taste and which ones are best, we think they’re all about the same. Mind you, they all taste very different, but none of them really stand out as “best” or “worst.” They are all solid options, and we liked them all, but after dining at Bengal Barbecue, I didn’t find myself craving any of them or thinking that I must have more of any particular one. The food here is more like the kind of skewers you might grill for yourself at home rather than something that I’d describe as any Disney-specialty foods, if that makes sense.
If we had to pick, I’d say I prefer the Chieftain Chicken Skewer to the beef skewers, as the chicken is more tender and the sweet Polynesian sauce is great, whereas the beef is a little too lean. Sarah’s favorite is the Banyan Beef Skewer. Sarah also loves the various vegetable skewers, her favorite of those being the Outback Vegetable Skewer. Of the vegetable ones, I have only tried the Bacon Wrapped Asparagus skewer, and I thought it was good–but I could have done without the asparagus! Actually, in terms of portion size, this skewer is consistently the best. The Chieftain Chicken Skewer–my favorite–is consistently the worst.
For me, by far the highlight of the menu is the Tiger Tail. It might sound like a simple piece of grilled bread, but it’s absolutely delicious. The bread is soft and doughy, and flavored with a mix of butter, Italian seasoning, cheese, and who knows what else. The flavor of this is so good that I eat it by itself, rather than dipping it in sauce or using it to make a sandwich out of the skewers, but that’s also a good use of the Tiger Tail. This is definitely the most memorable menu item for me, and that’s not meant as a knock at the skewers–the Tiger Tail is just really, really good.
In addition to these items, there are a few other assorted items on the Bengal Barbecue menu. The highlight of these is the Jalapeno Cheese-Filled Pretzel, which is sold at multiple locations throughout Disneyland, and is universally delicious.
Overall, Bengal Barbecue is solid option, especially for healthy eaters, but we feel that it is not deserving of the hype that it receives. Much of this hype is undoubtedly the result of its illusion of value. But it’s exactly that–an illusion. You can’t actually eat a meal here for $4, and in most cases, it will actually cost you more to eat a full meal here than it would at another counter service restaurant at Disneyland. Add to that long lines, and it loses a lot of its allure. To be fair, Sarah is much more of a fan of Bengal Barbecue than I am (she thinks I’m being too hard on it–if it were up to just me the score below would be lower…), but she also attempts to eat healthy, and when I’m in a theme park, that’s the last thing I want to do. Its score is an aggregate of our individual ratings for it. If you’re like me and don’t care about healthy eating at Disneyland, there are a number of superior restaurants for you. If you’re like Sarah, Bengal Barbecue is a great option for you, perhaps one of the best at Disneyland Resort. Alternatively, if you’re just looking to grab a savory snack (for about the price of a cupcake) instead of the typical sweet stuff around Disneyland, Bengal Barbecue is a great option.
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Where do you stand on Bengal Barbecue? How do you feel about the portion sizes? What about the food? Did you help “save” it when the Bengal was endangered? Planning on going? Share your thoughts in the comments!