Counter service dining at Disneyland Resort continues to improve, and it’s now to the point where almost every restaurant offers at least something worthwhile. Some of these restaurants are incredibly popular fan-favorites, whereas some are lesser known options in the Disneyland Resort hotels. For those unfamiliar, counter service (or quick service) restaurants is Disneyspeak for fast food. Disneyland is often bemoaned for having nothing but burgers and hot dogs, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. This list actually has no locations that specialize in either, unless you count the hot dogs in corn dogs, but we think those get a pass as a sacred Disneyland institution. (Maybe the killjoys who complain about Cracker Jacks at baseball games would disagree.) No matter where you eat at Disneyland, if you’re eating nothing but burgers and hot dogs, you’re making exactly zero effort, because unique foods are everywhere.
This list is based on our subjective determination of best based upon our opinion of food quality, value, and theme–with an emphasis on food quality. Of course, it’s only based on restaurants where we’ve actually dined (in most cases, several times), but we’ve dined at most counter service restaurants at Disneyland Resort. We’ve left a few popular Downtown Disney restaurants off the list (namely, Earl of Sandwich) in favor of the unique, “distinctly Disney” choices.
Below is a brief synopsis why each restaurant is a great pick, along with what specific items we recommend from the various restaurants!
10. Corn Dog Castle/Little Red Wagon – (menu) – It might seem like a bit of a stretch to include a corn dog stand(s) on a top 10 list like this, but it’s not. For a while, Corn Dog Castle was my preferred place to grab a corn dog. Recently, I gave Little Red Wagon another shot and had what was most definitely the best corn dog of my life. Corn Dog Castle makes the list for its ”diversity” (3 corn dog options); Little Red Wagon lacks that diversity, but its standard corn dog is the gold standard. Regardless of which one you visit, request the corn dog without the chips to save a couple dollars and room in your stomach for better snacks elsewhere.
9. Pacific Wharf Cafe/Royal Street Veranda – (menu) – Sarah eats at one of these restaurants (usually Royal Street Veranda) at least once per trip for their bread bowl gumbo. As to which is better, although I prefer the New Orleans Square ambiance of Royal Street Veranda, the more robust menu of Pacific Wharf Cafe gives it the edge for me. I don’t normally eat at Royal Street Veranda because I don’t like having soup when it’s hot outside, but the sandwiches and desserts at Pacific Wharf Cafe actually appeal to me.
8. Jolly Holiday Bakery & Cafe - (menu) - Jolly Holiday Bakery is an excellent option, especially for baked treats. Several of the items on the lunch and dinner menus are good options, but we feel like these menus could probably use a couple more items in order for Jolly Holiday Bakery to stand as an elite counter service restaurant in Disneyland. However, when you add the best selections of baked goods of any restaurant in Disneyland, Jolly Holiday becomes one of the best overall dining options in Disneyland.
7. Paradise Garden Grill – (menu) – After trying time and time again to see what everyone else loves about Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, we finally decided to give Paradise Garden Grill a try instead. It became an instant favorite of ours, and is now in regular rotation. My favorite thing here (which is a new addition that might be considered temporary) is the Beef Gyro Platter. The great thing about Paradise Garden Grill–beyond the delicious grilled food–is its seating in Paradise Garden. This is a great place to sit, relax, and enjoy live music.
6. Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante - (menu) – Rancho del Zocalo is one of the many Disneyland restaurants that’s technically a counter service restaurant, but has meals that are almost table service quality. The prices at Rancho reflect that, as many options here are priced slightly above what you’d find at an average counter service restaurant. However, the quality and portion size more than explains why the dishes are priced where they are. Add to that very impressive ambiance in a venue that is (dare we say) romantically lit at night, this could be a great place for a cheap date! If you really want to save money, split the Carne Asada & Red Chile Enchilada (or Tamale, depending upon the season) Platter (our recommendation here) with your date. Or not. Depends upon how your date feels about being taken out for fast food and splitting a meal.
5. Tangaroa Terrace – (menu) – Initially, we considered Tangaroa Terrace a so-so place to go when Trader Sam’s was full. Each time we return, we’re more and more impressed with it. On our most recent visits for breakfast and dinner, we had exceptional meals, trying the Banana-Carmel French Toast for breakfast and the Teriyaki New York Strip Steak for dinner. These two items became two of our favorite counter service items anywhere, and solidified Tangaroa Terrace’s spot as a top counter service restaurant (and the most underrated one) at Disneyland Resort.
4. Hungry Bear Restaurant – (menu) – Hungry Bear Restaurant just barely edges out Tangaroa Terrace for the #4 slot, and it mostly does so because of its superior desserts (Lemon Cupcake and Trixie’s Pie). Its main entree menu is solid, but less impressive, with the standout item being the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich. This is another restaurant we really enjoy for the ambiance–there are few better ways to relax than by grabbing a table at the edge of the Rivers of America at sunset.
3. Flo’s V8 Cafe – (menu) – People either seem to love Flo’s V8 Cafe. We fall squarely in the “love it” camp. Flo’s serves mostly comfort food, but it’s quality food and not everything is terrible for you (it wouldn’t bother me if it were!), so even Sarah likes it. My favorite thing here is the Pork Loin with the Coke BBQ sauce. The meat is tender and moist, the BBQ sauce adds great flavor to meat, and the vegetables and chive roll round out the meal well and make it an excellent value. Flo’s is a double threat, serving a great Brioche French Toast for breakfast that made our list of the Top 7 “Must Eat” Foods at Disneyland Resort. Plus, what’s better than enjoying your meal under the neon lights of Cars Land?!
2. French Market – (menu) – French Market is probably the most well-rounded counter service restaurant in all of Disneyland Resort, offering something (delicious) for everyone as well as incredible ambiance in New Orleans Square and great entertainment. Only one thing prevents it from taking the top spot, and that’s crack-like fried chicken. In all seriousness, just about everything at French Market that we’ve tried is delicious, albeit a little on the pricey side in comparison to other counter service. Like many of these restaurants, though, the quality and portion sizes surpass what you’ll find at other counter service restaurants. My favorite item is the Market French Dip, but you can’t go wrong with the pasta or chicken, either. For dessert, go with the Bananas Foster Cheesecake. We’re not fans of the Mint Julep here, but lots of people love it, so consider giving it a try.
1. Plaza Inn – (menu) – In my opinion, Plaza Inn is the undisputed champion of Disneyland counter service dining. It’s really not even close. The comfort food here is second to none, and it feels like a “table service light” restaurant. The glorious fried chicken is Plaza Inn’s claim to fame, and unlike some Disneyland snacks that get hyped-up, this chicken actually lives up to the hype. It’s more addictive than nicotine and more delicious than bacon ice cream. During the holidays, the menu gets even better with the Yule Log added, but it’s pretty spectacular year-round. Sarah is not a big fan of Plaza Inn, which is why it didn’t receive a perfect score in our review, but I think most guests will love this place.
So there you have our top 10 counter service restaurants at Disneyland Resort! There are a few notable omissions, the biggest of which is probably Bengal Barbecue. We really like Bengal Barbecue as a place to grab a quick snack, but the prices are so high for the portion sizes that you’re likely to spend $20 or more for a filling meal! Second is Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, where we’ve had a couple of better meals recently (their Mac & Cheese Flatbread was amazing!), but it’s still hit or miss. Another one that some people seem to love is Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port, and we just flat out don’t like that place! Plenty of other restaurants that didn’t make the list have great dishes–it was difficult to narrow the best restaurants down to just 10!
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Which restaurants would make your list of the top 10 counter service restaurants at Disneyland Resort? Do you agree or disagree with what we’ve listed? Plan on trying some of them when you visit Disneyland? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments!