Club 33 is a private club in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square. The entrance of the Club is adjacent to the Blue Bayou Restaurant at 33 Royal Street and is only recognizable by a circular sign with “33″ on it. If you didn’t know the Club was there, you’d probably walk right past it, thinking the door and sign were just more “Disney Details.” Then again, if you found this review, chances are you already know a fair amount about Club 33. If you don’t, check out our Club 33 dinner review that also contains some more history of Club 33.
Surprisingly, there have been some changes at Club 33 since we last visited in May. Beginning in 2012, the cheaper Gold membership ($3,600) for Club 33 is no longer an option for new members. New members must join at the Platinum level, which costs $25,000 in initiation fees plus $10,000 per year in dues. For this amount, membership perks will include: Premier Annual Pass for the member (valid at all Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort parks) and four additional Premier Annual Passes for family and friends; Access to Club 1901, the new VIP lounge in Carthay Circle Theater in Disney California Adventure, and 5 VIP guided tours per year. Regardless of what past and present Club literature may say, the Mark Twain Wheel House and Lilly Belle are not Club benefits. These are experiences open to the general public. Another substantial change is that members are now limited to 50 guest passes per year (if guests have their own ticket into the park, they do not count against this number). The changes have led to substantial dissent among members, who were not consulted regarding the changes.
For a Club so rooted in tradition and history, these are pretty substantial changes. Unchanged when we dined at Club 33 for lunch in November was just about everything else. It still oozed historical significance and elegance. We were a bit hesitant to return to Club 33 given our previous meal, which wasn’t terrible by any means, but was definitely not worth what we paid for it. If you read that review and have read other Club 33 reviews, you may notice that I’m one of the few people to have written a less-than-glowing review of Club 33. Part of the reason for this, I think, is due to the mystique of the Club. If you’re dining at Club 33, you’re having an awesome experience regardless of the cuisine by virtue of where you are. It’s such a spectacular location, rife with Disney history, that it’s difficult for any Disney fan to say anything negative about the place. That was the case for us the first time, and was ultimately a big reason why we returned. Even if the cuisine was worse than the previous time, we were still dining in Club 33.
Even though Walt never stepped foot in the completed restaurant, it seems more lore surrounds Club 33 than anything else in Disneyland, and it also seems more like a Disneyland “original” than most of the rest of the park (nevermind that New Orleans Square didn’t open with the park in 1955).
The other part of the reason for wanting to return was because we heard so many positive comments after dining there the first time that I was sure that our meal was an outlier. After dining again at Club 33, I am very happy to report that the dinner we previously had was not indicative of the quality of food at Club 33. Our second meal there was beyond excellent.
Club 33’s lunch/buffet is typically regarded as the lesser of the two meals, but our lunch was far superior to dinner. For lunch, members and guests order items from a standard menu and also enjoy a cold buffet while their plated items are prepared. Desserts are contained in the buffet as well.
We were seated by a man who I would presume was around our age, and was filling in for our waitress. He started the experience out on the right foot, joking around with us and offering a few drink suggestions. Although the Club is far from stuffy (in fact, I would say the dress code is far too lax), it was still nice to have a server with whom we could relate a little better. Although our normal server was fine, we all wished he were our server for the entire meal.
Since we were in New Orleans Square, it seemed appropriate to order a Mint Julep. All I needed was a seersucker suit and a bowtie and I would have fit in perfectly in turn-of-the-century New Orleans. Sarah ordered a Lemon Drop. Both drinks were excellent. Not overly sweet, with the perfect kick to them without being gag-inducing. The bartender clearly knew what he was doing.
After the fill-in server took our order, we headed to the buffet. Normally, I don’t associate buffets with great food. It’s a quantity over quality compromise. While the buffet wasn’t as good as my main course, it was far from mediocre. It was easily the best buffet-food we’ve consumed, and had some great options.
The mozzarella and tomatoes were the surprise hit for me, but it all was great. Shellfish including lobster and shrimp; an assortment of deli meats; cheeses; and fruits. The only thing that was missing was someone to fan me and feed me grapes as I contemptuously lounged across a throne!
This was my first meal of the day, and I was fully prepared for it. I made the most of the buffet, but was still left plenty hungry afterward so that I’d fully enjoy my meal. Although it was a cold buffet, it wasn’t your typical assortment of buffet items that are generally bland and/or slightly past their prime. Everything sampled was flavorful and delicious.
Between courses, I headed to the lobby to take some foods and take in the atmosphere. While there, I also shouted down at people in New Orleans Square, “foolish commoners, I let you eat cake!” and other derisive comments while loudly blasting out a deep belly-laugh.
Prior to lunch, it was suggested to us that we try the Chateaubriand with Truffled Mac & Cheese. Had I not tried mac & cheese with steak at Jiko last year, I probably would have dismissed this suggestion out of hand. However, knowing that the similar Jiko combination was excellent, I decided to give it a try at Club 33, too.
Sarah wasn’t quite so brave, instead opting for the Colorado Lamp Chops. As I was underwhelmed by the Chateaubriand (widely regarded as the Club’s signature item) on our previous visit, I was apprehensive about trying it again, but I figured I would give it a second chance. After all, if so many people love it, chances are that my dinner plate from our last visit was unrepresentative of the norm. That made more sense than so many people being wrong.
My Chateaubriand was nothing short of phenomenal, and the mac and cheese was the best I’ve ever consumed. My vocabulary doesn’t contain a sufficient number of superlatives to describe the meal. Tender, flavorful, moist, and perfectly cooked. This steak basically had its doctorate degree in tasting awesome.
Sarah’s Colorado Lamb Chops were perfectly prepared. If poorly prepared, lamb can be tough, but these chops were tender and moist. Sarah was able to cut through them with ease, and I can attest to the fact that they were excellent. The seasoning was light and the cut was exquisite. They were no Chateaubriand, but not much could have compared to that cut of meat!
After dinner, it was time for the dessert buffet. No one else was up at the buffet while Sarah was to confirm this story, but legend has it that a chef was up there while she was and encouraged her to try every dessert. So she did. Having in the past experienced Sarah’s penchant for sweets, I’m a bit incredulous of her story, but I don’t fault her for sampling the whole selection of desserts. Most of the ones I tried tasted great.
After dessert, we again headed out to the balcony and enjoyed our surroundings. Normally, I’m not all that keen on dragging out meals. I have the patience of a miniature dachshund (I assume all of them are as impatient as ours), and unless something entertaining is happening, an hour is about my limit for a meal. However, I barely noticed that our meal had far exceeded two hours by that point. I probably could have stayed there for another few hours without growing restless. When we finally did leave, approximately two hours and forty-five minutes had elapsed since our arrival. It was a bit painful as the door of Club 33 locked closed behind us, but it was another great experience, and hopefully we’ll be back again in the future. In the meantime, we had our SUITED UP Disneyland Resort bar crawl in front of us to help ease the pain…
Overall, Club 33 lived up to its reputation during our lunch there. It was head and shoulders above our dinner experience, which makes us want to return for dinner. At the same time, lunch was so impressive that we’re not sure we’re ready to pass on the wonderful buffet. Club 33 is expensive, to be sure, but it’s an experience unto itself and is something no Disney fan should pass up if afforded the opportunity. Even if dining there means eating Ramen Noodles for the other 364 days of the year. It’d still be worth it!
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