This Flo’s V8 Cafe review could easily summarize our opinion of this Cars Land restaurant at Disney California Adventure in three words: “Eat at Flo’s.” Flo’s V8 Cafe combines the best of Disney theming, quality comfort food, and incredible ambiance to become one of the top Disneyland Resort restaurants.
Starting with the theme, Flo’s V8 Cafe is modeled after a real restaurant on Route 66, Midpoint Cafe in Midpoint, Texas. Before you snort in derision that the real restaurant is in Texas and this is a California theme park, it’s fair to say that this restaurant could be found anywhere along Route 66, including California. More than anything, it looks like Flo’s V8 Cafe that caters to talking cars from a certain Pixar film, which is set in a fictional town an an area that’s most likely Arizona…which is also not California. Whatever. The cafe and the land work, and they work well.
Flo’s V8 Cafe is a mix of real-life 60s-era car culture and backstory from Cars having to do with the rise of racing in Radiator Springs. The neon will draw you toward the restaurant, where you’ll notice great details such as oil cans, gas pumps, cacti, and varying types of architecture depending upon what side of the restaurant you view. Once inside, the rest of the details will continue to mesmerize you.
The main lobby and line area has a large dome ceiling with color-changing lighting and a modern lighting fixture. This, against the checkered floor and the jukebox tunes of Cars Land give Flo’s V8 Cafe a 1960s soda-fountain feel. Different dining rooms have different themes, with part of the restaurant decorated in a “pit” style, another area decorated as a trophy room, and another area featuring awards, accolades, and posters from Flo’s career as a singer.
All of these details inside are really cool and worth some time exploring, but the absolute best place to eat is actually outside, behind the restaurant in an area that overlooks Ornament Valley (and Radiator Springs Racers). Soaking up the ambiance in this seating area at night while enjoying a nice Racer 5 IPA (speaking of which, I commend Disney for going with a local microbrew from Bear Republic Brewery) might just be my favorite thing to do in all of Cars Land.
The ambiance inside is great, too. There, you’re transported to the bygone era of car culture, whereas outside, you feel the “natural” world of Radiator Springs. In both cases, the atmosphere you’re experiencing is not one that will remind you of the cartoon world of Cars or of being in a theme park. In both cases, you’re truly transported away from Disneyland Resort and into totally different locations entirely.
This is the greatest allure of Flo’s V8 Cafe, and it’s a testament to the Imagineers that they were able to convey a car theme that isn’t simply straight out of a scene in Cars. Yes, the references to the film are there, but beyond the exterior design bearing a striking resemble to a locale in the movie, the restaurant does not seem cartoonish at all.
Of course, all of the ambiance in the world doesn’t make a whole lot of difference for a restaurant if the restaurant’s food is awful. Fortunately, Flo’s food is quite good. During our visit for the grand reopening of Disney California Adventure, we ate at Flo’s several times, and enjoyed the experience each time (disclosure: one meal was comped as part of the Cars Land launch party; the other three meals we paid for ourselves). Our food was very good overall, with one slight misstep. We have heard a lot of praise for Flo’s from others, and our meals largely fall in line with this praise (even if they didn’t, the ambiance and theming would make for any culinary shortcomings).
One dish that we don’t think lived up to the hype was the Turkey Breast with Old Fashioned Turkey Gravy. I’m a bit biased here as I always go for dark meat, but I thought this meat was a bit dry and lacking flavor. The gravy helped with this–and perhaps that’s why it’s served with gravy–but our expectations were higher. Just to give you a frame of reference, I’d say about half of all white-meat turkey I eat is dry. So take my opinion for what it’s worth on Flo’s turkey.
We also tried the NY Strip Loin and the Pork Loin with Coca-Cola BBQ sauce, and both were excellent. Not only was the meat very good for a counter service, but the sides made for a meal that was very filling, too. My highlight is the Pork Loin with the Coke BBQ sauce. I couldn’t easily recognize the flavor as Coke, but the meat was tender and moist, and the BBQ sauce added the perfect flavor to meat that was already very good. Each entree comes with a garlic chive roll and a couple of vegetable based sides. The garlic chive roll is delicious, so don’t overlook it as “just a piece of bread.”
As for the sides, my favorite of these was the mashed potatoes, but I am a sucker for mashed potatoes. The cole slaw would probably rate second for me. None of the sides are especially amazing, but none of them are bad, either. About what you would expect from a counter service restaurant preparing cooked vegetables. As for entrees, there is also a Veggie Tater Bake and some sort of salad on the menu, but why would you order either of these items when delicious meats are available?!
We only tried one of the pies, the Strawberry Rhubarb pie, and it was excellent. Based on the reactions of friends with whom we dined over the course of the week, you couldn’t go wrong with any of the pies, even the one that oddly combined apple and cheddar! We also ordered a chocolate shake with “road gravel.” As best I can tell, the road gravel isn’t actual chunks of rocks, but little balls of chocolate. It added a nice texture to our chocolate shake, which was very good.
Prices at Flo’s are surprisingly reasonable for what you get. Although technically a counter service restaurant, it’s at the upper end of the spectrum, being a counter service restaurant that serves its meals on real plates and with real silverware (like Plaza Inn at Disneyland). Entrees are priced at around $12, but for sizable pieces of good meat plus two sides and a roll, this isn’t too bad (at least in comparison to other prices at Disneyland).
For a park that opened with an abundance of restaurants, Disney California Adventure is shallow on good counter service options. From the perspective of food, Flo’s V8 Cafe might just be the best Disney California Adventure counter service restaurant. It’s miles better than the Cars Land alternative, Cozy Cone Motel, and is even better than fan favorites like Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, and Paradise Garden Grill. When looking at all of Disneyland Resort, Flo’s still does pretty well. If Flo’s were just an ordinary restaurant in Innoventions, and this review were from the perspective of food only, Flo’s would be pretty good, but wouldn’t be one of our favorite Disneyland Resort restaurants. (The prospect of having to go in Innoventions to eat there would actually move it down the list!) Since it’s actually a good restaurant with the best theming and far and away the best ambiance in all of Disneyland Resort, it becomes our favorite counter service restaurant at Disneyland Resort.
If you’ve been to Flo’s V8 Cafe, which entrees and desserts do you like best? Where is your favorite “room” to eat? If you haven’t been, does this make you want to visit Cars Land even more? Share your thoughts in the comments!
To read other Disneyland restaurant reviews, check out our Disney Dining Reviews Index.
Overall Score: 10/10