Napa Rose Review

Napa Rose is Disneyland Resort’s flagship restaurant and one of the best restaurants in Orange County, California. In this post, we’ll share food photos from our various meals at Napa Rose, offer thoughts on the menu quality, ambiance, and overall experience of eating at this dining locale. Since moving to Southern California, Napa Rose has become our default “special occasion” restaurant.

Even independent of Disneyland Resort, Napa Rose is our favorite restaurant in Orange County. We’ve done Thanksgiving Dinner at Napa Rose (to be honest, this was my least-favorite meal at Napa Rose), the Chef’s Counter at Napa Rose (our absolute favorite way to dine here), light meals in the lounge, and standard meals in the main dining room. While refreshing old posts, I was surprised to see we had not updated this post in over 5 years, which gave us an excuse to dine here again last night with some friends in town. (Last updated July 7, 2017.) 

Napa Rose is located outside the parks in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, meaning that California locals can dine there without park admission. It does not offer Annual Passes or Disney Vacation Club discounts, but that’s because it’s a popular spot for local foodies and tourists alike. Napa Rose is the real deal from the perspective of cuisine…

If you live in Los Angeles or Orange County and are considering a meal at Napa Rose, it’s worth noting Executive Chef Andrew Sutton has won a “Golden Foodie Award” as the best chef in Orange County. The point is that this is not just a good “Disney restaurant,” it’s a good restaurant.

The restaurant routinely makes best of the county lists, and even though it’s overshadowed in name cachet by Chef Sutton’s other restaurant (Club 33), Napa Rose has the arguably better cuisine. As an added bonus for locals, the Grand Californian Hotel offers free valet parking for up to 5 hours with validation from Napa Rose.

Napa Rose offers exceptional ambiance. Before the very first time we dined at Napa Rose, I envisioned it as something comparable to California Grill at Walt Disney World Resort…right down to the top floor location. I guess I had seen photos showing Grizzly Peak out the window and just assumed?

In any case, Napa Rose is on the ground floor. (Why oh why didn’t Disneyland build Napa Rose to overlook Disney California Adventure?! Think of the stunning views of Paradise Pier or Grizzly Peak!), the ambiance of Napa Rose is great in its own right.

Low level aside, the ambiance at Napa Rose is wonderful. Napa Rose continues the Grand Californian’s ornate Arts & Crafts style, except skewing more towards the elegant side of the style, rather than rustic. It’s very different from the lobby in this sense.

Whereas the rest of the hotel might borrow from National Park lodges in California and the Pacific Northwest, Napa Rose does not. Instead, it reminds me a lot of the high-end architecture in Pasadena, including the Gamble House.

There are a lot of handcrafted woof flourishes, stained glass light fixtures, and beautiful murals lining the top of the restaurant. There are also floor to ceiling windows in the main dining room, and a lot of details that add to the elegance.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Arts & Crafts movement, Napa Rose may just seem like any ole fancy restaurant with an excessive integration of woods into the design. Any Californian will likely beg to differ, considering this an exemplar of the architectural style.

Although the theme might not be overt in the same sense that Carthay Circle Restaurant is a recreation of the famous theater where Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered or the way Flo’s V8 Cafe resembles the same location from the movie, but it does absolutely nail its theme from an architectural and design perspective.

The theme at Napa Rose also helps with the elegance and fine dining atmosphere of the restaurant. As soon as you walk in, the vibe is clear. Thanks to the airy quality, it’s not stuffy, but it’s patently obvious Napa Rose is a nice restaurant.

The tables are also spaced perfectly apart, exactly as you’d expect for a restaurant of this caliber. You’re not on top of the patrons around you, and perhaps the feeling of separation is enhanced by the high chair backs, however slim.

I worry that at some point Napa Rose will be refurbished to diminish some of this character and detail. This is essentially how Napa Rose has looked since it opened in 2001, and some might mistake the Arts & Crafts beauty for being datedness. In my opinion, Napa Rose is timeless, and definitely does not need any “refreshing” to improve its atmosphere. It’s timeless.

In case you haven’t noticed yet by our gushing praise, we absolutely love Napa Rose. I make no effort to conceal this, as Napa Rose is one of our all-time favorites.

Many bottles of wines are on display near the entrance to Napa Rose. The coolest things in the wine room are Pixar wine bottles that some dude scribbled on.

I’m hardly a handwriting expert, but I suspect those scribblings were the signature of John Lasseter. Some people view Hollywood starlets and country music singers like celebrities, I view Disney creatives as celebrities. To each their own.

Given its impressive wine collection (every server is a sommelier), Napa Rose has a somewhat disappointing beer selection. There are a few decent beers on tap, but overall, nothing special.

It’s better than Disneyland Resort at large, but given the growing craft beer movement and Napa Rose’s place as a preeminent restaurant in Southern California–not just Disneyland–the beer list is a letdown.

Every dinner at Napa Rose starts with the server bringing out a basket of breads, which included ciabatta, sourdough, olive, and cracker bread covered with parmesan cheese.

The range of breads–most of which don’t even require butter–is delicious. The perfect way to start a meal.

In terms of appetizers, a good way to start is always going to be one of the chef’s soups.

I’m not particularly keen on ordering soup when eating out, but these always offer great complexity and texture.

The salads are a lighter way of starting, but equally complex. The quality and inventiveness always astounds me with Napa Rose’s salads, even if they are not my preferred way to start the meal.

If you’re a high roller, the scallops cannot be beat. These are not cheap, nor are they a large portion, but the tenderness and flavor compensate for that.

Personally, I’m not sure they are worth the cost as a standalone menu item. (I’m much more of a fan of it as part of the Chef’s Counter experience–same goes for the salads.)

Our preferred way to start a meal in the main dining room is the pizzetta. On our most recent meal, we had a seasonal smoked salmon pizzetta (it’s not listed on the online menu for some reason), and it was exceptional.

A huge portion for only $15, this could go toe to toe with any counter service entree in terms of quality and value for money. Any of the pizzettas are highly recommended.

The first time we dined at Napa Rose, my entree choice was an easy one. When I saw it on the menu, I instantly knew what I must order: the filet. Other things may have looked good, but it was like a spotlight from on high shined down on the menu when I first opened it, illuminating that item. Duck, salmon, sea bass–forget about it. I was ordering the filet. Wait was the hardest part.

My knife went through the steak like it was cutting through butter. Cooked to perfection, it was thinly seared on the outside and gradually turned more and more pink towards the center. Thick cut, flavorful, and juicy, the filet was pure Disney magic! 😉

I’ve since steered clear of the filet in favor of trying new things at Napa Rose. The menu regularly changes, but the filet is a staple that’s consistently on there. If you want an excellent cut of meat perfectly-prepared, you cannot go wrong here.

Another top pick for meat enthusiasts is the Colorado Lamb Rack. This is another menu staple that’s always there, you absolutely cannot go wrong with this if you love lamb.

It’s a hearty portion (for fine dining) with tremendous flavor. There’s a light gaminess to it, as you’d expect from lamb, and the meat is tender and exquisitely prepared.

Yet another choice for card-carrying carnivores is the Grilled “Red Wattle” Pork Chop. I think the enhancements for this have changed over the years, but the pork chop itself is another staple.

It’s fantastic–more flavorful and juicy than any pork chop I’ve ever had. I tend to avoid pork chops when dining out since I find them to be a dish that can normally be done nearly as well at home, but there’s no way we could make anything like this. It’s next level–and also one of the menu items that is larger in size.

In our experience (and perhaps this is because we’ve always had it during spring or summer?), the seasonal fish is typically fairly light, with the lobster enhancements really making the dish.

Sarah often skews towards this dish (it’s what she had during our most recent meal) and loves it. I’m not as much of a fan, but I prefer a darker or firmer fish. Totally a matter of personal preference. (This also tends to be a smaller dish.)

For a side, we love the truffled mac & cheese. It has great texture and the pasta is high quality. We find anything truffled to be downright addictive, which makes the small portion size here a bit disappointing.

The dessert menu at Napa Rose also changes seasonally (if not more frequently), with nearly everything on our most recent visit being new to us…

The highlight of what we tried was unquestionably the S’mores Chocolate Truffle. (Excuse the poor photo; we were in a rush to eat it.) This soufflé-like dessert was simply divine. It had all of the richness and melt in your mouth quality of a soufflé, but with the flavor of a ridiculously high-end s’mores.

This is one of the best desserts we’ve ever had, anywhere. If this is still on the menu when you visit, do not even consider ordering anything else.

I don’t recall the name of the dessert I ordered (it was long…and I assumed it’d be online), but it was also fantastic. A perfect mix of peanut butter, dark chocolate, and espresso flavors.

At just about any other restaurant, this dessert would’ve been the highlight. Here, it could not compete with the s’mores. We’ve yet to have a bad or even so-so dessert at Napa Rose, so definitely save room.

One final thing to note about Napa Rose is, except where otherwise mentioned above, the portions are on the small side. This is true fine dining in that sense, but if you’re otherwise used to heartier Disney restaurants, you could be disappointed when receiving your meal.

Even doing appetizers, entree, and desserts, Napa Rose is the kind of restaurant you’ll leave satisfied, but not stuffed. We find it to be an exceptional dining experience, but it’s not for everyone. If you want an experience that will leave you feeling stuffed, we highly recommend the Chef’s Counter at Napa Rose. In fact, no matter your appetite, that’s what we recommend. It is far and away our favorite Napa Rose experience.

As with many Disneyland Resort restaurants, reservations are not required at Napa Rose, particularly if you don’t mind eating at the bar or in the lounge. However, I would highly recommend them for dinner. As mentioned, it’s a popular spot for locals, and it’s not the kind of place most people are dining at on a spontaneous basis.

Overall, Napa Rose is the ultimate Disneyland foodie experience. We’ve done Carthay Circle Restaurant (it’s very good) and Club 33 (it was great for the history, now great for the food…but way overpriced since you’re paying for exclusivity), but Napa Rose is the only one at which we wish to dine regularly. A meal here is certainly not cheap, but it’s about on par price-wise with a “real world” restaurant of this caliber in Southern California. We consider Napa Rose to be the second-best Disney Parks restaurant at which we’ve dined, with the best restaurant being Walt Disney World’s Victoria & Albert’s. The Chef’s Counter at Napa Rose comes close to V&A’s quality, with the main dining room surpassing any other “regular” restaurant at Disneyland or Walt Disney World.

If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site or on-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!

Your Thoughts…

Have you dined at Napa Rose? If so, where would you rank it among restaurants at Disneyland Resort? Do you agree that Napa Rose is one of the best restaurants in Southern California, or do you think Napa Rose is overrated? Any menu recommendations? Planning on going? Hearing about others’ experiences is helpful and interesting, so please share your thoughts or questions in the comments below!


24 Responses to “Napa Rose Review”
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