Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante Review


Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante is a quick service restaurant in Disneyland’s Frontierland that has a Mexican menu. Although it’s technically counter service, much like Plaza Inn, it’s sort of a ‘buffeteria’ style location with higher quality options on actual plates and with real silverware. It’s also priced slightly above other counter service restaurants in Disneyland, but the portion sizes and ambiance make this forgivable.

Beyond just the buffeteria style, Rancho del Zocalo is a lot like the Frontierland version of Plaza Inn. As opposed to the Main Street and Sleeping Beauty Castle view at Plaza Inn, you get a nice open-air Big Thunder Mountain/Frontierland or romantic “star light” view at Rancho del Zocalo. (I’ve been out of the dating game for a while, but if I were looking for a cheap, romantic place at Disneyland to take someone, the inside area at Rancho after dusk would be near the top of my list!) In place of high quality American comfort food that’s fitting of Main Street, you have high quality Mexican (comfort?) food that’s fitting of Frontierland.

Of course, nothing is more important to a restaurant than its food, but that great ambiance is what keeps us coming back to Rancho del Zocalo. This is something Disneyland counter service restaurants seem to nail far better than their Walt Disney World counterparts, and Rancho del Zocalo is no exception.

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A quick caveat to this review before we dig in: among our friends who are Disneyland regulars/locals, Rancho del Zocalo is fairly divisive. Living in Southern California, they are exposed to a lot of good, authentic Mexican food, and Rancho del Zocalo lets them down as a result. If you similarly live near a lot of authentic Mexican places, you may feel the same way about Rancho del Zocalo. As is the case with any Disney restaurant with regional dishes or foreign cuisine, the food at Rancho del Zocalo is fairly Americanized. We are not penalizing it for this–we rate Disney restaurants in terms of overall food quality, not authenticity. If ratings were based on authenticity, scores would be fairly low across the board.

With its relatively central location, great ambiance, and quality food, Rancho del Zocalo is one of our go-to picks for Disneyland dining. This review of Rancho del Zocalo encompasses several of our visits to the restaurant (we normally eat here at night when the ambiance is prime but food photos are not so easy).

Let’s take a look at some of the items we’ve tried…

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The above and below photos are different versions of the “seasonal” Carne Asada and Tamale platter. I put seasonal in air quotes there because we’ve been to Rancho del Zocalo during various seasons (Halloween, Christmas, spring) and ordered this. It’s a favorite of ours because the portion is quite large for the price. The meal contains carne asada, a chicken tamale, re-fried beans, Mexican rice, and a variety of side toppings.

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I can’t really say I’ve ever been blown away by this entree, but it strikes me as a safe choice. The meat is generally neither tough nor tender, the tamale is neither bland nor does it have a kick, and the beans/rice are always fairly standard. Quality-wise, it’s far better than what you’ll find at plenty of other theme park counter service restaurants, and it’s a good value for the money. In terms of authenticity, if even my Midwestern taste buds recognize this as a fairly tame Mexican choice, I’d hazard a guess that Southern Californians or those exposed to authentic Mexican food on a regular basis might balk at its mild flavor. Still, putting aside the authenticity thing, it’s tough to deny this as a good option. It’s large and and tastes pretty good. If this isn’t available when you visit, and you’re wanting something else with a large portion size, order the Carne Asada & Red Chile Enchilada Platter.

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Here’s the Baked Fish Tacos. I’m not quite sure what kind of fish this was, but I think it was mahi mahi. Regardless, these tacos were really good. The fish had good flavor and wasn’t overcooked (very impressive for fish at a counter service theme park restaurant), and the chipotle-ranch dressing provided a bit of a spice to the tacos. The slaw was also good, although I could have done without so much of it. This is my favorite entree at Rancho del Zocalo, and one that I’d definitely order again.

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I think the Burrito Guadalajara is another great option. It’s delicious, slow-cooked pork (similar chicken and beef options are also available–but I prefer the pork) wrapped in a tortilla and topped with a tomatillo sauce. It’s served with with refried beans, rice and cheese, and various side toppings. This is another one that’s relatively tame, but I don’t mind that. It’s still a great option that I’d get again.

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I have no idea what this salad is called–it’s something one of our friends ordered. I believe it was a specially-made item.

One of our favorite things about Rancho del Zocalo is that they regularly have special items (and decor!) for holidays. This is especially true with desserts:

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This Pumpkin Flan is available for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Halloween Time at Disneyland. It is absolutely excellent. It has a light, milky flavor that almost reminds me of tres leches cake. Of course, it tastes like pumpkin, too, and the whole thing has great presentation. It’s decently sized for its $5+ price, too.

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At Christmas (and now other times of the year, too) the Tres Leches Cake is another great dessert option. The name literally translates to “Three Milks Cake,” and it contains three different types of milks: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream. As a result, the cake is nice and moist, and has a great flavor.

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Overall, we are fans of Rancho del Zocalo. If you get past the fact that it’s not completely authentic Mexican food (again, few things served in the parks are–they go for mass audience appeal), it’s a really good restaurant serving food that is very high quality for a theme park. If you go in expecting something on par with what you could find at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican spot in the West or Southwest, you will be disappointed. The ambiance adds even more to the experience, and we recommend dining at Rancho del Zocalo after sundown to get the full experience. 

Overall Score: 9/10

To read other Disney restaurant reviews from Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland, organized by location, check out our Disney Dining Reviews Index.

Your Thoughts…

What do you think of Rancho del Zocalo? Are you a fan, or is it too lacking in authenticity for you? Ever been here for a special event? If you have any questions or thoughts to share, please post them in the comments. We love hearing from readers!

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14 Responses to “Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante Review”

  1. Tommy says:

    Rancho del Zocalo has been a long time favorite of mine. I live in Arizona and have been eating authentic Mexican food my entire life. I love Mexican food! However, when I eat here I do so with the understanding that it is theme park Mexican and not the real deal and so I am not disappointed.

    Food aside, the atmosphere and location are reason enough to eat here.

    Personally, I really like the food. While the food is not very spicy I think it does have taste and the sauces definitely help. The citrus half chicken and chicken mole are large meals and very tasty. I consider the carne asada and enchilidas/tamale plate to be an easy stand by choice. Though I think the enchiladas, though filling, are nothing special.

    I agree about the deserts. I usually don’t get deserts in the park; however, Zocalo is a location where I make an exception. They usually have good options, including the Tres Leches cake.

    To put things in perspective… a meal at Zocalo costs about the same as two slices of pizza at Pizza Port. But the amount of food and the quality of the food is so very different! Pizza Port has miserable pizza. It’s very cheapy, frozen pizza. The food at Zocallo is so much fresher, tastier, and filling. It kind of makes me wonder why Pizza Port does as well as it does.

    • Marcia says:

      I had the citrus chicken when I ate there. It was fantastic. So tender and flavorful.

      And the portions were big enough to share with my daughter.

      We were there for lunch, so we missed the nighttime atmosphere, but the courtyard was nice anyway.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      The comparison to Pizza Port is excellent perspective. Choosing Pizza Port over Rancho del Zocalo should be some sort of federal offense!

  2. Tammy says:

    It’s been a while, so I don’t know if this is still true or not. The last time we ate there they had a fairly large drink station with more options. They even had…Dr. Pepper!

  3. Alexandra says:

    I love Rancho Del Zocalo! It’s one of my favorites!. The fact that you get real plates and silverware just can’t be beat. And the refillable drinks are also a huge plus. Especially at Disney prices. ;) We ate here right before we watched Fantasmic in September. That was the first time we had seen Fantasmic, so all in all with Rancho and Fantasmic after made for a great night at Disneyland.

  4. Dave says:

    Rancho Del Zocalo is a place that walked past probably 100 times before we stopped to eat. I think your comments of size value is right on the money and the quality is great for a theme park counter service. Good stuff!

  5. Mike says:

    Definately love Rancho. The food is really good even for someone who lives in Arizona and is around quality Mexican food all the time. I make sure that we stop here at least once every trip. Most times it is our first dinner at the park.

    The Carne Asada and Enchilada plate gives you a ton of food for the price. I am 6’5″ and it fills me up.

    To me, the location is perfect to relax and enjoy a meal. Close enough to BTMRR to enjoy some of the ride while eating, yet quiet enough to be away from everything.

    My wife is indifferent to the place though.

  6. Marcia says:

    Great review, Tom. I’d been waiting for this one.

  7. Kevin says:

    I had to look at a park map to make sure I was remembering the same place. We ate here on our DL trip last summer and it was easily the least memorable meal that we ate in the park.

    The food wasn’t bad, but we enjoyed our CS meals at the French Market and Plaza Inn far more.

  8. Aaron in DC says:

    I love Rancho del Zocalo, and it’s definitely one of those places that has been improving incrementally over the years. As far as ambiance, I’ve always loved it for being one of those truly transportive places that Disneyland does so well. The abundance of beautiful flowers, along with just how unique and expansive the place is, makes it a relaxing place to take a break (not that I can sit still long when I’m at Disneyland!

    As for food quality, I think it would be a safe bet for them to take more authentic, simply considering DLR’s visitor demographics. They tend to be from not too far away and know what Mexican food is supposed to taste like. If you want Taco Bell, leave the park and go to Taco Bell. I’m not saying RdZ is anywhere near that lowly, just making a point.

    Come to think of it, there’s a place near me that is actually Peruvian, but a lot of people think it’s Mexican because they have some TexMex favorites for people from the suburbs who get lost and end up in my downtown neighborhood. Those in the know order off the Peruvian section or from the daily specials. RdZ could totally earn a cult following with two menus, or a “secret” menu! Who’s with me?!?!

  9. Rebecca says:

    We eat at Rancho Del Zocalo almost every time we are at DLR. I am also from AZ. No, it isn’t as good as a Mexican restaurant here but, the food is decent and filling. My husband and I often split one of the larger meals with two cheese enchiladas added on. You just go to that counter and tell them you want a side of enchiladas. We also like that you can refill your drink with your receipt. The staff there are friendly, the atmosphere is great – the huge bougainvillea bushes, the star lights, the whistle of BTMRR!

  10. deb says:

    The atmosphere can’t be beat but for us the food is hit or miss. There are times that I think shoe leather would be tastier than their carne asada. Even real silverware could not cut through that
    meat.

    If given a choice between Plaza Inn and Rancho Z-we would choose Plaza Inn hands down.

  11. Charles says:

    My favorite dish here is the tostada salad. If you ask for both chicken and beef, I’ve found I typcially end up with a bit more meat than going one or the other.

  12. Sammie says:

    Like you and Sarah, my hubby and I are often split on our reviews. I absolutely loved this place, so much so that I went back in and told the cooks thanks! Loved the food and the ambiance. Like Dave’s comment, we had passed this place many times. So glad we tried it. Will certainly be on my list for our trip this December!

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