Carthay Circle Restaurant in Disney California Adventure is Disneyland Resort’s top in-park dining experience. This review covers our experiences at both the bar & lounge and the table service restaurant located in Carthay Circle Theatre. Carthay Circle Restaurant’s menu consists of trendy modern cuisine with a diverse range of flavors and locally sourced ingredients. Many items on the menu are flavors of Southern California, but it’s not an overly “California” menu. Inside, it feels like an upscale old Hollywood place. Sort of like the Hollywood Tower Hotel, except without the lightning and stuff (although I did half expect to find Rod Serling inside).
Being an upscale restaurant inside a theme park is a tough balancing act–upscale dining requires a certain menu, level of service, and ambiance, whereas theme parks are bustling places often filled with sweaty tourists. Nailing the ambiance thus becomes a bit of a challenge, as the restaurant’s clientele is not typical of what you’d find in a comparable SoCal restaurant. In this sense, Carthay Circle Restaurant was a bit of a gamble for Disney. Napa Rose in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel has proven quite popular, but it benefits from locals being able to visit without paying park admission.
By contrast, Carthay Circle Restaurant caters only to the theme park crowd, and has to compete with attractions for the attention of this crowd. Unlike other restaurants that have gone “extinct” at Disney California Adventure in the past, Carthay Circle Restaurant is located prominently in Disney California Adventure’s wienie, making it more difficult for Disney to just shutter. On top of that, much of the dedicated Annual Passholder base at Disneyland was a bit perturbed when Carthay Circle Theatre was announced as the home of a restaurant and two lounges rather than an actual attraction. In other words, Carthay Circle Restaurant has had a lot of pressure on it since even before it opened to really offer an incredible experience. (more…)