Napa Rose Chef’s Counter Review

napa-rose-chefs-counter-grand-californian-disneyland-658


Napa Rose in the Grand Californian Hotel is the best restaurant at Disneyland Resort. Blue Bayou, Carthay Circle Restaurant, and even Club 33 all pale in comparison to Napa Rose. A big part of this is likely that Napa Rose is the only restaurant of those I’ve mentioned not located in a theme park. While it still has a bit of a captive audience in terms of tourists visiting Disneyland Resort, it’s not nearly to the degree of the in-park restaurants.

Given that the Orange County and Los Angeles foodie scene is among the best in the country, Napa Rose really has to bring its A game to attract locals who aren’t heading into the parks. I mean, this is an area with some of the finest Pop Tart culinary creations known to mankind. When restaurants throw down the Pop Tart gauntlet, you know it’s on. Although Napa Rose doesn’t have any gourmet Pop Tarts on its menu (yet), it has basically responded with the sage words of Barney Stinson, shouting “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED” with regard to the competitive Orange County foodie scene.

In so doing, Napa Rose has demonstrated that it can run with the big dogs, winning a variety of awards since first opening, and being recognized as one of the top restaurants in Orange County by the likes of Zagat and other restaurant critics. Interestingly, the restaurant only scores an 81% on crowd-sourced Urban Spoon, but in glancing through those reviews, many seem to focus either on price or are tourists used to large portion sizes. No question, Napa Rose is an expensive restaurant serving smaller portions–this is pretty much a universal truth among fine dining locales. In other news, the sky is blue and Snoop Dogg likes to party.

We’ve already covered the regular menu at Napa Rose in a separate review, so for this review we will focus solely on the Chef’s Counter experience… (more…)

Paradise Pier Hotel Review

paradise-pier-hotel-disneyland-resort-soft-light

Paradise Pier Hotel is an official Disney hotel at Disneyland Resort with a 4-star rating, themed to a beachside boardwalk of the 1920s. It’s typically the least-expensive of the three official Disneyland Resort hotels, but it’s also the farthest from the park, and offers the least in terms of style and amenities. This review features photos of the Paradise Pier Hotel guest rooms and common areas, plus my thoughts on the hotel, and whether I’d recommend it.

Some people are fans of Paradise Pier Hotel. I am not one of those people. In fact, I honestly figured we’d never have a review of the hotel because I refused to pay anywhere near rack rate at this hotel and the type of insane deal necessary to convince me to stay here seemed unlikely. By stroke of luck, a family member of ours happened to get bumped from Disneyland Hotel for a recent convention and ended up at Paradise Pier Hotel, so we joined her for part of the stay. Hence this review.

The good news is that the experience at Paradise Pier Hotel was better than I expected. The bad news is that my expectations were incredibly low, and I still don’t recommend the place. It’s a nice-enough hotel, but it simply doesn’t offer good value.

Why is my opinion of Paradise Pier Hotel low? Well…how much time do you have? ;) (more…)

Avengers Assemble!…at Disneyland?

tomorrowland-sign-disneyland-night

This post covers a couple of things: new Avengers food at Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port in Disneyland, and whether a Marvel attraction is replacing Innoventions next door. Let’s start with the more intriguing subject. That’s right, the food.

I’ll admit that I was pretty hyped when I read an article on the Disney Parks Blog about the Iron Man waffle (yes, you read that correctly–it’s a waffle shaped like Iron Man) on Friday afternoon. I mean, it’s a waffle, shaped like a super hero. That’s something truly special, and I felt the need to consume it ASAP. In actuality, my excitement probably wasn’t so much about the waffle itself as the fact that I now had a pretext to head to Disneyland after finishing work.

I met up with Hawkeye4Life Fan Club Founder Guy Selga, and we each purchased all of the Avengers items at Pizza Port (besides the pricey Iron Man novelty cup). There was much excitement in the air, as the potential of a delicious waffle shaped like a super hero could instantly catapult Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port from being one of the worst restaurants at Disneyland to one of the best restaurants…in the world. I mean, c’mon, it’s a waffle shaped like Iron Man? That’s serious business.

Let’s take a look at whether the waffle and other Avengers foods we assembled lived up to the hype. Oh, and also the minor question of if and when a Marvel attraction is coming to Tomorrowland… (more…)

Dixieland at Disneyland

dixieland-disneyland-mark-twain-night

Dixieland at Disneyland was an annual special event held at Disneyland beginning in 1960 and lasting through 1970 that featured live bands, a Mardi Gras floating parade on the Rivers of America, scenic environments, and more. It was a special hard ticket event priced around $4.50, and it brought out jazz fans in droves. Dixieland at Disneyland was also a special Annual Passholder event earlier this week with some similar elements, harkening back to the early days of Dixieland at Disneyland.

I was fortunate enough to attend this week’s Dixieland at Disneyland event, and had an amazing time at the event. It has been the highlight, so far, of the Annual Passholder events I’ve attended that I discussed in the Disneyland Annual Pass Info & Tips post. I wrote there that these events demonstrate that Disneyland does care about its Annual Passholders, and having an event like this that pays homage to Disneyland history and features a presumably large entertainment budget really shows me that there are people working hard behind the scenes at Disneyland who really care and “get” it.

Because I was impressed by the event and wanted to share some of the experience, I thought I’d write a recap. At the same time, I don’t want this to come across as “here’s a look at this awesome one-time(?) event you’ll probably never get to attend. HAHA, SUCKERS!” so I thought I would strike a balance by highlighting the history of Dixieland at Disneyland as well as a recap of this specific incarnation of it.

Fair enough? We’ll start with some historical info about Dixieland at Disneyland, then I’ll share some of my photos and thoughts from this year’s event… (more…)

Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotel Review: Hotel Menage

hotel-menage-disneyland-good-neighbor-hotel-exterior

Hotel Menage is a Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotel located about 12 minutes from the parks near the I-5 freeway. The hotel aims for trendy and chic, and succeeds somewhat. This review features photos of the hotel, plus thoughts about our experience of staying here.

Let’s start the review by covering the location. With it being only a 12 minute walk from Disney California Adventure and Disneyland, the location is pretty solid on paper. It’s essentially right across the street from the HoJo Anaheim, both of which the I-5 freeway runs past. For those unfamiliar with the 5, it’s a major highway running through Orange County, which right away should raise concerns about noise. I never had any trouble sleeping or really noticed the sounds of the freeway, but light sleepers might want to think twice about booking this hotel, just the same. Likewise, when walking to the park, you have to cross the I-5 on and off ramps. There are pedestrian traffic signals here, but it still seems like a bit of a sketchy intersection.

Hotel Menage is one of the 39 Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels, meaning you could book it as part of a vacation package if you so desired (although if you choose to do that, you’re going to pay an inflated rate). It’s nice hotel that would earn that distinction regardless of location. You can get an idea of how it stacks up to the competition, plus our overall comparison of the benefits of staying off-site versus on-site in our Where to Stay at Disneyland post.

So what are the pros and cons of staying at Hotel Menage? Let’s take a look… (more…)