Bengal Barbecue is a counter service restaurant in Disneyland’s Adventureland, across from Indiana Jones Adventure, specializing in fresh grilled meats…and vegetables, if you’re into that sort of thing. In this review, we share food photos and whether we think Bengal Barbecue is worth the money. Although it’s categorized as a counter service restaurant, Bengal BBQ is in the same class as restaurants like Corn Dog Castle–small menu and not really a full meal. Still, more elaborate than basic outdoor vending carts. Bengal Barbecue has meat and vegetable skewers on its menu, plus a few other random things.
Bengal Barbecue is especially popular with locals and Annual Passholders, many of whom still claim to have been part of a successful campaign to “Save Bengal Barbecue” a few years ago (we have no idea whether this campaign was actually a success, or if Disney’s plans simply changed…we’d lean towards the latter). It took us a while to finally eat here, mostly because the lines have always been fairly long whenever we’ve passed it. After hearing much praise, we finally bit the bullet and have now tried it a few times.
In Summer 2017, Bengal Barbecue experienced another change–it finally added indoor seating! (Photos of the seating areas below.) As part of a reconfiguration of some spots in Adventureland to eliminate a bottleneck and area of congestion, Bengal BBQ had its seating area moved indoors. While this is a nice change for the better, it’s still not enough for Bengal BBQ to earn our recommendation…
To me, Bengal Barbecue seems a lot like a permanent Food & Wine Festival kiosk. Limited menu, long lines, high prices for the portions offered–but pretty good food. I give Food & Wine Festival a pass because it’s a once a year special event. Plus, despite the high prices and small portions, some of the food is fairly ambitious for those small kiosks.
I feel about the same way about Bengal Barbecue, but possibly because so many people heap so much praise on this place and because it’s permanent, I’m not so inclined to give it a pass.
The most common praise we’ve heard about Bengal Barbecue is that everything is inexpensive. Well, this is technically true, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Yes, everything on the menu is around $5, but everything is also about one-quarter the size (at best) of an entree you’d order at a regular counter service restaurant.
Multiply that out, and you’re looking at spending about $20 to get the same amount of food as you’d get elsewhere, and I can’t think of many counter service dishes that are $20 (even the legendary Plaza Inn fried chicken costs less!).
To me, it’s the same idea as those “healthy” boxes of cookies you can buy that have less than 10% of your daily fat in a serving. At first blush, this is awesome.
You’ll read this nutrition information in the grocery store, jump high in the air and fist-pump while screaming in elation, “THANK YOU SCIENCE FOR DISCOVERING A HEALTHY COOKIE RECIPE!!!” Then, you’ll read further and see the serving size…one cookie. What kind of fool is only eating one cookie?! If I’m eating cookies, I’m eating no less than 10. All of the sudden, those “healthy” cookies have become all of my daily allotment of fat.
I digress, but the idea is the same here. Bengal Barbecue is not a good value as a counter service restaurant even if what’s listed on the menu “only” costs $5 if you have to eat 3-4 menu items to have a filling meal.
Even worse, Bengal Barbecue now regularly has a Chef’s Special Skewer that costs $6-7, depending upon what’s offered. As of Summer 2017, this is a pork belly skewer costing $7. We are told it’s delicious, but we’ve seen the portion size on it. For $7, that’s a hard pass.
Probably due to continual price increases, Bengal Barbecue no longer has the lengthy lines that once were a hallmark of the location. The first few times we ate here, our average wait time was about 10-15 minutes, and this is eating at off-hours when other restaurants would have minimal waits.
Now, you can regularly walk up to Bengal Barbecue and have cash registers open with no one in line. At max, you’re looking at a 5 minute wait.
This isn’t to say Bengal Barbecue is a bad counter service restaurant. When it comes to the food, Bengal Barbecue is great. Not only is everything grilled on the open-air grill right in front of you, but nothing ever sits around under heat lamps. What you order is basically always fresh off the grill.
Bengal Barbecue is also an ostensibly healthy place to eat. I have no idea whether the sauce covering some of the meats is healthy or not (probably not), but even if it isn’t, these are still lean meats cooked on a grill. Even assuming the worst about those sauces, Bengal Barbecue is still one of the healthiest restaurants at Disneyland Resort. The only thing that I assume is healthier is the Plaza Inn fried chicken, and that’s only because the magical elves who I presume make that use their magical forces to remove all fat from it…magically.
In terms of how good the skewers taste and which ones are best, we think they’re all about the same. Mind you, they all taste very different, but none of them really stand out as “best” or “worst.” They are all solid options, and we liked them all.
The problem is, after dining at Bengal Barbecue, I didn’t find myself craving any of them or thinking that I must have more of any particular one. The food here is more like the kind of skewers you might grill for yourself at home rather than something that I’d describe as any Disney-specialty foods, if that makes sense.
If we had to pick, I’d say I prefer the Chieftain Chicken Skewer to the beef skewers, as the chicken is more tender and the sweet Polynesian sauce is great, whereas the beef is a little too lean. Sarah’s favorite is the Banyan Beef Skewer. Sarah also loves the various vegetable skewers, her favorite of those being the Outback Vegetable Skewer.
Of the vegetable ones, I have only tried the Bacon Wrapped Asparagus skewer, and I thought it was good–but I could have done without the asparagus! Actually, in terms of portion size, this skewer is consistently the best. The Chieftain Chicken Skewer–my favorite–is consistently the worst.
For me, by far the highlight of the menu is the Tiger Tail. It might sound like a simple piece of grilled bread, but it’s absolutely delicious. The bread is soft and doughy, and flavored with a mix of butter, Italian seasoning, cheese, and who knows what else.
The flavor of this is so good that I eat it by itself, rather than dipping it in sauce or using it to make a sandwich out of the skewers, but that’s also a good use of the Tiger Tail. This is definitely the most memorable menu item for me, and that’s not meant as a knock at the skewers–the Tiger Tail is just really, really good.
In addition to these items, there are a few other assorted items on the Bengal Barbecue menu. The highlight of these is the Jalapeno Cheese-Filled Pretzel, which is sold at multiple locations throughout Disneyland, and is universally delicious.
Overall, Bengal Barbecue is solid option, especially for healthy eaters or those wanting some flavorful meat fresh off the grill. With that said, we feel that it is not deserving of the hype that it receives. Much of this hype is undoubtedly the result of its illusion of value. But it’s exactly that–an illusion. You can’t actually eat a meal here for under $5. In most cases, it will actually cost you more to eat a full meal at Bengal Barbecue than it would at another counter service restaurant at Disneyland. In fact, depending upon what you order, you’re looking at close to table service prices for a full meal at Bengal Barbecue. On the other hand, if you’re just looking to grab a savory snack (for about the price of a cupcake) instead of the typical sweet stuff around Disneyland, Bengal Barbecue is a great option.
Where do you stand on Bengal Barbecue? How do you feel about the portion sizes and prices here? What about the flavors of the meats and other skewers? Did you help “save” it when the Bengal was endangered? Planning on going? Any questions? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!