If you’re looking for the best restaurants at Disneyland and California Adventure, plus standouts in the hotels and Downtown Disney, this list has you covered. It ranks our absolute favorites, including both counter and table service dining, bars & lounges, character meals, themed dining, and more.
This list is based on our subjective determination of “best” based upon our food quality, value, and theme–with an emphasis on food quality. This is not crowd-sourced or aggregated, but instead covers restaurants at which the two of us have actually dined at Disneyland Resort within the last year.
This last part is key–that this list is current for 2023. We eat at Disneyland about once per week, doing everything from snack spots to dessert parties and everything in between. If there’s one thing locals and Magic Key Passholders who dine at Disneyland regularly will tell you, it’s that a lot has changed…
Consequently, there are several entries towards the top of our list that you won’t find recommended by other resources that are several years old. These aren’t exactly secrets or hidden gems among Disneyland diehards, but are common omissions on outdated planning resources.
Similarly, there are conspicuous and “controversial” snubs that actually don’t make this list. If you haven’t visited Disneyland in a few years, you might be surprised that–for example–Flo’s V8 Cafe, Bengal BBQ, and a few others don’t make the cut. However, this for very good reason: they aren’t that good anymore!
Now, that isn’t to say you shouldn’t stop by some of those spots–you’ll still commonly find us sitting on the back porch at Flo’s around dusk–just that some Disneyland and DCA restaurants are victims of their own success and have dumbed-down menus as a result.
In short, this list seeks to offer a wide variety of practical recommendations–and the places we prefer and dined at regularly ourselves. We view all of you as friends (those of you we like) or family (some of you can be a pain, but at least you don’t have us set up new printers), so we figured we might as well share this with you, too. Just don’t ask for methodology or an explanation beyond what’s given–this is more of a gut feeling than an analytical analysis.
With that said, each section does offer some explanation to give you insight into our thinking for each set of recommendations. Plus, some alternatives where relevant, making the list a tad longerthan 23 recommendations. Here goes nothing…
Little Red Wagon & Corn Dog Castle – It might seem like a bit of a stretch to include two (2) stands that specialize in corn dogs, but it’s not when the ‘dogs are this good. Little Red Wagon’s corn dog is the gold standard and Corn Dog Castle’s cheese stick is a guilty pleasure that’s likewise worthy of inclusion.
Enjoy one in late morning by grabbing a bench facing Sleeping Beauty Castle and decompressing after racing around Fantasyland doing rides or in the evening right as World of Color starts. It’s a blissful experience!
Paradise Garden Grill – The true cameleon of Disney California Adventure dining, Paradise Garden Grill has gone from light and healthy fare to a menu that changes with the seasons. Totally overhauled for Lunar New Year, Festival of the Holidays, and other events–plus a BBQ summer menu–Paradise Garden Grill is like a festival marketplace booth in counter service form (and portion sizes).
Paradise Garden Grill scores points for relatively inventive & customizable choices, solid portion sizes, and high quality food. Beyond that, we love dining in the outdoor seating area under the popcorn lights, listening to the live band perform and watching the entertainment and activities in the surrounding area.
Cocina Cucamonga – We’ve long felt that Cocina Cucamonga had enough going for it that quietly put the counter service Mexican grill in the top 5 restaurants at Disney California Adventure. Namely, hearty portions, reasonable quality, decent variety, and solid value for money.
Then the new menu happened a few years ago, adding an excellent QuesaBirria and other street tacos. We ate every dish at the time, but I honestly couldn’t tell you anything about the rest of the street tacos because I’ve been hopelessly addicted to the QuesaBirria ever since. Even by real world standards, it’s a truly incredible version of this crunchy, cheesy, and greasy indulgence. That’s really saying something since Orange County has top-tier taco stands. I’d go as far as to say this is my favorite in-park counter service entree at Disney California Adventure right now.
Harbour Galley – This unassuming little dockside window located along the Rivers of America as you head towards Critter Country will catch you by surprise. It doesn’t seem like much, but it has a surprising strong menu with bread bowls, lobster items, and salads.
While the hidden seating area behind Harbour Galley is a delightful reprieve from the crowds, our recommendation here is to take your order (if available, the Lobster Mac & Cheese Bread Bowl is our #1 choice) and walk over to the back of the upper terrace at Hungry Bear Restaurant and enjoy a serene meal overlooking the water, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Jolly Holiday Bakery & Cafe – Nothing on the permanent menu here really wows me, but Jolly Holiday Bakery is reliably good and we eat here often as a result. Several of the items on the lunch and dinner menus at Jolly Holiday are safe choices, and the various forms of grilled cheese are a delight.
Beyond that, Jolly Holiday always seems to have a seasonal dish that delivers. When you add the best selections of baked goods of any restaurant in Disneyland, Jolly Holiday becomes one of the best overall dining options in the park.
Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante – One of the many Disneyland restaurants that’s technically a counter service restaurant, but has meals that are almost table service quality. The prices at Rancho reflect that, as many options here are priced slightly above what you’d find at an average counter service restaurant. However, the quality and portion size more than explains why the dishes are priced where they are.
Add to that very impressive ambiance in a venue that is (dare we say) romantically lit at night, this could be a great place for a cheap date night at Disneyland! If you really want to save money, split one of the platters with your date. Or not. Depends upon how your date feels about being taken out for fast food and sharing a meal.
Award Wieners – If you learned anything from our list of 10 Things We’ll Never Do Again at Disneyland, it’s that we don’t suffer fools who slander Award Wieners. That post garnered over 50 comments, but none of them were “yeah, I totally agree that Award Wieners is underrated.” But it is!!!
I make a point of telling every Disneyland fan I know that I love Award Wieners, and invariably have to clarify that I am not kidding. The Disneyland dieharders’ disdain for Award Wieners is partially understandable. The walk-up window used to be insanely popular with tourists despite mediocre meat medleys served on plain buns and with bags of generic Lay’s potato chips.
However, that stopped being the case several years ago. Quality was upgraded across the board and inventive new dogs were added, including a rotating and ambitious slew of seasonal offerings. The all-beef meat, toppings, and buns have all improved considerably. Filmstrip fries are top-notch, too. Award Wieners now lives up to its name, and is deserving of a major award. I am not kidding!
Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo – This large counter service restaurant in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has high prices–but no higher than Plaza Inn or Rancho del Zocalo. More to the point, it has an strong menu with delicious options matching those high price points in quality.
On a cool day, the small courtyard of almost-hidden outdoor seating is your best option. As for menu choices, our top pick is the Felucian Garden Spread, which is a great option even for non-vegans. We’re also big fans of the seasonal menu options, and the Cold Brew Black Caf is the best coffee drink at Disneyland. Sadly, the menu is smaller than it used to be, but it still packs a punch!
Goofy’s Kitchen – The flagship character meal in California is located in the restaurant of the same name at Disneyland Hotel. This is my favorite character breakfast at Disneyland Resort, and my top recommendation for families who want the best balance of a fun experience and a fun meal.
Normally, Disney characters are not known as skilled chefs (looking at you, Mr.Mouse!), but Goofy is shockingly skilled in the kitchen. The menu here is a showcase of his culinary chops, with unexpected highlights including some truly goofy breakfast pizzas, ranging from peanut butter and jelly to banana’s foster (they are so much better than they might sound). Character interactions are also generally pretty good.
Plaza Inn – The glorious fried chicken is Plaza Inn’s claim to fame, and unlike some Disneyland foods, this chicken actually lives up to the hype. The fried chicken is more addictive than nicotine and more delicious than bacon ice cream.
During the holidays, the menu gets even better with the Yule Log (usually) added, but it’s pretty spectacular year-round. Sarah is not a big fan of Plaza Inn, but I think most visitors to Disneyland will love this place. The only downside is that the pricing has gotten absolutely out of hand in the last few years, but it’s still an all-star eatery.
Lamplight Lounge – For most of its existence, Lamplight Lounge was Cove Bar, an ordinary open-air lounge overlooking Paradise Bay. Its claim to fame at the time was the iconic Lobster Nachos, along with a rotating cast of small bites and colorful drinks. We miss Cove Bar.
We also love Lamplight Lounge. The menu is bigger and bolder…but also more expensive than its predecessor. We likewise love the “brilliant brunch” at Lamplight Lunch, which has a slew of standouts. When it comes to lunch and dinner, there is one thing you should absolutely order here: those aforementioned Lobster Nachos. Our review of these from several years ago remains true to this day: “a zen-like experience that makes you feel like there are little angels massaging your taste buds and tickling your stomach…a religious experience.”
Blue Bayou Restaurant – For the longest time, our perspective on Blue Bayou was that it was a Disneyland bucket list must-do, but mostly for the atmosphere inside Pirates of the Caribbean and less-so for the food. That changed with the latest menu update, during which we had the best dishes in-park at Disneyland Resort in a long time.
Two of these were far more ambitious than anything we’ve ever had at Blue Bayou, and left us wanting to try the rest of the menu. Between those and the reliably good (albeit overpriced) Monte Cristo, we now highly recommend Blue Bayou Restaurant to all Disneyland visitors and not just rite of passage first-timers. Let’s hope the kitchen keeps the quality up and the menu this ambitious. It makes Blue Bayou a top-tier restaurant at Disneyland for both atmosphere and cuisine!
(Honorable mention here to Cafe Orleans, which is a solid alternative if Blue Bayou is unavailable or a bit too expensive. Cafe Orleans is worthy of inclusion on this list, but we made the editorial decision to omit it due to Blue Bayou covering much of the same ground and being a better choice. Perhaps that was a mistake and we should swap out Harbour Galley for Cafe Orleans…)
Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar – The perfect way to cap off an evening in the parks is at the best bar in all of Disneyland Resort, Trader Sam’s. This is the coolest and most fun bar in Disneyland, with an intimate location that is packed with an astonishing amount of detail, interactive elements, and some fantastic drinks.
Some of these drinks include the Krakatoa Punch, HippopotoMai-Tai, Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum, Shipwreck on the Rocks, and the Uh Oa!, which is supposed to be shared among a few friends. Trader Sam’s shares a kitchen with Tangaroa Terrace, so everything from that menu is also available here. It’s just too bad that doesn’t include the breakfast options–a late night of Uh-Oas paired with Japanese Fluffy Pancakes sounds pretty perfect!
Pacific Wharf Cafe – This unassuming deli is all about BREAD: pudding and bowls.
Seriously, that’s it. Pacific Wharf Cafe makes the list wholly on the basis of its bread bowls (particularly the mac & cheese) and rotating selection of seasonal bread pudding, which is among the best desserts at Disneyland.
Lucky Fortune Cookery – With each of its three main restaurants represented, it should be obvious by now that Pacific Wharf is the place to do a counter service lunch at Disney California Adventure. You can take a divide and conquer approach, with a range of options from bread to tacos.
And now, Asian fusion. The mash-up of Korean and Mexican flavors is popular in Southern California, and the Beef Bulgogi Burrito with Garlic-flavored Chips is a shockingly good example of this type of cuisine. Unassuming as it might look, it’s bursting with flavor and, in my view, is the best burrito at Disneyland Resort.
The menu has a wide range of other options, from a decent ramen to an unexpectedly delicious plant-based Bánh Mì to a surprisingly spicy Spicy Szechuan Chicken. No single entree in Pacific Wharf is as good as the QuesaBirria, but this is the best overall restaurant–beating both Cocina Cucamonga and Pacific Wharf Cafe. You can’t go wrong with anything here.
Pym’s Kitchen – Speaking of well-rounded restaurants at Disney California Adventure, we have Pym’s Test Kitchen. This is a lot like Avengers Campus as a whole: some flashes of excellence hobbled by uneven execution. The difference with this Marvel restaurant is that its core concept is outstanding, and there are some good menu options among the bad or only okay.
Where Pym’s Test Kitchen truly excels is in sweets. Both in entree (Ever-expanding Cinna-Pym Toast for breakfast; PB3 Superb Sandwich for lunch or dinner) and dessert (Celestial-sized Candy Bar: Choco-Smash CANDY Bar). Beyond that, it’s a fun spot to grab a meal, see the “Pym Particles” grow and shrink innovations with food science, and do some people super hero watching.
Carnation Cafe – Although it’s changed a bit over the years, you could sit down inside Carnation Cafe, peruse the menu, and think that this might’ve been the same experience guests had back in 1955. (Well, you would have to ignore the prices, as those have changed more than just a bit!)
The point is that Carnation Cafe is a Disneyland institution, from its setting on Main Street to its classic menu of comfort food cuisine. My favorites are the Fried Pickles, Parmesan Toasted Patty Melt, and Chicken Fried Chicken. But ask a different Disneyland fan for their picks and you’re likely to get a list consisting of the Fried Pickles, plus two different entrees.
Tangaroa Terrace – Disneyland fans are starting to wake up and recognize the excellence of Tangaroa Terrace. The only problem? They aren’t waking up early enough, and are praising the wrong meal as a result. Lunch and dinner here are fine; better than many counter service restaurants in the parks, but not as good as Disneyland Hotel’s counterpart in the Grand Californian.
Where Tangaroa Terrace truly shines is breakfast. That menu is seriously stacked, with literally every single entry aside from the boring American Breakfast being a standout. My personal favorite is the Avocado Toast, which is the best version of this dish I’ve had anywhere and one of my favorite dishes at Disneyland Resort. Japanese Fluffy Pancakes and Tangaroa Toast are also winners!
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes – This is bound to be an unpopular opinion given the perpetual lines, but I think that Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes is overrated. Those long lines are a result of the photogenic CrazyShakes and the lack of better alternatives in Downtown Disney, which despite being a dining district, only has a handful of worthwhile restaurants (for now).
With that said, “overrated” isn’t the same as “bad” and that’s why Black Tap makes the list, edging out other standouts in Downtown Disney, including Catal, Napolini Pizzeria and Naples Ristorante. (We wouldn’t hesitate to eat at any of those, but I’d prefer to focus on in-park or hotel options for this list.)
Napa Rose – Widely regarded as the ultimate Disneyland foodie experience–at least, of those open to the general public–Napa Rose is an all-star that can stand shoulder to shoulder with real world fine dining establishments in Orange County. We’ve dined at Napa Rose countless times, doing everything from Thanksgiving dinner to the superlative Chef’s Counter at Napa Rose.
For the longest time, we considered Napa Rose to be the second-best Disney restaurant at which we’ve dined, behind only Victoria & Albert’s at Walt Disney World. However, its status had fallen slightly pre-closure and substantially since reopening. Perhaps we’ve just been unlucky, but I’d now rather dine at the next restaurant on this list–along with two others in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel–over Napa Rose. It’s still worthy of inclusion and recommendation, but not what it once was, in our view.
Carthay Circle Restaurant – This one ranking highly shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, given that we named it the Best Restaurant in Disney California Adventure. We’ll take that a step further–this is one of the best in-park restaurants anywhere, and among a trio of truly elite restaurants at Disneyland Resort. There are a lot of great things to eat in the parks and resorts, but very few that qualify as fine dining that could go head-to-head with the best of Southern California’s real world culinary scene.
Whether you’re a Disney diehard who appreciates the history of Walt Disney or simply a casual guest looking for a great meal, you cannot go wrong with Carthay Circle Restaurant. The menu is still lacking as compared to pre-closure, but it has much of its swagger back, and is again highly recommended.
Hearthstone Lounge – This lobby bar is one of three different restaurants that make the list at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel (four if you count each of the next two entries separately), and it’s our newest favorite. The menu here was overhauled a few months ago, and continues being perfected.
These tweaks have paid off. Hearthstone Lounge has gone from having great drinks and good bar food to being destination-worthy dining. The menu is ambitious and interesting, with even the seemingly simple and straightforward salads and sandwiches featuring novel twists. The only thing stopping us from eating here again and again is the popularity of Hearthstone Lounge, which can be quite busy on weekends and evenings. Go early or late and order anything–even the “basics” are surprisingly ambitious!
GCH Craftsman Bar & Grill – We eat at these two spots more than anywhere else at Disneyland Resort. The GCH dining options are our go-to picks when we’re eating somewhere at Disneyland for us rather than for the sake of researching a new menu or revisiting restaurants to taste-test quality.
There’s so much on the shared menu that we absolutely love. The nachos are a great shared starter (or even an entree), but burger is fantastic, and the quesadilla is absolutely spectacular. Then there’s the Forest Mushroom Pizza, which is the highlight of the menu and what we’ve eaten more than anything else at GCH Craftsman Bar & Grill. That just scratches the surface on this very deep menu, which is good-to-great from top to bottom.
Technically, these are two locations. GCH Craftsman Bar is the poolside lounge and GCH Craftsman Grill is the adjacent counter service restaurant. The menus and the food are identical, and come from the same shared kitchen. If possible, we recommend GCH Craftsman Bar for the relaxed ambiance, with daytime sunlight dotting the setting. The low-key lighting provided by the Arts & Crafts lanterns and popcorn lighting is also quite nice. If you can’t get a reservation, the food at GCH Craftsman Grill is every bit as good.
BONUS: Club 33 – For obvious reasons, the membership club at Disneyland doesn’t make the main list, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention Club 33, since it is one of the top 20 or so restaurants.
What would make your list of the top 23 restaurants at Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Downtown Disney, and the Hotels of Disneyland Resort? Any obvious standouts we’ve snubbed? What about restaurants that made our list that don’t belong? Any way you’d change the categories or choices? Do you agree or disagree with our choices? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!