Looking for a place to eat in Anaheim within a short distance of Disneyland? This post takes a look at some of the interesting nearby dining options, with recommendations for “local,” non-chain options. We’ll also focus on inexpensive spots within walking distance, a short Uber/taxi ride, or accessible via the ART. These are some great options if you’re staying in one of our recommended Disneyland Area Hotels.
As Anaheim has recently experienced an economic boom and redevelopment of older areas, the restaurant choices within a few miles of Disneyland are solid. Although not mentioned below (it’ll be covered comprehensively in a future post once I have the chance to try more of the choices there), my favorite of these is the Anaheim Packing District, which has a lot of unique, artisan dining choices in a historic-meets-forward-thinking “destination” setting. In terms of closer, walkable options, there’s also Anaheim Garden Walk, but many of these are uninspired and/or standard chain restaurants.
Regardless of where you decide to dine, one thing to do is always vet unknown restaurants with Yelp or Google before making a final selection. While there are a lot of great restaurants in Orange County, California and Anaheim, there are also a lot of really bad options near Disneyland. One of the reasons Walt Disney was keen on having “the blessing of size” in Florida was because of the flashing neon signs and sleazy tourist traps that popped up outside the gates of Disneyland.
While things have improved substantially on that front in the decades since, it’s still not perfect. Being a mecca for tourists, many restaurants and hotels near Disneyland aren’t overly concerned with repeat business, and thus can prey on unsuspecting tourists without regard for unfavorable reviews.
The restaurant pictured (in a tongue-in-cheek manner) at the top of this post–the closest business to Disneyland–is a prime example. With its sterling 1.5 star Yelp rating, it has become a running joke among Disneyland fans. I’ve never dined there, as I’m not sure there’s a good time to come down with a case of food poisoning. If enough of you goad me into it, maybe I’ll give it a try and do a future review. (Although I’ve heard from others they don’t allow photography inside, ha.)
As for some of my top Disneyland-area picks for restaurants that (hopefully) won’t give you food poisoning, here are 5 of ’em…
5. In-N-Out Burger
Let’s get this obvious one out of the way right off the bat. No list of mine concerning restaurants in California would be complete without a nod to In-N-Out Burger. When I inevitable write the post, “Top 8 Fancy Michelin-Starred Restaurants Near Disneyland,” In-N-Out Burger will probably somehow make the list. In case you’ve missed my various references to it in the past, check out my Consummate Carnivore’s Guide to In-N-Out Burger for why I love the place so much.
Suffice to say, like Disneyland, In-N-Out Burger is a California institution that is a must-do on any SoCal vacation. It’s inexpensive and delicious, with a distinctive taste that you’ll be craving for months afterwards. My standard order here is two Double-Doubles Animal Style (with raw onions instead of grilled) and a Neapolitan Milkshake. All of that will set you back less than the cost of a standard burger combo without drink at Tomorrowland Terrace, which is pretty funny if you’ve ever tried the burger at Tomorrowland Terrace. The closest In-N-Out Burger to Disneyland is at 1168 State College Blvd. in Anaheim (it’s a new store, so Google Maps may try to send you to the one on S. Brookhurst, which is farther away).
4. Tanor Fresh Mediterranean Grill
Tanoor’s Fresh Mediterranean Grill is the most “under the radar” location on this list. Located in an unassuming strip mall near the intersection of Harbor and Katella, you might think it’s just another tourist trap trying to capitalize on location if you’re quickly passing by. Admittedly, this is what I thought the first few times I saw it, opting for a cheap, albeit uninspired meal at the adjacent Subway instead. It wasn’t until seeing great review after great review on Yelp that I finally decided to give it a try.
Am I glad that I did. Orange County has a surprising number of excellent Persian eateries, and they are in good company with Tanoor’s. Coming from the Midwest, I’m not exactly an expert in this type of cuisine, but to me, it seems that Tanoor’s offers an approachable gateway into Mediterranean cuisine while still maintaining flavors that don’t seem Americanized or bland. The owners are friendly, and it’s rarely busy unless a convention is on lunch break. My go-to is the basic shawarma plate, but that’s strictly personal preference. The veggies always taste fresh, and the food here is generally a refreshing and quality change of pace.
3. Joe’s Italian Ice
The next two spots on the list are a one-two punch that pretty much must be done together. My first experience with Joe’s Italian Ice came a couple of years ago when walking from my hotel to Disneyland, and seeing this little ice cream stand slammed with people in the middle of, basically, a sketchy stretch of nothing-ness. It was like a desert oasis.
Joe’s opened a second location super close to its first location last year; a Starbucks-like move, which some pointed to as a sign of its incredible popularity (it turns out this was because the first location was set to close due to tourism redevelopment). I’m partial to the Joe Latti, which mixes a bit of soft serve with the Italian ice to make for a creamy, flavorful treat. There are a ton of flavors, including every virtually every fruit known to man, plus others like Blue Hawaii, Dreamsicle, and Peanut Butter Cup. I’m partial to Peach and Tiki Cream (better than a Dole Whip!). These are more filling than you might expect–the large size is definitely shareable. Joe’s already has expanded with an Arizona location, and I could someday see it being the In-N-Out Burger of Italian ice. Seriously–it’s that good.
I still prefer the chicken at Plaza Inn (and you can’t beat that ambiance of eating outside with the sounds of Main Street and Sleeping Beauty Castle in the distance), but the overall meals here are better. For me, that’s thanks to the supporting players like the grits, biscuits & gravy, and those addicting southern waffles (best waffles ever). The chicken itself is really good, but it’s the whole meal that makes Roscoe’s amazing. If you have an appetite, I’d recommend going with the Scoe’s or Herb’s Specials, which I think offer the most bang for your buck.
1. The Pizza Press
The Pizza Press gets high marks for a few reasons. First, it is less than 10 minutes away from Disneyland by foot. Second, it’s a filling meal for about $10. Finally, it’s delicious, assembly-line (think Subway or Blaze, if the latter is in your area) pizza with a ton of ingredient options. There are a lot of different ingredient choices, so you can go again and again and get something unique each time, which is good for Annual Passholders looking for a reprieve from Disneyland or Disney California Adventure (bonus: they offer AP discounts). About the only downside is the incredibly limited parking, but I’m assuming 99% of their business is people walking from Disneyland, so that won’t be a problem for most.
The only thing to order here is the “Publish Your Own,” which is the whatever-you-want option. There are menu choices for those who aren’t good at thinking for themselves, but I know the brilliant readers here are capable of independent thought. Proximity of this restaurant is literally the only good reason I can think of to stay at the Carousel Inn, but it’s walkable from anywhere that’s walkable of Disneyland.
That covers it for some of my favorite places to dine near Disneyland. If you’re a tourist with limited time to visit Disneyland while on vacation, it might be difficult to pull yourself from the parks for some of these restaurants, especially the ones that aren’t within walking distance.
However, keep in mind that most of these places are open late, so consider them for a “Fourth Meal” as you walk back to your hotel after a long day in the parks. Universally, these places are going to offer better bang for your buck than the restaurants in Disneyland, and several of them are iconic spots in California, so when your friends say, “the only thing you did in California was Disneyland?!” you can respond, “of course not, we also ate at legendary restaurants…” 😉
If you found this Disneyland post helpful or to be a “fun” read, please help us out by sharing it with your friends via the social media buttons on the above left side of the page. Thanks!
Do you agree or disagree with my assessment of these restaurants near Disneyland? Are you a fan of any of them? Have any additional nearby (<5 miles) restaurants to recommend? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts on these questions, or anything else, in the comments!