Best & Worst Snacks at 2024 Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival

This ranks our 10 favorite savory snacks and decadent desserts at the 2024 Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival, which is Disneyland Resort’s spring culinary event. We also share dishes to avoid in our ‘worst of’ list from the DCA foodie fest.

Rather than doing individual marketplace booth reviews, we wanted to highlight the good, bad & ugly of the 2024 Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival. This list shares some must-try snacks for those of you visiting in the near future who want a concise resource of what to eat at this year’s flagship Food & Wine Festival at Disneyland Resort.

We’ve already tasted our way around the 2024 DCA Food & Wine Festival, trying all 17 of the new and returning dishes and desserts. All told, there are 80 new items, but the overwhelming majority are alcohol. The event runs for the next couple of months, through April 22, 2024. A lot of favorites from last year have returned, and are as good as ever.

The Sip & Savor Pass is back for the 2024 Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival, offering a commemorative credential, lanyard and tabs redeemable for food and nonalcoholic beverages at the marketplace booths. The new-for-2024 twist is that you can either purchase a 4-tab or 8-tab Sip & Savor Pass.

We recommend buying the Sip & Savor Pass. It’s a good value so long as you buy only the most expensive (savory) items at each food booth. Even at the slightly higher per-tab price point for the 4-tab version, your per item breakeven cost is $7.75 (it’s $7.62 for the 8-tab version).

With several savory items on our ‘recommended’ list below clocking in at $8 to $9 each, the pass offers good bang for buck if you’re planning on sampling a number of items at the event. Ideally, you’d use the Sip & Savor Pass for savory items and pay for desserts out of pocket–so get the 4-tab or 8-tab version with that plan in mind.

Our other recommendation would be ordering as much as possible at one booth. A lot of people don’t realize this is possible, but you can order from any of the menus at any of the booths, meaning that you just save your receipt (DO NOT LOSE IT!) and go to the return line rather than waiting in line to order all over again. We try to order from ~3 booths at a time, which is about the sweet spot. (We’ve done more before, but regretted it. Turns out our eyes were bigger than our stomachs.)

Which brings us to another point–the dishes are very filling despite being snack-sized, which is a result of their almost across-the-board heartiness. That has become the nature of the beast with this event. We would’ve described the DCA Food & Wine Festival cuisine as “too heavy” two years ago, and it skews even further in that direction for 2024. There are more varieties of mac & cheese than there are vegetable-centric dishes.

This makes sense to an extent–California has a lot of great street food that’s indulgent or decadent. It’s also a state of diverse and inventive flavors, coastal cuisine, and healthy living. So it’s slightly disappointing that the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival almost singularly focuses on “elevated comfort food.”

This is surprising given that EPCOT’s festivals have done a better job at offering a range of interesting and ambitious cuisine, with both lighter and heavier dishes. With that said, the overall quality of the culinary lineup at the DCA Food & Wine Festival is still very high, and with fewer “misses” than its Epcot counterpart. Still, the menus play things safe a lot more than we expected.

Anyway, let’s start with the best-of the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival list…

Shrimp Papas Locas (Peppers Cali-Ente) – This dish consists of cheddar-bacon potatoes with jalapeño cheese sauce and chipotle shrimp. This is at once comforting and hearty, while also have a rich and nuanced flavor profile.

It does bring a bit of heat, but nothing that should scare anyone away. The cheddar-bacon potatoes are out of this world, and the shrimp bathed in cheese sauce–and paired with the potatoes–are also excellent. This is right up there for me as one of the best savory dishes of the DCA Food & Wine Festival–probably my #2 pick.

Chile Relleno Empanada (Peppers Cali-Ente) – It’s a pretty similar story with the empanada at the same booth, which is served with Arbol pepper salsa and Oaxaca and Cotija cheeses.

It’s Southern California, so good empanadas are abundant in the real world outside Disneyland. Yet this still shines. The pastry is perfectly-prepared, flaky on the outside and doughy inside. Another winner at Peppers Cali-Ente, albeit not as good as the Shrimp Papas Locas. Both are great uses of Sip & Savor credits, too.

Cheeseburger Bao (California Craft Brews) – Served with Thousand Island dressing, grilled onions, pickle, and tomato relish. The Disneyland culinary team said they were trying for a Big Mac meets In-N-Out Burger.

I was skeptical, but they nailed it. I tried a couple of these for, uh, quality control. Both were fantastic (one was a bit too doughy), with the bao itself being a perfect burger and the dressing plus grilled onions doing a great job of mimicking In-N-Out’s Animal Style. It’s still not as good as the real deal, but I can easily see this becoming a fan-favorite, much like the cheeseburger egg roll at Magic Kingdom in Florida. Highly recommended–another top 3 dish for me at the 2024 DCA Food & Wine Festival.

S’mores Caramel Tart (California Craft Brews) – This dessert consists of a graham cracker tart shell filled with caramel and chocolate ganache topped with a toasted marshmallow.

I was also skeptical of this, as Disney is fond of tarts with low-quality crust and very ordinary ingredients. This far exceeded expectations. The secret to success here is the caramel filling and rich chocolate ganache. I wouldn’t say it’s top-tier quality-wise, but it’s good enough as an indulgence. Oh, and this is rich. You’ll probably want to share it.

Carbonara-Garlic Mac & Cheese (D-Lish) – This elevated mac & cheese has been around for several years, bouncing from Garlic Kisses to D-Lish. In addition to a nice mixture of cheeses, the bacon chunks made this a hearty and delicious dish.

Of the mac & cheeses dishes served at DCA festivals (and there are a lot of them!), this is far and away my favorite and the only one that I truly love. It’s a guilty pleasure dish that’s also high quality and delicious, rounding out my top 5 at the festival. Give me this in a full sized bread bowl over at Aunt Cass Cafe in San Fransokyo Square!

Olive Oil Cake (D-Lish) – This cake is glazed with lemon curd, topped with vanilla bean Chantilly, and finished with fresh candied lemons, strawberry crunch, and lemon-lime gelée.

Don’t let the name fool you–this is a lemon-flavored cake, not an olive oil-flavored cake. I’m not particularly partial to lemon desserts, so I only found this to be okay. Sarah, who loves lemon, also loved this. We both thought that it was one of the lighter and less rich desserts at the DCA Food & Wine Festival. Definitely worth giving a try!

Snickers Caramel-Peanut Milk Chocolate Mickey Macaron (Nuts About Cheese) – This is a chocolate Mickey Mouse-shaped macaron filled with caramel ganache and Snickers pieces. Does that sound good? It should, because it is fantastic!

This wasn’t necessarily destined for greatness, but it has become a fan-favorite since launching several years back. While Disneyland can do macarons really well, just as often they’re overly artificial or otherwise miss the mark. Not so here, this is the best version of exactly what you’d expect if you’re imagining this dessert. This Mickey Macaron is the iconic food of the DCA Food & Wine Festival thanks to its appearance. Thankfully, it’s also delicious. Highly recommended–another top 5 entry.

Carnitas-style Pork Belly (LA Style Booth) – This pork belly with esquites corn mac salad has Asian influences, and is something you might find in Koreatown. The portion here is sizable, with the meat being rich and deeply flavorful–but also a bit on the fatty side (even for pork belly).

I liked this a lot more than Sarah did–it’d be one of my top overall picks. If you’re a healthier eater or have already had several heavy dishes, you might look elsewhere. Another great use of the Sip & Savor Pass tabs, though.

Grilled Top Sirloin (Garlic Kisses Booth) – We both love this–it’s been our #1 savory recommendation of the entire DCA Food & Wine Festival for the last few years, a trend that continues for 2024. The grilled top sirloin is an absolute crowd-pleaser, offering an approachable dish for “meat & potatoes” people as well as something more ambitious for foodies.

The roasted garlic-gruyère smashed potatoes with black garlic chimichurri are creamy and addictively delicious; the perfectly-prepared meat topped with refreshing chimichurri and fermented black garlic are likewise fantastic. Highly, highly recommended.

BBQ Beef Brisket Slider (Cluck-A-Doodle-Moo) – This slider is topped with smoked white cheddar and dill pickles on salt and pepper brioche.

This booth has done versions of the slider in the past and, like those, this beef brisket version was satisfying. We were skeptical that the briskey would be low quality, masked by cheese and toppings, but this is really tasty. The meat is delicious on its own, and the other ingredients only enhance–not mask–it. And yet again another great Sip & Savor item.

Also at the Cluck-A-Doodle-Moo booth is the Cheese Pizza-flavored Wings, which make neither our ‘best of’ nor ‘worst of’ lists. These are more or less exactly what you’d expect–chicken wings that vaguely taste like pizza. I love chicken wings and these are a fine version, but I’m “over” the trend of trying to make them taste like some other food. To each their own, I guess.

Loaded Carnitas Pretzel Bites (ODVs) – These are found at outdoor vending carts throughout the park; we ordered ours over by Paradise Gardens. The pretzel bites are piled high with carnitas, and accompanied by cheese sauce, salsa verde, cilantro, and onion.

This is the only non-marketplace dish we’ve tried thus far at the 2024 Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival. I loved these as a simple and fun food. Sarah was less keen on them. We’re also looking forward to trying the Pastrami Fries at Smokejumpers Grill, Charcuterie Flatbread at Sonoma Terrace, Chicken Lollipop at Studio Catering Co., and entire menu at Paradise Garden Grill. We’ll report back on the “results” once we’ve sampled those selections.

To recap, the 5 must-order dishes at the 2024 DCA Food & Wine Festival are as follows:

  1. Grilled Top Sirloin (Garlic Kisses)
  2. Shrimp Papas Locas (Peppers Cali-Ente)
  3. Cheeseburger Bao (California Craft Brews)
  4. Snickers Mickey Macaron (Nuts About Cheese)
  5. Carbonara-Garlic Mac & Cheese (D-Lish)

From our perspective, the top 5 is a cut above everything else, and any of these could realistically be #1 depending upon what we’re craving. These are the things you should make a point of trying above everything else. (Sarah would add the Olive Oil Cake to the list.)

Here are the dishes we’d recommend you don’t devour at the 2024 Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival…

Worst of DCA Food & Wine

Earth Eats Booth – The two dishes here are:

  • IMPOSSIBLE Chicken Parm Bites with tomato and cheese sauces and grated parmesan
  • IMPOSSIBLE Beef Stroganoff: Egg noodles tossed in a mushroom cream sauce with IMPOSSIBLE beef and sour cream

Both are unbelievably bad. You might even say they’re Impossibly awful. And by that, I mean how did these even get approved for the menus? Did anyone with functioning taste buds try them beforehand? Of the two, the chicken parm bites are the bigger offender, tasting like breaded cardboard slathered with flavorless sauce and flavorless cheese.

By comparison, the beef stroganoff is okay-ish, as the fake meat here is fine and the noodles aren’t the worst thing ever. But the totality of the dish is still bland and boring, mostly devoid of flavor or depth. The problem with both dishes is that they are too dependent upon fake versions of real foods, and as a result, there’s very little that’s normal to mask the lab-made components. In any case, this booth is an easy skip. Earth Eats makes the Italy booth at EPCOT look like a master-class in the culinary arts.

Baja-style Fish Taco (LA Style) – This “fish” taco is served with cabbage slaw, cilantro-lime crema and pico de gallo. I didn’t realize this was plant-based when I first started eating it, and my initial reaction was, “wow, they used a low-quality fish stick for the meat here.” Upon realizing it was plant-based, I felt a little better about the taco…but still not great.

The difference between this taco and the Earth Eats stuff is that there’s an ample amount of toppings here and it almost works at masking the flavor of the fake-meat fish. Not quite, though. If you’re dead-set on trying this dish, don’t let me dissuade you–it’s not nearly as bad as the “food” at Earth Eats.

In the end, my disappointment with these three dishes is not merely a vendetta against Impossible or plant-based food. To the contrary, I would love some lighter and veggie-forward counterprogramming to the comforting cuisine at the other booths. The problem is that these dishes are largely more of the same–heavy and hearty, but not nearly as good. This made me really miss the Artichoke booth, which had offered precisely that in the past. Your mileage may vary, though.

Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Do you have any favorite–or least favorite–savory snacks or decadent desserts at the 2024 Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival? Will you be attending the event? Any new or returning booths you’re excited to try? Do you agree or disagree with our picks for the best & worst dishes at the 2024 Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!

5 Responses to “Best & Worst Snacks at 2024 Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival”
  1. Shawna April 13, 2024
  2. Dottie March 3, 2024
    • Tom Bricker March 4, 2024
    • Dottie March 4, 2024
  3. Jaimie March 3, 2024

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