Cafe Orleans is a table service restaurant in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square with a Creole-inspired menu. It features both indoor and outdoor seating, and truly is reminiscent of a New Orleans cafe. In terms of pricing, it falls between two other restaurants in New Orleans Square: the excellent French Market and Blue Bayou, the restaurant “in” Pirates of the Caribbean. In terms of cuisine, it’s the best of the three restaurants, and arguably the top table service restaurant in Disneyland (park).
Cafe Orleans opened with the original New Orleans Square in 1966 and was originally called Creole Café. Walt Disney chose an ice cream counter inspired by The Happiest Millionaire as well as an antique espresso machine purchased by him and his wife Lilly in Italy. This espresso machine remains in Cafe Orleans today. Another notable piece of decor in Cafe Orleans is an oil painting of Philippe Duc d’Orleans, which is an original of the French nobleman for whom the city is named. While Walt never lived to see Cafe Orleans open, he influenced its design, some of which remains intact today. Over the years, Cafe Orleans has alternated between being a counter service and table service restaurant at various times. Due to a Sara Lee sponsorship, the name changed to Cafe Orleans in 1972 and it began serving specialty sandwiches, fritters, and ice cream concoctions. In 2006, it became the table service restaurant that now exists today. Various other changes have occurred to Cafe Orleans over the years; Disney author Kevin Yee used to work there, and he has an exhaustive history of the restaurant on his site.
With dark woods, paintings and photos lining the walls, and beautiful stained glass, the inside dining area feels like an upscale cafe. However, we opted to dine outside because even the nice interior cannot trump the ambiance of New Orleans Square.
Our visit to Cafe Orleans had been a long time coming. Dining reservations at Disneyland normally aren’t necessary, but Blue Bayou and Cafe Orleans seem to be the exceptions. We finally had the foresight to make reservations first thing one morning when we got to the park for an afternoon meal at Cafe Orleans. Famed Omnibus rider and consumer of Disneyland foods, Guy Selga, joined us for the meal.
Guy eats at Cafe Orleans approximately 13 times per month, so we took his recommendation and got an appetizer of the Pommes Frites to split. This turned out to be a huge mistake. The ‘to split’ part, that is. These were so good that having to share them should be a crime. If it were socially acceptable (is it?) I would have pulled the thing of Pommes Frites close to me and growled anytime Sarah or Guy tried to take one. I guess I’m a bit like Joey in that regard. The point is that these frites, caked with Parmesan and garlic and accompanied by Cajun Spice Remoulade are to die for. These are not your garden variety french fries, and definitely should not be overlooked.
For entrees, Sarah ordered the N’awlins Vegetable Ragout with Chicken. Sarah thought it was a good mix of fresh vegetables, with the seasoning providing a slight spice to it. She also thought the blackened chicken was moist and perfectly cooked. I tried a bit of this and admittedly wasn’t all that impressed. I thought it was relatively mild and although the vegetables were good, it just didn’t do a whole lot for me. (In fairness, vegetable dishes definitely are not my thing.)
Guy ordered the Chicken Gumbo Crepe. With both of these crepes, the crepe itself was clearly freshly-made, and the flavor reflected that. I was a bit skeptical of how this dish would fuse two Creole classics together, but the Chicken Gumbo Crepe was fantastic. The gumbo itself was flavorful, and as is the case with gumbo, it had a spicy flair, but was still relatively mild. The chicken and sausage mix did work perfectly in (and on) the crepe.
I ultimately settled on the Seafood Herb Crepe. I was hesitant to order this as I’ve been burned by entrees that are essentially “seafood in places where you normally wouldn’t expect it” in the past, but I decided to take the plunge. Like everything else we had, the seafood was fresh and tender, with the tomato sauce giving it just the right amount of Creole flavor. This seems fairly inventive as far as crepes go, and I’d definitely recommend it for seafood fans. I do have to admit that I slightly preferred the Chicken Gumbo Crepe, though. You really can’t go wrong either way–both of these crepes rank as some of the best-tasting things I’ve had at Disneyland. Definitely not what you’d expect from a theme park restaurant in terms of freshness and quality.
We didn’t get dessert this time, but the star here is certainly the Mickey Beignets. This is partly because we had planned on dessert at Big Thunder Ranch but just as much because the Mickey Beignets at Cafe Orleans are more than double the price of the Mickey Beignets at the nearby Mint Julep Bar. The only difference is that the beignets at Cafe Orleans come with dipping sauce. These beignets are delicious (not quite as good as the ones at Walt Disney World’s Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory at Port Orleans French Quarter)…but why not just grab them at your leisure from Mint Julep Bar?
The proverbial elephant in the room that does bear mentioning is the famous Monte Cristo. Mind you, I have not had the Monte Cristo at Care Orleans (and I’m not sure I ever will–although the three-cheese one is really tempting!), but I have had it at Blue Bayou, and they’re the same sandwich. Outside of snack foods like Dole Whips, churros, and corn dogs, the Monte Cristo is probably the most talked about and hyped food available at Disneyland. I am not a fan. It’s greasy ham and cheese in fried dough and it was just too much for me. Granted, I eat a lot of terrible-for-you foods in the Disney parks, but the Monte Cristo is my line. It’s not that the sandwich is necessarily bad–it’s not, but it’s also not what the hype makes it out to be–it’s just that it’s too much fried, greasy, sweet stuff in one meal. Sort of like sitting down for a meal of four donuts, plus some ham on the side. I couldn’t stomach that, just as I can’t stomach this. Countless Disneyland fans have disagreed with me in the past when I’ve shared this sentiment, so what do I know? If you must try the Monte Cristo (and it is worth trying), I’d highly recommend splitting it with someone else. Your stomach will thank you later.
Overall, thanks to fairly moderate price points, excellent ambiance, and authentic yet approachable cuisine, Cafe Orleans scores big kudos from us. It, along with Carnation Cafe probably represent the two best values in Disneyland Resort table service dining, and Cafe Orleans also ranks in the top 5 overall Disneyland Resort restaurants for us. It’s certainly better than its overrated New Orleans Square “relative” Blue Bayou, and at a lower price point. Although it lacks the experience of dining along the peaceful waters of Pirates of the Caribbean, dining in an open air location in the beautifully-themed New Orleans Square is a pretty good consolation prize. Cafe Orleans should appeal to a wide range of diners–from picky eaters to those looking for more authentic Creole foods–and we recommend it without any hesitations to anyone heading to Disneyland.