Carnation Cafe Review
Carnation Café is a table service restaurant located on Main Street in Disneyland. This dining review features food photos, thoughts on the food here, and whether this restaurant is worth your money and time when you’re visiting Disney’s California theme parks!
Disneyland’s Carnation Café serves American cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in an open-air seating area on Main Street. Carnation Cafe was recently refurbished and expanded, and we’ve dined here both before and after the refurb. Like many locations in Disneyland, Carnation Café has rich history.
This review details the lunch menu at Carnation Café. Carnation Café also serves breakfast, and we had heard a number of great things about the breakfast menu. Likewise, the lunch menu is very solid and the prices are very reasonable. Overall, Carnation Café is probably one of the best dining options at Disneyland Resort. For its price point, you absolutely cannot go wrong or do better.
Carnation Cafe is located in the same location where the Carnation Ice Cream Shoppe and the Flower Mart once stood. Advance reservations can be arranged for this restaurant by calling Disney Dining at (714) 781-DINE; reservations are recommended here due to the restaurant’s size, it’s popularity among Disneyland fans, and its prices.
Reservations are more likely to be useful for breakfast than for lunch or dinner here, but you should make reservations for any meal here, if you know in advance that you want to eat here. We did not make reservations, and we were seated immediately, but your luck may not be as good as ours!
I mentioned some history associated with Carnation Café at the start of this post. The former tenants of the space are not the only elements of history at the Café! Chef Oscar Martinez is probably one of the most well-known Cast Members at Disneyland, and is the only Disneyland Cast Member to have received a 60 years of service pin.
It is rumored that he is soon retiring, and as one of the people who is responsible for making the Carnation Café great, he will be missed. If you happen to see him while you’re there, be sure to say hello to him!
For our starter, we ordered the Fried Pickles with Dipping Sauce.
We were pleasantly surprised by these. The creamy house dipping sauce was excellent, and the pickles were lightly battered; enough to give them some extra flavor, but not to totally transform the taste of the pickles into “something else.” Like I said, we were both surprised by these pickles–definitely something we’d order again!
If you’re a healthy eater like I am, you’ll definitely want to order something lean, like this chicken! 😉 Obviously, I’m kidding about the healthy part, but in the fried chicken’s defense, it does come with vegetables! This fried chicken was excellent. It reminded me of the Plaza Inn fried chicken, except slightly higher quality and with some excellent milk gravy.
The mashed potatoes were only okay, but otherwise, this entree was incredible! You won’t want to eat every meal like this (unless your Disney “dream” is to have a heart attack on vacation), but it’s a great lunch option after a healthy breakfast.
Here’s the Green Chile Cheeseburger. It has fried egg on it, and I absolutely love burgers with fried egg.
From the homemade brioche bun to the cheese to the burger itself, this burger was incredible. I could have done without the chile, but otherwise exceptional. It was one of the best Disney burgers I’ve ever tasted, and it’s another item that we’d both highly recommend.
The Main Street Cheeseburger is pictured above.
This is another solid option, albeit not in the same league as the Green Chile Cheeseburger.
This Sourdough Bacon-Cheese Melt is off the hook. It’s juicy, flavorful, and doesn’t seem too greasy or “heavy.” I’m sure it’s far from a healthy option, but it’s worth the splurge.
So, so good, and only slightly more expensive than a counter service burger! I’d fight 100 duck-sized horses to taste this again.
This Homemade Meatloaf is another ridiculously good option that also offers great value for money at less than $15.
Noted meat(loaf) head Guy Selga ordered this on our recent visit, and he had only the highest praise for it. I tried it and concur–very good, and I’m not normally one for meatloaf.
Sarah (again) played it safe, getting the deli sandwich.
You’ll notice it looks different than the one she had on our first visit, but it’s pretty similar. There are much better options on the menu if you don’t want to stay healthy.
Desserts change daily and are brought around on a little cart, really upping the temptation to give in and get one. I didn’t even get to try this before Sarah was finished.
I did, however, have a cherry malt, and it was exceptional–and large! Know what the difference between a shake and a malt is? Neither did we, but that didn’t stop our table from engaging in some friendly debate and speculation before ultimately turning to the Google machine.
Overall, Carnation Cafe is a restaurant at which you must eat while at Disneyland. It has attained legendary status to us. Many Walt Disney World fans rave about the Plaza Restaurant located on Main Street, USA in Florida’s Magic Kingdom as being a great “counter service alternative,” but we weren’t so impressed with that restaurant. The true top “counter service alternative” is clearly Disneyland’s Carnation Cafe.
For the price, you absolutely cannot go wrong eating here. While Disneyland does have a lot of nice counter service options, skip one of them to eat here. You won’t be sorry. In fact, we love Carnation Cafe so much that we recommend eating here on the first day of your trip so that you have the option of visiting the restaurant again on a subsequent day. It has an all-star menu, so it might be wise to dine here more than once!
As for figuring out the rest of your Disneyland trip, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, whether you should stay off-site or on-site in a Disney hotel, where to dine at Disneyland & Disney California Adventure, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Trip Planning Guide!
Have you dined at Carnation Cafe? What are your favorite and least favorite items? Do you agree or disagree with our review of this Disneyland restaurant? Any questions? 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!
We are at Carnation and it was awful. My husband had a burger and the bone was stale. I had a veggie burger and it was awful – the patty was mushy and the bun was so dry – I don’t expect GF to be the same as regular bread – but the GF bun was so stale – it just crumbled. I would never eat at this restaurant again. Very disappointed that Disneyland would have such bad food.
How does the portion size on the fried chicken compare to the plaza inn fried chicken? Also, how many pickles come with the fried pickle appetizer?
We ate at the Carnation Cafe for the first time last weekend. We loved it! We were seated outside, adjacent to the barrier that separates diners from sidewalk activity, and enjoyed all of the ambiance and people watching of Main Street in an oasis of peace.
As for the food, it was great! My husband converted to fried pickles love during our three years in the South. Carnation Cafe’s fried pickles have just the right amount of crunch on the batter. I had the Fresh Catch of the Day, which emphasized fresh and demphasized catch in it’s paleo approach to dinner. No worries, my husband happily shared some of his Penne Pasta with Shrimp, having no fear of carbs whatsoever, with me, as a prelude to the vanilla sponge cake we shared.
If the food and ambiance weren’t enough, our server was excellent! The Carnation Cafe will definitely be a MUST on future visits.
We love the fried pickles, the chicken fried chicken and the cherry malts. I have read several books on the life of Walt Disney and a few of them mentioned that the cherry malts were Walt’s favorite. I hope they never stop serving them. 🙂
Looks great! Planning on heading to Disneyland next fall, and will definitely stop by Carnation Cafe!
For those curious (and do not want to hit the link), the main difference between a malt and a shake is a malt has malted milk powder (think the inside of a whopper) and a milkshake does not. My husband was a soda jerk in high school, so I quickly learned the difference. 🙂
I love the Carnation Cafe….have yet to dine outside though, however it would be a great spot at night during the Paint the Night Parade.
Question — Does anyone know if adults can order a kid’s meal here? If one can only eat a small portion and/or would like to save a little money it would be ideal.
Hi Leese. I have ordered the kid’s meal for both dine in and counter service, and have never encountered an issue for doing so.
First, thank you so much for what you do.My family had lunch at Carnation Cafe in late November 2014 and had a great memorable meal. The chilli was fantastic and the cherry malt was great. We also got to meet Oscar. He is such a nice man, and a great current link to the past. Great day, new favorite stop in Disneyland.
We are going to Disneyland for Christmas and would like to make a reservation at carnation Christmas eve for dinner , is there a good time? Will the parade pass us by at carnation? And is the food good and will it fill up teenagers or is there another resturant you would suggest ? Thanks Renee
I am tickled to see a photo of Oscar. We met him in 2007 during his 50th anniversary year at which time he said he wants to retire but Disney convinced him to stay part time. I am happy to see he is still around.
My husband and I had a last minute anniversary getaway last summer. I made a reservation , not knowing about the parade schedule. But it turned out to be great entertainment while we ate dinner. The meatloaf was very good . But my favorite part was the chief personally brought us a slice of chocolate heaven! A slice of chocolate cake with chocolate cover strawberries. I’m convince they are the best strawberries I have ever had. The personal and magical touch, was unexpected and sonething we will cherish for the next 18 years together. I highly recommend eating here.
We have pictures of my siblings and I as kids sitting and eating ice cream at the Carnation Ice Cream Shoppe in about 1968…..love those old Disneyland pics. My Dad was a semi-professional photographer so we have a lot! (all B & W because he developed and enlarged all of his own film).
We’re heading back to DLR in April. It’s a short trip and I want to try as many Disneyland specific foods as possible. Would it be tacky to take up a table just for some fried pickles?
I think that’s largely a personal call. It’s less likely to be tacky if you go at an off-hour during a weekday when there are otherwise empty tables.
I found your review to be interesting. I love the Carnation Cafe. I like to sit outside for park and people watching, but the inside is nice. My favorite dish so far is the meat loaf. I believe it was Walt Disney’s favorite too.
I’ve heard the meat loaf is good, but I just can’t bring myself to try it. The idea of meat loaf is just gross to me.
Amazing review is done here, Disney land is a wonderful place and this cafe seems to be a must visit place. If i got chance to go to Disney land, i would definitely visit this cafe.
We go to Disneyland every year and this is the best place to eat inside the park. The Apple Granola Pancakes are where it is at. The atmosphere sitting outside is way better then sitting inside. The people watching you can do as people walk down Main Street is awesome. The excitement on the kids face is always so fun to see. Breakfast is the best because it opens a little before rope drop of the individual lands. You can be done with breakfast and still ride Pans Flight with not to long of a wait. You will want ADR’s if you are going in a peak season.
So glad you posted this review!!!! We are planning our trip to Disneyland for next January and Carnation Cafe is on our list (because of the Potato Soup) so i’m glad to see excellent ratings from you!
Might want to put it on the list twice! 🙂
We always eat at Carnation and are looking forward to our trip next week, as we haven’t been since the re-do
We were able to eat there for out first meal after entering the Park last Summer. I loved the pickles! We have had deep fried pickles other places, and usually the breading gets quickly soggy, but these stayed crispy. Yay! I remember I also had the turkey sandwich for my entree since I was trying to be healthy at the time. So much for that once I tried the Matterhorn macaroons…