Club 33 New-Look Photo Tour & Review
This post contains our photos and review of lunch at Club 33, the private membership restaurant in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square, which recently underwent a dramatic redesign and expansion. Well, “recently” and “new look” might not be entirely accurate. At this point, it was about a year and a half ago, so this is old news in terms of Disney updates. However, given that the previous look of Club 33 had lasted from 1967 until 2014, this is still the “new look,” relatively speaking.
We are extremely fortunate to have been able to experience both dinner and lunch at the original Club 33. You can read about the history of Club 33 in our dinner post. I’m not going to revisit all of that in this post. From a practical perspective, I realize this “review” is going to be helpful to virtually no one. For one, the menu has already changed since our recent lunch at Club 33. More importantly, few people are going to pass up the opportunity to dine at Club 33 for the first time. If we are all being honest with ourselves, most of us would jump at the opportunity to experience Club 33 due to the exclusivity and history of the place.
No review is going to change that. I debated for a while as to whether I would even write this review for that very reason. Plus, at what point does sharing experiences at Club 33 go from being informative and interesting, to being boastful and entitled? It’s in no way my intent to boast, so hopefully the post doesn’t come across that way. In the end, though, my prevailing thought is: “dammit, we spent a lot of money on this meal, I’m going to at least get one blog post out of it!” 😉
To that end, rather than fixate on particular aspects of our meal, I’m going to share some photos of it, the interiors of the restaurant, and high-level thoughts on our experience at Club 33. Hopefully it’s interesting to some of you…
A lot of critical commentary has already been written about the Club 33 redesign, so I’ll jump headfirst into that. My biggest problem with the new-look Club 33 is that a large chunk of its history has been gutted, and replaced with generic high-end finishings. I understand the need to balance history with a lavish, modern guest experience. Balance is the operative word, and my issue with the redesign is that the “balance” struck was an awful one. Rather than paying tribute to the rich history that underscores Club 33, there are but a few superficial nods to that history, and they range from weak at best to offensively bad at worst.
For us, the previous allure of visiting Club 33 was its history that is now largely absent. While Walt Disney passed shortly before Club 33 opened its doors, it was still his Club. His designs, his details, his vision. Now, it is not. The original lobby and Trophy Room are both gone. The storied French Lift has been converted into a booth for one (who on earth thought this was a good idea?!). Other beloved details have been removed.
There are a few scattered items of historical import, but they are scattered about like overt homages to the original Club 33, rather than actual elements of the new Club’s design. Before, Club 33 oozed history. As a guest you felt like you were dining in Walt Disney’s private club. It was enchanting and truly magical to step into a place that was simultaneously a dignified social club and also such a treasured piece of Disney history.
With the rich history of Club 33 gone, I found myself left wondering what separates Club 33 from any ‘ole private membership club in Los Angeles or Orange County. As I’m not a member of any such clubs, the question is at least somewhat rhetorical, but the only answer I can produce is “it’s in Disneyland.”
I’m sure this remains enough of a selling point to keep demand high for new memberships, as companies and individuals want to be able to entertain business partners and guests at an exclusive club in Disneyland. There are myriad private membership clubs in the area each with some sort of unique draw, but nothing else has this unique draw.
No matter what Disneyland does to Club 33, demand is unlikely to ever dry up–there’s too much corporate and private wealth in the area and the appeal of an exclusive club in Disneyland is too much. Club 33 could be redesigned to a glorified Red Lobster, and I think that sufficient membership demand would remain.
I’ll admit my thoughts here are at least partially colored by bitterness. I’m bitter that Club 33 annexed Court of Angels, a wonderful quiet spot that was one of my favorite in Disneyland. I’m bitter about negative ways its expansion hurt the aesthetics of New Orleans Square. I’m bitter that whomever was heading up this project, both in Imagineering and Team Disney Anaheim management, did not respect Disneyland history.
All of this actually made me feel guilty about returning to Club 33. By going back, I was giving tacit approval to everything that made me bitter. Actions speak louder than words, and visiting made me a hypocrite. In my case, it rendered my protests about what happened to Court of Angels meaningless. I justified it by telling myself that the damage was long done and irreversible, and my visit wasn’t going to change anything. (Still, I’m a hypocrite–I should’ve kept my word and never gone back.)
With that said, to fixate entirely on the negative of the new-look Club 33 would require neglecting the many significant upgrades made around Club 33. The hallway leading to the dining room is lovely, and has a nice sense of sophistication to it.
The art choices throughout the restaurant are nice, with many pieces reflecting designs for Disneyland, New Orleans Square, especially.
The new restrooms are excellent, and will certainly earn a spot on the inevitable best bathrooms at Disneyland list!
Likewise, the new upstairs entrance area looks nice, with a lot of detail and texture in the floor and ceiling.
These are just a few examples, and there are plenty of other positive changes. I don’t necessarily think the original Club 33 felt tired or dated, but it definitely needed some refreshes. The new-look Club 33 does not have those issues, and the overall feeling is one of well-appointed sophistication. By and large, I found the design choices to be good.
There’s a lot of Art Nouveau infused into the redesign, and I’m not entirely sure why. Some of it is well-integrated, but in other cases, it feels like “Art Nouveau Riche.” Excessive ornamentation for its own sake, as if to flaunt its own fanciness and say, “look at me…I’m expensive design!” Same goes with overuse of the logo–Club 33 is a dignified club, not an ostentatious LV handbag.
In terms of design, I loved the look of the new Salon Nouveau Jazz Lounge, but that’s another topic for another day, I think.
Then, there’s the new Club 33 menu.
Club 33 brought in Chef Andrew Sutton, who also heads Napa Rose and Carthay Circle Restaurant, two of Disney’s most inspired dining options anywhere in the world.
His work on the Club 33 menu likewise improved it dramatically.
While some members and guests lament the loses of favorites (we were particularly fond of the lunch buffet), the new menu is exciting and ever-changing.
The old menu reminded me a bit of a traditional country club, where people would come week in and out to order the same tried and true favorites.
By contrast, the new menu is inventive and pushes the envelope, presumably going for and more chic and upscale vibe.
I’d be curious as to how members feel about this. My preference is on the side of the inventive menu, as it would would make every visit feel unique and fresh, but I could see many members favoring the familiarity and memories of revisiting their favorites, like that famous Chateaubriand. I could certainly get used to having that every week!
As impressed as I was with the menu, it was not enough to save the experience. I know that seems silly to say given that Club 33 is ostensibly just a restaurant, but it’s really so much more–or was, at least. For me, Club 33 was an elegant experience in Disneyland and Walt Disney history with a dining component. Now, it is just a private fine dining restaurant.
Overall, the new-look Club 33 was a disappointment in the regards that mattered most to me. I’m glad I got to see it once, but once is enough. The restaurant feels more upscale and there are definite improvements in design and menu, but that misses the point. There are literally hundreds of upscale restaurants in the greater Los Angeles area, many of which do fine dining better. Ripping out the history–the heart and soul of Club 33–was too great of a price for making it feel fancier. None of this will stop it from being popular and a bucket list location for Disney fans. There’s an inherent appeal to things that are exclusive, and we all want to be places where we can’t normally go. I’m not immune to it, so it would be silly and condescending for me to say, “pass up a visit to Club 33 if you have the chance.”
The allure of exclusive experiences is instinctual, I think. Heck, I even see it in our cat. He has no interest in any room until the door to it is shut, and then he rattles at the door until we open it, only to lose interest totally once the door is wide open. Likewise, I think most Disney fans would lose interest in the new-look Club 33 if the door were wide open to the general public and the menu–with prices–were posted out front. Aside from exclusivity, there’s nothing Club 33 has that Napa Rose and Carthay Circle Restaurant don’t.
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What do you think of the changes made to Club 33 and New Orleans Square? Do you think it was all worth it? Do you like or dislike the changes made to Club 33? Share your thoughts in the comments!
It’s pretty disturbing that most people don’t understand the significance of 33 and why he named it that.
The entire place is heavily masonic. It’s so sad. I used to love Disney so much and even considered looking into the residences at Golden Oak. Not anymore.
Very nice article. I dined frequently in the 80’s. It was very special and understated. Very few really knew about it, and no one was screaming from roof tops about it. The Trophy room was not the best seat in the house back then- it didn’t have the glam of the main room. No one wanted to be seated in there. We were all in a curfuffle when the Sunday brunch buffet became more regular. We all thought it was a bit more Plaza Inn than the Club. So things change and stylistically the latest reincarnation: not for the better. Quite honestly, like new paint themes in the park, it’s over saturated, over done, over everything. The best thing about entering was the lift- the place was pretty much built around it. To just shut it down regardless of the reason (I get it, but spend the money please…) is a very big shame. I liked that it was waitresses only, in French maid looking attire. They were all very leggy and gorgeous. Not being sexist, just a preference. I liked the old school country club menu, and sometimes they had fettuccine Alfredo on the menu that they would make at your table. I can appreciate an update, but the wrong people were on the job. If things don’t change for the better, leave it until you can. My days of 3 martini lunches and a big expense account are gone, but even if I had the opportunity…I would give the new Club a pass. The photos were garishly unsettling. I can see how the new breed of those who say, “I’m going to Disney!” would love it- along with logo mouse ears and other things. Disney is not a person or a family anymore, but people love it and pay for it. I say, “I’m going to the Park”, but I’m not sure I’d say it anytime again.
WDW has gotten a lot of flack for replicating Club 33 in Florida but, frankly, their program seems like it is more thought out for the members. Clubs with a great cocktail program, small plates and snacks, where you can enjoy the A/C and relax, without feeling the need to have a full meal if you don’t want. Much better experience I think than being kind of obligated to order a full meal. 1901 at DCA seems like this too.
I dined at C33 several times before the renovation and once at the new club. i agree with your assessment and would add that to me, it’s Just an expensive meal in a restaurant. I don’t find the slightest spark of magic in the place anymore. For those fans who feel they’re missing out on something special, I’d suggest that they’re really not.
How depressing is this comment? The most depressing part is that I find it to be totally true.
Really appreciate your candor on this. I have been intrigued to see what the design changes were, and while I initially thought they looked great, your commentary on the removal of so much history is disappointing. So many reviews I read are jaded by the fact that they were lucky enough to eat there that it blinds them to actual quality. If a die-hard Disney fan like yourself doesn’t feel the need to go back, it speaks volumes!
Hi Tom. I am just curious. Why is club 33 worth it? The amount of money to join and pay each year is crazy to me. I’ve read some benefits online but don’t see why someone would pay these prices? The benefits don’t seem that great for all that money. But then again, if you have all that money, I guess why not. Just wondering you opinion.
From my perspective, it isn’t even remotely worth it. That goes for both before and after the refurbishment.
I could only see having membership to such a club for business purposes, if you need to entertain clients. In that case, I probably could only see Club 33 if it’s a family-oriented business with a lot of the clients traveling with their families.
Beyond that, I think it’s a “more money than we know what to do with” type of thing. I highly doubt any members are weighing cost-benefit when contemplating whether to renew their Club 33 membership. If you even have to think about that, it’s probably not worth it.
I absolutely agree about the history being taken out. While I’ve watched Disney systematically destroy much of what I loved about WDW (EPCOT Center, Disney-MGM Studios, River Country, Contemporary … well, every monorail resort since the advent of DVC) it seems more painful to see changes at DL that actively are taking the Walt out (yes, misplaced Star Wars Land, I am looking at you!)
I’d say that is what you have witnessed at Club 33. Now, I’m not crazy enough to be a member, but I have been (you may recall standing me up for ‘dog reasons’ last summer when I was lunching at the Club!) and I think what has happened is the demos of the Club have changed.
No longer is it so much a perk for businesses and local corps and entertainment industry execs (although they all remain part of it), but now Disney actively sees a huge revenue stream with BRAND addicts and fans who just plain have too much money and too little self restraint. The very fact there isn’t a blogger/podcaster/Lifestyler out there who hasn’t “been taken by a friend” is kind of proof of this. Exclusive private clubs don’t want attention. Any. And for many decades, most fans (even ardent ones) either didn’t know the club existed or couldn’t possibly find/talk their way into an invite. The Internet and online fan community has totally changed that.
Disney is looking to grow the membership and in order to do so decided that an expansion that destroyed much of the history and some of the charm of the place was in order … and so it was done.
Those huge windows now shout to fans below (LOOK!!! UP HERE!!! IF YOU HAVE TOO MUCH $$$, YOU CAN BE PART OF THIS!!!) Indeed, when we were there, Chip and Dale hung out up there and were waving at Guests below. Very tacky chipmunks! So, forget that the windows are out of scale with NoS 1967-2014, what matters is that more people will want to feel special. How can you be a REAL Disney fan without dining at “Walt’s Club”? Even if it isn’t that anymore?
That said, I love the look inside (especially of the new jazz lounge, sans the portrait from the underrated Princess and Frog with a Hidden Darth Vader … boy, those Imagineers just think they are so special!) And the food was tremendous. We were worried because our friends (real friends who are members!) were not enamoured of the new cuisine and portion size under Sutton. But the food was likely the best meal I have ever had at either the Club or even Napa Rose. It was wonderful … and with the 20% member’s discount, it wasn’t over the top pricey. I would go back again — and will — but not regularly. And not, sadly, for its history. I’d go back for the food and the ability to have adult drinks (very, very good ones!) inside DL.
But I can not disagree with your comments about the history being ripped away and that is very unfortunate.
“the ambiance of simply being there” from https://www.disneytouristblog.com/save-court-angels-disneyland/
Thanks Tom! You mentioned you paid “a lot” to eat there. Just curious … about how much was it? If you’d rather not say, I understand.
Nearly $300 for the 2 of us after tip. I’d rather eat at Napa Rose for significantly less.
Club 33 existed for the reason to have a place for executives and the elite to have a Martini lunch in Disney Land.
With other options near by, and them gutting the history. I don’t see it hanging on much longer with the membership fees and exclusive access.
I guess the question to Tom’s friends would be “are they going to continue with the membership”? Because I can see Club33 being a high end reservation club for Disneyland open to the public.
I’m pretty sure there’s still a waitlist for new memberships, so I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon. With that said, there were like 2 tables of people there when we dined. I’ve never seen it that empty, but perhaps it was a fluke.
Really sad to see this. What about the gorgeous Club 33 china? Has that been replaced, too?
I was just there for lunch last month. It was my first trip thanks to the generosity of my cousin’s father-in-law. I totally geeked out. As a first timer, I thought it was an amazing experience. My cousin, his wife and their family enjoy the renovation, mostly because reservations tend to be a little easier to get now, and they like the new menu and decor, as well as the salon. I throughly enjoyed it, but I have never visited prior to the renovation.
Wow, the salon is definitely appealing! I love the ceiling and blue rug! Please do a post about it sometime!
Thanks for the view into the mysterious Club 33!
Thanks so much for giving us a glimpse inside. I’m going to search utube to see if I can find old pics to compare. I have no idea what it used to look like. Loved the tour!
Food pics look tasty, nice presentation, but I’m not a fan of serving $$$$ dishes with skimpy sides of perhaps 1 tiny nugget potato, 4 green beans, and what wouldn’t amount to half a carrot, etc.
I visited the former glory a few years ago and enjoyed it very much. It was wonderful to see the trophy room, ride up the elevator, take in the charm of the nostalgic hallways, and indulge in the chocolate buffet bar. We sat outside on the balcony as one of my children took some images of us living it up. I took several images from outside the balcony of the views and many designs leading back into New Orleans Square. I will remember it fondly and I probably could go back again if I asked, but I don’t feel the need. I think its a true shame in the gutting of it all. The facade on the outside to the casual visitor of Disneyland is atrocious. The removal of the Court of Angels is unforgivable.
What will be next? Removable of Walt Disney’s Apartment so they can store Star Wars Christmas decorations?
I hope not.
Just wanted to comment about what you said about debating on whether to post something like this, that’s not going to really be ‘helpful’ to many people. I think when in doubt, post anyway. Something like this I know I’ll never get to do, but I still find it just as interesting to read about as reviews of places I might go. Same reason people love your trip reports, or read your posts about TDL or HKDL, it’s nice get a taste of the experience.
Thankfully the redesign took it off my Disney bucket list. With the historical appeal wiped away, it means very little to me now. I can pay a lot of money for good food at Napa Rose.
Although I never dined in Club 33, I am grateful we saw the lobby on Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour. I’m so incredibly happy we went to Disneyland when we did, right in the middle of massive changes to the resort.
I remember you writing a blog on Club 33 before and just found it again, I was curious as I read this article if you have any old pics, to be able to compare side by side with your new ones above?
It would be fun to see the contrasts.
As I was reading this article I was remembering other blog sites and the debate on “what would Walt do?” And It would be really neat to know, as the creative guy he apparently was, if he would want so many of the the things he created to remain the same for memory/nostalgia sake, or would he encourage his employees to update the attractions/dining/parks etc. as time moved on?
There was plenty of change taking place at DL, even in Walt’s days. I have to think he’d approve of the improvements everywhere, and realize that updates are essential to keep guests coming.
I think it’s important to remember that “improvements” and “updates” are two very different things. Just because something changes does not mean it has improved.
Walt quotes are often thrown around regarding change to justify anything modern day Disney does, but this is also a company that heavily embraces (and milks) history when it suits them. Much like Main Street USA captures the charm and nostalgia of a bygone era and would not be anything special if it were styled as a modern day shopping mall (that’s what it effectively is), Club 33 captured something special by embracing Disneyland and Walt Disney history rather than being styled as a modern fine dining restaurant.
I won’t claim to know what Walt would think, but I know what I think: Club 33 has lost that “something special.”
Tom – Iger happened. The money grabbing, short term vision of Iger happened to 33. No matter where one can insert the comments “lost the magic” or “lost something special” it’s always Iger at the helm.
A greasy haired, lying salesman is all he is. A better alternative, I don’t know, but Iger is definitely not the answer.
I had the privilege of dining at Club 33 the month before it closed for reno, in the Trophy Room to boot. So there will never be a way for me to duplicate or compare my prior experience. That isn’t to say that I wouldn’t welcome one chance (like you) to see it for myself in its Nouveau state.
And if you blogged about it you can write the meal off, right? 😉
You nailed it on the head. Of course, if I was afforded the opportunity to dine at Club 33 with the wife we would in a heart beat-but I was drawn to it because of the rich history. The “Disney difference” should never be discounted or trivialized, and it seems like it might’ve been during the refresh.