Cocina Cucamonga Review
Cocina Cucamonga is a counter service Mexican restaurant in Disney California Adventure’s Pacific Wharf at Disneyland Resort. This review features photos of the food, plus my thoughts on the cuisine here, and to whom this purported “Mexican” restaurant will most likely appeal. The menu here has a lot of options, including tacos, burritos, tamales, salads, and more.
I mentioned this in the Lucky Fortune Cookery Review, but I’ll reiterate: the Pacific Wharf “land” is very simple. It’s essentially an outdoor mall food court where there are multiple places with ordering windows and an abundance of common seating in the middle. There is no indoor seating, nor is there any theming to speak of at Cocina Cucamonga.
As a preface to this review, how you view the food at Cocina Cucamonga is largely going to be dictated by perspective and background. In terms of background, if you’re a Disneyland local living in Santa Ana, for example, or anywhere that has an abundance of Mexican fast food, this restaurant won’t strike you as even remotely authentic. If you’re from a small town in the Midwest where the only Mexican food around is Taco Bell, your opinion of Cocina Cucamonga will likely be much more favorable and issues of authenticity aren’t likely to arise. Regardless of your background, if you approach this restaurant from the perspective of whether Cocina Cucamonga has quality cuisine, your opinion is likely to differ from someone who approaches it from the perspective of whether it has authentic cuisine.
With those caveats about the restaurant out of the way, let’s take a look at the food, and see how it holds up…
The above preface isn’t a setup to giving Cocina Cucamonga a pass for having bland food. Rather, it’s to frame this review, which is based mostly on overall quality, not authenticity. There is no question that this places serves largely Americanized food that many Californians will recognize as being mild.
My favorite thing about this restaurant is its tongue-twister of its name, that is probably derived from the legendary Chupacabra, which is a totally real animal that is native to Southern California. Actually, I think it might be named after the city of Rancho Cucamonga, but I’m not really sure. Thanks to writing this review, I now know how to spell the name of the restaurant, even if I can’t pronounce it. Moving on…
With that said, it’s important not to conflate mild for bland. I think the food here is definitely mild, but I think it’s also very good quality for a counter service restaurant, and is not lacking in the flavor department. To put it into perspective, Cocina Cucamonga is significantly better than La Cantina de San Angel in Epcot’s World Showcase.
In terms of food, first up is the Soft Tacos Monterrey. This menu item isn’t exactly going to reinforce my point, as this is about as boring as boring gets. These are simply basic flour tortillas with beef, chicken, or roasted veggies (pictured above). Fortunately, there are refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, and (most importantly) Pico de Gallo to make them more interesting. Even if you are timid when it comes to spicy food, you can do better than this.
Here’s the Hacienda Chicken Caesar Salad. It’s a bit more elaborate than the tacos above, and (I assume) a healthier option. The ingredients here also seemed higher quality to me, with fresh romaine lettuce coupled with roasted vegetables and a nice Pepita Caesar Dressing. I’d call this a so-so option, especially given that I feel Disneyland Resort has really upped its salad game as of late. This doesn’t change the fundamental fact that salad isn’t food, but if you like salad, it is nice to see.
Now we get to the two highlights of the menu, in my opinion. First up is the Carne Asada and Chicken Tamale.
The carne asada here is actually quite good, especially for counter service. It’s reasonably tender, well-seasoned (but not overly so), and perfectly cooked. Size-wise, I wish it were a bit larger, but I guess that’s what you get with a counter service meal.
The downside to this dish is the tamale. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a dry tamale. It had a good flavor, but it’s tough to get past that dryness, which almost made it awkward to eat, if that makes any sense.
The other star of the menu, and what I’d consider to be the best dish here overall, is the Fire-grilled Citrus Chicken. This isn’t just the best dish at Cocina Cucamonga, I think it’s one of the better dishes at Disneyland Resort. The chicken has a great taste thanks to the garlic, cilantro, lemon, and lime marinade. It has a really robust flavor as a result, and it helps that the chicken is tender and quite sizable. This is one of those entrees that two lighter eaters could split.
With these last two dishes, I like to make tacos out of some of the meat, and I think those turn out considerably better than the dedicated tacos menu item listed above. Although these two dishes are on the pricier side, they are very filling and I think they work out to be much better options than the cheaper menu items.
Overall, I think Cocina Cucamonga is a solid option in Disney California Adventure if your expectations are properly set for “quality food” rather than “authentic Mexican food”, and you order one of the higher quality items on the menu. With that said, it remains the weaker Mexican restaurant at Disneyland Resort, being inferior to Rancho del Zocalo (read our review of that restaurant), which has many similar menu items, plus additional worthwhile options. If you’re only wanting to do one Mexican restaurant at Disneyland Resort, opt for Rancho. Despite that, Cocina Cucamonga is still one of the top 5 counter service restaurants at Disney California Adventure–a park with some pretty strong dining options.
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What do you think of Cocina Cucamonga? Do you have a favorite plate here? Had you even heard of it before this review? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Food sucks… fish tacos are dry and nasty, I’ve never had such a horrible meal and so expensive… Y’all rich why not hire some good chef!!! Smhâ€â™‚ï¸
[email protected] So they open at 11 where we waited for 15 minutes with other people then Sergio from Santa Santa comes out and opens his register. I asked if they were going to open another register like the one I was standing in front of and he said no. I walked to the end of his line of people and 2 minutes later they opened that register. I would just like to say that that kid is an idiot and I wasted a half hour of my life but I’m sure the real expense will go to the restaurant paying for all the dumb mistakes that kid makes. I would say he is better suited to pick up trash and wipe the toilets down, but I’m sure he would screw that up even worse .
I love this place for it’s veggie burrito. I’ve had it a few times over the years, & it is always delicious, and soooo filling with the beans & rice on the side. There are big chunks of carrots & zucchini & stuff, which won’t appeal to you Tom, but I loved it! It’s enough food to easily feed 2 people, which makes it easy on the budget too. (Having said all this, I just looked at the online menu & didn’t see it listed, but hopefully it’s still there – heading back in November & that’s on my must eat list). Cheers!
I agree with all your points, but I will say that you can get exactly the same menu and a full dose of ambiance at the Rancho de Zocalo in Disneyland. I can’t help but feel slightly ‘ripped off’ when I see the exact same menu in a food court environment. The only recompense I will allow is if you take your food down to the outdoor section of Flo’s diner in the evening to enjoy Radiator Springs Racers in the distance.
Oh, and those who doubt the Chupacabra are doomed to fall victim to it. You have all been warned.
Someone is pulling your leg. There is no such animal as a chupacabra. It translate from Spanish as “goat sucker”. It is a fictitious vampire. You are correct about the food, though.
Haha, I am well aware that the Chupacabra is not a real animal. AT LEAST NOT REAL YET! 😉
I’m a native Californian and I’ve learned to never expect authentic Mexican food but be sure enjoy the moment if you find it.
While most of their fare doesn’t interest me I have to agree about the Citrus Chicken! It’s the only thing on their menu I would order again….
We ate here on our last visit and as SoCal residents who regularly eat “real” Mexican food, the Mexican food served here was still quite tasty. We were serenaded by the Mariachi Divas, who strolled through this area singing. It was lovely! And three platters easily served our family of five.
Probably doesn’t need to be said, but for some reason the focus on the authenticity of the food bugged me. I don’t think it warranted an entire paragraph and second mention in the conclusion. It almost came off like you are worried someone may read it and think YOU think it’s authentic and judge you for it. Very strange decision to focus on it so much, a sentence would’ve sufficed. “If you’re from a small town in the Midwest where the only Mexican food around is Taco Bell, your opinion of Cocina Cucamonga will likely be much more favorable and issues of authenticity aren’t likely to arise.” Or maybe you are from a small town in the Midwest but you have Latino family members or holiday in Mexico and are very familiar with what authentic Mexican food is. Why generalize that way at all?
Sorry to be critical, I love your site, but this just struck me as a bit odd and unnecessary to fixate on relative authenticity, what it means, and who it matters to when you could’ve gotten the same point across in twenty words.
Tom- I (and so so so many others) appreciate the dedication you make to this site. Your humor and wit come through through in spades and make typical dry text not only a pleasure to read but something to look forward to. In a world of critics you continue to persevere an I thank you for that! Keep up the great work!
I can see what you’re saying, and it wasn’t my intent to belabor the point (although I did). No need to say “sorry” for pointing that out.
Just to give you some insight into why I fixated on that, in conversations with 6 of my friends who are locals, 5 brought up the topic of authenticity within the first minute or so of conversation, seemingly dismissing it on that basis. My response: “so what?” The lines here were a preemptive strike on that line of thinking.
I can read between the lines and I get it… This is Guy Selga’a fault. Clearly.
But really, I posted that comment and immediately regretted it, thinking I was overreacting and being dramatic. So thank you for being understanding and isn’t it just so typical of Guy to try to super dramatic about Captain EO/McDonalds. Can’t blame the guy.
I agree with how Tom wrote it, I would have written it the same way.
Right or wrong, Southern California locals seemed to be obsessed with “authenticity” when it comes to Mexican food.
Tom has picked up on that. (and his review was spot on)
I personally enjoy Cocina Cucamonga, but I would never ever make a positive comment to another local without first dropping the “authenticity disclaimer”.
Sounds crazy…….but welcome to LA.
Totally agree with your review. We ate here last year & I had the fire grilled citrus chicken which was really good. It’s nice to be able to get a good counter service meal that’s not the typical burger/chicken strips/pizza. I also loved this area because there were multiple food options and lots of seating which is great when you have a family of 5.
The large seating area definitely does make it easier to find a spot. I think it’d be nice if they put some live entertainment in the middle of the area (sort of like French Market at Disneyland) to make it seem a bit less like a food court, though.