Cove Bar Review
Cove Bar is a bar and restaurant in Disney California Adventure. This review features photos of drinks and foods you can order from the menu. This Paradise Pier hotspot is best described as the epicenter of fun in DCA, and the park’s biggest E-Ticket. I don’t mean to overhype it by saying that, but it’s a fun place. We highlight Cove Bar in our Disneyland Resort Bar Crawl Guide, and it’s a must-visit spot for any first-timer to Disney California Adventure. (Last updated August 6, 2017.)
Cove Bar really offers it all, from a solid menu of bar foods to fun mixed drinks (and not just the Generic DisneyParksÂ® Drink MenuÂ®) to a great view of Paradise Bay and Paradise Pier. The downside to all of this is that word has really gotten out about Cove Bar, and that coupled with the rising popularity of Disney California Adventure means this is no longer a spot you can just stroll up to and have your pick of tables.
We’ve been advocates of Cove Bar for some time, originally having published this review a couple of years ago. At the height of our Cove Bar obsession, we were probably dining there around once per month. It was that good–and that good of a value. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end…
In our case, obscene wait times spelled the end of our time as Cove Bar regulars. Word got out about Cove Bar and its delicious lobster nachos, fun drinks, and altogether delightful ambiance. Pictures of those drinks and the lobster nachos were plastered all over social media, and what was once a cult following turned into over-the-top hype.
Of course, reviews like this one (which called the lobster nachos “life changing”) did nothing to help. Our glowing review reflected how we felt about Cove Bar, and we wanted to let others in on the ‘secret’ of this special place.
With regular waits for Cove Bar that rivaled Radiator Springs Racers, we decreased the frequency of our visits, or started going at odd hours in the off-season…
Fortunately, Disney did the wise thing and expanded the seating area, effectively doubling the capacity of Cove Bar. Above is a photo of the new seating area, which took over what used to be a Duffy meet & greet space. (RIP, homie.) Unfortunately, the bar was not always fully-staffed, so waits remained pretty long.
We’ve been back several times, and thought we’d update this review with additional thoughts on the current experience at Cove Bar, as of August 2017…
We might as well cut to the chase and discuss the greatest thing about Cove Bar: the Lobster Nachos. Previously, we called these “one of the pinnacle achievements of mankind, and a big reason why drinkers and teetotalers alike should unite in delightful harmony at Cove Bar.”
That’s still pretty apt, but we now say that with some reservations. First, the line and wait you might encounter makes it difficult to recommend Cove Bar on a busy day to anyone with limited time. If it’s your first trip and you only have a day in DCA, I wouldn’t recommend waiting in line more than 30 minutes.
Second, the portion size of the Lobster Nachos has decreased and the price has gone up. As the reason we recommend Cove Bar, it’s tough to continue hyping up the place as cuts are made. The size of the Lobster Nachos in particular can be particularly troubling, as also it’s inconsistent. At our last visit to Cove Bar in August 2017, we watched plates of Lobster Nachos, being delivered to tables around us, and the sizing was all over the place. Our nachos (pictured above) were a hearty size, but others did not fare so well. By contrast, below is how the nachos used to look.
It might be difficult to tell from the photos, but the ‘old’ Lobster Nachos were about 25-50% larger (depending upon how lucky you get with your current Lobster Nachos portion size) and a few dollars cheaper. Now, this is not to say that you shouldn’t order the Lobster Nachos (we still do!) just keep in mind that articles you might find singing the praises of the Lobster Nachos might be a few years old…and based on the old size and price.
The good news is that the Lobster Nachos are still delicious, and still worth ordering if you’re a first-timer. Not only do I praise these nachos in our Bar Crawl Guide, but I also list them as one of the Top Snacks at Disneyland Resort, place them as a must-do on our 1-Day Disney California Adventure Plan, and sing their praises in our Ways to Avoid Crowds in Disney California Adventure post. Suffice to say, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, the Cove Bar Lobster Nachos need no introduction.
Perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves. In case you don’t hang on our every word (can’t blame you), here’s the introduction: the Cove Bar Lobster Nachos consist of tender lobster pieces atop fresh corn tortilla chips, beans, Pico de Gallo, Serrano Peppers, cilantro, Chipotle Crema, and shredded jack and cheddar cheeses.
After you’ve had a drink or two, your first taste of these nachos is going to be a zen-like experience that makes you feel like there are little angels massaging your taste buds and tickling your stomach. It truly is like a religious experience.
If you can restrain yourself from ordering 4 rounds of Lobster Nachos per person in your party, you’ll find a food menu at Cove Bar that’s surprisingly deep.
During our August 2017 visit to Cove Bar, we tried another new item: Fajita Quesadilla Rolls. These are four grilled flour tortilla rolled with chicken, onions, peppers, and pepper jack and cheddar cheese with Guajillo sauce, chipotle crema, and avocado relish.
While not nearly as unique as the Lobster Nachos, we loved this dish. The portion was generous, it flavors combine wonderfully (hitting some of the same notes as the Lobster Nachos), and they were really filling. The value proposition here was also excellent, being a few dollars cheaper than most other items on the food menu. (No surprise since they are new–if these prove popular, expect the price to jump.) Highly recommended.
These are the Tri-Tip Sliders, which are a trio of sliders, pepper-rubbed and roasted then topped with a Mojo Criollo Sauce, crispy onions, on a toasted brioche bun. The meat here is tender and the flavor is great.
Priced at around $13, they are about the price of a counter service meal, but slightly smaller, much higher quality, and presented better. They earn my seal of approval if the Lobster Nachos aren’t your cup of tea.
Then there’s the drink menu…
As touched upon above, the drink menu that you’re handed is simply the Generic DisneyParksÂ® Drink MenuÂ®. There’s nothing unique in this menu, and you could order the very same things in any bar at Walt Disney World.
That’s not a typo–the exact same drinks are available in Florida. This is a colossal disappointment.
Not to disparage this menu too much, but it’s an absolute abomination. Okay, that’s completely disparaging it, but it’s justified. We have a friend who was a bartender for Disney, and that person was embarrassed by this menu.
According to them, it was designed in part by a liquor company and the recipes are intended to appeal to vacationers who don’t normally drink, so there’s an emphasis on sweet, fruity flavors, and a de-emphasis on actual alcohol. So, if you don’t drink regularly or prefer sweet drinks, you might like it. (And we aren’t judging if that’s the case–we just want to set expectations properly.)
This person said this isn’t the case with every drink on the menu (and there are actually a few well-crafted drinks on there), but by and large, it’s the rule.
In my experience ordering drinks from this menu, that assessment is completely on the money. The fruitiness and sugary nature of the drinks is certainly unquestionable.
Fortunately, every bartender with whom we’ve interacted at Cove Bar has an extensive knowledge of other drinks that aren’t on the menu.
I think it goes without saying that it’s best to order off-menu (or beer). Above is the Zombie, a pretty strong drink that they can prepare.
There are also a few specialty drinks that are exclusive to Cove Bar but, for some reason, aren’t on the menu. Above is the Fun Wheel, which is named after Mickey’s Fun Wheel due to the multi-colored nature of the drink. It’s fruity, but reasonably strong, and delicious.
It used to be served with lemon wedges forming mouse ears on the drink, but this practice was discontinued due to it making an alcoholic drink look appealing to children. (Whoops!) You can still request lemons on the side to make your own for that Instagram vanity shot! Other “secret” drinks include the Neverland Tea and Black Pearl, both of which are also photogenic…if you’re into that sort of thing.
There are other specialty drinks, including the Midway Martini and the Sideshow Novel-Tea (above left). I’ve never actually seen them advertised at Cove Bar. We usually sit at a table by Paradise Bay, so maybe there’s a sign at the bar or something? The Novel-Tea is nice and strong, and pretty refreshing.
If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic drink, the Cotton Candy Lemonade is particularly popular with the Instagram crowd. This features all Natural Odwalla Lemonade flavored with Cotton Candy and garnished with a big piece of cotton candy. This is currently (as of August 2017) the trendiest drink at Cove Bar. It looked sort of dumb and overpriced to us, but to each their own. (Disneyland management: move this drink somewhere else! Roaming hordes of teenagers wanting a cute IG photo can be drawn to another location…like an ODV in front of a colored wall.)
We got carried away with the Lobster Nachos above and forgot to start with a discussion of the Cove Bar’s ambiance. It’s really great. The bar is open air, and overlooks Paradise Bay.
On a warm, sunny day (in other words, 99% of the time in Southern California), it is a wonderful place to just sit and soak up the rays with a drink in hand. Really, the perfect spot for that Disney California Adventure ambiance.
As part of the Disney California Adventure 2.0 project a few years ago, Cove Bar quietly got a new paint job and some vintage-inspired signage (see above) highlighting other areas in Paradise Pier.
These signs may seem like a little thing, but they really are a nice touch in making the bar feel like one you’d find on a Victorian boardwalk. Having visited the bar both before and after the change, I think they really add to the ambiance, but I tend to stress over the details.
When this area changes to Pixar Pier in 2018, I guess these will all be signs advertising Al’s Toy Barn and the name of this establishment will become “Crush’s Bar”? I dunno…the whole Pixar Pier idea feels like someone didn’t think it through.
Overall, Cove Bar is a must visit for first-time visitors to Disney California Adventure…so long as you can time the experience well and don’t have to wait over 30-40 minutes for a table. The drink list is slightly disappointing, albeit pretty, but otherwise, Cove Bar is exceptional. It’s best viewed as a great spot to relax in a beautiful open air setting, with high-quality pub food. If you’re only interested in quality drinks, you’re better off sticking to beer or making a stop at the infinitely superior Carthay Circle Lounge. Despite the so-so drink menu, Cove Bar brings so much to the table in terms of ambiance and food that it still ranks right up there with Trader Sam’s and Carthay Lounge as one of the best bars at Disneyland Resort. It’s sort of odd that one of the “best bars” would be only okay in terms of drinks, but that is the case here.
If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site or on-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!
Have you been to Cove Bar? Are you a Lobster Nachos die hard fan? Like anything else here on (or off) the menu? If you aren’t a fan, why not? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!
Ok, here I’m apparently going to be in the tiny, tiny minority, but I didn’t find the lobster nachos good at all. I’m not lobster aficionado, but I would say it was the worst lobster I’ve ever had. It was really fishy and had a disgusting texture. Now, I only had it once (Feb 2017) and generally find Tom’s advice spot on, but I was very disappointed in the Cove Bar. When I return, and if the line isn’t too bad, I might go back and try a different dish. I had one of the fruity drinks (don’t remember which) which was ok, but my teen daughter loved the Cotton Candy Lemonade.
I really have to stop reading your dining reviews until I’m no longer pregnant. My husband was actually going to take me to Disneyland tonight because I really, really want those Lobster Nachos! Unfortunately we wouldn’t have made it before they closed 🙁
One needs heat-quenching drinks just to read a scorching hot tombricker take. On FIRE!
I just want to warn any lobster-lovers from the east coast that the lobster nachos are probably not going to impress you that much. I visited in March, wary of this lobster, but still interested, and was disappointed. The nachos portion was pretty good, but the lobster had a weird texture and tasted very fishy. If you’re used to fresh New England lobster, it’s not going to measure up. On the other hand, our drinks (a Fun Wheel and a Cotton Candy Lemonade) were fantastic and the other food looked great!
Hi Tom, love your website! I’ve used it mostly to prep for an upcoming WDW and Disney cruise trip at Christmas, but we’ll be in Disneyland soon for an upcoming girls weekend! Do you know if The Cove Bar or any of the other bars allow you to get drinks in to go cups? Not to sound too much like a lush but we thought it would be fun to get drinks to go (preferably from somewhere with a full bar) and drink them while in line for a ride.
The Cove is an awesome place to eat and drink but very hard to get into. Better get there by 11:00-11:30 or you’ll be in yet another line. Enjoyed it thanks to this blogs lead! Lobster nachos and tri-tip sliders AND Long Island ice tea to die for!
I finally made it to Cove Bar a couple of weeks ago. We ordered the lobster nachos, buffalo wings, and I had a white sangria. The nachos didn’t quite live up to they hype for me. I’ll give the nachos one more chance if I visit on a less-busy day (it was Dapper Day and the last day of the food & wine festival the days we went). The wings were surprisingly good, and the sangria was refreshing. I stopped a waiter to ask about the fun wheel drink, and have added it to my must-try list for next visit.
Do you happen to know if there is a DCA Cove Bar equivalent somewhere in Disney World?
Arguably La Cava del Tequila, but it’s totally different in style. Here’s our Top 10 Disney Bars list: https://www.disneytouristblog.com/best-disney-bars-lounges/
You forgot the Earthquake! Definitely one of the stronger “secret menu” Cove Bar drinks and appropriately my favorite 🙂
Yum, I am drooling over those nachos… I’ll have to try this place next time. I tend to like sweet, fruity drinks, but thanks for the tips about the off-menu drinks – they look awesome.
Cove Bar is one of my favorites at DCA. The lobster nachos were a brilliant concept but in my experience the lobster is a bit on the skimpy side and I prefer the tri tip sliders. Can’t beat the location but there is almost always a line. Great tip about off-menu drink items, definitely will check these out on my next visit.
THANK YOU!!! Thanks to your advice we went to the cove bar on our first trip to DLR in novemeber and the lobster nachos EXCEED the hype! Had a Zombie and that was great too! Thank you Tom!!
We’ve noticed recently that the Zombie seems to have become an unofficial off-menu “special” drink there. I’m not saying it’s because of our Disneyland Bar Crawl Guide, but before I wrote that, it didn’t have that same status. In fact, when we ordered it, we suggested it to them, and one of the bartenders happened to know how to make it (albeit not in the way we have had it elsewhere).
That Bar Crawl Guide is one of our more popular posts, and I’m not saying the Zombie recommendation in it led to Cove Bar embracing their own unique form of the drink…but I do wonder if that is the case.
Can minors eat at the bar. My girls will be a few days short of their 21st birthday when we go to Disneyland.
I was actually wondering the same thing myself! Although, I was also thinking it might be a good excuse to sneak off for some time by myself without the kids during our next trip 😉
I’m pretty sure kids are allowed at tables, but not the bar itself. Not 100%, though.
Now THAT looks like a Mickey’s Fun Wheel I would enjoy 😉 I was totally freaked by the ride. I wish I could have read your review before our DL trip this past summer. This sounds like a great place… I mean, Lobster Nachos?!
There are definitely better drinks, but the Mickey’s Fun Wheel certainly looks awesome!
We were headed to sit at the right side of the bar when you were taking that wide angle shot. I really hope you two weren’t too freaked out by the girl who wouldn’t stop looking in your direction.
Haha, not freaked out at all!
Oh my goodness, we dream of those nachos daily! BUT, we can’t ever get them again for one amazing reason:
They brought out our nachos. We started to dig in. My boyfriend kind of sadly says “Is… Is… Is there even any lobster on these?” We poked around. We reread the menu to see if it was just a lobster sauce or something, and then called over the waiter.
“We’re so sorry to bother you, but… But there isn’t any lobster on these!”
He bends down… Looks… Gasps. “You’re right! I’ll be right back”
He walks back to the kitchen and returns 30 seconds later with a trencher of huge lobster pieces in butter… I mean, two tails worth, or more. He plunks it down and we just about die. Lobster heaven.
I’m guessing they won’t ever forget the lobster for us again, will they??
That is amazing…but I’d still go back for more! 🙂
Oh I both love and hate this review!! Love it because your pics make me feel like I’m sitting right there on the pier, eating those Ah-Maze-ing nachos and drinking one of those gorgeous drinks. Hate it because we were just there at DCA the week of Christmas and we had planned to go to the cove bar but, wouldn’t you know it: I got the stomach flu the day we were going to go. And we weren’t able to fit it in. So yes, I spent an entire day and night in our gorgeous room at the Grand Californian with the stomach flu while my husband took the kids to Ariel’s Grotto. Oh well, there’s always next time. Thanks for letting me live vicariously through your experience!!
Well, next time, get yourself TWO orders of the Lobster Nachos to “catch up.” And don’t share. 😉
Thanks for another great restaurant review!!! This place looks great and I had never even heard of it…
BTW I love this restaurant week Idea!!! Your restaurant reviews are some of my favorite blog topics I am excited everyday to see what review is next!!
You’ve never heard of Cove Bar?! Oh man…
Let’s put it this way: after writing this review, I got so excited for those Lobster Nachos that we headed to Cove Bar that day. Yep, they are *that* good.
Much to my surprise, our order of Lobster Nachos (and our friends order) had VERY generous portions of lobster. The most lobster we had received in years!