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 DisneyParks® Drink Menu®) 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.
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 DisneyParks® Drink Menu®. 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.
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!