Disney’s Best Food You’re Not Eating.

Apologies for the clickbait title, but you know what? Sometimes clickbait is a necessary evil. TV Guide recognized that decades ago when it came to television show coverage (although I guess that would be pageturnbait?). Reluctantly, I recognize the same today when it comes to Disney dining.

Back in the day, my family drew inspiration from the Costanza household and collected old issues of TV Guide. The consummate compendium put had an annual feature on the “Best Show You’re Not Watching.” Had TV Guide simply done a straightforward cover on an excellent but underwatched show, readers would’ve disregarded it out of hand for the same reasons they didn’t watch in the first place. But that hook got people to read the article, and at least in theory, changed some preconceived minds.

I find myself at a similar juncture with a certain Disney counter service restaurant. No matter how many times I recommend it, the easy-to-access location remains relatively unpopular and uncrowded. Worse yet, I seldom see any buzz for it on social media or making any “best of” restaurant lists. Meanwhile, a variety of locations that are years past their prime and resting on their laurels remain busy and beloved. So hopefully this compassionate clickbait will change some minds. Your taste buds can thank me later.

The latest entry is GCH Craftsman Grill, and I cannot think of a restaurant more deserving of accolades and awareness. Without looking, I wonder how many of you even know where this is located or the cuisine it serves. If I confidently claimed it was a new spot for unlimited artisanal ice cream and gourmet novelty hot dogs in the lobby of Grand Destino Tower at Coronado Springs, many of you might believe me.

To answer those questions, GCH Craftsman Grill is located near the pool at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. It serves a range of options, from artisanal pizzas to California fusion cuisine. GCH Craftsman Grill is easily the most ‘elevated’ counter service restaurant you’ll find at Disneyland Resort and is closer in quality to table service restaurants.

GCH Craftsman Grill is not just a counter service hidden gem, it’s the best counter service restaurant in all of Disneyland Resort. I’ll go a step further and call it the best at Disneyland or Walt Disney World. There’s a reason this topped our List of the 23 Best Restaurants at Disneyland Resort. As stated in that post, we eat at GCH Craftsman more than anywhere else at Disneyland; it’s our go-to pick when we’re eating for enjoyment rather than for the sake of research.

That list contained several underrated restaurant recommendations and most of you completely ignored them. These spots continue to be quiet and fly under the radar. Meanwhile, Tomorrowland’s Terribly Untasty Twosome (Alien Pizza Planet and Galactic Grill) each do more business in an hour than GCH Craftsman Grill does all day. Not that I’m bitter or anything! I don’t mind having no wait at GCH Craftsman Grill and having the entire outdoor seating area to ourselves…but I do worry how Disney might opt to modify the menu to increase its popularity.

Before we dig in, let’s break down the basics. Around the pool area of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, there are two GCH Craftsman dining options. There’s the bar, which is usually busy and probably not underrated as a result. This is outdoors, was built a few years ago, and is an excellent addition to the pool area.

The vibe at GCH Craftsman Bar is great. We enjoy eating here shortly around dusk, with the popcorn lights illuminating the crisp blue evening air and the pool crowd starting to quiet down as the live music at the bar starts up. If you’re able to get into GCH Craftsman Bar, it’s worth doing. The superior ambiance justifies the additional time and slightly higher service cost.

A stone’s throw away from that is GCH Craftsman Grill, which is the Grand Californian’s indoor/outdoor counter service restaurant. This is the bar’s sister location, serving the exact same menu from the exact same kitchen. It is usually much quieter and faster than GCH Craftsman Bar.

Don’t bother with Mobile Order at GCH Craftsman Grill. Even when it does show return times, they usually don’t work, and there’s seldom more than 1-2 people in line inside. (Note: this is always subject to change, and we could already be wrong about the ‘status’ of Mobile Order at GCH Craftsman. We don’t even mess with it anymore because we’ve never in a rush when dining here.)

Thematically, GCH Craftsman Grill is relatively basic. This is a bit of a disappointment given that the rest of the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is so richly-themed. Here, there’s none of the ornate wood-work or beautiful light fixtures that typify the Arts & Craft style of Disneyland’s flagship hotel.

It’s hardly a deal-breaker, though. Plus, there are Coke Freestyle machines and a relaxed outdoor seating area. If you’re after atmosphere, simply head next door to the GCH Craftsman Bar. Again, it’s the same menu, but in a table service setting with exceptional ambiance and live music.

With that out of the way, let’s turn to food. We dine at GCH Craftsman Grill about once per month (although about 75% of the time, we order the exact same thing), so we have a decent amount of cuisine to cover…

First up is the Poke Bowl: Choice of Sushi-grade Salmon or Tuna tossed in Ponzu with Cucumber, Edamame, Avocado, Crab Salad, Green Onions, Radicchio, Pickled Seaweed, Furikake and Sriracha Aïoli, choice of Calrose Rice or Mixed Greens.

It’s ambitious, delicious, and offers very reasonable value for money. We recommend it if you’re in the mood for a healthy-ish poke bowl. Out of all the times we’ve dined here, I think we’ve ordered this a grand total of twice despite it being on the menu since the beginning. At GCH Craftsman Grill, it’s far from the star of the show.

Next, we have the Carnitas Quesadilla with Black Bean & Corn Relish, Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Queso Fresco in a Flour Tortilla.

This is rich and delicious, with the tortilla holding up well with all of the juicy and greasy ingredients inside. It’s definitely an indulgence, and the first of many items at GCH Craftsman Grill we recommend sharing. We both love the Carnitas Quesadilla and order it relatively frequently as a result. Only two minor quibbles with it: the high price and it having replaced the superior Maine Lobster Quesadilla.

Making our list of the Best Burgers at Disneyland Resort is the GCH Craftsman Wagyu Burger. The toppings on this rotate seasonally, but the animating idea remains the same: a heavy burger with a deep umami flavor, and lighter toppings to offset that.

My favorite iteration of this has been the Mediterranean Wagyu Burger, which features tzatziki sauce and feta cheese salad. That’s a refreshing and unique contrast to the rich burger, but not as much of a crowd-pleaser as the more straightforward options. Regardless, it’s a excellent burger.

In an era of shrinking portion sizes, the Baked Nachos at GCH Craftsman Grill are one dish that has defied the trend. These used to be served on a plate back in the White Water Snacks era, now they’re in a big baking pan. (With that said, these are slightly smaller than the Double-Baked Nachos that debuted when GCH Craftsman first opened. Those were truly enormous.)

Regardless, the portion here is huge and sized for sharing between 2-3 people. These are fantastic, with the best qualities of both a guilty pleasure (plenty of cheese sauce will do that) and fresh homemade nachos thanks to the heavy helping of avocado, plus cilantro, jalapeños, salsa, and everything else.

To each their own, but I think the base nachos here are better than the beloved Lobster Nachos at Lamplight Lounge, and the portion size at GCH Craftsman Grill is definitely larger. (I do prefer the lobster meat over both chicken and beef, though.) It’s tough to crown a winner since both are great in their own ways, but we definitely eat these more frequently. Part of that is the aforementioned ease of dining at GCH Craftsman Grill, though.

The other half of the main menu at GCH Craftsman Grill is the “Artisanal Pizzas from Our Pizza Oven.” There are 4 of these, 3 of which are fantastic. The other is the Charcuterie Pizza consisting of Premium Pepperoni, Prosciutto, Sausage, Arugula, Fire-roasted Tomatoes and House Cheese Blend.

If this were the only pizza on the menu, it’d earn our endorsement. However, it doesn’t compete with the alternatives, as the individual ingredients don’t really come together into something bold or memorable. The photo above pretty much sums it up.

The first of two middle-ground options is the Margherita Pizza with Fresh Mozzarella, Fresh Basil, Fire-roasted Tomatoes and House Cheese Blend.

The second is the Classic Pepperoni Pizza with Premium Pepperoni and House Cheese Blend.

Both of these are strong options. Normally, I’d favor the pepperoni pizza because pepperoni, but I actually have to agree with Sarah and favor the Margherita Pizza here.

The fresh mozzarella is a huge plus, and the juicy fire-roasted tomatoes provide exceptional little bursts of flavor. This is a big winner, and our change-of-pace pizza. No disrespect to the pepperoni–it’s also great, and the crust is fantastic on all of them, but it’s not on the same level as the Margherita Pizza.

The fourth and final option is the Forest Mushroom Impossible Sausage Pizza with Roasted Mushrooms, Plant-based Sausage, Mushroom Spread, Caramelized Onions, Green Onions, Fresh Mozzarella, and House Cheese Blend.

We saved the best for last here, with this pizza being off the charts. If memory serves me correctly, this debuted shortly before Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened, and has been on the menu since. I’d estimate that we’ve ordered this pizza about a dozen times in the last two years alone.

I’m not one of those people who pretends there’s no difference between real meat and Impossible, but I do think it’s difficult to tell in the context of this pizza. The mushrooms, spread, and onions give this dish a rich and earthy quality, which works well with the sausage and makes that fake meat virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.

The end result is that the Forest Mushroom Impossible Sausage Pizza is fantastic. It all coalesces beautifully, with the ingredients complementing one another and making for the perfect (to me) pizza. It’s also a very California dish, for those wanting something on-theme.

Like the burger, the Forest Mushroom Impossible Sausage Pizza has a deep umami quality and can be quite rich. The two of us often do half and half, and that’s quite filling.

Ideally, we’d probably recommend sharing this with 3-4 people, with another entree or two also ordered. The nachos and this could feed that many adults. Generally speaking, sharing is the correct approach at GCH Craftsman Grill, because there are so many things worth trying.

Frankly, the pizzas at GCH Craftsman Grill give the best of Naples Ristorante e Bar in Downtown Disney a run for their money.

If forced to choose between the Forest Mushroom Impossible Sausage Pizza and the Pizza al Tartufo Nero (my favorite) at Naples, I’d pick this. (For you Walt Disney World-centric fans, Naples is the same as Via Napoli at EPCOT–so this is pretty high praise.)

While lunch and dinner are the star of the show at GCH Craftsman Grill, we also want to briefly discuss breakfast.

Being Millennials, we have an uncontrollable compulsion to order Avocado Toast. This one is on Sourdough Bread and features Poached Eggs, Pomegranate Seeds and Olive Oil Drizzle with Parsley & Celery Leaf Salad. It’s delicious and high quality, with a the pomegranate flavor and seeds providing a nice tang and texture. However, the price is a bit much and it’s not as good as the Avocado Toast over at Tangaroa Terrace.

Finally, there’s the Brioche French Toast consisting of Thick-sliced Brioche with Vanilla-sweetened Mascarpone, Fresh Berries, Powdered Sugar, Blueberry Compote and Chantilly Cream.

This is absolutely sublime. The brioche bread itself is fantastic, but is melt-in-your-mouth amazing when paired with the mascarpone, berry compote, and cream. From what I understand, it’s also incredibly healthy–just look at all those berries! Joking aside, you won’t need coffee if you order this, because the sugar rush will be sufficient to kickstart your day. Highly, highly recommended.

Ultimately, GCH Craftsman Grill is a table service caliber restaurant in a counter service locale. This was a good hidden gem restaurant before, but it’s been off-the-charts for the last several years. Even during the post-reopening period when other menus were scaled back, GCH Craftsman Grill was still going strong.

As with other restaurants that are deserving of “Best Disney Food You’re Not Eating” status, my biggest fear with GCH Craftsman Grill is that the menu will be dumbed down to make the restaurant more appealing to the masses. Already, we’ve started to see that with the removal of certain ambitious and inventive items, and addition of things like chicken wings, fish & chips, and more sandwiches.

Don’t get me wrong, I love those things–and wouldn’t mind them as pure additions–but I don’t want to see GCH Craftsman Grill become just another ordinary counter service location. It’s too special of a spot.

Regardless, GCH Craftsman Grill has 4-6 entrees that would be flagship menu options anywhere else. This is far and away the best counter service restaurant at Disneyland Resort right now, and second place isn’t even close. Do yourself a favor and eat at GCH Craftsman Grill for the best meal of your trip to Disneyland.

Oh, and do us a favor and have someone order the Forest Mushroom Impossible Sausage Pizza. We really don’t want to see that vanish from the menu at GCH Craftsman Grill!

Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and many other SoCal cities!

Your Thoughts

Have you dined at GCH Craftsman Grill at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of the food quality, ambitiousness, value for money, etc? 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!

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