Located inside Pirates of the Caribbean is one of Disney’s most iconic restaurants anywhere in the world, a bucket list dining spot that first-timers and fans alike flock–and for good reason! This review features food photos & recommendations, a look inside the iconic eatery, info about atmosphere & ambiance, and our analysis of cuisine quality and value for money.
Due to its location inside Pirates of the Caribbean with boats of guests on the attraction floating past the waterfront restaurant, Blue Bayou Restaurant has become a quintessential Disney experience. Even those who have never been to the parks know that there is a restaurant in Pirates of the Caribbean, and want to eat there.
The proximity to Pirates of the Caribbean and the ambiance that flows from the ride to the restaurant are the big draws for Blue Bayou. As a result, the food often takes a backseat to the vibes of the restaurant. In our view, this actually makes sense–it’s entirely reasonable to want to dine at Blue Bayou for the experience first, and meal second.
To that point, our longtime recommendation for first-timers to Disneyland has been to book reservations for Blue Bayou because it’s an exemplar of themed design and offers exceptional atmosphere. This is especially true for Disney fans; even though Walt Disney World has a couple of comparable restaurants in or adjacent to attractions, they’re not the same. Blue Bayou is an original, and pinnacle of Imagineering.
However, we’ve always offered the caveat that Blue Bayou is expensive, and you’re paying a premium for the setting and ambiance that isn’t reflected in the cuisine. In the last decade-plus, we’ve dined at Blue Bayou once every few years and have always savored the setting…but seldom the food. Until now.
Oddly enough, this lunch at Blue Bayou flipped the script on our past experiences at Disneyland’s most prolific restaurant.
Upon checking in, we encountered a colossal crowd inside the restaurant lobby and spilling out into New Orleans Square. If other recent visits to Disneyland are any indication, this is the norm now.
Normally, we would request a waterfront table. But between the crowd and the fact that we’ve dined at Blue Bayou many times, we opted against it. With that said, we would strongly recommend that you make such a request.
Cast Members will indicate that they can’t guarantee you’ll be accommodated and quote a longer wait time (usually 30-60 minutes, with an actual wait that’s typically less), but it’s well worth it. Watching the Pirates of the Caribbean boats float by is blissful and pure Disneyland magic.
We were seated on the exact opposite side of Blue Bayou, about as close to the entrance as you can get.
This alone was not a big deal. The real issue was that there was minimal spacing between the tables and people were packed into the restaurant. As a result, Blue Bayou had a louder and more disorderly vibe than we’ve ever encountered here.
Perhaps we’ve just been lucky with Blue Bayou in the past. It’s been the most popular restaurant at Disneyland for as long as I can remember, but it doesn’t seem like we’ve ever experienced the restaurant when it’s been this busy.
My guess is that spacing between the tables has been reduced to cram more people into the venue, but maybe I’m simply misremembering. It’s also possible we previously have done early lunches, late dinners, or just dined here during the off-season when demand wasn’t as high. (The phenomenon of Disneyland restaurant reservations booking up one month-plus in advance is very much a new thing. We never used to make reservations for DLR dining.)
In any case, the vibe wasn’t the same. Sure, Blue Bayou still has the charming courtyard with wrought-iron chairs, hanging paper lanterns, the night sky above, and the bayou at dusk off in the distance. That’s all beautiful, and shines through even when packed with people.
However, the authentic New Orleans jazz and gospel music, deep bellowing of bullfrogs, and the chirping of crickets was mostly drowned out by the crowd noise. In spite of all that, it’s still a mellow restaurant with a relaxing quality to it…but not to the extent that it could be.
From our perspective, this is another reason to request a table along the waterfront. Without other tables surrounding you on all sides, you’re more likely to hear the music and atmospheric sounds, while also feeling less claustrophobic.
Another good idea is doing Blue Bayou for the first seating at lunch or late in the evening as the restaurant is clearing out. This is our preferred way to do a lot of Disney table service restaurants for similar reasons, and now Blue Bayou joins that list.
Anyway, on to the food!
We were joined for the meal at Blue Bayou by infamous Omnibus outlaw, Guy Selga of TouringPlans, who started out by ordering the Chicken Gumbo with Tasso Ham, Andouille Sausage, Peppers, and Tomatoes with Steamed Rice.
This gumbo is rich and flavorful, packed with a hearty helping of meats and a relatively mild kick. There’s a decent amount of rice to absorb the broth, and makes it a satisfying dish all around. The cup of gumbo is modestly sized and intended for one, but as far as appetizers go, this seemed fairly priced at $7 (adjust upwards for inflation depending upon when you’re reading this and visiting). Highly recommended.
Next up, the 31 Royal Street Signature Julep.
I also took a photo showing the overhead view, but it simply looks like liquid in ice–not really illustrative of anything. This photo looks cooler, so I’m going with that. The current julep is blood orange, which tasted as the name suggests. With that said, absolutely nothing special–you could get a can of blood orange soft drink at the store and not miss out on anything here.
Before turning to our actual entrees, we’ll start by addressing the elephant in the room. The iconic entree at Disneyland, the Monte Cristo: Battered and Fried Turkey, Ham and Swiss Sandwich with a Market Fruit Salad and Seasonal Preserves.
Currently, this is served with a seasonal salad at Blue Bayou. This is complete and utter nonsense, like the equivalent of drinking a dozen Diet Cokes per day. No one ordering the Monte Cristo is concerned about health–we wants the pomme frites!
Anyway, I’ve had Disneyland’s Monte Cristo around a dozen times in the last decade…and have lived to tell about it! It’s served at Cafe Orleans and Blue Bayou. It’s the same at both, save for the cheaper price at Cafe Orleans. For a while last year, the Monte Cristo was also served at Smokejumpers Grill in DCA, where it was my go-to dish during the days of really scaled-back menus. (I’ve actually had it more there than anywhere else!)
The Monte Cristo is a fantastic fried sandwich, but also an incredibly heavy. I always recommend sharing it, and would take my own advice if my park-going counterpart would willingly eat a fried sandwich. (That’s why I loved the cheaper and smaller Smokejumpers Grill version so much!)
What makes the Monte Cristo special is its masterful melding of batter with turkey, ham, and cheese–giving it gloriously rich and salty quality. That’s brilliantly offset with strawberry preserves and vanilla custard, making the sandwich the perfect sweet and savory combo. The Monte Cristo also has a range of textures, from the exterior crunch of the batter to doughiness underneath to the meat and gooey cheese.
Admittedly, I do think the Monte Cristo is a bit overrated among Disneyland diehards, as well as overpriced for what it is. However, it’s very good and deserving of its “iconic Disneyland dish” status. There’s more here than meets the eye, and it’s worth trying at least once. I just wouldn’t make it my lone entree–it works well as a shared option for the table.
For this meal at Blue Bayou, we ordered the Fava Bean & Pistachio Pesto Pasta: Asparagus, Arugula, Tomatoes, Basil and Squash Blossoms.
Personally, I think fava beans should’ve been removed from all restaurant menus long ago since they’re forever associated with Hannibal Lecter and, by extension, cannibalism. Also, because they are not good.
With that said, I have to admit that they worked really well in this dish, with had a very Mediterranean quality thanks to the array of fresh vegetables and olive oil. Still, it’s earthy, herby, and frankly on the heavy side due to the hearty pasta and pesto. Not heavy like the Monte Cristo–it’s nowhere near that level of intensity–just more than you might expect from a plant-based pasta. It also has an aromatic quality, unique texture, and is just generally an ambitious and creative dish.
From my perspective, all of this is a strength. All too often, Disney’s plant-based dishes are too light and not filling. This was heavier, but still refreshing in spite of that thanks to its ingredients. Sarah felt it could’ve been a little lighter (that’s why she wanted to order this), but praised the variety of vegetables and its nuanced flavor, as well as being plant-based without tasting artificial or attempting to “simulate” meat. I’m not particularly keen on most plant-based dishes, but I loved and would highly recommend this; Sarah would recommend it with reservations.
Next up is the Sustainable Market Fish: Caribbean Hoppin’ John, Herbs, Lime and Mango-Coconut Beurre Blanc.
The fish here is ahi tuna, which caught me by surprise. Seasonal/sustainable fish is Disneyspeak for “whatever farm-raised fish is cheapest.” That usually means salmon, mahi mahi, tilefish, or cobia.
I was floored by the flavor on this dish. The tuna was tender, with the expected meatiness and a rich and buttery quality that was balanced against the bit of seared texture on the outside. A really delicious fish with a robust flavor that didn’t need any assistance from the accompaniments.
With that said, those accompaniments did stand well on their own. The hoppin’ john itself would’ve been fine, but the medley of fruity flavors (mango, coconut, and lime) had the dish more refreshing–with the mint making everything cooler. All in all, it made for an interesting and ambitious dish, and another that I’d highly recommend.
For our final entree, there’s the Chicken Jambalaya: Sustainable Jumbo Shrimp, Andouille Sausage, Tasso Ham, Creole-spiced Rice and Tasso Ham-Tomato Jus.
This is a classic Creole and Cajun rice dish, and you probably know one way or another whether you like Jambalaya. I don’t purport to be an expert on “authentic” New Orleans cuisine, but I think Disney’s culinary team does this right. It’s bursting with flavor thanks to the variety of vegetables, spices, meat, and rice–it’s just a really satisfying dish.
In my estimation, the Chicken Jambalaya is the “safe” choice on the menu at Blue Bayou. Not that it’s unadventurous, but because this is New Orleans Square and there’s always a version of Jambalaya on the menu. It’s one of the things they always get right…and Blue Bayou is not a restaurant known for its ambitious cuisine.
However, our other two entrees at this meal were shockingly good, with more nuanced and bold flavors than we ever expected. That makes it more difficult to get excited about the Chicken Jambalaya or even the Monte Cristo, for that matter. (Blue Bayou always has a steak, and it’s usually only so-so. Given the high quality of these entrees, I’m really curious about the Filet Mignon with Patatas Bravas, Spinach, Lemon Aïoli and Olive-Piquillo Pepper Tapenade.)
For dessert, we started with the Vanilla-Bourbon Crème Brûlée: Pecan Cookie, Macerated Berries and Vanilla Bean Chantilly.
Ah, now this is the Blue Bayou we know and “love.” This dessert was wholly unremarkable, tasting exactly like all other Disney crème brûlées. This isn’t to say it was bad–it was just fine–but it was nothing special. Save your money and stomach space, and look for dessert elsewhere.
Finally, we have the Layered Chocolate-Coffee Cake with Vanilla Bean Chantilly and Seasonal Fruit Compote.
Presentation-wise, this is a winner. Just look at it. Taste-wise, it’s better and more unique than the crème brûlée, but that’s not exactly high praise. If I had to choose between this and the candy bar in Avengers Campus, I’d pick that. (Not to mention about a dozen other desserts at Disneyland–that’s just the closest thing that this reminded me of.) Neither recommended nor not recommended.
Overall, we’ve been fairly ambivalent about Blue Bayou Restaurant at Disneyland in the past. We’ve strongly recommended it on the basis of ambiance, but always felt that the menu was phoned in with the kitchen coasting on a couple of popular (but arguably overrated and simple) items and the longstanding reputation of the restaurant.
Based on this meal, that is no longer our perception. While the atmosphere wasn’t as good as we remember due to a jam-packed restaurant, that’s not particularly bothersome in light of the aforementioned workarounds.
Rather, it’s the food–or at least the entrees–that left us really impressed. Two of these were far more ambitious than anything we’ve ever had at Blue Bayou, and left us wanting to try the rest of the menu.
In particular, the Fava Bean & Pistachio Pesto Pasta is a plant-based all-star, and great bang-for-buck at its price point. Given all of that, we now highly recommend Blue Bayou Restaurant to all Disneyland visitors–let’s just hope the kitchen keeps the quality up and the menu this ambitious. It’s a real winner!
Have you dined at Blue Bayou Restaurant in Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland? What did you think of the atmosphere and setting? What about the cuisine quality and ambitiousness? Would you recommend waiting for a waterfront seat or just eating wherever? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!