Golden Horseshoe & Stage Door Cafe Review
The Golden Horseshoe and Stage Door Cafe are counter service restaurants at Disneyland serving ice cream and various fried foods. This review features photos of the food and ice cream, history, and general thoughts on the locations. As for why these spots are lumped together in one review: Golden Horseshoe is the main restaurant here with meals served inside accompanied by performances, while Stage Door Cafe serves virtually the same menu from the same kitchen outside via a grab and go window. By any reasonable account, they are the same thing.
Well, except for the fact that The Golden Horseshoe is approximately twenty-seven billion times more awesome from a non-food perspective. It alone contains a staggering amount of Disneyland history. It unofficially opened on July 13, 1955, as the Golden Horseshoe Saloon, when Lillian and Walt Disney celebrated their 30th anniversary with a private party and the premiere showing of the original Golden Horseshoe Revue. A few days later, The Golden Horseshoe Saloon officially opened, and Disney Legend Wally Boag made his first performance there. Boag went on to perform approximately 40,000 performances on the Golden Horseshoe stage, and is credited as inspiring countless other comedians, including Steve Martin.
Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Revue went on to become the longest running stage production in show business history, as listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. Other acts have come and gone over the years, most recently being the hilarious Billy Hill and the Hillbillies, who have since been retired by Disneyland and now perform down the street at Knott’s Berry Farm as Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies. Currently, Laughing Stock performs here.
Being huge Billy Hill and the Hillbillies fans, we have eaten here countless times. Unfortunately, it’s arguably the worst restaurant at Disneyland Resort. Why is it so bad despite all that history? Let’s take a look…
This Disney The Lone Ranger Souvenir Mug encapsulates all that is wrong with Golden Horseshoe and Stage Door Cafe in a single photo that was captured last week. As you may know, this movie was a colossal flop. Two years ago. That’s right, these restaurants are still selling a mug promoting a movie that flopped two years ago. Not only that, but the mug is overpriced, and cheaply mass-produced.
Which brings us to the food. These restaurants have two main menu items: fish & chips and chicken nuggets. (Each restaurant has a couple of ancillary options: Stage Door Cafe has corn dogs which look similar to those at the world-famous Little Red Wagon; Golden Horseshoe has chili in bread bowls, which I wouldn’t risk trying…but I suppose it could be good, against all odds?)
Both main options are equally bad. The fish & chips is especially egregious. I’ve literally had better fish from Great Value (that’s the Wal-Mart brand) freezer section bagged fish. I’ve (sadly) had the fish & chips here more than once, and it’s consistently awful, so I know my experience here isn’t a fluke. I’m guessing they have a nutritional value somewhere between cardboard and dog food. Feeding this to your kids might border on child abuse, no matter how much they might claim to like this over-processed garbage.
This is the fish that used to be served a couple of years ago at the two restaurants. It was marginally better, but still nothing on par with the likes of Yorkshire County Fish Shop at Epcot.
The chicken nuggets are slightly better, but still taste like they came from a cheap bag in the frozen food aisle.
Then there’s the ice cream. We have eaten way too much ice cream at Golden Horseshoe over the years. Every time there is a seasonal or special event menu, Golden Horseshoe has something that sounds intriguing. The description is always much better than the actual product.
The biggest problem aside from the execution of the concepts are the ice cream itself and the service. Any time Golden Horseshoe is remotely busy, the ordering and pick-up counters become chaotic. You might be able to order right away, it might take 15 minutes. You might get your ice cream right away, they might serve 10 people before you who ordered after you. It’s anyone’s guess what might happen with the Golden Horseshoe Ice Cream Lottery.
As for the ice cream itself, at least 50% of the time, we get ice cream that tastes like it came from the value bin and is varying degrees of freezer burnt. Also, portion size is highly inconsistent. For example, the ice cream “nachos” (yes, that’s what they were called) pictured above were a huge serving for the price (unfortunately, they were freezer burnt so we ate about half of what’s there). Other times, the portion seemed about half the size of what it should be.
The one thing I’ve had here that’s consistently been good is the ice cream float. I don’t know if the root beer masks the freezer burnt flavor of the ice cream or what, but these have always been decent. So if you want to go in to watch Laughing Stock, grab one of these, I guess. Or just watch the show without ordering anything.
Then there are the funnel cakes outside at Stage Door Cafe. It’s as if the powers that be mandated that these be as bad as the ice cream inside.
This is the chocolate brownie funnel cake. The funnel cake itself was so hard I’m shocked it didn’t chip my teeth, and while the brownie was slightly redeeming by itself, it didn’t come together well as a dessert. I do not waste food–especially dessert–but I only ate half of this. That’s how bad it was.
Overall, having eaten at every counter service at Disneyland Resort, I would peg Golden Horseshoe and Stage Door Cafe as far and away the worst options in terms of food. Yes, even worse than Tomorrowland Terrace. Don’t give in to the temptation to eat here just because your “kids will like” the stuff on the menu. Taking your kids here is the equivalent of giving them a box on Christmas morning to play with–but not the toy that should come inside–because you know that’s “good enough.”
If you look at Yelp and other sites, you might see scores inconsistent with my review, but dig a little deeper and you’ll mostly see positive reviews highlighting Billy Hill and the Hillbillies (who again, are gone), not the food. I know some people who like Golden Horseshoe, but I think that’s mostly from the perspective of entertainment. Laughing Stock is a decent show, and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from seeing it, but do not be tempted to order any food to “enjoy” during the show. Likewise, don’t think these are good places to go for a cool treat, no matter how good that cool new menu item looks. (And if you see me get excited about the next new concoction they have here, remind me of how bad the last ones have been–I sometimes have a short memory.) Golden Horseshoe is a beautiful location and a great place to go to escape the crowds, but you don’t need to order food to do that. Golden Horseshoe, with all its history, beautiful location, and live entertainment (the basis for all of the points it scores in this review), deserves much better than what’s currently served here.
As for figuring out the rest of your Disneyland trip, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, whether you should stay off-site or on-site in a Disney hotel, where to dine at Disneyland & Disney California Adventure, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensiveDisneyland Trip Planning Guide!
Overall Score: 3.5/10
To read other Disney restaurant reviews from Disneyland Resort, organized by location, check out our Disneyland Dining Reviews Index.
What do you think of The Golden Horseshoe and/or Stage Door Cafe? Am I being too hard on them? Do your “kids love them?” (Do you dislike your kids?) 😉 Share your thoughts in the comments!
The Chili in a bread bowl was always one of our favorite meals there. We always stopped for lunch there, took in the show and had a bowl of chili.
Not sure why it was mention not be risked?? It is a filling meal and more than can be consumed for a decent price. One of the hidden gems of the park.
Hey Tom. You absolutely must return to the Golden Horseshoe and try their chili served in a sourdough bread bowl, topped with onions & cheese. I think it would singlehandedly change your opinion of the place.
That’s a long time that I follow your blog and your instagram account (also of Sarah) to see your awesome pics from Disneyland! …
But every time I ask myself the same question: “How do they do so there is never anyone in the pictures of the park?”
Do you stay after the park closes? How do you do it?
Because I am also fun to photograph Disneyland Paris, and I would like to have your tricks;)
I count myself as very fortunate to see Billy Hill and the Hillbillies perform here since 2007. I can’t say that I’ve ever eaten here before and probably won’t after reading this review.
So Tom since your living close to Disneyland now has it lost any of its magic?
Nah, it has changed the way I have experienced the park, sometimes for the worse. I enjoy the ‘tourist’ mentality of time being precious rather than the laid back mentality.
Great article Tom. I read your stuff because you are one of the few disney blogs that actually dares to write something negative, which I wholly appreciate. Because of this article I’m intrigued if you could write a top ten worst restaurants in all disney parks, being one of the rare few to go to so many of them.
Ha, thanks. I’m a pretty optimistic person (at least I think so), but I don’t hesitate to share the negative when it’s useful. If someone is considering dining here and looks up a review, my negativity is useful. I don’t see a Top 10 Worst list having any usefulness, as people aren’t going to seek out the places on that list. I might be able to put some sort of spin on it to make it helpful, though. Hmm…
I remember way back the menu included a tray of cold cut sandwiches, including ham & swiss on rye (and that’s when I started liking that combo).
Bring back the original show! Surely someone can fill Donald Novis and Wally Boag’s shoes and Betty Taylor’s heels! Maybe as a tribute?
I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see the show brought back for Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary. I suspect there will be record crowds this summer, and Disneyland needs to keep those people entertained during the day while they wait for the nighttime entertainment.
More daytime entertainment acts is the quickest and easiest fix for this, given that they can’t build Star Wars Land between now and May 22.
I have tried these restaurants both, different visits, and I agree they are both pretty bad. The fried food is very greasy, like dripping with oil and tasted awful. Ugh. Have you ever had fried anything that tasted stale? That’s likely old, dirty, used-too-long frying oil. Gross, gross.
I do have to point out the atmosphere enormously helps the perception of the food in the Saloon. I still wouldn’t eat there with so many better options to chose from. Look just across to New Orleans Square.
See, this description makes me want to go there with you just to watch the hilarious struggle between wanting ice cream, and knowing it’s probably terrible. ðŸ˜Š
My better judgment almost never prevails. I mean…it’s ice cream. Ice cream is delicious!
*make them hard as a rock. The cookies. Holy heck!!!
Lol wondered if you would catch that. Gave me a good laugh!
Yeah, that’s an…um…interesting typo. 😉
We rarely ate lunch food but almost always got the ice cream and I didn’t think it was that bad. Usually got the sundae with two chocolate chip cookies. Cookies were hit or miss on the softness. Sometimes you’d crack a tooth because the ice cream would make me as hard as a rock. The real draw for us was of course Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. Next to the original review with Betty Taylor, Donald Novis and Wally Boag the Billys had the greatest show in the park!! So funny. It’s a crying shame that the folks at Disneyland sent to the rear of the park at the round up. Not sure if that’s why they ultimately left, but thanks for letting us know they are at Knotts! For some cool history the old review with the names (sans Donald Novis) I mentioned can be found on Disneyland Secrets, Stories and Magic DVD. It’s fabulous!!
‘Not that bad’ for ice cream with cookies so hard that you might break a tooth?
My wife and I go there when we are on the Disneyland side and need a break or if the weather is bad (cold, wet or hot).
We do not eat there, instead we go over to the food spots near the dock and get something there. For the obvious question, no we have never been refused entry for bringing food in.
It’s also a handy location to arrange to meet with other members of your party if everyone splits up.
It’s nice that there is plenty of seating and the shows are really funny…
Yep. So many good locations relatively close where you can grab food and take it to Golden Horseshoe.
As for the humor, I find Laughing Stock to be hit or miss, but they’re definitely worth seeing every now and again.
I have to say I would have given the place at least a 5/10 based on my recent (and only) experience there. I didn’t think the food was terrible (thought I would only rank it average at best), and I thought The Laughing Stock was a very entertaining show. But I think my experience was skewed toward the positive by a couple of factors:
1) It was a cold day at Disneyland, and it had just started sprinkling when we went inside the restaurant. Being able to avoid the cold and wet for an hour was a nice bonus.
2) We managed to get one of my friends selected to be part of the show. It was hilarious!
I do agree, though, that the place deserves better food. It’s just odd to me that, even though the atmosphere is fancy (for an old west locale), the food is decidedly plebeian.
It’s tough to give too many points because of the show, since you can watch that without ordering any food. It would be like giving the Dole Whip stand a higher score because of the Tiki Room. (Not that the Dole Whip stand needs any help in the score department.)
While I absolutely agree with you on the food at the Golden Horseshoe, my family always makes a point of stopping at the Stage Door Cafe and picking up an order of motzerella sticks before heading in to see the show (for some weird reason the Golden Horseshoe looks at you like your crazy if you order them there, even though as you point out they’re basically the same restaurant). They’re not on the menu, so you have to be in the know and ask for them, but they’re very good (maybe because they’re not on the menu so they have to make them fresh for you?). I don’t remember how much they are, but one order will serve as a decent snack for three adults, so they were a pretty good value.
I second the mozzarella sticks…..the other positive of Golden Horseshoe is that they have a good variety of sauces on the counter so you can try quite a few. I love me some sauce.
Third vote on the mozzarella sticks from Stage Door Café! Love that they are a “secret” item, even though the sticks themselves have gotten smaller since I first started having them.
Unfortunately, it sounds like the mozzarella sticks are gone completely now. At least that’s per the word of people on Twitter. I didn’t attempt to order any, myself.
I’m surprised you’re more willing to risk eating the fish over chili!
Disneyland Funnel Cake is serioulsy the worst. Head down the street to Knott’s for some hot, fresh, chewy, yummy funnel cake.
(forgive the horrible misspelling of “seriously”)