Everyone loves Disney Parks restaurants with crossover appeal. Be Our Guest Restaurant is one of Walt Disney World’s most popular dining options because it lets you dine inside the Beauty and the Beast castle. Same goes for Cinderella’s Royal Table.
Then there are restaurants inside of attractions, most famously Blue Bayou. That restaurant is an extension of Pirates of the Caribbean at both Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland. (The same idea goes by the name Captain Jack’s at Disneyland Paris.) It’s moody and atmospheric and seamlessly blends with the opening scene of the boat ride.
Blending those two types of restaurants in the coolest way possible is Grandma Sara’s Kitchen, which is basically Splash Mountain: The Restaurant. This is an extension of the popular attraction, introducing new characters in the same “universe” of the popular boat ride. It’s one of the coolest and best-themed Disney restaurants anywhere–let’s take a look!
For starters, some background. Grandma Sara’s Kitchen is a counter service restaurant in Tokyo Disneyland’s Critter Country serving a menu of comfort food based on favorites from the American South.
It turns out that Grandma Sara is meticulous, and her restaurant is an incredibly engaging, multi-level environment and lots of great decor. From a design perspective, it’s interwoven with Splash Mountain as it is literally inside Chickapin Hill, and thematically parallels the attraction.
Note that Disney has closed Splash Mountain at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, and is in the midst of reimagining the rides as Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. The new ride will pick up this story after the final kiss, and join Princess Tiana and Louis on a musical adventure as they prepare for their first-ever Mardi Gras performance. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is expected to open in mid-2024 at Magic Kingdom, and later in the year at Disneyland.
Thus far, Tokyo Disney Resort has not revealed any plans to undertake the reimagining. That’s because Disney does not own the parks in Japan–they’re owned by Oriental Land Company. It’s highly unlikely that Tokyo Disneyland’s incarnation of the attraction, or anything in its quasi Splash Mountain land, will be redone. We cover the reasons why in our Tokyo Disneyland Considers Splash Mountain Overhaul post.
Suffice to say, the best version of Splash Mountain likely won’t receive the overhaul. By extension, that means that Grandma Sara’s Kitchen is likely safe, too.
While Tiana’s Bayou Adventure probably won’t be cloned at Tokyo Disneyland, we wish the opposite would happen and Grandma Sara’s Kitchen would be cloned at Disneyland. This might seem far-fetched and unlikely to occur–and we certainly would bet against it happening, as Grandma Sara’s Kitchen features zero movie IP and would be expensive to replicate. But hear us out.
Disney already converted French Market into Tiana’s Palace, which is now the best counter service restaurant at Disneyland. They presumably opted to transform this New Orleans Square eatery instead of Hungry Bear Restaurant because it was cheaper and faster. So if Disney wouldn’t invest the money and allow Imagineering to transform Hungry Bear into what could’ve been a highly-lucrative princess character meal, there’s next to no chance they’ll turn it into Grandma Sara’s. But they should.
For one thing, Critter Country was already the smallest land at Disneyland before. When Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens, it’ll be small and unfocused. Turning Hungry Bear Restaurant into a version of Grandma Sara’s, and weaving the woodland critters (which will remain in the new ride) together with the original Tiana’s Foods storyline could make the land more cohesive.
It could feel like an area that flows together, rather than a random corner with Winnie the Pooh, Princess and the Frog, and a nondescript bear restaurant. Also, it would just be really cool to extend the Grandma Sara’s Kitchen Universe, kinda like the MCU or Society of Explorers and Adventurers!
Perhaps down the road, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will prove incredibly popular and Disney will want to “plus” Hungry Bear Restaurant and turn it into more of an Imagineered restaurant that ties into the attraction. Even if that does happen, it’ll necessarily differ significantly from Grandma Sara’s Kitchen.
It certainly won’t be as integrated into the ride, nor will it be as lavishly themed. The reason for this is because Critter Country itself, one of the first major additions to Tokyo Disneyland after it opened, is all basically an outgrowth of Splash Mountain’s Chickapin Hill.
It is the original single-attraction Disney theme park land (Beaver Brothers Explorer Canoes don’t really count), and both Grandma Sara’s and Rackety’s Raccoon Saloon are extensions of Splash Mountain. Literally.
Grandma Sara’s is part of the same structure, whereas Hungry Bear Restaurant at Disneyland is a mostly open-air venue across the walkway from the mountain, en route to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Interestingly, the way Grandma Sara’s is an extension of Splash Mountain only in tone and style and not in characters. None of the characters in Grandma Sara’s are from Song of the South, even though they do closely resemble the “Brer” critters found in Splash Mountain and Song of the South. They’re original critters.
I think it’s pretty cool that the Imagineers created new characters specifically for this theme park restaurant–making these the first “in-universe” characters exclusively for Splash Mountain.
Critter County is incredibly contoured in design, with tons of meandering paths and steps. This is also evident throughout the multi-story Grandma Sara’s, as well as its indoor and outdoor seating areas.
This is not just in the stairs going from the first floor to the second, but also in the nooks, crannies, and various little areas that are separated by small steps up or down, or otherwise separated from the rest of the restaurant.
This makes for a really cool restaurant to explore, and despite being one of the largest and most popular (there’s often a line out the door at lunch) restaurants at Tokyo Disneyland, it feels intimate.
There are a lot of little rooms and alcoves that seat only a handful of people, but yet are incredibly detailed areas of Grandma Sara’s house. Obviously, the core design bears a striking resemblance to Splash Mountain, but it’s the little lived-in decor that really sell the environment. It feels like it’s inhabited by the Brer critters.
I really wish I knew more about the backstory here. It’s called Grandma Sara’s Kitchen, but it appears to be her entire house, which is inhabited by she and her family, and also various “Brer Friends.”
Then there’s the question of what, exactly, Grandma Sara is. I mean, we know she’s a grandma–I mean what type of animal.
I always assumed she is an opossum, but the Tokyo Disneyland website claims she’s a muskrat. Either muskrat look dramatically different in Japan, or that’s a party foul on the part of Google Translate.
Here’s one of the many paintings of Grandma Sara and her other Brer Friends that lines the wall.
Now, let’s take a look at what Grandma Sara is cooking up in her kitchen…
Grandma Sara’s always has Special Sets for the various holidays.
Above are a couple of recent meals we had at Grandma Sara’s Kitchen that feature Tokyo Disney dining mainstays: Mickey eggs and bone-in sausage. These are two “how did they do that?!” foods served at Tokyo Disneyland. (That’s a rhetorical question–we definitely do not want the answers.)
This is very typical of what’s served at Grandma Sara’s: American comfort foods with Japanese twist. Usually, that twist is “more creaminess, sauce, and cheese!”
Here’s the Crab Cream Croquette of Omelet, which is all things the name states. It’s a creamy, crab omelet on a bed of rice that I have found to be surprisingly good comfort food.
It was also pretty filling, and definitely something I’d order again.
This is the Hamburger Steak, another excellent dish. It’s essentially a Japanese spin on meatloaf, topped with wild mushrooms. I’m not a huge meatloaf fan (the meat–everyone knows the band rules), but this had a distinct flavor somewhere between meatloaf and burger. The sauce that topped it and the excellent mushrooms were a nice touch.
Dishes like this are why we always recommend people dine at Grandma Sara’s. Well, this and the theme. Along with Casbah Food Court at Tokyo DisneySea, this the only restaurant at which we’ve dined in Tokyo Disneyland on every trip. I also like the interesting twist on down home cooking, but it’s definitely not the best (or probably even top 5) at Tokyo Disneyland in terms of food.
Overall, Grandma Sara’s is one of my absolute favorite restaurants at Tokyo Disneyland, and it’s almost entirely because of the theme. This is the most richly themed restaurant at Tokyo Disneyland, by a wide margin. Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall generally garners more attention because of its association with Alice in Wonderland, a movie with a huge fan-following, but Grandma Sara’s is so much better.
As a fan of the theme parks more so than the movies, I really appreciate what Tokyo Disneyland did with Splash Mountain. Although all located around Chickapin Hill and featuring some of the same Brer critters, there’s so much more to this Splash Mountain area. Tokyo Disneyland essentially created an entire fictional universe and animals specifically for the attraction and its Critter Country that deviate so far from the original source material that it’s basically something totally different and new.
Do you like the idea of a Splash Mountain restaurant? Does Grandma Sara’s Kitchen look good to you? Have you dined here? If you’re a regular, any favorite season to go? Do you agree or disagree with our review? 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!