Lamplight Lounge Review
Lamplight Lounge is a bar and restaurant in Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure. Upon opening, it instantly became the most popular bar in all of Disneyland Resort, which is unsurprising given the lines its predecessor drew. This review features photos of drinks and foods you can order from the menu, and breaks down whether Lamplight Lounge lives up to the hype.
Lamplight Lounge is part of the transformation of Paradise Pier into Pixar Pier, and consolidates two dining options that used to occupy this space (Cove Bar and Ariel’s Grotto) into a single bar and restaurant. Most notably, this Pixar-styled hotspot replaces the venerable Cove Bar, which we previously described as “the epicenter of fun in Disney California Adventure, and the park’s biggest E-Ticket.”
We were regulars at Cove Bar for several years before and after the relaunch of DCA–basically, before it exploded in popularity–and absolutely loved it so much that it was considered the must-visit spot in our Disneyland Resort Bar Crawl Guide for any first-timer to Disneyland Resort…
The basic premise of Lamplight Lounge is that it’s a tribute to all things Pixar. The stories, the artists, and the creative legacy of Pixar Animation Studios. How much this appeals to you likely will depend upon how much of a Pixar enthusiast you are.
I really enjoy most Pixar movies. For the most part, it’s a studio that pushes the creative envelope, and creates stories that resonate and sometimes subvert expectations. However, I’m an even bigger fan of Disneyland and themed design.
From the latter perspective, Lamplight Lounge puzzles me a bit. For that matter, the entirety of Pixar Pier puzzles me. (See my Pixar Pier Review for that, as it’s beyond the scope of this post.)
Setting aside some other internal inconsistencies with the land, the big thing that bugs me about Lamplight Lounge is that the exterior is themed to look like a Pixarified Victorian boardwalk, but the interior has an industrial vibe, with an ‘inside baseball’ look at Pixar.
I guess at the end of the day, not being thematically consistent with Pixar Pier is not a huge sticking point, as whatever semblance of theme Pixar Pier might have is pretty tenuous, anyway.
What bothers me more is that the faux industrial look, with exposed brickwork, overhead beams, and other raw materials. This style has nothing to do with Pixar Animation Studios–it’s quite simply yet another twist on the “repurposed hipster warehouse” look that is hot right now.
This same aesthetic is all over Downtown Disney in California and Disney Springs in Florida…and countless real world places that are hip. In Southern California alone, this look is everywhere.
It’s hardly something you need to visit a theme park to see, and even Anaheim has better exemplars of this style at the Anaheim Packing District.
I could go on a rant about how I visit Disneyland to see stunning instances of themed design that transport me to another time or place. New Orleans Square, Frontierland, Cars Land, and Grizzly Peak (among many other lands) are excellent at this.
By contrast, Lamplight Lounge feels like it’s transporting me a few miles outside the park to one of the resurgent historic districts–but with Pixar stuff on the walls.
In reality, I know the last few words of the last several paragraphs are what matters most: with Pixar stuff on the walls. If you love Pixar, enjoy details, Easter Eggs, nods to the creative process, you’ll enjoy the decor at Lamplight Lounge.
There’s undeniably a lot to see and explore, and Lamplight Lounge has unquestionably been decorated well. We appreciated a lot of this during our visit, and there’s likely a ton of stuff we missed. It’s fun and playful, and adds to the repeatability of Lamplight Lounge–you’ll want to sit in a different area with each visit.
One definite improvement is that you can make reservations for Lamplight Lounge via Disneyland’s official website, which will seat you downstairs (where you want to be–there’s indoor and outdoor seating there). This is the former Ariel’s Grotto area.
The outdoors remains first come, first served. (This is the old Cove Bar area.)
Moving on to the food, we dined with our friend Guy Selga, famed producer of the bootleg Country Bears’ basement tapes and co-author of the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, the best book for Disneyland Resort trip planning.
We’ve spent many an afternoon at this location with Guy, “sharing” Lobster Nachos and waxing poetic about the creative and cultural legacy of Pizza Oom Mow Mow.
Guy ordered the Cheddar Burger, a grilled custom burger blend with tillamook cheddar, roasted plum tomato, red onion, avocado ranch spread, and toasted amish bun served with malted fries.
He called this one of Disneyland Resort’s best burgers (Carthay’s Angus Burger would like a word with him) and loved everything about it…except the price.
Sarah had the Ratatouille: “Roasted Eggplant and Bell Pepper RagoÃ»t with Zucchini Noodles, Burrata Cheese, Mushrooms, Smoked Tomato Sauce, and Basil AÃ¯oli.”
She loved this, calling it a flavorful dish with a lot of fresh vegetables and nuances in flavor. (Ratatouille isn’t my jam, but I also enjoyed and would recommend this.)
I had the Salmon PLT: “Grilled Salmon with crispy Pancetta, Romaine Lettuce, Roasted Plum Tomato, Lemon-Bacon AÃ¯oli, and Toasted Focaccia served with Malted Fries.”
This was shockingly delicious. We’ve commented before that Disney executes salmon perfectly, and this was no exception. However, it was the rest of the PLT that really pushed this over the top. The lightly toasted focaccia was fresh and airy, the lemon bacon aioli was addictively good, and the roasted plum tomato was bursting with flavor–seriously mouthwateringly delicious.
Finally, above are the storied Lobster Nachos, which return from the Cove Bar menu.
We’ve had these more times than any other dish at Disneyland Resort. We love them…or maybe, loved them? I have a really tough time with the $20 price tag. When DCA relaunched, these nachos were $12.50 and the portion was larger.
Now, I don’t mean to be an old-timer talking about how Disneyland admission used to be $5, but we’re talking about only 5 years ago! Even if the Lobster Nachos were underpriced before, that’s a huge jump in a relatively short amount of time.
In large part, that’s the story of Cove Bar’s “evolution” from a chill bar serving quality items at prices slightly above counter service restaurants, to Lamplight Lounge, a place serving bar food with ritzy restaurant prices. In Lamplight Lounge’s defense, all of the dishes we had were exceptional, and are arguably worth those elevated prices.
Overall, our feelings about Lamplight Lounge are mixed. Thematically, it’s a bore, but the decorations are detailed and provide fodder for repeat visits. Menu-wise, the food is delicious and varied, but the price-points are such that it’s very difficult for Disneyland locals or regulars to justify visiting more than on rare occasion.
Perhaps that’s for the best, as this location has maintained tremendous popularity since converting to Lamplight Lounge, and the higher prices and added capacity will give first-timers to Disneyland and tourists more of a shot at scoring a reservation or walk-up availability without waiting in a long line.
If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site or on-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!
Have you had the chance to dine at Lamplight Lounge yet? What’d you have, and what did you think of it? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of the theme/decorations? 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!
I had a hard time getting dining reservations for our June 2022 visit since I booked it well into the 60-day reservation window and demand is so high right now. So I was thrilled to grab a table here the day before our time in the park. I loved the decor (we’re huge fans of Pixar), the service was warm and gracious, and yes, the PLT is fantastic! The cocktails are also very, very good. My daughter and I were seated at one of the two-tops with armchairs, which felt fun and fancy too. Our unicorn restaurant is a place where my 7yo can feel comfortable and have fun, and I can get an interesting not-to-sweet cocktail and feel like I had a special time — this was it!
I’m not surprised to see the aesthetic is a nod to Pixar’s offices — it reminded me more of creative agencies I’ve visited for work than any generic hipster industrial gastropub. Also there’s a hidden Mickey in the tile mosaic of the lamp and ball.
I know this post is old, and I’m kind of yelling into the void here, but there is actually a reason for the design choice, it isn’t because of hipsters. When Pixar moved from Richmond a few miles south to Emeryville, CA their executives (Steve Jobs primarily) wanted to design an idealized open floor warehouse to pay homage to the historic brick warehouses in the neighborhood. They selected the bricks, the beams, the glass, etc with the very same exacting details you’d expect from Pixar and the Apple founder. This lounge feels like it was transported from the Pixar campus, which is indeed also filled with art on the walls, curated like a museum. This place makes a lot more sense than Carthay Circle IMHO, in design, homage, quality, and service.
Day three and cold to the bone we cancelled our dinner reservations as we felt it was too formal for the way we were feeling we made a quick decision to try this place. Wondering if we could get a last minute table downstairs out of the cold. They do walk ins and within 15 mins we had a table. We were seated down stairs extended outdoor patio. And sat into wonderful relaxing chairs with heaters above us. The atmosphere was perfect and we relaxed and got warmed up. The food was great, healthy size meals. Good variety to choose from and not too expensive. We asked if we could stay a little longer after we finished our meal and we were told we could stay as long as we liked. Service was prompt. It was a last minute decision that turned out to be one of our delights of the day. We want to buy those chairs. If anyone know where we can get them let me know!!!
My best disney moment. Our party of eight was selected to dine in a secret room at the Lamplight Lounge. Our hostess walked us past the dining room and backstage by the employee lockers to this door that looked like a bank vault (think of “The Price is Right” bank vault). After punching in some numbers and spinning the turnkey, the door opened and we were led into the secret dining room, about 15×15. Besides the dining area, there were chairs and a sofa, games, and individual pictures of themselves done by imagineers. Another door led to a private lanai, which was water level opposite the icredicoaster. If you look from Pixar Pier towards Lamplight Lounge, you’ll see it . We were given two hours. How we got chosen, I have no idea.
Only someone who is dizzy with abstraction really sees Pixar here. Disney is just afraid to be Disney these days. The “industrial” style reminds me of Gilliam’s Brazil. However, it at least has some interesting detail without too much exposed ductwork. In terms of prices, I think they’re in a bubble. Their approach of making frogs boil has worked so far but the next recession will probably put an end to this crazy inflation. Demographically, the younger generations have had a decline in real income with increasing debt, especially after correcting for understated government inflation measures. I’m watching the Fed balance sheet.
Ugh not another faux industrial look place!
We just went there at Thanksgiving and I was so excited to go there. I loved it. Glad I read reviews Bc we got mostly apps. The potato skins were our favorite! Not your everyday potato skins. The drinks were super fun and we ordered secret ones. Our little guy thought his pb&j sushi roll was super cool. We will definetly go back to try more on the menu.
Just popping in to say that though I haven’t been to the Lamplight Lounge (and may not for a while- as a fellow Michigander, WDW is my home resort), your enthusiastic praise of the Cove Bar’s lobster nachos convinced us to get in a line and have one of our top 3 culinary experiences of our first-ever Disneyland trip. They were worth the wait and expense and we will definitely visit this new location when we get back to California…though this time we might get burgers as well. Thanks so much for the tip!
I was excitedly looking forward to this place, until I saw the price points. Ouch. Likely no lobster nachos for me. (I’m eyeing the lobster mac and cheese at Harbor Galley as an alternative for my cheesy lobster desire)
As for the decor; everywhere from the top places to Chipotle have that “industrial” look in Sacramento, so that is huge bummer. More and more Lamplight is looking like a skip when I thought it would be a “must-do.”
Thanks for the review!
I had dinner there on my just-finished Disneyland trip. Loved the lobster nachos! I have to say, I didn’t even notice the discrepancy between the outside facade and the indoor industrial look, though I did like the Pixar art on the walls. Of course I wasn’t there with the intent of forming a review, I was just looking dinner; but I do think of myself as someone who cares about good theming at Disney. I wonder if the fact I didn’t even notice it points to how much less the run-of-the-mill non-fan guest would do so, and so reveals why Disney hasn’t made as much of consistent theming as they once did.
Anyway, loved the lobster nachos.