There’s a treasure trove of culinary riches at Disneyland. Whether you want snacks, desserts, or full meals at restaurants there’s great cuisine in every single land (well, maybe not Toontown). Pound for pound, the part of the park with the best dining is New Orleans Square.
This won’t be any surprise to Disneyland diehards. Blue Bayou, Cafe Orleans, Royal Street Veranda, and Mint Julep Bar are all practically Disneyland institutions. While they all didn’t make our List of the 23 Best Restaurants at Disneyland Resort, there was a reason for that, as New Orleans Square was in the midst of a transformation at the time.
Now that project is complete, and Tiana’s Palace Restaurant is open. This new eatery inspired by The Princess and the Frog is currently the most popular restaurant in the park, and for good reason–it’s fantastic. After dining here several times over the course of the last few months, we’re now ready to call it: Tiana’s Palace is the best counter service restaurant in Disneyland.
In fairness, Tiana’s Palace Restaurant is also new. That means two things. The first is that it’s going to have a ton of demand, as Disneyland fans love anything that’s brand new. If Alien Pizza Planet held its grand opening today with exactly the same (nasty) menu that’s currently offered, it would see a sharp spike in demand.
The second is that Disneyland restaurants are almost always at the top of their game when they first open. Over time, menus get dumbed down or streamlined to either comport with guest expectations or maximize efficiency due to high demand. Tiana’s Palace presents red flags on this front because it’s a highly popular restaurant featuring a princess.
It’s probably going to stay popular, and it’ll probably also need to cut corners and tone things down. This is part of why we’ve waited to publish our review–to test and retest dishes and see what has already change (and a few dishes have). It’ll likely continue to ‘evolve,’ which is something to keep in mind while reading our effusive praise for the dishes if you’re not dining here until 2024 or 2025.
Before we get going, let’s start with the underlying motivation for the addition of Tiana’s Palace, which is the closure and reimagining of Splash Mountain into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, a new ride based on The Princess and the Frog. Construction walls are up around Chick-A-Pin Hill and Imagineers have been observed on and around the attraction beginning work on the overhaul.
The transformation timeline is an aggressive one, but Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is currently scheduled to open in 2024. At Walt Disney World, rumors point to an early opening, but we’ve heard that Disneyland is comparatively behind schedule (and not just because work started later). Whether Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will make the late 2024 target at Disneyland remains to be seen; it’s could slip into 2025. Nevertheless, other additions to Disneyland inspired by The Princess and the Frog have already debuted.
For its part, Tiana’s Palace Restaurant replaces the former French Market Restaurant on Orleans Street. Many Disneyland diehards were disappointed when this was announced and, admittedly, we were among them. However, our gripe had nothing to do with French Market being an untouchable Walt-era institution.
Our complaint was that Tiana’s Palace wasn’t replacing Hungry Bear Restaurant, which is a larger venue. If given the budget and time, Imagineers could’ve transformed that into a table service Tiana’s Palace character dining experience, with Critter Country becoming a bayou. Instead, they had limited time to retrofit an existing buffeteria, meaning that Tiana’s Palace Restaurant would necessarily be a quick-service spot due to space constraints.
Having seen the demand and how quickly Mobile Order slots are filling for Tiana’s Palace Restaurant, we feel compelled to reiterate this criticism. Although the initial fanfare will die down at some point, Tiana’s Palace is going to be incredibly busy for years to come. It’s simply too popular of a concept for this relatively small spot.
Along these lines, our other criticism would be that Tiana’s Palace Restaurant at Disneyland feels nothing like the version from the film. In that, Tiana builds her restaurant in an old run-down sugar mill, a building which had been empty for decades. It’s large and cavernous, essentially a big warehouse.
The former French Market is not that. Don’t get us wrong–we love this restaurant and appreciate the details and design flourishes added in reimagining French Market into Tiana’s Palace Restaurant. But it certainly does not feel like “stepping into the movie,” which is a missed opportunity. We’ve already overheard a few guests who were surprised that Tiana’s Palace is a buffeteria with no indoor seating, and not a sit-down restaurant. So set your expectations accordingly if you’re a fan of the film.
Aside from that, we don’t really have any criticism of the decor or theme at Tiana’s Palace Restaurant. Probably an unpopular opinion among Disneyland fans, but I don’t think French Market was sacred. To the extent that it was a spot that held a special place in Disneyland history, that mostly remains.
The added details enhance and offer something that’ll help it resonate more with modern audiences; I don’t see a problem with any of that. My big quibble is the shortsightedness of a fast and cheap overlay here, as opposed to going bigger (and more authentic) elsewhere.
Fortunately, there’s absolutely nothing lazy about the menu at Tiana’s Palace Restaurant. This is a marked improvement over the cuisine that was served at French Market when it closed. That restaurant was once one of the highlights of Disneyland dining, but it had been going downhill for several years, with ever-increasing prices, shrinking portions, and less-ambitious dishes.
Against that backdrop, let’s dig into the menu at review everything at Tiana’s Palace Restaurant…
Let’s start with the 7 Greens Gumbo, with White Beans, Okra, Yams, Sweet Potatoes, and Heirloom Rice. This is available as a plant-based option that’s also free of the top nine allergens. There’s also a version of the 7 Greens Gumbo with Chicken & Andouille Sausage, which obviously is not plant-based.
The 7 Greens Gumbo is also the most approachable gumbo on the menu at Tiana’s Palace, so long as you can get past the “greens” in the name. The roux base is lighter but no less complex; it features the Holy Trinity of Creole and Cajun, okra roasted with a nice sweetness and caramelization, and a variety of other ingredients.
The end result is a flavorful gumbo that’s more ambitious and nuanced than any other plant-based option at Disneyland. The only competition that comes to mind is the Felucian Kefta and Hummus Garden Spread at Docking Bay 7 in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and this is better than that. Sarah often opts for the plant-based dishes at Disneyland, and this earns her highest endorsement–she was surprised at the nuance and ambitiousness of the 7 Greens Gumbo.
I agree for the most part. I typically wouldn’t deliberately order a plant-based option, but the standard version of the 7 Greens Gumbo holds its own against anything on the menu at Tiana’s Palace. For those who like meat, it’s even better with the Chicken & Andouille Sausage. We both highly recommend the 7 Greens Gumbo.
The House Gumbo: Braised Chicken, Andouille Sausage and Heirloom Rice is also excellent. This uses a darker roux and there’s a 50/50 hot sauce blend that brings a decent amount of kick to the dish.
The end result is a heavy and comforting gumbo that also has a rich and robust flavor profile. I have a decent tolerance for spicy food, and this didn’t strike me as anything excessive–but it might be pushing the envelope for ‘average’ tourists visiting Disneyland.
Personally, I’d go for the 7 Greens Gumbo with Chicken & Andouille Sausage while it’s hotter out; this House Gumbo as an ideal option for chilly Southern California evenings or winter months. But really it’s a close call, and probably comes down to how you feel about slightly spicy dishes. Both of these gumbos are excellent.
The most expensive dish on the menu is the Cajun Spiced Half Chicken brushed with BBQ Sauce served with Baked Macaroni and Cheese & Coleslaw, which currently costs $19.49.
To my knowledge, this is the most expensive counter service dish in the parks–tied with the chicken at Plaza Inn and Flo’s V8 Cafe. It’ll be interesting to see whether it’s the first dish to break the $20 mark, or if the portion decreases or something.
Anyway, the Cajun Spiced Half Chicken is just okay. If you’re looking for crowd-pleasing comfort food, this is it.
In our view, this chicken is fairly middle of the road. It’s not at all spicy, but the flavor is still fine. It reminds me of a hot chicken you could pick up at the grocery store hot food aisle from under a heat lamp, but brushed with barbecue sauce. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with it, but for almost $20 and at a restaurant with a ton of memorable options…it’s very forgettable.
On a positive note, the baked macaroni & cheese almost entirely redeemed the dish.
The texture and density set this apart, with quality cheeses and just the perfect amount of richness and creaminess. I can’t believe you can’t order this as a side–I might have to order the Baked Macaroni and Cheese Kids Meal along with one of the sandwiches for our next meal at Tiana’s Palace.
The pickles are also good. The cole slaw is exactly what you’d expect if you’ve ever had that side at other Disneyland buffeterias.
Next up is the Gulf Shrimp and Grits simmered in Creole Sauce with Cheesy Grits.
This is another dish that delivers. The Gulf Shrimp are hearty and have a bit of heat, with about the same level of spiciness as in the House Gumbo. In this case, the intensity doesn’t come on as strong unless you eat the shrimp by themselves, as the creaminess of the grits nicely offsets the heat.
While not as complex as any of the gumbo, there’s also a lot going on in terms of flavor and texture here. We’ve had friends who thought the grits were a bit too cheesy and low-quality, but that hasn’t been my experience. I think this is another satisfying and comforting dish with just the right amount of cheesiness. Again, highly recommended.
Turning to the sandwiches, we have the Muffuletta Sandwich with Mortadella, Salami, Rosemary Ham, Cheddar, Provolone and House-made Olive Relish on Toasted New Orleans Sesame Seed Bread, served with Red Beans & Rice and House-made Pickles.
This is a simple sandwich, but it’s piled high with meats and cheeses, and that olive relish is excellent. That alone takes this out of ordinary territory and makes it (almost) extraordinary. The other highlight here is the red beans and rice–this is a hearty side that has a ton of flavor and a bit of heat. (I’m skeptical these will stick around for long.) Thanks to that side and the amount of meat, this is a surprisingly filling dish. Recommended.
The final and first-place entree is the Beef Po’Boy Sandwich: Slow-cooked Beef in Gravy dressed with Shredded Lettuce, Tomato, Pickle and Duke’s Mayonnaise on a Toasted New Orleans French Bread, served with Red Beans & Rice and House-made Pickles.
I’m a sucker for sandwiches, so it’s not surprising that one rated so highly for me. Even by sandwich standards, this is fantastic–the top sandwich at Disneyland right now. The highlight here is the bread, which is sourced from New Orleans. No, not “inspired by” or “using the same recipe as” breads in NOLA, but literally shipped in from New Orleans. And the extra effort absolutely shows.
Before you even get your first taste of that dressed slow-cooked beef, you are treated to some of the best sandwich bread you’ll ever taste. A slight crispness on the outside giving way to softness inside, with great flavor from start to finish. Hopefully.
I say “hopefully” because I’ve now had this sandwich 3 times, and gone 2 for 3 on it. Far and away the best time was the first time. After that, I got unlucky with bread that seemed day (or multiple days) old, and it was not nearly as good. The final time, top tier again. When it’s fresh, it’s fantastic. When it’s not…it’s still really good, with the substance more than picking up the slack.
Duke’s mayo gives the juicy beef just the right creaminess and tang, and the whole sandwich is way better than it has any right to be. Highly, highly recommended–to the point that it’s a top 5 dish in Disneyland.
Oh, and one more tip is that you should be able to swap out the red beans & rice for the baked macaroni & cheese (see above). “Should” is the operative word here, as I’ve had spotty success doing this. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going out of your way to do it, as both sides are excellent (and I say that as someone who typically has bias towards mac & cheese and against beans).
There are only a couple things we’d recommend you avoid at Tiana’s Palace Restaurant, and reasonable minds could differ on both.
The first of these is the Joffrey’s Coffee Chicory Cold Brew with Sweet Cream. We don’t particularly care for Joffrey’s Coffee, so that’s probably part of it. To its credit, the sweet cream cuts the flavor of that coffee, but it still tastes like Joffrey’s–just with a lot of cream and sugar in it to mask the flavor of subpar coffee. It’s an especially tough sell or recommendation for me when paired with dessert, which most people will probably want to do.
Finally, we have what I suspect will become the most “controversial” menu item at Tiana’s Palace Restaurant: the House-filled Beignet Featuring Lemon Ice Box Pie Filling topped with Lemon Glaze.
Rather than being a traditional beignet, this is Disneyland’s take on New Orleans Ice Box Pie. I assume this is to differentiate it from the Mickey Beignets that are available elsewhere in New Orleans Square.
Our advice would be to stick to those classic Mickey-shaped desserts. The prevailing flavor here is sugar. Although the lemon flavor and texture are good, it’s just overpoweringly sweet. Sarah has an even lower tolerance for sugar than me, and she likewise thought that this was simply too much.
Ultimately, the main courses at Tiana’s Palace Restaurant are mostly fantastic. Only the Cajun Spiced Half Chicken was just okay, and we can understand why Disneyland would want a couple safer dishes. (We’ve also had friends who raved about this, and their photos made the chicken look totally different than ours. Regardless, it’s not something I’m in a rush to order again–I only even got it once for the sake of this review.)
Without question, the menu at Tiana’s Palace is far superior to what was available at French Market when it closed–or even 5 years ago when it was actually good. Disneyland’s culinary team indicated that their goal was to deliver table service quality in a counter service environment, as they wanted more guests to be able to experience Creole and Cajun cuisine. Mission accomplished.
Several of the entrees at Tiana’s Palace Restaurant easily would be at home at Cafe Orleans; they’re that good and ambitious. We thus highly recommend Tiana’s Palace Restaurant–just be sure to grab a Mobile Order slot a few hours in advance, rope drop the restaurant right when it opens for an early lunch, or do an early dinner!
Have you dined at Tiana’s Palace Restaurant? Favorite or least favorite entrees and sides? What did you think of the drinks or dessert? If you’ve yet to eat at this Princess and the Frog-inspired restaurant, does it sound good to you or too spicy? If you’re from New Orleans, does the menu strike you as reasonably authentic–taking into consideration that it’s a Disney theme park restaurant named after a princess? Do you agree or disagree with our take on the Cajun and Creole cuisine at Tiana’s Palace Restaurant? 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!