Sunday, December 7, 2008
The Mediocrest Place on Earth - Disney Dining Part 2: Disney California Adventure
Welcome to part two of our series on Disneyland Park dining in which we delve into Disney California Adventure. (See here for part one). Since its lackluster opening in 2001, Disney California Adventure has been the Rodney Dangerfield of theme parks, getting so much criticism and so little respect that Disney finally caved in and started a major revamp this year. Personally, I've always liked DCA, and in dining terms, California Adventure is significantly better, on average, than its mousy counterpart, and there's booze to boot.
Like Disneyland, Disney California Adventure is divided into different themed lands, but the lands at DCA are a bit less defined. I will group the eateries by location but also try to give some description of where they are. As with my Disneyland reviews, this list in not exhaustive and includes only food within the park, so no Downtown Disney and no hotel food (sorry Napa Rose). One additional note, due to the refurbishment of the Park, there have been some closures and others are expected.
SUNSHINE PLAZA/CONDOR FLATS
If you take a right at the park entrance, there will be a number of eateries leading up to the excellent Soarin' Over California ride, including the basic but decent Bakers' Field Bakery and Bur-r-r Bank Ice Cream (serving Dreyer's ice cream).
Taste Pilots' Grill
The aviation themed Taste Pilots' Grill, adjacent to Soarin' Over California, serves ribs, chicken and burgers with big waffle fries and onion rings. Usually Disney just mangles this type of food, but the pork ribs are pretty decent, and I like both the rings and waffle fries. This is definitely one of the more edible choices in either park.
PARADISE PIER/GOLDEN STATE
Paradise Pier is the boardwalk-style area located near Paradise Bay. The Golden State eateries are adjacent to the pier in the wharf area which appears to be modeled after some combination of San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf and the Monterey Cannery district.
I've written up Corndog Castle before, in its own right, and as I explained last week, I think their corndogs are better than the similar ones on Main Street in Disneyland. These giant dogs are fried to perfection, creating a non-uniform crust that bulges at the top and tapers down to the stick. The batter has a great sweet corn taste that melds well with the dog juice, and the texture is just right -- crisp on the outside and corn bread/cakey underneath. I like the hot link best, but the original dog is also excellent. This humble dog is probably the best single dish in either park, so don't miss it. My only quarrel with the Castle is that, like many Disney dining establishments, they don't open until 11:00 a.m., and I'm usually craving one of these babies by 10:30.
The only chain fast food restaurant in the park, this McDonalds at the edge of Paradise Pier is cleverly disguised as something called Burger Invasion. Did someone think this would fool us? Did they think people would think that Disney has its own restaurant that just happens to serve Big Macs? Despite the fact that this is a McDonalds, as I noted last week, Disney makes some of the worst burgers in the world, so if you must have a burger, this might be your best bet, though it is currently closed as part of the refurbishment.
The Boudin Bakery Tour
Boudin bakery has a stand in the wharf area which is the equivalent of what you'd find in their airport stores with fresher bread, which they bake on premises. The food is fine, but I really enjoyed the Boudin Bakery tour. While peering through glass at the actual breadmaking process, you are guided by a series of videos, starring Rosie O'Donnell, which do a nice job of explaining the elements of sourdough bread baking. The Boudin Bakery and Tour are scheduled to close February 9 for the refurbishment, so catch it now if you're interested.
The Mission Tortilla Tour
The Mission Tortilla tour is similar to the Boudin tour but less informative, though you do get to see the tortilla machines in operation. At the end of the tour, you get a fresh tortilla (sometimes corn, sometimes flour), and heck, even a Mission tortilla is pretty darned good when served hot off the press.
Outside the Boudin Bakery is Rita's margarita stand. It may seem tempting to walk around the park holding a margarita, but resist that temptation. These frozen, fluorescent concoctions are to margaritas as Disneyland's "mint julep" drinks, which I discussed last week, are to real mint juleps, with the exception that the Disney margaritas at least have alcohol in them, or so they claim. These are syrupy sweet and artificial tasting slushies with little redeeming value. AVOID.
HOLLYWOOD PICTURES BACKLOT
The only proper food in the Hollywood Backlot section of DCA is the unfortunately named Award Wieners hot dog stand. I thought this sounded promising given the great dogs at Corndog Castle, but alas, it was not to be. These dogs were totally lackluster, cooked to a sickly, wrinkled state and served in stale buns. I had a plain dog and a BBQ, the latter of which was covered with an overly sweet BBQ sauce and a few sad onions. If you want a dog, head to the Castle.
A BUG'S LAND
A Bug's Land is a toddler-friendly land based on the 1998 Pixar film A Bug's Life in which the mean grassphooper, Hopper, tries to enslave a colony of friendly ants. In a perfect world, A Bug's Land would feature Hopper's Chapulines stand. Well, needless to say, it doesn't, but there is a half-way decent ice cream place called San Andreas Shakes, serving flurries and shakes made from soft serve. I like it, but I'm sort of a sucker for soft serve, shakes and flurries.
Now's the Time to Say Goodbye
Well, I hope you have enjoyed our guide to culinary survival at the Disney parks. I know haven't tried every single eatery and have even missed some landmarks like Ariel's Grotto (my family went without me and refused to return on a subsequent visit, which I took as a bad sign) and Wine Country Trattoria. If I missed something good or even vaguely edible, please let me know.