Loyal TouringPlans readers, I am here to tell you that you don’t have to eat hamburgers or chicken fingers when you visit the Disneyland Resort. There was a dark period in the 1990s and early 2000s when food at the Happiest Place on Earth took a turn for the worst and many of the park’s counter service dining locations served bland, overpriced, mass-produced slop. Thankfully after a series of menu revisions over the last few years, most of Disneyland’s eateries have some delicious options. Today I will share some that you must try on your next trip.
Plaza Inn Specialty Chicken
Plaza Inn – Main Street USA, Disneyland – $13.99
Disney’s description: “Three pieces of chicken, fried to a golden brown, seasoned with distinctive herbs and spices, served with mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuit and mixture of vegetables”
What I’m about to say may be controversial to Southern California theme park goers: In my opinion Plaza Inn’s fried chicken can go toe to toe with Knott’s Berry Farm’s fried chicken. I know it sounds crazy but this is one of Disneyland’s most popular entrees for a reason. The chicken pieces are gigantic and juicy, but still have a nice crisp crust on the outside. Included in the meal is a breast, thigh, and leg, along with mashed potatoes and green beans. The included biscuit is nothing to write home about but tastes great when drenched in honey from the condiments stand. Don’t be scared by the relatively high price tag. This meal is huge and is big enough for most people to share, but you probably won’t want to.
Fried Green Tomato Sandwich
Hungry Bear Restaurant – Critter Country, Disneyland – $8.49
Disney’s description: “Cornmeal crusted fried green tomatoes layered with two slices of fresh heirloom tomatoes, topped with havarti, rémoulade, jicama-mango slaw and served on a multi-grain roll. Served with sweet potato fries or zesty slaw.”
I’m not going to lie, I was a bit put off when I first heard of this sandwich. How good could a theme park fried green tomato be? Very good! The sandwich is served on a fresh multi-grain roll and packed with fresh vegetables and a slice of cheese. The jicama-mango slaw is good but not overpowering, it adds just the right amount of sweetness to the sandwich. The fried tomatoes are thinly breaded and not greasy. The sandwich is also served with sweet potato fries which some people aren’t a fan of. I love sweet potato fries and they are a lot better than the bland french fries Disney serves at other counter service locations. What I love about this meal is that it’s filling but I don’t feel like I ate a heavy meal. Perfect for those hot summer days in the park where you don’t want feel bogged down by a big lunch or dinner.
Paradise Garden Grill – Paradise Pier, Disney California Adventure – $11.49
Paradise Garden Grill is one of the new eateries that opened as part of the revamped DCA last year. It hard to believe that this location was once a McDonalds! Disney transformed this location into one that offers some of the highest quality food available in the park. At Garden Grill guests may select their choice of skewer (grilled steak, lemon-oregano chicken, vegetable, or beef kefta) and then select a sauce (Moroccan chili, chimichurri, tandoori-spiced yogurt, or tzatziki . The combination in the picture above is lemon-oregano chicken with chimichurri. My personal favorite is beef kefta with Moroccan Chili, but I’ve tried all the different skewers and sauces and they’re all delicious. The meat they use is high quality and perfectly cooked. If you can’t decide which one of the excellent sauces to order, you may ask to try all of them on the side. Unfortunately Paradise Garden Grill doesn’t appear to be very popular. Perhaps the menu sounds too exotic for the average theme park guest. Don’t let that scare you away from trying one of the resort’s best counter service restaurants.
Sourdough Bread Bowl
Harbour Galley – New Orleans Square, Disneyland – $9.29
Royal Street Veranda – New Orleans Square, Disneyland – $9.29
Pacific Wharf Cafe – Pacific Wharf, Disney California Adventure – $9.29
Bread bowls at the Disneyland Resort have been sold for as long as I can remember and have created a large following of fans over the years. It’s not surprising that because of this they are offered in three different locations in the two theme parks. The soup served in the bread bowls come in several different varieties. In Disneyland you can find clam chowder, vegetarian gumbo, steak gumbo, and broccoli and cheddar cheese. Over in DCA you can find tomato bisque, broccoli and cheddar cheese, and clam chowder. You really can’t go wrong with any of them. All of the soups are thick and served hot. Perfect for a cold day. The bread bowl is thick and freshly made daily. My only gripe with the bread bowls is that the soup serving sizes seem to shrink each year while the price goes up. Luckily the bread bowl is still huge and pretty much a meal itself. Buy your bread bowl at Harbour Galley and then make the short walk over to Hungry Bear Restaurant’s seating area for a beautiful view of the Rivers of America while you eat.
Brioche French Toast
Flo’s V8 Cafe – Cars Land, Disney California Adventure – $7.99
I debated whether or not to include a breakfast item on this list. Everything else on here is served from 11 AM until the various counter service restaurant closing times but the Brioche French Toast is served only from park opening until 11 AM. It’s just too good to leave off. The Brioche French Toast is made up of a giant piece of French toast, covered in lightly salted caramel, with a banana on top. It’s hard to even classify it as French toast because to me it tastes more like bread pudding. It’s incredibly good, but keep in mind you’re basically eating a gigantic dessert for breakfast. If you’re fine with that then go nuts. Heck, order two.
Do you have any favorite Disneyland counter service entrees? Post them in the comment section below.