Carthay Circle is a table-service restaurant in Disney California Adventure. Acting as the park’s icon and sitting near the entrance, the restaurant serves American food in an upscale setting. Generally, the restaurant is only open for dinner although the lounge covers both lunch and dinner. Carthay Circle does offer a DVC and Magic Key (Annual Pass) discount. In this post, we’ll discuss the restaurant’s atmosphere, food and value.
We hadn’t dined at Carthay Circle in nearly seven years so we thought it was time to get back. Our first experience was very enjoyable but for one reason or another we’d never made it back for dinner, although we’d dined at the more affordable lounge several times. The restaurant remains one of the prettiest settings and atmospheres at Disneyland Resort.
When talking about just the theme parks, only two restaurants are fully inside and have an enveloping atmosphere. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those are the two most expensive restaurants at either park. Over at Disneyland, Blue Bayou fits that bill and coasts by on an unparalleled atmosphere where guests sit right alongside the iconic Pirates of the Caribbean. Carthay Circle takes guests inside of the park icon, modeled after the theater in which Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs debuted.
The experience, atmosphere and décor match the extravagance on the outside of the building. Carthay Circle does look to bring back that 1937 feeling from the Disney animated feature debut. Thankfully, they don’t do that by showing Snow White on an endless loop, instead opting for nods to that historic night through photos and artifacts. Those blasts from the past are mixed with decorations that balance an old Hollywood style with blips of modern design.
Guests check in downstairs, where the lounge is, before dining upstairs. The main dining room is absolutely gorgeous. There’s a gigantic bouquet of flowers in the middle of the room that matches the whimsy of the painted ceiling up above. Those paintings pay homage to Snow White, depicting the pastoral scene. It’s truly a beautiful setting. While Blue Bayou may have a more interesting setting and Napa Rose is a little more upscale with modern architecture, Carthay Circle stands alone in Disneyland Resort in terms of beauty in the dining room.
Speaking of Napa Rose, Chef Andrew Sutton is the Culinary Director for both this spot and the incredible Grand Californian restaurant. Those are two of our favorite Disney restaurants in the world, putting Chef Andrew Sutton on par with some of the famous Imagineers in our eyes. Here’s a look at Carthay Circle’s menu. Similar to Napa Rose, the menu here does change regularly with a couple of mainstays.
We started with the Warm Cheddar Parkerhouse Rolls which are served with Calabrian Chili-Pinenut Romesco. Carthay Circle was known for their Fried Biscuits but those are no longer on the menu. Our waitress said these rolls and the Croquettes were the most similar to Fried Biscuits, may they rest in peace. We opted for the rolls and enjoyed them but weren’t blown away. The Romesco was a very nice pairing and the rolls were warm and delicious. At $12, I think I’d go with an appetizer that’s a little more unique and a few dollars more instead of these again.
I do wish Carthay Circle still offered a free bread service. Maybe that’s becoming a thing of the past but I think an upscale restaurant offering bread service is a nice way to start the meal. Carthay Circle used to but no longer does. I don’t know why that has changed and I’m aware that Disney World has started cutting back on bread services, as well. It would be nice to see that trend reversed.
Moving on to the entrees, I ordered the Signature Pork Chop. This was served with Roasted Artichokes, Sundried Tomatoes, Whole Grain Mustard. I won’t beat around the bush, this dish was fantastic. The Pork Chop was cooked perfectly, tender and full of flavor. The accompaniments were enough to add to the dish with bursts of flavor but not distract from the star of the show, the pork.
At $50, this is roughly the average price for entrees at Carthay Circle. Those prices are usually reserved for steaks but this cut of pork was exceptional and I would gladly get it again. There’s no doubt about the price being a little higher because of the atmosphere associated with the restaurant. That said, this is one of the best entrees I’ve had at Disneyland Resort, and likely the very best outside of Napa Rose.
We also tried the seasonal dish which was Duck with Citrus Sauce and Potatoes. It was also delicious, with the sweet sauce augmenting the flavorful and tender duck. The plating here is brilliantly colored and this is another dish I would happily get again. It was around the same price point as the Signature Pork Chop and we ended up being split on which dish we preferred.
We ordered a side of Yukon Gold Buttery Mashed Potatoes. These were certainly buttery. As most humans know that also means they were extremely tasty. It was a nice straightforward addition to the different entrees and shareable for a group of four. At $10, I’d rather have this as a side than the rolls but that probably comes down to personal preference.
Overall, this was the best meal I’ve had at Disneyland Resort in a few years. Unfortunately, the prices do make that less of a surprise. The old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is true more often than not when it comes to food. I’ve been critical of Blue Bayou because, while the atmosphere is unmatched at a Disney Park, the food just does not measure up to the high prices. Thankfully, that’s not the case here as the quality of the meal was exceptional.
That doesn’t mean Carthay Circle is for everyone. Speaking for myself, I’ll likely dine here once every year or two on a special occasion. If you’re looking for a special meal on your Disneyland trip, I’d still recommend Napa Rose because I do think there’s a jump in quality between the two restaurants. That said, Carthay Circle is a clear second place for me at Disneyland Resort once you factor in the quality of food and atmosphere.
Overall Rating – 9.5/10
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Categories: Restaurant Reviews