We continue our series of ranking the restaurants we’ve been to at Disney Parks. Today we move to counter-service restaurants at Disneyland Resort. The idea of this post is to keep adding to the list as we go more and more places. There are a few rules (more like guidelines) and caveats applied to these rankings.
These rankings include Disneyland, California Adventure, the Disney owned hotels in the area, and Downtown Disney. Disneyland focuses heavily on counter-service restaurants as opposed to table-service restaurants. As the title states, this post is only ranking the restaurants we’ve been to. While that is quite a few it does not come close to all of them. I’m not going to include snack stands (sorry Dole Whip and chimichangas) and a few restaurants will be left out because it has been too long since we have been there, namely Hungry Bear. Along with that, we’re leaving bars off of the lists, despite our affection for Trader Sam’s (it would currently rank number 3 here) and, to a lesser degree, Oga’s Cantina. If we’re missing one of your favorites from the list, leave us a comment and we’ll be sure to try that place next time!
In these rankings I will try to balance all of the factors – value, quality of food, atmosphere, etc. To be honest, I rely more heavily on the quality of food than other factors because most restaurants tend to have a similar price range and counter-service places usually don’t excel in atmosphere. If we have a review to a certain restaurant then it is linked in that restaurant’s name. Let’s get to the rankings!
26. Pym Test Kitchen (California Adventure) – Sadly, the latest restaurant to come to Disneyland Resort is the worst of any counter-service place we’ve tried. The food we had was stale and without sufficient flavor. The atmosphere is fine and there are some nice moments inside of the ordering bay but the seating is nondescript. Overall, Pym Test Kitchen is a very disappointing experience.
25. Smokejumpers Grill (California Adventure) – When people think of bland theme park food, Smokejumpers Grill is basically what comes to mind. The burgers are bland and the menu is boring and overpriced. There was a toppings bar here for a while which is a nice plus but, frankly, I would stay away from this place although they have bolstered the menu since reopening.
24. Poultry Palace (California Adventure) – Sadly, another entry from California Adventure. This is a snack stand in Pixar Pier that serves some Disneyland Resort classics like a Turkey Leg, Chimichanga and Corn on the Cob. Those are all fine and what we’d recommend getting. The original option is a chicken drumstick meal with coleslaw. It’s not a good option and there’s really no reason to go there, even if they have a crazy mascot that I’ve affectionately nicknamed Sir Poultry Knight.
23. Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill (California Adventure) – If Smokejumpers is bland American theme park food, Cocina Cucamonga is pretty bland Mexican theme park food. I will say that my opinion is fairly old and the newer menu looks slightly more interesting. Still, in the few times I’ve eaten here I thought the food could use more flavor and the experience was entirely forgettable.
22. Alien Pizza Planet (Disneyland) – Here lies the classic theme park counter-service option. Pizza Planet looks like a big mess hall with close seating. You grab what you want from the counters up front and then go take your seat under some large alien figures. It’s not great. The pizza is just fine, certainly better than other theme park pizza I’ve had, but nothing to write home about.
21. Napolini Pizzeria (Downtown Disney) – The pizza is much better than Alien Pizza Planet so I had to rank it higher. Everything else is worse though so I’m not going to rank it extremely high. Napolini isn’t much better than the usual fast, casual pizza place. They serve plenty of different varieties of personal pizzas. The seating is limited and all outside but this is a pretty good spot for a late night dinner after the parks close.
20. Corn Dog Castle (California Adventure) – It’s no Little Red Wagon (which ranks much higher on this list) but Corn Dog Castle offers a good corn dog. That makes sense because it’s a castle where corn dogs are king? I’m unclear of the logistics there. Anyway, the food is solid but there’s not much of an atmosphere to talk about.
19. Jolly Holiday Bakery (Disneyland) – If you come to Jolly Holiday Bakery for the treats and Main Street ambiance then you are in good shape. I love the setting and the Raspberry Rose Macaron is one of the best single items in Disneyland. Unfortunately, I don’t enjoy the savory items. Since this ranking is focused more on actual meals you can have, Jolly Holiday ranks pretty low. Come here for dessert though!
18. Royal Street Veranda (Disneyland) – If soup in bread bowls is your jam then this should shoot up the list. Royal Street Veranda offers Clam Chowder and Gumbo in bread bowls. The soup is really good and the bread bowls are fresh and delicious. The catch is that this is all they offer and eating soup when it’s 90 degrees out isn’t usually a fun idea. But on a cool night, going over to this counter in New Orleans Square is a great option.
17. Red Rose Taverne (Disneyland) – The rethemed Village Haus now boasts a Beauty and the Beast motif that is fine but not exactly inspired. The menu here is somewhat interesting albeit on the heavier side of things. I wouldn’t go out of my way to try this but there are worse things to eat in the park!
16. Pacific Wharf Cafe (California Adventure) – For a while, I really enjoyed Pacific Wharf Cafe. The bread bowls are delicious and they serve practically everything in them. The last two times I’ve gone there the salad (in a bread bowl) has disappointed and thus the restaurant has fallen in the rankings. I’m not a big fan of the seating here (which also pertains to Cocina Cucamonga) so that doesn’t help things.
15. Tropical Hideaway (Disneyland) – Disneyland’s latest counter-service has a great atmosphere and offers a few fun treats. Between the array of Dole Whips and Bao Buns, Tropical Hideaway is a good place to grab a snack and watch the Jungle Cruise boats travel by. It’s a little lower on the list because the menu is limited and getting a full meal here isn’t as easy as other places on the list.
14. Lucky Fortune Cookery (California Adventure) – Right next to Pacific Wharf Cafe is Lucky Fortune Cookie. The atmosphere is clearly the same, as they all rest inside of this big outdoor food court. I like the more creative options here and that’s why it ranks above the Cafe. The Bulgogi Burrito is a favorite of mine and one of the more adventurous options in California Adventure.
13. Ronto Roasters (Disneyland) – There’s a few counter-service places that specialize in one certain thing at Disneyland. Thankfully, that one special thing is usually delicious and that’s the case at Ronto Roasters. The Ronto Wrap is very good, especially the peppercorn sauce. Sitting in Galaxy’s Edge is always a good option too, so points to the atmosphere.
12. Bengal Barbecue (Disneyland) – One of the better values anywhere at Disneyland, Bengal Barbecue offers meat (and other) skewers. The price is under $5 and the product is typically delicious. This is a little lower in the rankings because the menu isn’t very large and might not be a great place for a full meal. For a filling snack or light lunch, this is a fantastic place to go.
This quick-service Italian spot in the back of DCA served some surprisingly fresh fare. We really enjoyed the specialty pizza, at the time it was Shrimp Scampi, and the pasta is more than serviceable for being a counter-service restaurant. The restaurant is also affordable, with no menu item topping $13. It likely won’t blow you away but this is one of the more dependable and value-filled options in California Adventure.
10. Cozy Cone Motel (California Adventure) – This is a little tricky, as the Cozy Cones are actually 4 different snack stands that sell different items. Seeing how they serve some great items, I included the whole group anyway. The Prickly Pear Soda is a favorite of mine. Melissa’s favorite snack at Disneyland is the Garlic Bagel Twist that you can find here. The bread cone filled with chili con queso is one of those items where it looks like it should taste terrible but, while you are eating it, you swear that it’s the best thing you’ve ever tasted. All in all, the Cozy Cones serve some of the best food in California Adventure, even if that food doesn’t look particularly appetizing.
9. Troubadour Tavern (Disneyland) – Like Bengal Barbecue and the next pick, Troubadour Tavern specializes in one item – Baked Potatoes. Fortunately, the little quick service spot across from It’s a Small World does them really well. There’s a few other options here including pretzels and Turkey Legs but the Baked Potatoes are the star of the show. There isn’t much seating here but it is in a nice corner of the park that is pleasant to relax in.
8. Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo (Disneyland) – Docking Bay 7 follows Galaxy’s Edge lead and has an immersive theme. Unfortunately, the theme is far less interesting than the rest of the land being a large storage building. Of course, there are still some great details and the restaurant would rank in the top 3 in terms of counter-service atmospheres. While the menu is somewhat ambitious, the food was underwhelming. I could see this place moving up or down in the coming years as we try a few more items.
7. Little Red Wagon Corn Dogs (Disneyland) – This is another case of “if they served more, then this would be higher.” I love the corn dogs at the Little Red Wagon and recommend them to everyone, even if they don’t like corn dogs. Eating here is a Disneyland rite of passage and one of the cheaper, delicious meals you can have at the park.
6. French Market Restaurant (Disneyland) – A place with good food and a great atmosphere. While all of the seating is outside, the views of the river are lovely. In the evening, guests are serenaded by a live jazz band. The setting is romantic and ideal. As for the food, French Market serves Cajun inspired dishes. The Jambalaya isn’t incredible but it’s a good dish at a decent price. French Market is a personal favorite of mine even if it ranks slightly below the next three.
5. Tangaroa Terrace (Disneyland Hotel) – If you are tired of crowds, Tangaroa Terrace is a nice respite. At the Disneyland Hotel, Tangaroa Terrace offers Hawaiian inspired dishes. The menu is interesting and the food is decent. Tangaroa Terrace also offers a nice setting, with views around the Disneyland Hotel grounds.
4. Flo’s V8 Cafe (California Adventure) – Flo’s makes a big jump after we were able to try it’s dinner. The fried chicken here is on par with the vaunted Plaza Inn and the atmosphere is great, as well. There’s not much variety in the offerings but what they serve is good and simple. As far as meals I crave, Flo’s fried chicken is near the top of the list!
3. Rancho Del Zocalo (Disneyland) – While no one mistakes Rancho Del Zocalo for authentic Mexican food, the restaurant does a commendable job for being inside of a theme park. The menu is fairly ambitious and the value throughout the restaurant is not bad at all. I particularly like the Carne Asada and Red Chile Enchilada Platter. The inside of the restaurant is nice to and fits the Frontierland theme quite well. Like all of the top 5, Rancho Del Zocalo just feels like a classic Disneyland restaurant.
2. Plaza Inn (Disneyland) – The Plaza Inn is a perfect blend of good food, decent value, great location, fun atmosphere and tradition. Famous for their delectable fried chicken, the Plaza Inn serves home-style food in large sizes. While the menu isn’t all that exciting, the food fits the time period and setting of Main Street. Frankly, you should get the fried chicken and don’t worry about the rest of the menu. Like the Little Red Wagon, eating here just has a distinct Disneyland feel. The Cast Members clearing plates usually offer up some charming entertainment and the big windows let the sun light up the whole restaurant. It’s a step back in time at the end of Main Street. Combine that with delicious fried chicken and that’s why it is firmly in the top 3.
1. GCH Craftsman Grill (Grand Californian Hotel) – Defeating Plaza Inn’s Friend Chicken for the top spot in these rankings is no small feat but that’s exactly what GCH Craftsman Grill (formerly known as White Water Snacks) does. Just a few steps outside of California Adventure (use the hotel entrance), GCH has a very relaxed setting that borders on bland. But the food is far from bland. The menu is ambitious and all of the food we’ve tried is very fresh and delicious. While we could knock it for the atmosphere, GCH is a nice respite from the park crowds while offering food that is better than most table-service restaurants.
Those are my rankings of Disneyland’s counter-service restaurants. I’m looking forward to adding to the list over the years. What would you add or change? Let us know in the comments! Planning a trip to Disneyland? Check out our planning guide to help you out along the way. If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog and like our Facebook page. You can find both of those on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!