Restaurant Reviews

Carthay Circle Lounge – Alfresco Dining Review

Carthay Circle Lounge – Alfresco Dining is an eatery sitting at the base of Disney California Adventure’s icon. The lounge offers a variety of appetizers, small plates and a few entrees as well as a substantial drink menu. Alfresco Dining offers a mix of Mediterranean and Californian fare. Magic Key (annual passes) and DVC discounts are offered. In this post, we’ll review the restaurant’s ambiance, food and value!

While Disney Parks tend to separate themselves from the real world purposefully, sometimes the reaches of the real world are noticeable. Over the last year and a half, outdoor dining has become an addition to restaurants of all kinds for obvious reasons. That stretched all of the way into California Adventure, starting with the limited events ran before the park opening and still now.

Carthay Circle Lounge Alfresco table DCA

Carthay Circle, California Adventure’s icon, has always had an excellent lounge. The indoor seating is beautiful and the menu is affordable while still giving guests a taste of the elegance that is seen in the main dining room upstairs. Carthay Circle Lounge also was said to have some of the best drinks on property. When the lounge opened with just outdoor seating early this year, the menu changed with it and that stuck around even when DCA, and the indoor seating, opened in late April. To be clear, Carthay Circle Restaurant has reverted to the menu it always has but both the indoor and outdoor seating at the lounge has changed dramatically.

Carthay Circle Lounge inside DCA

With that change comes a shift in ambiance when considering the outdoor seating. The inside is still somewhat posh and definitely beautiful while the outdoor seating is far more casual. Tables are lined along the patio that stretches down the first part of Hollywood Land. There’s not a lot of décor out in this section but I do love a good round of people watching and this is the perfect spot for it!

Carthay Circle Lounge Alfresco lights DCA

This all makes for a pleasant atmosphere, much better than most counter-service spots. The wait staff is exceptional but you don’t feel out of place if you show up in shorts and a t-shirt. Alfresco Dining offers a nice blend of the experience upstairs and park going feeling.

Moving on to the menu, it’s surprisingly lengthy and does change often! A few of the items we’ve reviewed towards the end of the post come and go from the menu. There’s a nice variety of food offered and most of the options are ambitious, coming in small plate form.

meatballs Carthay Circle Lounge DCA

These are the Moroccan Roasted Chicken Meatballs served with Pomegranate Relish and Tzatziki. The one issue you’ll run into at the lounge is the amount of food is pretty low compared to the price. It’s not a great value, as this was $16. That said, the quality is very high and this dish was fantastic. The relish balanced out the heartiness of the meatballs and the Tzatziki gave the dish some zest. I would happily have these again.

Crab Cake Carthay Circle Lounge DCA

This is the Warm Crab Cake consisting of Snow Peas, Sesame, Mint, Cilantro and Ginger-Yuzu Aïoli. It was decadent and delicious. Like most items on the menu, the portion wasn’t large but ingredients were top notch. The Ginger-Yuzu Aioli added a nice freshness to the rich crab. This was one of the better crab cakes I’ve had. Whether that’s worth $22 price tag is up to you!

Lettuce wraps Carthay Circle Lounge DCA

Another winner was the Vietnamese Twice-cooked Beef Lettuce Wraps served with a Pineapple-Mint Salsa. The beef did have quite a bit of spice but the flavors were fantastic, with the salsa giving some fruit notes to the salty and tender meat. This was also $16 and offered a little better value although I liked the Meatballs slightly more.

Salmon Carthay Circle Lounge DCA

The fish at Alfresco Dining is switched out often, as we have a review of a different one below. Above is the Maple-Orange Glazed Salmon served with Brussels Sprouts , Apples, Hazelnuts, and Cranberries. This was the most entrée worthy dish we tried, as the perfectly cooked Salmon was fairly large and side ingredients were a wonderful compliment. I really liked the creamy sauce underneath, as well. This is the most expensive item on the menu at $26.

Carthay Circle Lounge Alfresco pasta

We also tried the Strozzapreti Pasta which is served with San Marzano Tomatoes, Basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano. This pasta is a longer version of cavatelli, being a little thick and tougher than a regular noodle. I thought the dish was solid but nothing spectacular as the noodles weren’t my favorite and I thought the sauce was average. The Basil and Parmigiano were good and all of the ingredients were fresh. Your mileage may vary here, depending on how much you like pasta, but I thought this was a little much at $22.

cheeseplate Carthay Circle Lounge DCA

My favorite thing we tried was Artisan Selected Cheese Board for $22. A nice mix of cheeses, crackers, spreads, nuts and fruits were on the tray and I enjoyed all of them. If cheese plates aren’t your thing, I get it but this one was delicious. Going back to Alfresco Dining for a cocktail and sharing this Cheese Board with friends sounds like a wonderful way to take a load off.

Carthay Circle Lounge Alfresco tacos DCA

One of the best options are the Vietnamese Twice-cooked Beef Tacos. These are a carryover, or at least very similar to an option that was served in the lounge pre-closure. They are served in a wonton shell with beef inside and a Pineapple Mint Salsa. All of the flavors worked really well together and the salsa really complimented the tender beef. There’s a little bit of a spice to these but they are absolutely delicious and well worth getting. The price is a little steep at $16 but that fits in with the rest of the lounge’s price.

Carthay Circle Lounge Alfresco tuna DCA

We also tried the Miso Glazed Catch of the Day, which was Albacore Tuna on this certain day. The waiter did say the fish is changed out nearly daily but the side ingredients were the same most of the time. While I like that they switch out the fish regularly, that tuna was absolutely spectacular! It was slightly seared with a great crust and a ton of flavor. It’s been one of the best things I’ve eaten since returning to Disneyland. The accompaniments were great too as it was served with Tangeirine and Lemongrass, as well as a citrus-y sauce. While this was the most expensive option at the lounge, I would be more than happy to get it again. I’m curious what it’d be like with another fish although I doubt that it could top the tuna.

Carthay Circle Lounge Alfresco Peach Sundae DCA

To top off our meal, we had the California Peach Sundae which came with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Chantilly. This is very good and the peaches were fresh! It is not worth $14 as most sundaes in the world are not worth that amount of money. That said, it was delicious and a refreshing way to finish off a meal.

Pozole Carthay Circle Lounge DCA

The soup here rotates seasonally but all that we’ve tried have been fantastic. The Pozole, pictured above, was a personal favorite and was offered during the spring months.

Overall, I came away very impressed with Carthay Circle Lounge – Alfresco Dining. Similar to Hollywood Studios on the east coast, DCA has some of its best food in unlikely spots like lounges or a giant orange cone. But once you find that food, it does elevate the park some. Blending a relaxed and slightly upscale atmosphere with delicious food makes Alfresco Dining a winner in my book. The prices are just slightly higher than a counter-service restaurant but the quality of food is a step above. I recommend Carthay Circle Lounge as it’s one of the best options in California Adventure.

Carthay Circle Restaurant sign DCA

Overall Rating – 9/10

Have you tried Carthay Circle Lounge – Alfresco Dining? Let us know your thoughts, along with any questions you might have, in the comments below! Planning a trip to Disneyland? Check out our Planning Guide here. If you enjoy what you are reading here on Wandering in Disney please share this post with your friends, as well as like our social media pages. You can also subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email. All of those links are on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

14 replies »

  1. The food looks amazing and the descriptions are enticing. This is the perfect place to throw money away “for an subpar Disney experience”. The portions are best described as a generous sample size. I also ordered a cocktail that had very little alcohol in it and at $15 was very tiny. My party of 4 left very unsatisfied and hungry and out of $100! 1/10 do not recommend.

  2. Hi. Thank you for this article. Very helpful! I do have a question: Does Carthay Circle Lounge still offer walk-up bar purchases? Or do you have to have a reservation at Carthay Circle AlFresco seating to purchase a drink?

    • You’ll likely need a reservation. Depending on the time of day they might have some open seating either at the outdoor lounge or by the bar. Keep an eye on the app for walk up availability and it never hurts to ask at the restaurant. It’s safest to get a reservation but if you aren’t able to score one and really want to go then go to the Lounge as soon as it opens and try to get on the walk up list!

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