The Food at Disneyland

You may recall a post from April 2009 (see here) in which Craig and I sampled the food at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida while Craig was attending the Florida Film Festival. If you don’t want to click, I’ll sum it up for you: the food sucked. We ate corn dogs and bad Mexican food at the Mexican pavilion. It was fine theme park food but nothing that deserved attention on a food blog; though many passionate Disney fans chided me in the comments, pointing out our terrible decisions and defending Disney as a decent dining destination, if you know where to go.

Luckily, before going to Disneyland here in California last week, I consulted our friend John K. (you can see him in the post below this) who is not only a Disney fanatic, but whose boyfriend, Michael, works for Disney.

I sent John a text asking him where to eat and he wrote back the following: “The hungry bear has a GREAT fried green tomato sandwich and blueberry pie. I haven’t been to the paradise garden grill at CA adventure but that is supposed to be amazing too. Also the skewers at bengal BBQ in adventureland are tasty.”

Armed with John’s advice, we entered the park. Here’s Craig in front of Adventureland:


You may recall from the Disney World post that I refused to go on Splash Mountain last time because I don’t like big drops and Craig was all P.O.-ed about it because it’s his favorite ride and little kids go on it and it’s all in my head blah blah blah. So this time I decided just to go on right away without thinking too much about it. Here I am being very brave:


I saw my life flash before my eyes; I stared into the fiery face of death. Needless to say, after surviving that ordeal, I deserved a sandwich.

And so, heeding John’s advice, we went to the Hungry Bear (which is right next to Splash Mountain):


Here’s the menu for you to study:


It’s interesting and kind of cool that they prominently feature their fried green tomato sandwich. Considering that most Disney park-goers are expecting typical American fast food fare (hamburgers, chicken tenders, etc.) here they’re pushing a vegetable (well, technically a fruit) that may be fried, but it’s topped with a “jicama mango slaw” which is pretty healthy (if you ignore the remoulade and havarti). Plus, it’s served on a multi-grain roll.

So Craig and I both ordered one (he with a side of sweet potato fries, me with a side of coleslaw):


And you know what? This was a pretty good sandwich! It was smartly conceived (the fried tomato for crunch, the slaw for more crunch and acidity, the remoulade and cheese to bind it all together) and well executed. My only complaint was that the multi-grain roll was a little too big–it was all very bready–but that’s a minor quibble. And my side of slaw was tasty too:


So: well done, Disneyland. You’re stepping up your game!

Of course, you can’t go to a theme park and not eat something really bad for you. After making our way over to California Adventure (we got a two park pass):


We shared a churro while waiting to go on the Toy Story 3-D ride:


Then, after returning to Disneyland (we finished up there), we shared popcorn that was popped by the Rocketeer:


Our last ride was Space Mountain (which, for Halloween, becomes “Ghost Galaxy”). It may look like I’m smiling, but I was really dying on the inside:


After that, with the theme park closed (it closed at 8 PM but we didn’t get off the ride until 8:30) our only dinner options were in Downtown Disney. Which, actually, was pretty nice. After being on our feet all day, I was glad to sit down to a semi-civilized meal.

We chose this place, Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria:


This picture will give you a sense of the scene:


It reminded me of the kind of chain restaurants we would go to growing up in Boca Raton, Florida (Macaroni Grill-ish, to be specific). Craig and I shared a Caesar that wasn’t notable, but wasn’t bad either:


As for our pizza, we shared a large BBQ chicken pizza.


“Oh no,” I said after ordering it. “Maybe we should’ve ordered a more authentic Italian pizza.”

“Um,” said Craig. “You’re at an Italian-themed restaurant in Downtown Disney.”

He had a point. And the BBQ chicken pizza, as inauthentic as it was, totally hit the spot. It’s a very American innovation to put BBQ sauce and chicken and red onion and cilantro on a pizza. That doesn’t mean that it’s bad, though; it’s what America is all about. Putting our stamp on things.

And so it was that Craig and I ate our way around Disneyland. And thanks to our friend John, and a few smart moves on Disney’s part, we ate pretty well. Score another point for the west coast.

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