Disneyland food is known for two things: being delicious and being pricey. Distancing itself from the typical fairground foods of funnel cakes and candy apples, Disney has crafted a variety of distinctive dining experiences. From the turkey leg carts to a restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, Disneyland puts plenty of Disney flair into all their dining options.
But Disneyland restaurant prices can be intimidating. After purchasing tickets and hotel rooms, spending big on something as simple as food can be a stretch. Fortunately for visitors, not every dining option requires them to reach deep into their pockets.
Below is a list of 7 awesome places in Disneyland and California Adventure where budget-conscious visitors can eat (and drink!) without breaking open the piggy bank.
Let’s begin with the Carnation Café.
Located on Main Street, U.S.A in the Disneyland Park, Carnation Café provides casual table service of American staples. Every meal feels like a home cooked meal from a bygone era. In fact, the lunch and dinner menu include a section called “Walt’s Favorites”, recommendations from the man himself.
This charming café is perhaps best known for its breakfast, but lunch and dinner are also popular. It offers both cozy, Victorian indoor seating, and lively outdoor seating under candy-striped umbrellas.
Due to the restaurant’s enduring popularity, reservations are highly recommended. This is especially true of breakfast time, when the restaurant serves many of its most popular dishes, such as the Mickey Mouse waffles, but there is little harm in making a reservation whenever you would like to go.
- Build-Your-Own PB&J. This affordable menu item is perfect for the young artist in your family. For less than $10, your child receives a painter’s palette topped with all the ingredients he or she needs to design the perfect sandwich. Your child gets a chance to exercise his or her creativity while still getting all the nutrients needed for an energetic day at Disneyland.
Flo’s V8 Café
Whether you love Cars, roadside diner food, or just the vintage soda shop aesthetic, Flo’s V8 Café is a great destination for inexpensive classics. Located in Car’s Land (in California Adventure), this striking neon building will draw you in and hold you with its vibrant charisma. With views overlooking Radiator Springs Racers, this diner evokes every road trip montage you’ve ever seen.
The building itself, of course, is modeled on Flo’s business from the film Cars, but that diner was inspired by the real Midpoint Café in Adrian, Texas. Flo’s V8 Café brings starry-eyed nostalgia for Route 66 that casts a spell even on those who have never seen Cars.
- Fillmore’s Pot Pie. A pot pie may be an unusual offering for a theme park, but this one delivers both flavor and value. The filling is made of potatoes and sweet corn, with chilis to give it a mild kick of spice, all wrapped in a flaky crust and stamped with a flower. At under $15, Fillmore’s Pot Pie is a filling addition to your Disney itinerary and the restaurant itself cannot be missed.
Let’s move onto the Bengal Barbecue.
If you are in Disneyland and find yourself needing something to fuel you until your next meal, Bengal Barbecue grills up tasty meat and veggie skewers for a reasonable price. Although the portions of the skewers would not be enough for a full meal, this small menu offers lots of flavor and plenty of variety to satisfy everyone in your group.
Somewhat recently, Disneyland added safari-themed indoor seating, which added quite a bit of character to the eatery, as well as a place to sit and eat away from the weather. However, some of the joy of a skewer is in its flexibility.
Unlike many quick service options, this snack can easily be eaten on the run between attractions, making it great for those who refuse to slow down. Bengal Barbecue is located in Adventureland in Disneyland Park, across the walkway from Jungle Cruise.
- Bengal Beef Skewer. At around $6, the Bengal Beef Skewer is one of the best snacks at Disneyland. It also makes a delicious on-the-go breakfast for those who like to pack in all the rides they can before the lines grow long. The Bengal Beef Skewer is grilled fresh then topped with a subtly sweet Zulu sauce.
Let’s discuss the Galactic Grill.
If you have not been to Disneyland in the last five years, you might remember Galactic Grill being called Tomorrowland Terrace. Alongside some revamping and re-theming in Tomorrowland, Disneyland switched up the Tomorrowland Terrace so it fit better with the current aesthetic of Tomorrowland.
Now sporting a loose Star Wars theme, this counter serve restaurant offers small spacey twists on standard theme park delights.
If trying new things is on your to-do list, Galactic Grill is a perfect way to fill your stomach without emptying your pockets. Like many counter service spots in Disneyland, it offers mobile orders so you can get in and out at the speed of light.
Perhaps the best feature of Galactic Grill is how allergy friendly the restaurant is. Disneyland does an excellent job overall of being easy to navigate if you suffer from allergies, but Galactic Grill goes a step above and makes almost all entrees available for those who cannot eat gluten, nuts, milk, eggs, soy, or fish. They also have vegetarian options so everyone in your party can find the right dish for them.
- Fried Chicken Sandwich. At around $12, this popular fried chicken sandwich makes an excellent lunch or dinner. It is topped with a somewhat spicy coleslaw that adds a lot of texture and much more flavor than a normal slaw. It’s also topped with a generous helping of parmesan ranch dressing to add a cheesy flair.
All lunch/dinner entrees at Galactic Grill come with a side of either Oikos Greek yogurt, or french fries. While neither side is terribly enthralling, they are both solid accessories to the main attraction.
Expanding Your Borders
Those who are primarily familiar with Walt Disney World might be surprised by the lack of food diversity at Disneyland. Without Disney World’s Cultural Exchange and Cultural Representative programs, and without the EPCOT World Showcase, finding foreign food at Disneyland can seem impossible.
However, if you know where to look, these affordable hidden gems can add a whole new character to your Disneyland vacation.
Lucky Fortune Cookery
Lucky Fortune Cookery is not a popular destination like Bengal Barbecue or Carnation Café. Indeed, many visitors aren’t even aware it exists; but this fast-casual Asian restaurant gives you everything you need from a budget meal. The Cookery is located in Pacific Wharf in California Adventure, a relaxed area of the park modeled after San Francisco and Monterey.
This charming area of the park focuses more on atmosphere than attractions, so stopping by for a meal gives you some respite from the bustling attraction-heavy areas elsewhere.
Although the restaurant is far from authentic Asian food, the bowls are tasty and give your palette a break from the typical quick service meals. Aside from being one of the only places to get Asian food, Lucky Fortune Cookery finds its niche with those looking for large portions for low prices.
They specialize in rice and vegetable bowls with a selection of sauces and proteins, each for around $13. They also offer pot stickers, mango slices, and edamame as separately ordered sides.
- Chicken Asian Rice Bowl with Thai Coconut Curry. Of the protein options (chicken, beef or tofu) and the sauce options (Mandarin orange, spicy Korean, Thai coconut curry or teriyaki), chicken and Thai coconut curry are probably the best pairing. This curry doesn’t bring the heat, but it brings lots of flavor that complements both the chicken and the mix of seared veggies.
The quantity of each ingredient gives this bowl a great balance between filling and nutritious. There’s enough protein to keep you from feeling hungry in an hour, but also enough vegetables to help counter the inevitable trip to Ghirardelli’s (also in Pacific Wharf).
Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante
Considering the name of the restaurant is prominently displayed on both an archway and a mural, it’s surprising that Rancho del Zocalo has remained so under-appreciated. Just around the corner from the Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition, this fast-casual restaurant delivers so much ambiance that visitors will feel like they are eating at a much more expensive place.
The Spanish-style décor lends a fun shift in perspective from the Wild West aesthetic featured in the rest of Frontierland, with adobe walls and a shaded patio. Its close proximity to several FastPass locations also makes it a great place to grab a bite while waiting for your ticketed time.
Unlike the “vaguely Asian” bowls at Lucky Fortune Cookery, Rancho del Zocalo likes to stick close to authenticity. Even the dessert and drink menus have wonderful Mexican options like flan and an icy blended horchata that is perhaps one of the best ways to cool off on a hot day.
Still, one of Rancho del Zocalo’s best features is its unique menu organization with a kid’s menu and toddler’s menu. The toddler’s menu features small meals that are easy to consume, aimed at those too young to successfully wrangle a tortilla.
The kid’s menu features a burrito or a taco, served with more voluminous sides, that will help satisfy your older child’s appetite. Adults will also find a good range of affordable options for themselves.
- Trio of Street Tacos. This plate brings 3 different taco meats to the table (pork, chicken, and beef) for around $14. For those street taco aficionados, these tacos are a bit tamer than you might buy out of a truck, but they’re still a fantastic addition to your day at Disneyland. The corn tortillas are soft and fresh, and the taco filling is accented wonderfully by the onions, cilantro, and tomatillo sauce. Of course, it comes with a side of Mexican rice and refried beans, which help make this one of the most filling value options in all of Disneyland.
Cocktails and Appetizers
Let’s discuss the Carthay Circle Lounge.
Carthay Circle Lounge
No matter how much fun you are having, Disneyland is exhausting. Between the crowds, the heat and the constant strategizing to maximize your time, an extended trip to Disneyland absolutely requires some breathing room.
Carthay Circle Restaurant is a reasonably well-known way to take a few precious moments to regroup and cool down while having a delicious meal. Unfortunately, the restaurant is on the pricier side, with most entrees in the $25 – $35 range.
But don’t dismay, because Carthay Circle Restaurant has a fantastic lounge area where you can relax with handcrafted drinks, blissfully out of the crowds, without shelling out for the full experience. They offer a huge selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, leaning heavily on stylish drinks that evoke Hollywood’s Golden Age.
They also have a variety of “Bites” (a.k.a. appetizers) for around $16, which is ideal if you find yourself craving something small and ritzy. While the lounge may be a splurge compared to some items on this list, it is the most affordable splurge that offers excellent quality, quantity, and atmosphere for the price.
Carthay Circle Lounge can be found at the entrance to Buena Vista Street in California Adventure. Due to the controlled flow of traffic into the lounge creating a line, going close to opening around noon will help you avoid a long wait.
- Vietnamese Twice-cooked Beef Tacos. Perhaps it’s unwise to include two consecutive taco entries, but these tacos are phenomenal and only around $16. For scale, the shells themselves are about half the size of typical crunchy taco shells, but they open a bit wider so more of the deliciously seasoned beef can fit inside, making them more filling than they initially appear.
Each taco is topped with refreshing pineapple mint salsa that pairs well with the savory nature of the meat and shell. If the early Hollywood décor gets you feeling extra lavish, finish off with a refreshing rose petal soda, complete with an edible glazed rose petal.
Of course, if you just need to relax with a drink at the end of your day, Carthay Circle Lounge makes a great place to enjoy a classic cocktail. The following fan favorites are available for around $15 or less!
- Pimm’s Punch
- Pisco Sour
- Dill Gin and Tonic
- Carthay Club Mojito
- Irish Coffee
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