Greetings from the Happiest Place on Earth. Or from the 160 acre-Hellmouth by the 5 freeway where adults sprint to children’s rides, public family meltdowns are celebrated, and once-eradicated diseases can just be themselves. It’s a polarizing place to be sure, but for however magical or intolerable you find it all to be, there’s one thing we can all agree on. The food is horrible.
Room temperature spaghetti and neon mac & cheese must’ve been old favorites of Walt’s because they're on every menu in the park. But all hope is not lost. It’s no easy task, but hidden behind the mass-produced menus and packaged carnival treats lie some pretty fantastic food you never knew existed. That is unless you worked there for years or something. Like I did. So get there early, pop a Xanax, and allow me to show you the light. Here is everywhere you need to be eating and drinking at Disneyland.
Cafe Orleans, New Orleans Square, Disneyland
Sweet Disney Jesus. Look up “not giving a flying f*ck” in the dictionary and you will find the picture of every person who’s ever ordered this thing. Yes, it’s a deep-fried, sugar-coated ham and cheese sandwich and no, you’re not going on any more rides after this. But we say throw caution to the wind, because you’ll be rewarded with a sandwich that ranks as the very best at Disney in our books. There’s a spot to lie down and figure it out over by Matterhorn.
Enchanted Tiki Room, Adventureland, Disneyland
If you come to Disneyland and don’t eat a Dole Whip, just don’t even bother telling people you came. Any food item that’s only served in three locations in the whole world is probably worth at least a gander, right? Yes. And surprise - it lives up to hype. That line wrapping around Adventureland is definitely for Dole Whip, but here’s your hack - go inside the tiki room, act like you’re lost, and then just order from there. The line is a fraction as long.
Jolly Holiday, Main Street, Disneyland
A sniffling child walking behind you in Fantasyland just coughed something onto the back of your knee and it feels solid. Head over to Jolly Holiday for a macaroon. This instagram-friendly treat is all coconut, not really a macaroon, and completely worth your time.
Mint Julep Bar, New Orleans Square, Disneyland
No, this is not Cafe du Monde. But still it's an iconic Disney treat and absolutely fantastic. Situated on a side street in the squeaky-clean New Orleans Square area, this walk-up booth is also enjoyable because you get to plop down on a nearby bench and remember that one day these children will see what the actual French Quarter is like.
Cozy Cone Motel, Cars Land, California Adventure
Though we’re still mourning the loss of the egg and chorizo breakfast cone (legit RIP), the Chili Cone Queso still ranks among the best in the park. It’s like a frito pie, but in a magical bread tornado. The other cone varieties at Cozy Cone are pretty amazing too, so feel free to order a couple. You have time. It’s another three days before your Radiator Springs Fastpass is good.
Corn Dog Castle, Paradise Pier, California Adventure
You did it. You talked-back to the 8th grader with headgear on who just schooled you at Midway Mania and now the mom’s involved. Time for a breather. You’re in luck though, because on the other side of the lake is quite possibly one of the best corn dogs in existence. The Original Corn Dog ranks amongst Disney's most famous snacks and it is tremendous. But if you want to kick it up a notch, go for the Hot Link Corn Dog instead.
Of all the food groups represented at Disneyland, the churro is definitely the most important. Seriously, how are these things so good? They’re like little warm cinnamon bolts that completely make up for whatever the f*ck that Finding Nemo ride is about. And even more good news, the churro stands are everywhere and all equally delicious, because obviously they come from the same kitchen. Disney magic indeed.
Main pool, Disneyland Hotel
On the far side of the sprawling Downtown Disney sits the useless Disneyland Hotel and its faint attempt to hold on to whatever allure Anaheim might’ve had in the 1950’s (oranges?). But one incredible gem remains: Trader Sams. The kitschy, overpriced, and absolutely legendary pool bar is a must-visit. And the thunderstorm inducing Uh-oa! cocktail is the rum-filled tiki fishbowl you’ve been searching for your entire life. Besides, you just waited hours in line for a 30 second glow-in-the-dark Peter Pan ride and you need all the booze. Ooooooooooo-ga!
Refreshment Corner, Main Street, Disneyland
Of all the places that catch your eye at Disney, Refreshment Corner is absolutely not one of them. It’s basically the 7-Eleven of Main Street and probably most famous for being the spot parents give up and let their children drink Diet Coke. But there’s a little secret inside - the Cream Cheese Pretzel. This giant sweet and savory soft pretzel, stuffed with all the cream cheese they could muster inside, might be the most overlooked snack in the whole park.
Cove Bar, Paradise Pier, California Adventureland
You lost your little nephew somewhere on Paradise Pier and need to put your feet up. Good news - tucked behind the character-breakfast tragedy that is Ariel’s Grotto sits Cove Bar, a fantastic little space serving booze (more on that later) and lobster nachos you never knew could be so good. Seriously. What seems like an obvious theme park no-no is actually one gigantic YES. And look, there’s your nephew in the lake.
Royal Street Veranda, New Orleans Square, Disneyland
Some kid just barfed his Cheerios into the Pirates of The Caribbean river and now you’re starving. Thankfully a Disney staple awaits you around the corner. The sourdough bowl is a park classic and the long lines will warn you of that. It’s an especially great treat on a cool Anaheim day when temps dip down into the mid-90s.
Bengal BBQ, Adventureland, Disneyland
You just got some serious sex vibes from the Genie over at Aladdin’s Oasis and now you feel cold inside. Go warm up at Bengal BBQ. The one vegetable on this list comes wrapped in pig fat because that’s how America works. Next door to the best ride in the park (Indiana Jones), Bengal BBQ is a pretty solid all-around food outpost, but this faint attempt at health is your go-to order.
Harbour Galley, Critter Country, Disneyland
The king of crustaceans makes his second appearance on the list in his most popular state - the roll. We’re not going to beat around the bush here, if this baby is anything less than 3,000 calories, we’ll stand in line for Splash Mountain for you. But good lord is it delicious. Bonus: Eat it on a bench facing the river and watch all the people on the steamboat slowly realize they’re idiots for riding the steamboat.
Carthay Circle, Buena Vista Street, California Adventure
If there’s a legitimate restaurant inside the Disney parks, it’s Carthay Circle. (Club 33 doesn’t count - we’re not Jack Nicholson and neither are you). The food at Carthay is solid across the board and if you only have a few minutes, the downstairs bar has some great bar snacks and even better cocktails. But that would also be a mistake. Because you’d be missing out on Carthay's true gift to the world - the house biscuits. Hot and crispy on the outside with a lava flow of cheese on the inside, it’s like you're not even at Disney anymore.
There isn’t a more polarizing piece of food at Disney. Whether it’s actually turkey, or emu, or ripped from the piled-up corpses in Disney jail, we can all agree this thing has the curb appeal of a Robert Durst massage circle. But fear not. This sloppy mess is delicious and an iconic must-eat of the park. In-house points for legitimately being our logo.
Cove Bar, Paradise Pier, California Adventure
Disney finally stopped kidding itself a few years back and started serving alcohol at California Adventure because adults have rights too. Welcome back to Cove Bar, where real-deal drinking can be had (skip the margaritas on the wharf). The specialty cocktails at Cove are all excellent, but the move is to go off-the-menu for this park legend that’ll keep you pretty messed up through that unsettling Disney Jr. puppet show in a half hour.
Award Weiners, Hollywood Land, California Adventure
The funny thing about California Adventure is it’s actually really boring. Hollywood Land? What even happens here? And why is Mickey dressed like he lives in Los Feliz? Oh well, at least there’s Award Weiners. The park isn’t particularly known for their elite vegetarian options, but the Portobello Mushroom Philly is one beautiful exception. Mushrooms, peppers, and onions sauteed in beer and topped with cheese. Delightful.
Jolly Holiday, Main Street, Disneyland
Not much food around these parts are actually made in-house, but we believe them when they say these chips are. Perfectly warm and crunchy, you have to ask for these guys as a side or they won’t give them to you. Then sit down on Jolly Holiday’s gorgeous castle-facing patio and enjoy as one of the carriage horses utterly unloads in front of you.
Carnation Cafe, Main Street, Disneyland
It’s 4pm, just about the time you begin to wonder if paying a car payments worth of money to ride five rides and getting “It’s A Small World” stuck back in your head was worth it. Either way, the pull towards the exit is natural. Just stop at Carnation Cafe on the way out and pick up an order of those fried pickles. The deep-fried spears are big, crunchy, and everything you want while you stare at your bank balance.
Maurice's Treats, Fantasy Faire, Disneyland
No day would be complete without one last pit-stop over at the Fantasy Faire. You just watched two bummed-out UNLV grads lip-sync their way through a weird Frozen renaissance show and your tummy is rumbling for one last snack. Luckily, there’s a tiny little stand beside the theater called Maurice’s Treats and it’s serving savory, garlic-y, twisted bread sticks on crack. Oui, oui. Now leave.