Last update December 18th 2016 One of the most expensive parts of a Disneyland vacation is the food costs. Our strategy to minimize the food costs is to eat as little Disneyland meals as possible.
To do this we bring breakfast items or purchase breakfast in the coffee shop in our hotel as well as bringing snack and protein bars so that a large sit down lunch isn’t always required. The other benefit to carrying snacks is taking advantage of the short lines that might exist during the timeframe of 11am-1pm.
With the amount that we save by not eating Breakfast in the parks and only having a limited lunch, you can feel justified in a more relaxed dinner when the lines are longest and when you need a break.
Below are our suggestions for both lunch and dinner at the Disneyland Resort.
Some of the items below are linked to full restaurant reviews on our sister site DisneyDose.com.
$$ Wine Country Trattoria- Great sit-down lunch with a view over Cars Land.
$ Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill- food is similar to the Rancho de Zocalo in Disneyland
$ Corn Dog Castle– No trip to Disneyland is complete without a Corn Dog from Corn Dog Castle.
$-$$ Flo’s V8 Cafe- Pretty good sit down meal with food similar to that which you would find along Route 66. Lots of gravy and home style cooking.
$ Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta- Offers a great variety of salads, pizza, and pastas that are a great break from the fried food. Stay and sit in the shaded garden seating area adjacent to Goofy’s Sky School.
Downtown Disney District and Disneyland Hotels
$ Earl of Sandwich– Exquisite sandwiches in the widest of varieties. Also, Earl of Sandwich is a great place to sit down in Downtown Disney as it has covered seating.
$-$$ ESPN Zone- Perfect for catching up on the latest sports games or watching your favorite team play.
White Water Snacks- Inside of Grand Californian Hotel, just outside of the hotel entrance to Disney California Adventure. Good variety lunch, also has convenience store.
$ La Brea Bakery- Located just outside of the main security checkpoint to enter the esplanade, the La Brea Bakery is an awesome deli with great hot soups, sandwiches, and flat breads. This is a great lunch option just a few steps from the parks.
The Disneyland restaurants mentioned above are great quick service and counter service restaurants. Below we have included the best sit down restaurants at the Disneyland Resort.
$$$ Blue Bayou– The only restaurant worth mentioning from Disneyland is the Blue Bayou. It is located inside of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. The atmosphere is a little dark and the food is not as good as it used to be. Go to restaurants in the other park and hotels instead.
Disney California Adventure Park
$$$ Carthay Circle Restaurant– Fantastic restaurant that was built during the Disney California Adventure renovation. It is a combination of the finest restaurants in the US. If you are ready for a fancy meal, this is the perfect place.
$$ Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen- Often times has a live jazz band playing and features southern dishes. Very good dinner spot. Sometimes is very loud.
$$ Catal Restaurant- Very good Spanish tapas type cuisine, but with big portions. The food is unique, but delicious.
$$ Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria- Quiet sanctuary with fantastic Italian food and hand thrown pizzas. Very good thin crust pizza.
$$$ Steakhouse 55- Rivals the best steakhouses across the US in flavor and cut of beef. While they aren’t on the menu, request onion rings. These were the best onion rings I’ve ever had.
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel
$$$ Napa Rose- One of the finest restaurants on Disneyland Resort property. Variety of the best food in the world. Sit at the Chef’s table to have a unique experience designed to fit the needs of each person.
$$ Storyteller’s Cafe- Great dinner buffet that serves food that is good for adults and children. Fun spot to eat.
Share this article with your family before you make the final reservations, so that everyone can have a say.
The final option for eating in the parks is to have a Character meal. In Disney Character meals, Disney characters circulate to each table to say hello, sign autographs, and pose for pictures.
Disneyland is home to five different Disneyland character dining experiences. The experience varies quite a bit depending on each restaurant. Each one features different Disney characters and different meals.
I have written a Disneyland character dining guide that highlights all of the different aspects of eating at a Disneyland character meal. In the article you will find tons of information on picking your meal, tips on how to maximize your experience, and advice on how to get at least 10% off your meal when you plan in advance. Read all about planning your Disneyland character dining experience>
Save Money on Disneyland Dining
There are a number of helpful Disneyland dining tips listed below.
Order à La Carte: During my last visit to Disneyland I was appalled to see a child who had just received his order of corn dog with a side of apples throw away the apples with the rest of the container. If only the child knew he was throwing away almost three dollars.Disneyland menus only present full meals, however you can purchase individual items à la carte.
To save the most money on food during your vacation, join these restaurant deals clubs. Do not join these clubs more than two weeks before you vacation as most send out specific introductory coupons.
Earl of Sandwich – This is one of our favorite lunch spots in Downtown Disney. Here you will find great sandwiches and salads. When you join their online eClub, you will immediately be rewarded with special bonus coupons.
This club also sends you a FREE sandwich on your birthday. They do not check ID for your actual birth date.
Patina Group – This restaurant management company operates the Catal, Tortilla Jo’s, and Naples restaurants. When you subscribe to their online Patina Restaurant Group List, you will be sent special offers and a $30 discount coupon for use on your birthday at any of the three restaurants.
The coupon is sent about a week before your listed birth date and can be used for 60 days. The restaurant will check your ID to verify your birthday and that you are over 21. Reservations must be made for after 5pm for the coupon to be used.
Mimi’s Cafe – This chain restaurant located just across Harbor Boulevard from Disneyland offers nice breakfast food and a great deal for members of the eClub. This is a nice option for breakfast if you are staying on Harbor and don’t like the food offered at your hotel. When entering information, use the zip code 92802 to get specific deals for the Disneyland cafe.
When you join the Mimi’s eClub, you will immediately receive coupons for free food upon signing up and on your birthday. These coupons do expire, so be sure to wait until 1-2 weeks before your vacation to register.
Jamba Juice – has an insider program that sends out deals frequently if you are in need of a snack.
There are a few other chain restaurants in the area that provide eClub deals, however during your travels I highly encourage you to branch out and either just have food on Disneyland Resort property, or take a look at the top restaurants around Disneyland on Yelp. Try the local food! It does not disappoint.
Disneyland Dining Plan
The Disneyland Dining Plan is not up to par with it’s Walt Disney World counterpart. The vouchers at Disneyland are done by dollar amount not by menu items. Do not get confused and purchase this plan. It will save you little or no money.
Guests with severe allergies, those requiring kosher meals, or those on restricted diets can arrange assistance at City Hall in Disneyland or the Chamber of Commerce at Disney California Adventure. Gluten Free options are also listed there. If you are dining at a Disneyland Resort Restaurant, then call the restaurant at least one day in advance for assistance at (714) 781-3463.
Booking a Meal at Disneyland
To book a meal reservation at the Disneyland Resort, head to the official Disneyland website or call the reservation hotline at (714) 781-3463.