11 Disneyland Restaurants Where You’ll Need a Reservation
Disneyland isn’t like Walt Disney World. The original Disney park caters to a different clientele than the one that arrived after Walt Disney died. Due to the size and scope of Walt Disney World, you need Advanced Dining Reservations to eat at many restaurants. Otherwise, you’ll wait an extended period or possibly even get shut out of a meal.
Disneyland isn’t like that. Only a handful of places require such forethought. Here are the 11 Disneyland restaurants where you’ll need a reservation.
The casual California vibe plays a huge factor in planning. Locals are too laid back to worry about dining reservations far in advance. And the parks cater to the southern California crowd more than Walt Disney World does with Floridians. So, the strategies are different for a lot of places, especially since Disneyland isn’t as heavily trafficked.
Of course, a few exceptions exist, and they’re generally for logical reasons. Blue Bayou Restaurant is a Disneyland institution, an extension of Pirates of the Caribbean. It even has a partial view of the attraction and is the anchor restaurant at New Orleans Square. Well, it is unless you’re one of the lucky few in Club 33.
For the commoners, Blue Bayou is the best dining experience possible at the Happiest Place on Earth. All Disney fans should make it a part of a trip to Disneyland. Get the catch of the day. It’s what a pirate would eat.
Main Street, U.S.A. is home to one of the most pleasant dining experiences at any Disney theme park. Billed as ‘The Original,’’ Carnation Café’s sign proudly proclaims that it serves “delicious hometown fare.” And it does!
This place cooks the tastiest peasant food that you’ll ever eat, which is why it’s so popular. At lunch and dinner, you’ll want to try one of Walt’s Favorites, dishes that the man himself would eat. Yes, the restaurant’s origins date back to Disneyland’s opening in 1955!
Given the pristine heritage of Carnation Café, reservations are always a good idea. This practice is less formal than some of the other places listed here. People without reservations get buzzers and can just wander through Disneyland while they await a table. I’m a planner, so I still suggest a reservation.
The restaurants listed here are all a part of the Disneyland Resort complex. Some are at Disneyland, while others are at the resorts. You’ll find the rest at Disney California Adventure. Oddly, it’s these that may cause you the most problems in that they have more of a rush factor.
Carthay Circle is a place where you should book a reservation whenever you plan to watch the fireworks. A meal package here includes special seating for World of Color, my pick for the most beautiful Disney nightly presentation. The restaurant also has a package for Frozen – Live at the Hyperion if that appeals to you more.
Due to the popularity of both events, Carthay Circle books up several weeks in advance. When you want to eat here, you will need a reservation.
Disney’s PCH Grill
When you eat at a Disney buffet, you know what to expect. Sure, it’s good food but certainly not going to be the vacation meal that you remember the most. Well, I should say that you won’t remember it for the food.
Most of Disney’s buffets are character meals, and Disney’s PCH Grill provides one of the best. Donald Duck’s Seaside Breakfast is wildly popular because several of your favorite characters appear.
Daisy Duck joins her fella, Donald, and her BFF, Minnie Mouse, comes along, too. Since it’s a surfing backdrop, Stitch shows up regularly as well. At Disneyland, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better character meal than this one.
As an aside, dinner here isn’t a character meal, but the cuisine does have an Italian theme. Called the Calitalian Dinner Buffet, it sometimes fills up also. If you’re interested, booking a reservation for this meal is smart.
All of the things that I just mentioned about PCH Grill apply to Goofy’s Kitchen, but with one key exception. This restaurant is a character meal the entire day, not just during breakfast hours.
Goofy’s Kitchen is often compared to Chef Mickey’s due to the presence of Disney’s big three – Donald, Mickey, and Minnie – plus Pluto and Goofy. Chip ‘n’ Dale make appearances, too. There’s a rotation of many of your favorite Disney characters here.
The food is similar to Chef Mickey’s as well. That’s a polite way of saying that you’re not eating here for the flavors inasmuch as the experience. But the desserts are excellent! Independent of food quality, frequent Walt Disney World visitors understand the demand for Chef Mickey’s. Goofy’s Kitchen plays out the same way and is absolutely a place where you should get a reservation.
This place isn’t even technically a restaurant. It’s a lounge that serves small bites, but it does have conventional tables where you can sit and eat. The menu emphasizes drinks, obviously, and it’s a delight to look at since the pictures are Pixar cartoonish in style.
Frankly, everything about Lamplight Lounge is terrific. There’s an exterior seating area highlighted by an inimitable view of Pixar Pier. A special part of the restaurant requires you to “unlock” a mysterious door to reach the secret room. You can order secret menu items here as well.
A visit to Lamplight Lounge is unforgettable. The catch is that all Disney lovers know this. It’s currently the hottest ticket in town. You absolutely must book a reservation to spend some time here.
A couple of the remaining selections are decidedly upscale. Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa serves one of the most elegant meals at Disneyland Resort.
Some restaurants have more cachet since they’re older and thereby more prestigious, but this place serves refined flavors thanks to the work of chef Andrew Sutton. He’s helmed the kitchen for more than a decade, reverently retelling the story of Napa Valley — and all of California, really – through the magic of food.
The reputation of the place is such that you’ll definitely need a reservation to dine here. It’s one of the few Disneyland resorts that you’ll find in Zagat’s recommendations.
I’ll keep this one simple. Lillian Disney, wife of Walt, designed the interior of Plaza Inn. As far as Disney history goes, it’s impossible to top that. As a Disney fan, you’ll want to dine here for the character meal. Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park is the only way to enjoy a character meal while you stare at Sleeping Beauty Castle. It’s an absolute must, which is why you’ll also need a reservation for it.
River Belle Terrace
I’m a huge fan of Fantasmic!, which I think is the best overall Disney nighttime presentation. At Disneyland, seating is tight, and park officials have blocked off the best spots. They save these locations for the Fantasmic! package, which I strongly recommend that you book.
River Belle Terrace in Frontierland joins Blue Bayou as the two places where you can book this package. You’ll also get a hearty three-course dinner at River Belle Terrace, one that can include BBQ ribs. For me, that’s all I need to hear. This place even serves pork ribs for breakfast. It’s heaven on Earth for meat lovers, although they also serve BBQ Tofu (seriously!) if you’re not one.
Are you a steak lover? Do you want to spend at least one of your meals dining at the finest steakhouse at Disneyland? By answering yes to these two simple questions, you’ve identified whether you want to eat at Steakhouse 55 or not. Since most people will say yes to both, it’s easy to understand why you need reservations here.
The only caveat I have for this glorious Disneyland Hotel establishment is the price. Any couple is going to spend north of $100 here. You may spend quite a bit more, depending on your order. Most of the steak entrees fall in the $40-$60 range. You’ll get what you pay for, though.
I used to give a stronger recommendation for this restaurant when it had an a la carte menu. Late in 2018, Disney switched to a pure buffet, thereby slotting Storytellers Café with several other restaurants on this list. Previously, it had towered above the other generic buffets.
Still, this place at Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa is very good by Disney buffet standards. To a larger point, it hosts Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet. Children of all ages want to attend this particular character meal. To do so, you’ll need reservations.
You’re starting to appreciate the problem with this list. Many of these places offer character breakfasts, all of which are worthy of your time and money. So, please pick and choose carefully and remember that you can always save a couple of them for next time.
To make the best possible decisions, speak with a MickeyTravels agent about your upcoming trip. These Disney experts can turn your trip into the best possible vacation, and their services are free to you!