February 11th, 2007

Disneyland restaurants

We ate at a lot of restaurants in Disneyland and DCA. We have dietary constraints. Here's what I thought about the result.

First: off-season in D-land/DCA is problematic. Rides are shut down for maintenance. Regular employees take a much needed vacation. A bunch of newbies/incompetents are staffing stuff. And they may be doing computer upgrades. Service can take a beating in this context.

That said, DCA has, as everyone says, better food than The Park. Napa Rose is _amazing_, but they don't take the Annual Pass discount (well, not the Deluxe, anyway; dunno about the premium). And they are kinda steep. But they do have a good wine list. The service was excellent. The food was also very good. I think, however, that Storyteller's (also in the Grand Californian) is better bang for the buck. Not as fancy food or service, but every bit as good. All venues very tolerant of toddlers/small children, which makes Napa Rose something very special: a full-on gourmet restaurant experience you do not have to worry about bringing a toddler to. We ate. We drank. We paid for the whole group. We kissed about $850 goodbye, and don't mind a bit. We also discovered a very tasty port (need to retrieve the name from the receipt) and yet another excellent Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (WillaKenzie, IIRC).

Storyteller's does do the discount. We had a late lunch there that was a lot of fun, very good food. I got a pizza without cheese and with a bunch of other stuff. Storyteller's, Napa Rose, Ariel's Grotto (in DCA) and Goofy's Kitchen (in Disneyland Hotel) all sent the chef out to discuss food allergies. They all offered me a lot of choices, and gave me complete information about things like the rolls on the table. I made up cards (mentioned in an earlier post) describing my allergies, English on one side, Spanish on the other and gave them to the server, usually when they came by to take drinks orders. At the Blue Bayou, the card was kind of glanced at and returned to me. At Cafe Orleans, it was taken back to the kitchen and the server returned with a long list of what I could order. The only place that completely fucked up my meal was the Blue Bayou. I ordered the blackened salmon with crawfish beurre blanc, plain (I wanted the blackened but was told that wouldn't work either). It came out blackened with crawfish beurre blanc. As in, landed in front of me. It also had the wrong sides. The server said I couldn't have the sides I ordered because they had milk products -- which he knew when I ordered but did not tell me. He was given the food in covers, but removed the covers before placing in front of me AND STILL SERVED THE MEAL. The kitchen may have screwed him over, but he should never have landed that plate. He never apologized -- just said he told the kitchen how to do the meal. I discussed this with the manager afterward, very politely, very understanding but also very hey, you guys need to know this because you get other people with allergies. The manager thanked me for being so understanding. At the time, I did not know that several other meals at the table had also come out badly (greasy monte christos, etc.). The Blue Bayou used to have great clouds overhead and stars and shooting stars; now it is just dark and cloudy. Dunno if the effect was turned off or what, but you could barely see the food on your plate. I wound up eating the chicken drumsticks meal with rice noodles and red sauce that I had ordered for Teddy because I just had a bad feeling about the whole thing when I ordered my meal.

Wine Country Trattoria in DCA was a little bit of a disappointment. The server tried, and they didn't poison me, but I wound up with a salad with nothing highly caloric in it; the salami disappeared between the order and the delivery, presumably because someone decided it had milk products in it or qualified as too high in sodium (the card says I prefer low sodium -- and I must say, all the Disney meals did right by me in terms of sodium content).

At Cafe Orleans, I had a chicken caesar with a whole lot removed. Think plain grilled chicken and romaine lettuce with some vinegraitte (sp?). Not much to function on. I had the chicken drumettes meal the second time with adult size pasta and sauce. I'd eaten a fair amount of Teddy's version of that meal the first time around, which is how I knew I could eat it at the Blue Bayou. That is apparently their allergy all-star meal: no dairy, wheat (rice noodles), corn, egg, soy, . . . It also comes with grapes (which Teddy enjoys feeding me) and a strawberry or two.

My friend from New Orleans says the Mickey beignets at Cafe Orleans are convincing, and that the jambalaya is good. Their version of the Monte Christo sandwich turned out correctly when ordered by someone in our group.

Tomorrowland Terrace still does a good burger-and-fries. I made no effort (other than telling them no cheese) to allergy proof that meal, because I only had half of it. Their menu also includes what looks like a really good veggie sandwich, but which I did not ever eat.

Goofy's Kitchen puts on a huge spread. I ate a bunch of fruit, some eggs and salad, then ordered the allergy all-star waffle, which was the way those usually are. Not like a regular waffle, but really, really good.

At Ariel's Kitchen I got the salmon blt minus the bun. They gave me berries (no yogurt, no granola) for dessert. They inadvertantly (?) brought an extra thing of berries, so I got two.

Character Dining

We had two character meals on our trip. We went to Goofy's Kitchen for an early (7:40) breakfast with the Yasudas. We got there on time; they were a little later. The chef was extremely helpful in pointing out what I could order. They also made me a waffle I could eat. Yum. Because we were some of the first people there, the characters had nothing to do but attempt to get Teddy's attention. This was fantastic, particularly since it got Teddy used to characters early on in our trip. When the Yasudas came, there were enough other people that the girls had to get up and participate in a little dance and chase some of the characters down.

The second character meal was the princess thing at Ariel's Grotto. We were the last table on the rotation, and I think at least one princess skipped us entirely, which disappointed the girls. Most of the princesses who stopped by the table made an effort to include Teddy, possibly because some of them thought he was a girl. Service is a lot slower (not a buffet but a limited menu with fixed pricing), but they were very careful with my order and the food was fine.

I gotta say, if you can get going in the morning, character breakfasts before other people are up and about are THE efficient, effective way to hang out with characters. You can't do rides yet, and they have to be there and they have no one else to attend to.