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in the Park
Tips and ideas for the traveling family
|Adrienne Krock, editor|
One recent Saturday, my family joined a group of our good friends and visited the restaurants at Downtown Disney (DD) to check out their menus.My mission, of course, was to find out what they offered for children. Every restaurant at DD offers a children's menu. The following are my observations. I'll start at the Disneyland Hotel side, which is the west end of DD.
The ESPN Zone has a restaurant downstairs as well as a bar area where patrons can eat and watch, guess what? Sports! Patrons under 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult over 21 years old. The restaurant is broken up into two rooms: Studio Grill, and the Screening Room. Unless you have older children who are serious sports fans, I recommend the more relaxed, diner-style Studio Grill. There is a bar and an arcade upstairs.
The children's menu seems to offer a limited selection, although I do know that the portions on the regular menu are huge. This menu comes on a placemat with games, and pictures to color. The placemats are updated daily with information such as today's date, ESPN's schedule for the day, adult entree specials, and sports news.
This seems to be the one of the most child-friendly restaurant at DD, although I was surprised to find that they did not offer a menu with activities and crayons to help occupy children while they wait to be served. Like other Rainforest Cafes, the highly themed environment enhances the dining experience.
The wait here at peak dining times can be pretty long, so if you come, bring lots of patience!
Y Arriba Y Arriba
Y Arriba Y Arriba is a tapas restaurant and "theater." We had the opportunity to watch part of the "show" when we stopped by. While Matthew was lured in by the music, I was lured right out again by the costumes. What we saw was a dance number featuring about four men and four women. The men wore loose pants and loose shirts. The women's costumes made me think of a Latin-style Vegas show, with lots of Lycra and lots of skin. The music was also very loud. This is just not my image of family entertainment.
The adult menu looked very intriguing because I love international and ethnic food. The children's menu was more than the traditional "hot dog, grilled cheese, chicken nuggets" fare, so keep that in mind if your family has less adventurous tastebuds.
Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen
I love this restaurant. My husband and I dined here in January and the food was not only divine, but the experience took us right back to our vacation in the New Orleans French Quarter. Dining here is not light on the wallet. This is a restaurant we would prefer to visit for a romantic dinner for two while someone else watches our children. Don't expect crayons to color on a menu here!
The Creole Cafe, part of this restaurant, offers counter service with traditional New Orleans favorites such as muffaletta sandwiches, po-boy sandwiches, gumbo, and best of all, beignets (fried donuts swimming in powdered sugar.) There are no child-sized portions here although a sandwich is generally big enough to share.
House of Blues
I don't think of children when I hear "House of Blues" but the House of Blues is more than a nightclub; the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, regardless of special event schedules. The child's menu is an activity placemat with crayons. Patrons under 16 years must be accompanied by an adult, and some events are restricted to patrons 21 years and older.
It was a rare treat for us to visit Catal just weeks after our dinner at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen, but through a string of serendipitous events, the two of us found ourselves enjoying another marvelous dinner! Like Jazz Kitchen, Catal lends itself to a more adult evening than a family occasion.
We saw no young children in the restaurant, and very few older children," (about ten to 12 years old.) There is, however, a (limited) children's menu with an activity placemat and crayons! The young ladies at a table near ours ordered the chicken strips, which looked very good. They were much larger and meatier than typical children's menu chicken strips.
This restaurant, located inside the Grand Californian Hotel, serves breakfast lunch and dinner, as well as Breakfast With Chip and Dale a character breakfast offered from 6:30 to 11:00 every morning. This restaurant offers a large selection for children including "Make Your Own Pizza." Along with Rainforest Cafe, Storyteller's Cafe is one of the two most child-friendly restaurants at Downtown Disney.
The menu has an activity on one side called "Find the hidden object," but the restaurant does not provide crayons to help children circle the objects when they are found.
Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria
Owned by the Patina Group (which also owns neighboring Catal), restaurant is another one of the better choices for families. When we dined here with Matthew, his pizza was a very generous portion and we brought more than half of it home.
This restaurant has one very curious feature that I can only assume was a result of poor planning: children's beverages are served in old fashion or rocks glasses from the bar. Now, I recognize that not all restaurants have special cups for children's beverages, but most at least have some sort of disposable cup with a lid. These bar glasses are not only glass without lids but they are very heavy. We had to help Matthew hold it to drink.
La Brea Bakery Cafe
This restaurant is the furthest location to the east, closest to the main gates of Disneyland and DCA. In addition to the cafe, there is a counter service bakery here.
If you're looking for family dining at Downtown Disney, I hope this gives you some information to help make your decision. For more information about dining options inside the Disneyland Anaheim parks, visit Kevin Yee's Disneyland Restaurant Review.
Adrienne gathered experience taking kids to amusement parks when she worked as a day camp counselor and director. She was an elementary school teacher before she started her favorite job, being Matthew's Mom.
Adrienne and Matthew visit Disneyland several times a month, usually with Daddy, too.
Besides Matthew, Adrienne and her husband Kevin created and maintain The Happiest Potties on Earth website.
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