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Kevin Yee

Cheap Eats

Many of the columns I've written so far reflect a theme of high prices and low patronage at Disney's California Adventure (DCA) restaurants. While it's true that food generally is overpriced , there are bargains to be had. And this is my look into said bargains, but I'll start with a review of what's cheap at Disneyland itself. Remember, these are not my favorites, they are just good values.

Naturally, you can always eat fast food. Expect to pay high prices even for burgers and hot dogs, such as this recent menu from Stagedoor Cafe:

Cheeseburger meal with fries - $4.99
Double cheeseburger meal with fries - $5.69
Hot dog meal with fries - $4.79

If you're having fast food, though, go for the bigger foot-long chili dog at Refreshment Corner on Main Street, which costs just $4.89 and includes chips.

Personally, I'd skip those and hit the less- visible places for better bargains. Spicy beef and chicken skewers can be found at Bengal Barbecue in Adventureland for $3.29 each, though these aren't as filling as you might expect. For a full meal, try the Royal Street Veranda in New Orleans Square, where $5.99 buys you a hollowed out, sourdough breadbowl full of clam chowder, or either vegetarian or steak gumbo.

If you're in the park on a very busy day, you might find the turkey- leg cart open over on Big Thunder trail. For about five dollars you get a hunk of smoked meat that is almost certainly more than you can eat. Sadly, though, this location is almost always closed.

Redd Rocketts is next door to Space Mt.
Redd Rocketts is next door to Space Mt.

There are plenty of other good values, but they are seldom inexpensive -- they just represent a lot of food (or high- quality food) for a moderate price. Some examples might be the pizza salad at Redd Rocketts ($7.49) in Tomorrowland, or the full- plate breakfasts at Riverbelle Terrace ($6.49) between Frontierland and Adventureland.

So much for Disneyland. Before we head into the new park, let's look at the good values at Downtown Disney.

[begin list of inexpensive food at Downtown Disney]

  1. um...

[end list of inexpensive food at Downtown Disney]

Let's look at the hotels instead. Surely they can't have the same prices as Downtown Disney! And we quickly discover that, thankfully, they do not. (Sarcasm aside, I could have included the Wetzels Pretzels offerings here -- they do have reasonably priced hot dogs in addition to their pretzels).

Goofy's Kitchen in the Disneyland Hotel offers all- you- can- eat buffets for a few dollars cheaper than the Plaza Inn in Disneyland, and Goofy's has just as many characters. Also, Goofy's buffets are there all day, not just for breakfast. Expect lunch to cost $16.95 for adults, and $8.95 for children, even less if they are under four years old.

Even better, head to the Paradise Pier Hotel and visit the PCH Grill. The prices here are moderate rather than inexpensive, but the quality makes up for it. Here you will find the Resorts best burgers, and exotic menu offerings that include chicken artichoke pizza ($9.95) and Szechwan chicken lettuce wraps ($5.95), among others. Not outright bargains, but good quality and unique items.

Grand Californian from afar
Grand Californian from afar

You'd expect that if we glanced at the newest hotel, the Grand Californian, we'd find the highest prices. For the most part, you're right. But tucked away behind the four-star Napa Rose is an odd duckling: White Water Snacks. This is a kind of cafeteria that services the pool area but is open to anyone, with prices unheard of in the DL resort. An example? How about a foot-long chili cheese dog, served with fries, for a measly $4.95. Or you can fill up on breakfast foods before 10:30 for under $5.

The bonus to this eatery is its nice, quiet, easygoing atmosphere in the dining room. Be wary, though, of the strangest ordering system I've ever seen. You help yourself to sandwiches, desserts, drinks, and side- dishes or snacks, but you do not order from the grill. Instead, you tell the cashier what you want, and they will order it electronically for you. In return, you get a number to place on your table, and its brought out to you.

Hollywood & Dine
Hollywood & Dine

Let's head inside DCA to see what's available here. Counterbalancing the expensive table- service restaurants here are a number of fast-food options, though not all are open all the time. The trouble is, I would not characterize most of them as inexpensive. Schwab's Deli in the Hollywood & Dine food court, for example, charges $8.99 for a roast beef sandwich. The Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill expects $7.29 for carne asada nachos -- not exactly a bargain.

But before we despair, there are a couple of noteworthy bargains. You can find the soup- in- breadbowl combinations at the Pacific Wharf Cafe for the same $5.99, and the bargain is just as good as it was at Disneyland. While you're in the area, why not stop by the Mission Tortilla Factory, where you can get a free -- yes, free! -- warm and freshly baked tortilla. Not enough to fill you up, perhaps, but just try to beat that price.

A less obvious choice on this list might be Taste Pilot's Grill, where you pay $6.99 for a cheddar burger or $2.49 for a half order of fries. Sounds steep until you learn about the well- stocked self- serve condiment cart, where you can add all sorts of extras to your burgers and fries. Load up. It's worth it.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Burger Invasion on this list. The full- sized McDonald's here has theme- park pricing, but it's still reasonable by Disney standards. A Big Mac plus fries combo costs $4.79. While that sounds like a slightly expensive Extra Value Meal, remember that soda isn't included -- you have to add $2.29 for the soda to make up the actual contents of an Extra Value Meal at your local McDonalds, so it's not all that inexpensive. Still, it provides a known product at a reasonable price, and as such deserves a place on any list of cheaper food options at the Resort.

I'd rather head down the road slightly to the Corn Dog Castle, where you can fill up on disgustingly large, simply enormous corn dogs for $3.99 each. They are freshly made and dipped, too, so if corn dogs are your thing, this is the place for you.

Just as with Disneyland, DCA has its share of menu offerings that could almost make the list, but ultimately fail to be spectacularly cheap or spectacularly good while being moderately priced. But they are oh- so- close. The Mondavi Deli sandwiches are one such example, as are the very cute ice cream Mickey head dishes served at Catch- A- Flave. But on the whole I'd have to say that DCA does a slightly poorer job than Disneyland in providing reasonably priced food.

That's the Royal St. Veranda back there under the balcony
That's the Royal St. Veranda back there under the balcony

My top picks across the resort for value plus quality? This is sure to be a divisive issue, with everyone's answer being different. Oh, what the heck. Here they are:

  1. Corn Dog Castle (DCA) - $3.99 corn dogs
  2. White Water Snacks (GCH) - $4.95 footlong chili cheese dog and fries
  3. Royal St. Veranda (DL) - $5.99 chowderpots

Prices are sure to inch up resort-wide, as they always do when summer starts and ends. Guess you'd better eat quickly!


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