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Kevin Yee
Special Update: Harbour Galley Closing - McDonalds moving in


McDonalds is moving into Disneyland kicking the Harbour Galley out

A special report by Kevin Yee
Harbour Galley photos by Jason Schultz
additional photos and art by Karl Buiter and Al Lutz

Harbour Galley as it is usually found, closed.
Harbour Galley as it is usually found, closed.

I'm afraid you read that right. After more than ten years of serving up quick cajun specialties, the Harbour Galley closes its door forever on Saturday night, July 8th.

While it's always sad to see a Disneyland restaurant go the way of the Casa de Fritos (er, I mean the dodo bird), this time it's particularly poignant, for many frequent visitors to Disneyland count this location as one of their favorites. The food here is actually unique! Personally I will miss the Cajun Popcorn Shrimp. Here are the menu items currently offered at the Harbour Galley:

Menu Items

Finn's Special - $4.99 (tuna sandwich, curly fries)
Cajun Popcorn Shrimp - $6.59 (includes chips)
Fried Mozzarella Nuggets - $4.29
Chowder in a breadbowl - $4.99 (note: this will still be available at Cafe Orleans and the Veranda)
Curly Fries - $2.29
Fish (3) & Chips - $5.99
Mini corndogs / chips - $4.99

The past several years have seen the Harbour Galley struggle with profit margin demands. It's not a highly visible location, and even when it's busy it's not a very efficiently organized location, so it never reaps the kind of bottom line that many other places at the park do. As a result, for several months it's been closed on all but the busiest days.

Sign out front
Sign out front

But wait... you've only been told half the story so far. It's not just that this restaurant is closing due to slow business. This location is being replaced...

by...

(you may want to sit down before reading on)

a full-sized McDonald's.

Yup, that's the news we hear, folks.

The McDonalds across the street from the park on Harbor Blvd.
The McDonalds across the street from the park on Harbor Blvd.

No one would be more relieved than I would if this turns out to be a nasty rumor. But the location really does seem to be shutting its doors, so the bit about McDonald's is probably on-target. As you may or may not remember a few years ago, they did some research on this with focus groups - and have been planning to give over this location to McDonalds since then.

Apparently Frontierland's Conestoga Fries wagon sponsored by McDonald's worked enough as a trial balloon, and the company is leaping into the park full-bore.

The Disney theme parks have been working with McDonald's on a strategic partnership alliance since 1996. There is already a McDonald's presence in Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris, and the new park Disney's California Adventure is also slated to get one, so it should surprise no one that Disneyland is too.

Still...

Possibly the most unique food at Disneyland, lost for the sake of possibly the most generic fast food possible? That's got to be a net loss, if you ask me.

I don't know. Maybe you *like* McDonald's. Kids will probably clamor for it. But isn't there something to be said for saving people from themselves? I mean, adults would go wild for a few blackjack tables with free booze over in Toontown, but that doesn't mean it would be a good idea to actually install it. 

In either instance the park might make money on it, but if it destroys the illusion enough and takes away from what they're trying to do, shouldn't it be disallowed?

There were some grass-roots Internet efforts to ward off McDonald's when the news of the alliance between the companies was first announced. These have not been fully successful, as you might surmise.

The addition of a full-sized McDonald's is certain to cause some wild dissent among Disneyland guests.

And while the arrival of McDonald's may generate some ambivalent feelings, the departure of the Harbour Galley will be felt keenly by many.

The debut of the restaurant in 1989 was heralded by a contest for Cast Members to name the new location. My own contribution: "Brer Frog's Shack," since I knew the frog was little used in Splash Mountain but fished prominently in Song of the South. I guess naming food after a frog isn't so appetizing. My friends Dallas and Dave suggested the title "Dallas & Dave's" for the restaurant, but that was also amazingly shot down.

The Cast debut included a flyer with information, and the then-menu with greatly reduced Cast Member prices. Here are some snippets:

The Story of Harbour Galley ( Disney)

Disneyland is always looking for ways to expand the variety of food available to our guests, and Harbour Galley gives us the opportunity to develop a tantalizing seafood menu. The selections range from a meal-sized halibut sandwich with seasoned curly fries to a nice portion of munchable deep-fried cajun popcorn shrimp.

The harbor is named after Joe Fowler, a retired Navy admiral and close friend to Walt Disney. And here's an item for you Disney trivia buffs: Mill View Lane, the new street on which Harbour Galley is located, is taken from Admiral Fowler's actual address in Florida.

Special Cast Member preview prices:

The Galley Shrimp Cocktail - $2.40 (spicy shrimp cocktail with celery and pineapple tidbits)

Cajun Popcorn Shrimp - $2.45 (cajun seasoned dish of deep-fried crayfish and shrimp)

Seafaring Potato Skins - $1.95 (deep-fried potato skins stuffed with a zesty cheese, shrimp, and seafood mixture)

The Columbia Halibut Sandwich - $3.50 (broiled, tender halibut filet on a honey-wheat bun with mild cucumber sauce, served with curly fries)

Land and Sea Fare - $2.75 (chilled, smoked albacore, sharp cheddar cheese and apple slices with mild cucumber sauce)

Admiral Fowler's Fresh Seafood Brochette - $3.95 (seasoned chunks of fresh fish on a skewer nestled between fresh mushrooms, onions and peppers)

Clam Chowder in the Harbour - $1.75

Garlic Cheese Bread - $.75

Coca-Cola - $.50

Just seeing the old menu makes me miss it all the more.

Regardless of the eventual reception McDonald's faces at Disneyland, the Harbour Galley will be missed.

Gone, replaced by a clown.


HISTORY OF THE HARBOUR GALLEY

HARBOUR GALLEY opened in 1989 as part of the recently re-named Critter Country. 

Prior to 1989, the drydock area had been one story - rather than two - and there was a restaurant on the premises: Maurie's Lobster House.


A few comments from Al Lutz:

Nothing depresses me more than when something like this happens to Disneyland. And after the article to the left was completed, we did get a confirmation that McDonalds is moving in.

Walt Disney worked hard to create a very special environment at his park - he even went so far as to build an earthen berm around it to keep the everyday life and its visual reminders out of his magic kingdom.

Sticking a McDonalds into Disneyland is like opening a strip mall in a city park - yes people may find it convenient, but you lose the ambience of the place it sits in.

No matter how they theme it, no matter how much they try to make it blend in, it's just another step away and down from what made this park so unique in the past. 

And unlike Chevron, whose sponsorship gives us a newly refurbished Autopia, or AT&T whose money assists with Indy, with McDonalds at Disneyland, all we get is McDonalds. Nothing special, just something there that is on every street corner in the world.

I'd expect to see a McDonald's in a Six Flags park, where they do have them. But I always thought Disney parks were a special place to get away from the daily reminders of everyday life.

No more I guess.

How very sad they don't care anymore.

We won't even discuss having to pay Disney prices for 99 cent Big Macs...

- Al

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