Portable Eats at The Disneyland Resortby Lisa Stiglic, contributing writer
When I worked at The Disney Store in Las Vegas during the retail heydays of the 1990s, our group of Disney-heads would often jump in whichever car had gas, head south to Anaheim, and basically close down Disneyland. Part of the fun was trying to cram as much as we could into those 16 non-stop hours. Rocket Rods, Fantasmic! seats, character stalking—check.
And the food? Turkey legs, churros, and anything else fast and convenient because we were racing the clock. Disneyland then—and the Disneyland Resort now—has made it easy and delicious to grab-and-go with an assortment of portable provisions when your theme park day is filled with Fastpass tickets, entertainment, and shopping.
When Walt Disney sat on a bench at an amusement park so long ago and began envisioning something bigger and better, no doubt he looked beyond the standard fare of popcorn and cotton candy as well. Sixty years later, the popcorn and cotton candy are still present but the favorites list has been updated with the additions of the aforementioned turkey legs and churros, along with Mickey Mouse pretzels, and a corn dog that has an almost cult-like following.
Luckily, both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have plenty of outdoor vendors who make churro-hunting and pretzel-gathering much easier while on your way to Splash Mountain or Tower of Terror.
If you're craving something a bit more filling than just a snack, swing by Bengal Barbecue in Disneyland's Adventureland. There, you'll discover a tasty selection of grilled skewers—chicken, beef, vegetables, and even bacon-wrapped asparagus. While a bit messy with the lip-smacking sauces, these savory choices are easy to take when you're on your way to save parade seats or even climb nearby Tarzan's Treehouse.
I initially planned to focus on "foods on a stick" but after visiting Cars Land in Disney California Adventure, I had to reconstruct my planning. If you haven't visited the Cozy Cone Motel quick service eatery, drive on over and make a pit stop. The concept is ingenious—five individual cone-shaped structures, straight out of Radiator Springs, that each serve a particular refreshment including churros, ice cream, pretzels, and popcorn.
Typical amusement park snacks? Oh, no. Check out cone number three, the Chili Cone. Choose chili, macaroni and cheese, or pulled pork stuffed in a cone-shaped bread vessel. I'm not a chili lover, so I went with the pulled pork. The cone was a lot of fun to eat, and I actually felt like the popular kid because I received a lot of envious looks from other guests. Although I enjoyed the tang of the barbecue, I found the bread cone a bit bland so I would recommend eating the cone along with the scrumptious stuffing of your choice.
The five cone-shaped buildings at Cozy Cone Motel offer a variety of take-along treats. Make sure to idle at the Popcorn Cone to learn the flavor of the day. It may be Dill Pickle. Note: Lines can get long here as each cone does have its own queue. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.
And what would a day at the Disneyland Resort be without the grab-and-go desserts? Unicorn pops, giant suckers, chocolate-dipped marshmallows on a stick, cake pops, crispy rice treats, ice cream cones—the list goes on and that's a good thing.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret: the best ice cream at the Disneyland Resort—well, besides Ghiradelli's—is the hand-dipped ice cream bars at Clarabelle's Hand Scooped Ice Cream in DCA (not to be confused with Clarabelle's Frozen Yogurt in Toontown at Disneyland). This frozen treasure is tucked up next to Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe (Starbucks) at the juncture of Buena Vista Street and the entrance to the Grizzly Peak area. Choose vanilla or chocolate ice cream; coat with milk or dark dipping chocolate; and then add whimsical toppings such as chocolate chips, sprinkles, or confetti candy to your creation. This ice cream is a perfect sweet for taking on the run to your next Fastpass attraction or to enjoy slowly while viewing Red Car Trolley News Boys in the area.
If the ice cream bars are too sweet for you, the frozen banana is a great alternative. Several of the outdoor ice cream vendors serve the fruit along with popsicles and the always popular Mickey Mouse ice cream novelties. If you really like bananas, Award Wieners in Hollywood Land is currently celebrating the success of Disney's Jungle Book feature film by offering Jungle Book banana corn dogs. The swinging sweet includes two mini bananas dipped in corn and honey batter and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Two dipping sauces jazz up the dessert: tart mango or deep chocolate.
Portable food choices have stretched beyond popcorn buckets and cotton candy of yesteryear. Guests can now enjoy gourmet ice cream bars, savory mac and cheese, and even barbecue skewers as they plan and play throughout their day. And as for our extended theme park adventures during our twenties? Maybe not a lot of sleep but plenty of turkey legs, churros, laughs, and Disney memories.