Downtown Disney District Eats: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Everything Elseby Lisa Stiglic, contributing writer
Tired of the turkey leg? Is the Mickey Mouse beignet "meh"? Has your Dole Whip become a "dull whip"? Maybe it's time to take a break from your favorite theme park and venture into the adjacent Downtown Disney District (DTD) to catch up on some fabulous food options. Whether you're snack-happy or looking for a sit-down meal option, DTD has a plethora of offerings from morning until night.
For resort guests staying on Disney property, DTD is but just a step-in-time away. Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel, The Disneyland Hotel, and Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa all have easy access to this destination, especially since guests walk through it on the way to both Disney theme parks. Guests entering in from local hotels might need to set aside some extra time to walk through the theme parks' esplanade to get to the district, which is on the opposite side from where hotel shuttles drop-off guests. The redesign of the Resort's security areas now mean those visitors only have to cross through one bag check and not two. Local visitors know only too well that if they want to spend some time in Downtown Disney, either make the visit quick or plan to dine at a sit-down restaurant, since the parking is free for only two hours, but a validation from certain sit-down eateries (and the AMC theater) will add another two.
Most of the Downtown Disney businesses welcome guests starting at 7 a.m. with several breakfast options, including burritos, Eggs Benedict, protein-packed sandwiches, and flaky, sugar-laden pastries.
And coffee. How can I forget the morning lifeline? Starbucks has you covered from whichever direction you enter Downtown Disney. The first Starbucks DTD location debuted in 2014 next to World of Disney and was quickly deemed so popular, a second location went in two years later closer to Disney's Paradise Pier and the Disneyland Hotel.
If Starbucks isn't your caffeine of choice, Häagen-Dazs sells Peet's, while La Brea Bakery Express serves up Silverback.
La Brea Bakery Express is actually a branch of the sit-down La Brea Bakery Cafe — one of three restaurants in DTD which offers an express location alongside a parent eatery. Craving sandwiches? La Brea Bakery has the best bread, so save some time and pick-up a delectable deli sandwich to take on the go. If pizza or calzones are more your style, visit Napolini — the quick-service arm of Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria.
SIT-DOWN FAMILY STYLE
A staple of a Disney vacation is making magical memories with family members. Downtown Disney has several family-oriented locations that will make you glad you brought your camera. The Rainforest Cafe is by far the favorite for younger guests who can view thundering rainstorms, a giant aquarium, and jungle beasts who grunt and screech during meals. Oh, and the food is outrageous. Make sure you try the sparkling volcano of large proportions — brownies with ice cream and decadent chocolate sauce all topped with a sparkler.
And, several times through the day, The Rainforest Cafe's feathered friends are featured outside the location on-hand to interact with guests. You can check for the parrots' schedule at the host station inside.
For the sports enthusiasts in your group, touch down at ESPN Zone. If the surrounding big-screen televisions with the games of the day don't entice you, then maybe the first place menu will with spicy Buffalo wings, tangy barbecue ribs, and smoky burgers — all winning combinations. After the meal, sprint up to the second floor for the ESPN Zone Sports Arena for champion hoops and killer air hockey.
Late last year, Downtown Disney welcomed a California-based iconic location: Sprinkles Cupcakes. Red velvet, black and white, and chocolate marshmallow are just a few of the famous cupcakery's items. I sampled one of the new flavors for May — Cookie CupCake — a yellow cake dotted with chocolate chips that has a cookie crumble bottom. Brown sugar frosting tops the cupcake and then it's sprinkled with more cookie crumbles.
And take note, this location does not carry the ice cream or ATM options.
Besides cupcakes, Downtown Disney District offers up Wetzel's Pretzel's, Häagen Dazs, and several stand-alone kiosks with savory and sweet snacks.
When the sun sets, the Downtown Disney District takes on a life of its own with musicians, lights, and a festive atmosphere. Although I'd need another few pages to dive into the nighttime world of DTD, I can give a few tips for a fun evening. Uva Bar, in the center of Downtown District, is an outside, open bar which is a great place to unwind with a creative cocktail in hand while people-watching or chatting about your magical Disney day. If you plan to have dinner, secure your place at nearby CATAL, a Mediterranean-influenced menu, or head south to the bayou at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen for some Cajun and creole creations. And, if you time it just right, you'll be able to view the Disneyland fireworks show (when scheduled) from great viewpoints in Downtown Disney.
A few reminders to guests headed to Downtown Disney District, reservations are highly recommended for any sit-down location as locations fill up quickly closer to the evening. You can call 714-781-DINE up to 60 days in advance (at select restaurants) and Annual Passport discounts apply to most locations. Just double check with a cast member.
And, soon to come, the highly anticipated Splitsville Luxury Lanes, similar to the one at Disney Springs at the Walt Disney World Resort, is scheduled to open. Taking over where the Anaheim House of Blues stood (now moved next door at GardenWalk), this bowling alley boasts 20 luxury bowling lanes, two full-service bars, with dining and live entertainment. Stay tuned and in the meantime, take a break from the theme parks the next time you're at The Disneyland Resort and explore what DTD has to offer.