Disneyland Dining Outside the Parks

by Lisa Stiglic, contributing writer

Over the past few months, I've taken readers on a culinary course outside of Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park to showcase other excellent edibles located within The Disneyland Resort. In Downtown Disney, we devoured decadent churro ice cream sandwiches from California Churro carts, and tested tasty tacos from Taqueria at Tortilla Jo's. At The Disneyland Hotel, we found paradise at Tangaroa Terrace with some big island bites of ahi poke, and teriyaki chicken. Nearby Coffee House surprised us with the refreshing Dole Whip floats with the added bonus of rum. (And you're welcome…again!)

Now, we conclude our Disneyland Resort dining tour with a quick stop at Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel and then delve into the delights inside at the resort's anchor hotel — Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa.

Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel

Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel is probably the least noticeable among the three resort hotels. Although lacking the history of The Disneyland Hotel and the grandeur of Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, it does have its own personality — part whimsical, party beach, and all silly — after all, Goofy is the mascot.

There are only two dining locations inside Paradise Pier Hotel. Surfside Lounge sits adjacent to the lobby and covers the meal spread for the entire day. Mickey waffles and breakfast burritos are on the menu for the morning, and lunch/dinner options include the typical fare of burgers and sandwiches, but with a few surprises thrown in, like the seared tuna highlighted with a snappy soy and ginger.

The Surfside Lounge carries portable eats including fruit, pastries and the much-needed morning nectar of coffee. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

The big dining show at the hotel however is Disney's PCH Grill. This family-style buffet includes the Surf's Up! character breakfast with Mickey Mouse and friends, and features savory omelets, sweet tasty pastries, and even a Meyer Lemon chicken dish. The buffet dinner option offers plenty such as a seafood station, taco station, and traditional carving station. I think I'd go specifically for the dessert station which highlights yummy s'mores and a make-your-own strawberry shortcake station. Note: PCH Grill does not open for lunch and the dinner does not include Disney characters.

Reservations are highly recommended for PCH Grill and can be made up to 60 days in advance. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

Annual Passport discounts apply to both dining locations inside Paradise Pier Hotel.

Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa

Whereas Paradise Pier Hotel is laid-back and sunny, Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa boasts an architectural vision reflecting ambiance and elegance. This hotel invites you to rest, relax, and revitalize—and the dining opportunities are no exception.

If family dining is on your agenda, two terrific options are White Water Snacks and Storytellers Cafe. White Water Snacks is a hidden retreat tucked into the southeast corner near the entrance to Disney California Adventure Park and the hotel pools. At this quiet venue, your group can refuel and re-energize. Menu items include breakfast fare, such as morning sandwiches and burritos, to later-day meals of gourmet pizzas, hamburgers, and signature pulled pork nachos. This place has always been a family favorite.

The rice bowl with chicken at White Water Snacks was a bit too vinegary for me but the chicken nachos were a hit with my daughter. Nachos are also available with beef. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

And for those guests who are short on time and need a little pick-me up, White Water Snacks has a large variety of grab-and-go snacks, desserts, and beverages.

If you need something to quench your thirst, White Water Snacks is sure to have it. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

The nearby Storytellers Cafe is the go-to location for character dining here. Chip 'N Dale invite guests to enjoy either the Chip 'N Dale Critter Breakfast or the weekend brunch — both buffet style. Choose from Mickey Mouse waffles, make-your-own omelets, or the signature caramel French toast. In addition, the weekend brunch includes more savory fares, such as roasted chicken and pork posole. Dinner offers a buffet option, as well, albeit without characters. Food selections highlight crisp salads, savory sides, and plenty of meat selections, such as chicken, salmon, and carved turkey. Oh, and desserts galore for anyone who has a sweet tooth.

If the buffets aren't your style, you can still order a la carte off the menu for lunch or dinner. Choices include pizzas, sandwiches, salads, steaks, and pasta. I took advantage of this to try a few of the desserts with my kiddos, so we ordered the s'mores chocolate-layered cake, and the vanilla creme brulee.

The vanilla creme brulee comes with an orange-vanilla biscotti and is topped with bright, tart raspberries. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

My 10-year-old attempted to finish the s'mores chocolate cake. Mission fail—so some made its way back to Long Beach. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

Go for the food and character dining, but stay for the decor. Storytellers Cafe is a virtual library as classic stories are presented throughout the architecture and decorations—from the floor design and the lighting aspects, to the large paintings hanging throughout the restaurant. Note: Ask your server for a literary guide to the classic authors' stories represented in the paintings, including Mark Twain and John Steinbeck.

Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins makes a strong presentation for guests to enjoy. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

More adult-oriented themes are the final two eating venues at this resort hotel: Hearthstone Lounge and Napa Rose. Younger guests are always welcome, of course, but for adult beverages and a night out, these two are the destination highlights.

Hearthstone Lounge is in the spacious lobby near the oversized fireplace. The lounge boasts a much-needed coffee bar and pastries for early risers, but make sure to schedule a return trip later for the libations—signature cocktails, sangria, an extensive beer menu, and a plethora of wine. Oh, and don't forget the food. A mini-menu of pizzettes and sliders will help wash the alcohol down.

Hearthstone Lounge is open as early as 6 a.m. and closes after the midnight hour. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

No dining list would be complete at The Grand Californian Hotel and Spa without the mention of Napa Rose — the award-winning, Californian cuisine-themed signature restaurant. Sandwiched between White Water Snacks and Storytellers Cafe, Napa Rose presents two options for diners—a casual yet classic lounge and a fine-dining experience. Inside the lounge, guests can savor one of several regional wines paired with a nice appetizer of selected cheese plates or a roasted beet salad. Inside the dining room, the seasonal menu of California favorites rotates. Dine on succulent seafood, market fresh soups and salads, or main courses such as the tempura zucchini blossoms stuffed with goat cheese, artichokes, and garden vegetables. Pair such delectable fare with your choice of regional red, white, or sparkling wines or one of the numerous signature cocktails. And don't forget to save room for dessert

Chef Andrew Sutton's use of fresh, regional foods has made Napa Rose a top dining destination in Southern California. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

Reservations are highly recommended for the buffet dining and Napa Rose dining. Annual Passport discounts are accepted at all locations, except Napa Rose restaurant and lounge. Discounts do not apply to alcoholic drinks at any Disney venue.

And, that concludes our culinary tour of Disney dining locations outside of the parks. Although both Disneyland Park and DCA have some fabulous food finds and favorites — turkey legs, Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, and cotton candy, it's a refreshing break to expand your Disney knowledge and taste buds. Enjoy your own eating exploration at any of the Disney hotels and in Downtown Disney as menus are always changing.

Cheers and good eats!



  1. By danyoung

    So your article covered Paradise Pier and the Grand Californian. What about the fine eating at the Disneyland Hotel?

  2. By pixar

    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung View Post
    So your article covered Paradise Pier and the Grand Californian. What about the fine eating at the Disneyland Hotel?

    From the article, it sounds like she covered the Disneyland Hotel previously.

  3. By DisneyGator

    I really wish that Grand Cali or PPH would have character meals at more than breakfast. I just can't seem to drop $100+ for my family's breakfast. Way too pricey for eggs and waffles.

  4. By danyoung

    Quote Originally Posted by pixar View Post
    From the article, it sounds like she covered the Disneyland Hotel previously.

    That's what I get for not reading carefully. Sorry bout that!

  5. By indyjones

    Be aware that sometimes the Napa Rose uses the lounge as overflow dining so you can't even go in there for a drink. It's very tacky and really degrades the image of the restaurant. And it's one of the very few times I've ever written a note to Disney to let them know our thoughts.
    We have also discovered the drinks at the Hearthstone were lacking and probably won't return there. The drinks at the Napa Rose lounge (if they aren't using it for dining) were significantly better.

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