Tiana's Palace Dazzles with New Menu

by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer

"You know the thing about good food? It brings folks together from all walks of life. It warms them right up and it puts little smiles on their faces. And when I open up my own restaurant, I tell you, people are going to line up for miles around just to get a taste of my food."

Our food."

That’s right, baby. Our food.” 

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Tiana's Palace opens on Thursday, September 7 in New Orleans Square. Photo courtesy Disney.

Tiana's Palace at Disneyland isn't just another new restaurant—it's a restaurant based on a movie about a restaurant. Imagineers, artists, and chefs had to work together to bring the fictional restaurant from the silver screen to New Orleans Square in a way that would live up to the promise of the film.

Last week, I got to sample a portion of the new menu, and I have to say it's been a while since I've been this impressed with a Disney food offering.

Gumbo and beignets were the two key foods featured in The Princess and the Frog, and Tiana's Palace does both of them extremely well. We'll flip the script and start with dessert, which was the first item we sampled.

The House-filled Beignet is a square pillow of dough, filled with a lemon ice box pie filling and covered with lemon glaze. It's equal parts delicate and messy, and absolutely delicious. Disney's culinary director John State says they may experiment with different fillings in the future, but to my taste the lemon is just right. Don't bother saving room for dessert—eat this first.

Start your meal with the House-filled Beignet. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Young Tiana showed her culinary skill by making gumbo, and it's a given that Tiana's Palace had to serve the dish. In fact, there are three versions of gumbo on the menu, and they're all worth a try. The 7 Greens Gumbo is a plant-based dish (the only one on this menu), inspired by the Gumbo Z'Herbes served at Dooky Chase's Restaurant in New Orleans. Pureed white beans add body to the broth, which also contains okra, yams, sweet potatoes and nutty Carolina Gold rice dressed with a plant-based butter. The dish is satisfying on its own, but devoted carnivores can opt to add chicken and Andouille sausage.

The 7 Greens Gumbo is available with or without meat. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

By far the best dish of the day was the House Gumbo, and it's one I'd make a special trip to have again. This is a classic gumbo, with a dark brown roux, smoky Andouille sausage, braised chicken and a scoop of Carolina Gold rice. It's warm and filling, and definitely brings some heat. Be sure to order a piece of the buttermilk cornbread to help soak up all of the delicious sauce.

Some of the media questioned if the dish was too spicy for theme park guests, while others were liberally adding Tabasco sauce to their portion. Michele Gendreau, director of food and beverage for the Resort, said they would pay attention to guest feedback and made adjustments as necessary. If you're already familiar with the heat of Andouille sausage, you know what to expect in this bowl.

The House Gumbo is a Tiana's Palace specialty. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

We sampled one of the two sandwiches on the new menu: the Beef Po'boy Sandwich, which consists of slow-cooked beef in gravy. Disney will also offer a Muffuletta Sandwich, a famous New Orleans staple stacked with mortadella ham, salami, rosemary ham, cheddar, provolone, house-made olive relish. Both the Po'boy and the Muffaletta sandwich are served on bread that Disney is sourcing from a bakery in Louisiana. Chef State said they tried to make the bread in house and tried to find a local bakery to produce it, but in the end couldn't get it right.

The accompanying red beans and rice (again, the Carolina Gold) for both sandwiches are delicious, and the tang of the pickles helps cut the richness of the sandwiches.

With the accompanying side of red beans and rice, the Beef Po'Boy Sandwich makes for a filling lunch. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

A surprising addition to the menu is Gulf Shrimp and Grits, with Gulf shrimp smothered in a spicy Creole sauce and served atop cheesy grits. This is a solid alternative for someone who wants that New Orleans flavor, but maybe can't take the heat of the house gumbo.

Gulf Shrimp and Grits are on the menu at Tiana's Palace. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

We didn't get a chance to sample the Cajun Spiced Half Chicken, but we did hear all about the development of its two side dishes: a baked macaroni and cheese, and a scoop of coleslaw. Lindell Skinner, the operations manager for New Orleans Square food and beverage, is himself a native of New Orleans, and worked closely with Chef State in developing the menu for Tiana's. The process took more than a year, and included a trip to New Orleans where Gendreau and her team ate at 18 restaurants in two-and-a-half days.

When it came to the macaroni and cheese, Skinner said they sampled 15 or 16 different versions, and debated whether the side should be served cut into squares, as is tradition in the South, or scooped onto plates. As for the cole slaw, the team had a tasting of a dozen different versions, discussing how loose or creamy the slaw should be, and whether it should be mayonnaise- or vinegar-based. In the end, they managed to cover all the bases with a dressing made of mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard and two types of vinegar.

Listening to Skinner, State and Gendreau, you get the sense of how passionate they are about bringing an authentic menu to Tiana's Palace, and how proud they are of the entire team. Their enthusiasm is evident in the finished dishes.

Cajun Spiced Half Chicken is served with two sides and house-made pickles. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

The average Disneyland visitor isn't going to know that the cane sugar in the Chicory Cold Brew is imported from Louisiana, or that there was a friendly debate about which type of hot sauce to offer on the condiment bar. (Chef State says you'll find both Tabasco and Crystal sauce, so everyone can enjoy their favorite.) They won't know that Disney's chefs are salting the cabbage overnight to make the cole slaw extra crunchy, or the history of Carolina Gold rice.

All they're going to care about is whether their gumbo is too hot to finish, or if their children will like the meals on offer—which worries me that this delicious menu may get toned down to satisfy the palates of the masses. As much as it seems they don't want to add "SPICY!" labels on their menus, it may be necessary.

Tiana's Palace is still a quick-service restaurant, so reservations are not available. And while people may not be lining up for miles, I expect there to be a pretty healthy line during the opening days and weeks. Fortunately the location offers Mobile Order, so you can preorder your meal using the Disneyland app. Tiana's even has a new mobile order window on the side of the building to help speed delivery. I'd recommend placing your order early in the day so you have your choice of meal times, especially during the opening weeks.

We were able to confirm that the Mint Julep Bar will also reopen on September 7, and will serve the same Mickey-shaped beignets and signature drink. Todd Pickering and I will be back to sample more of Tiana's menu when the restaurant opens next week, so be sure to follow along on Facebook and Instagram, and X (the site formerly known as Twitter), for all of the updates.

I'm extremely pleased with this new menu, and can't wait to see how the public reacts. If you're intirgued to taste this take on Southern cooking, come and get it while it's hot—and spicy.



  1. By olegc

    This is a great review as I am as passionate about NOLA food as the Disney chef's sound like they are. I wonder though after 6 months whether some items would be replaced for cheaper sources or to make it easier to create the volumes of food needed for a theme park. The thing you don't want is to run out of something in the year you just created the restaurant. I'm going to try the muffuletta but I bet it wont be completely as I expect. A good muffuletta takes a day to soak in the olive tapenade into the bread and the meats in order to marinate it in that briny flavor. I don't really expect Disney to make something in advance and hold it for a day before brining it out. That doesn't fit into their operations like it would at Central Grocery in NOLA.

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