After a few trips to Disneyland Resort my husband and I finally decided to try Disneyland’s famed Carnation Cafe. This restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and occupies a piece of key real estate on Main Street USA. The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating, with the majority of the seating being outside. The outdoor seating offers seats under lovely red and white striped umbrellas, and for a lucky group, seating in a small gazebo area. Outdoor seating offers views of Main Street and is perfect for people watching. If your timing is right you will be able to see glimpses of parades like Soundsational and Paint the Night. Guests might even see the Dapper Dans as they often perform under the Disney Clothiers canopy across the street. The cafe is also adjacent to the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor, so any dessert with ice cream, including the decadent milkshakes and malts, come from the ice cream parlor.
The food at the Carnation Cafe is hearty American style food. Starters include Walt’s Chili, Baked Potato Soup, and Deep Fried Pickles. Entree offerings include meatloaf, chicken-fried chicken, spinach salad, burgers including a vegan burger, turkey sandwich, and a fresh catch of the day. Desserts revolve around ice cream, which really could be an entree in itself!
Our first meal was in the Summer of 2015 and it was very hot so it was tempting to sit inside and enjoy the air conditioning. Instead we sat outside to enjoy the view, and cooled off with chocolate malts. The malts were delicious and served in a tall glass with the “leftovers” still in the metal shake cup. The “leftovers” really were almost a full malt, so if you are watching sugar or calories it could easily be shared. Since it was so hot I opted to pass on the baked potato soup this time, even though I really wanted to try it. I figured passing on it this time would give me an excuse to return. My husband is a huge fan of fried chicken so he ordered the Chicken-Fried Chicken which is served with a milk gravy, mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and a dinner roll. I decided to get the Sourdough Bacon Cheese Melt with french fries.
The fried chicken is different than the Plaza Inn Fried Chicken; the Plaza’s is fried on the bone and the Carnation’s is a fried chicken breast fillet. The breading is flavorful with a slight pepper seasoning and the chicken was moist. My husband is not a gravy fan so he didn’t have an opinion on it, but to me it was tasty with a hint of black pepper flavor. My husband’s only complaint was that the portion seemed small in comparison to the portions of chicken at the Plaza Inn. The sourdough melt was fantastic! The outside of the bread was buttery, but not overly greasy, the onions were grilled to be almost caramelized, the bacon was crispy, and the burger was well done but still juicy. The melt also had a house sauce on it that was kind of like a Thousand Island dressing but with a little more spice. The french fries were excellent too, with a hint of seasoning on them. I found my patty melt portion to be very generous, my husband had sacrifice himself to help me finish! With our malts and our entrees we were stuffed and were unable to order dessert. The service we had by our waiter was great; he was attentive but not intrusive. Our drinks were filled promptly and the food was served quickly but we weren’t rushed at all, it was a relaxing lunch. We knew that we would be back to Disneyland in a few months and Carnation Cafe went on the must do list for that trip.
Our second dinner at Carnation Cafe was a few months later on New Year’s Eve. I knew the park would be packed that night so at the 60-day mark I got a reservation for a time that would allow us to watch the Paint the Night parade. I just hoped that we would be seated outside. Luckily, we were seated at a table outside after about a 15 minute wait. The wait was no big deal. It was NYE and the park was busy, it just made me thankful that I had made a reservation as we saw quite a few upset parties turned away. Since it was December it was chilly but the heater near our table kept us warm. While our view of the parade was nice, I wouldn’t recommend it as a prime viewing spot especially if it is your first view of a parade or if you want a spot to get great pictures. During non busy times reservations might not be necessary, but the times I have visited were during busy times so I made sure I got reservations in advance. This can be done 60 days in advance, either on the Disneyland website or by calling. Even though walk ups are more common at Disneyland than at Walt Disney World, I would still encourage making reservations if you definitely know you want to eat at a certain restaurant.
The menu had not changed since our last visit and this time it wasn’t scorching hot outside so I was able to get the Baked Potato Soup. The Baked Potato Soup was good, it had a smooth creamy base with soft (but not mushy) potatoes; it was topped with cheese, bacon, and chives. We both enjoyed the soup but it did need a decent amount of salt and pepper added to it so it had a little more flavor. There wasn’t really a lot of time to savor the soup because our entrees arrived only a couple minutes after the soup. Our last time at the restaurant the serving pace was relaxed but this time we felt a little rushed at the start of the meal. I think this was because it was New Year’s Eve and there might have been pressure to turn the tables quicker. The service was still attentive and friendly.
For my entree I had the chicken-fried chicken. I was really tempted to get the patty melt again but I decided to give the chicken a full fledged try on my own. I remembered that the portion of gravy my husband had on his on the last visit was a little skimpy and being a gravy fan, I ordered mine with extra gravy. This turned out to be the right move, it turned out to be the perfect amount of gravy. Again the chicken had a nice slightly spicy breading and the meat was tender and juicy. After eating the chicken I could see why my husband complained about the size of the portion, I was left wanting a little more of the chicken too. My husband ordered the meatloaf. The meatloaf came with a ketchup glaze and mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and a dinner roll. The meatloaf was very savory and the seasonings were well balanced. The texture was perfect for meatloaf, moist but not mushy at all. My husband had no complaints this time about the serving size. This time we both still had room for dessert and shared a hot fudge sundae with chocolate ice cream. The sundae was the basic type of sundae but with the chocolate ice cream it was very chocolatey and definitely big enough for two people to share. It was a sweet end to the meal and it was served to us as Paint the Night started to go by.
With two terrific dinners at Carnation Cafe I would certainly recommend this restaurant for visitors that want their American comfort food fix. The food is fantastic and the pleasant outdoor area offers a nice break from the rush of the park. My next visit will include a visit to Carnation Cafe, perhaps for breakfast this time?!
I am a lifelong Disney fan. I have traveled to Walt Disney World numerous times, I still long for the Epcot of the late 1980's. In recent years I have experienced other Disney destinations like Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and the Disney Cruise Line. I teach middle and high school science in a small town in Wisconsin where I live with my husband and my miniature schnauzer. I spend most of my time dreaming of my next vacation.