Downtown Disney (located in the Disneyland Resort) has numerous lunch options. Today, we decided to say goodbye to ESPN Zone, which will be closing its doors this summer along with other dining options to make way for Disney’s new Four-Diamond Hotel, which is set to open in 2021.
Saying goodbye is such sweet sorrow. I remember coming here as a teen, eating lunch with my family and playing games on their second level. Tyler also has fond memories of coming here with his dad, so we knew we had to eat here one last time.
If you are a sports fan, this is the place to be — you will never miss a game. As soon as you walk in, there are TVs surrounding the front, and even when you sit down at your table you will always have a good seat to watch the game. Need to go the restroom and scared you will miss a big play? Don’t worry, ESPN Zone has you covered! Each stall is equipped with its very own TV, so you will never miss a beat. This place can stream up to 13 live satellite feeds at once from around the world.
The menu has all the game-day eats you can think of. It was hard to choose just one thing to eat! Our server, Amanda, was fantastic and walked me through the gluten-free items that I could have. They have a safe fryer to make gluten-free fries and have allergy-friendly buns so you can enjoy their hamburgers and sandwiches.
The drink menu is massive, with every type of drink option available. I decided to go with the MVP Margarita, which has Don Julio Blanco Tequila, Grand Marnier, Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice, and Agave Nectar for $15.75. I love the simple taste of sweet and sour from the lime and agave, and the ratio was fantastic! The juice mix didn’t mask the delicate taste of the Don Julio Tequila.
Tyler ordered the namesake ESPN Zone Burger. The burger was cooked perfect — with a little pink in the center — and was topped with Cheddar, Pepper Jack, Jalapeños, and Zone Chili, and was accompanied with a side of fries sprinkled with seasoning. The chili wasn’t smothered, like some restaurants do, which can overpower all the other flavors of the burger. The pickled jalapeños gave it that perfect little kick, and the crisp fresh lettuce helps cool the mouth down so he’s ready for the next bite.
I decided to go for the House-Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich on a Gluten-Free Bun with a side of allergy-friendly fries. The pork was tender and moist, with a some crunchy bark from smoking the pork, and the sandwich was finished off with a jalapeño slaw. The Tangy Gold and Zone Barbecue Sauce are both gluten-free and were put on the side so I could taste them. The Tangy Gold had a hint of spice and mustard. The Zone Barbecue Sauce was sweet, and reminded me of Bull’s-Eye Original Barbecue Sauce. I ended up using the Tangy Gold to give me more spice with the slaw. It had the perfect amount of spice, where it wasn’t too overpowering but left my taste buds with a tingling sensation until I was through with my meal.
We asked our server what was going to happen with the employees, and if she knew the exact date of when the sports bar will close. She let us know that they are going to move the employees (willing to stay) to other locations around the resort, and offered a training program for employees to build their resumes. For the ones that are not able to take these options, she let us know that there were severance packages. It was bittersweet to hear her story, and I got a little teary thinking about it. She started here when ESPN Zone first opened in 2001, and she will be here the day it closes — which she heard will be June 2, 2018*. Tyler and I had nothing but the best service and great food. We left with a happy memory that will be with us forever.
* Since the original posting of this article, ESPN Zone did officially close its doors for good as expected on June 2nd of 2018.