Where Should I Eat at the Grand Californian?
Thus far in our series, we’ve focused exclusively on East Coast dining, but that changes today. Let’s talk about some of the best meals you can get on the West Coast. Where should you eat when staying at The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa? I have plenty of suggestions.
Quick Service and Lounges
First, let’s acknowledge the obvious. Disneyland Resort’s campus covers substantially less space than what you’ve come to expect at Walt Disney World. For this reason, everything at Disneyland is accessible, independent of which resort you pick. So, for the sake of convenience, I’m lumping Disneyland Hotel and the Grand Californian together.
At the Grand Californian, you can eat quickly at GCH Craftsman Grill. It’s located near the sitting area by the hotel’s main pool. Disney also hosts GCH Craftsman Bar here, which I’ll go ahead and mention now. Please be aware that Disney, in its infinite wisdom, lists the bar section as Table Service and the Grill as Quick Service.
Both locations offer deep menus, and you’re sure to find something you enjoy. Entrees range from Poke Bowls to Carnitas Quesadillas to the Hot Dog of the Month. Seriously, GCH Craftsman serves enough dishes that you really don’t need to dine anywhere else during your stay. And TripAdvisor ranks the restaurant 36th among roughly 500 Anaheim restaurants. It’s really good.
Still, I realize that you’re likely to branch out. At Disneyland Hotel, you’ll find Tangaroa Terrace Tropical Bar & Grill, which opened in 2011. Disney markets this place as “casual island dining,” and the menu matches the South Seas description.
I often refer to Tangaroa Terrace as halfway between Capt. Cook’s and Kona Café. The food costs more than your typical Quick Service offering, but it’s cheaper than Table Service. TripAdvisor ranks it 24th among 87 Quick Bites options in Anaheim. So, I’d recommend GCH Craftsman instead.
In terms of lounges, the most important one to know is Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. While the one at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is objectively better, the Disneyland version will still dazzle you with its drinks, atmosphere, and unexpected supernatural events.
The Hearthstone Lounge is much closer, as it’s a Grand Californian Hotel. Why would you settle for a sandwich when you could have a steak, though? The Hearthstone Lounge will quench your thirst, but it lacks the sheer entertainment value of Trader Sam’s.
Table Service Options
When you think of fine dining, the Grand Californian should spring to mind quickly. When Disney opened this hotel, one of its hallmarks was its restaurants.
At the Grand Californian, you’ll find multiple character dining experiences. The first is Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Café. Disney hosts this character meal and buffet for breakfast and brunch. During these meals, you’ll meet Mickey Mouse and friends. The restaurant serves a non-character meal dinner as well. It’s great when you’re starving.
The Grand Californian’s other restaurant, Napa Rose, offers a super-expensive but amazing character meal as well. The Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures will set you back $125 per person, but it’s as magical as Disney gets.
Beyond that, you likely know about Napa Rose. It’s in the conversation for the finest overall meal in the entire DVC catalog. While the prices are hefty, it’s the Disneyland equivalent to Victoria & Albert’s. Currently, TripAdvisor ranks Napa Rose as the number seven restaurant out of 500 in the greater Anaheim area. That statement says it all. You’re eating at a theme park hotel, but it’s still one of the top ten places in a city with a population of 350,000.
Meanwhile, Disneyland Hotel provides yet another character dining option. Goofy’s Kitchen swaps out Mickey Mouse for Goofy. Other than that, it’s basically the West Coast version of Chef Mickey’s.
Downtown Disney and Park Favorites
I’ve just listed several exquisite dining options, and here’s the remarkable part. I haven’t even touched on Downtown Disney or theme park eateries.
Longtime fans of Disneyland Resort realize that the California cuisine on display here can single-handedly change your palate. The food’s so good that you’ll start eating dishes you never would have considered otherwise.
At Downtown Disney, DVC fans will find something familiar, as Earl of Sandwich has a franchise here as well. You’ll also find Naples Ristorante e Bar, and a place called Blue Ribbon Corn Dog. That one’s important because it’s coming to Disney’s BoardWalk soon.
Disney is currently in the process of reimagining and reinvigorating this entertainment district, which means it’ll offer even better dining options by the end of 2024. For the time being, it’s still an excellent place to find some recognizable dining experiences plus some West Coast exclusives.
I suspect that most “Best of Downtown Disney” lists would include a few staples, though. Ballast Point Brewing Co., Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes, and Taqueria at Tortilla Jo’s are the likeliest candidates.
Finally, you can always enter the parks to expand your dining options even more. You will face bigger crowds and more competition for the best restaurants, though. Still, you may believe the dining justifies the aggravation.
Disneyland Park includes Blue Bayou, Carnation Café, and River Bell Terrace, among others. At Disney California Adventure, you’ll find Carthay Circle, Pym Test Kitchen, and Wine Country Trattoria. Plus, this park hosts Lamplight Lounge, one of the best hangout spots in Anaheim.
So, leaving the Grand Californian to eat elsewhere will require more effort. Still, several of the park offerings and a few Downtown Disney restaurants justify the choice. Conversely, you can just hang out at GCH Craftsman and order something new every meal. Nobody would blame you.