Carthay Circle Restaurant in Disney California Adventure is known for Southern California-inspired cuisine, specialty cocktails, and entree prices around $50. Whew.
But what if we told you there’s another way to experience this iconic Disneyland spot WITHOUT breaking the bank? We’re headed to the accompanying Carthay Circle Lounge – Alfresco Dining to try out the much-loved bar service and small plates — with a more palatable price tag.
Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge is located on Buena Vista Street just inside Disney California Adventure. The lounge features exclusively alfresco dining (Which we don’t mind in sunny California!), an extensive list of craft cocktails, and a selection of Mediterranean-Californian small plates.
We’ve enjoyed our visits to Carthay Circle Lounge in the past. The service is stellar, the drinks are delicious, and the food is intentional. Our one complaint was portion sizing on what we could call the VERY small plates, but how does Carthay Circle Lounge hold up?
When Carthay Circle first reopened after the lengthy closure of Disneyland, the lounge was the only option and it offered solely outdoor dining. Now that the full restaurant has reopened, the lounge has stuck with its alfresco vibe.
The restaurant and the lounge are both housed in a building inspired by Carthay Circle Theatre, where Walt Disney’s first feature-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, had its premiere.
While the indoor restaurant leans into the Art Deco aesthetic, the outdoor patio is accompanied by views of Buena Vista Street. We even found ourselves listening to live jazz from the Five & Dime band! Not too shabby!
There are high top and standard table options and you’ll find menus, cloth napkins, and cutlery as your place setting.
Enough about the atmosphere though, let’s talk drinks and eats!
Before we dive into our meal, let’s take a look at the menu! Carthay Circle Lounge serves up both lunch and dinner.
The Alfresco Dining menu features almost a dozen small plate options with Mediterranean flare and there are a number of unique Desserts as well.
If you’ve got little ones with you, they can select from three Kids’ Entrees and a Kids’ Dessert.
The drinks menu is EXTENSIVE and has a fun theatrical team! Select from iconic cocktails featured in The Classics…
…older favorites of The Golden Age…
…signature crowd-pleasers featured in An Ensemble Cast…
…after-meal options in Curtain Call, Buena Vista Brews on draft or in the bottle…
…white wines called The Bright Lights…
…red wines called The Red Carpet…
…and even non-alcoholic options — the Matinee Features!
So, what did we pick for our meal? We started with one of the cocktail options — the Carthay Martini for $19.50.
This drink is classically prepared with Hendrick’s Gin or Double Cross Vodka, Lillet Blanc Dry Vermouth and Gourmet Blue Cheese Truffle Olives served with an Ice Sphere. We opted for the vodka and asked for it made dirty with a little bit of olive brine.
This was a perfectly crafted martini. As Carthay Circle Lounge is known for its bar service, we wanted to judge on a classic — and boy, did it deliver! The flavors were perfectly balanced to accentuate the vodka and the gourmet olives were a show stopper.
The dry vermouth was certainly notable so if you aren’t a huge fan of the flavor of vermouth, ask for them to go light on the addition. We abolutely loved the ice sphere that helped to keep the drink perfectly chilled. It was also a solid pour. Disney cocktails are expensive but the craftmanship of this one felt worth the price!
Our other drink was a less classic martini, the famous Double Pear Martini for $19.50. This one was made with Double Cross and Absolut Pears Vodka, Pear Nectar, and fresh Lime Juice complemented with a marinated Baby Pear, served up.
This was another winner! The drink was so pear-forward that it most reminded us of biting directly into a fresh pear. LOL! You could taste the quality of the ingredients. This martini was also pleasantly balanced with a little kick from the liquor and a delightful sweetness from the pear. If you like a sweeter drink but want something elevated, this is a great option!
On to the eats! We were only stopping in for a quick rest, so our two reporters split a small plate — the Vietnamese Twice-cooked Beef Lettuce Wraps for $16.
The beef came topped with Pineapple-Mint Salsa.
We found these to be a solid snack! The portion was small but we were mostly looking to have a small bite with our drinks so it was perfect for what we wanted. It was enough for each person to have about three wraps.
The bibb lettuce was gorgeous and fresh and added a satisfying texture in addition to holding the beef.
The twice-cooked beef was a DELIGHT! Between the browned texture and sauce it had a wonderful stickiness. The flavors were soy sauce-based it seemed with a savory kick.
Shockingly, we even found this dish to be a little spicy. We would certainly steer clear if you’re spice-averse! The mango salsa helped to mellow the spice and added a fresh and fruity element that rounded the dish out. Overall, it perhaps wasn’t the most show-stopping dish, but we would certainly get it again!
Now after a very satisfying drinks moment, let’s talk about whether YOU should visit Carthay Circle Lounge!
Nosh or Not
You SHOULD head over to Carthay Circle Lounge if…
- You want to try the top-notch food and fancy cocktails that Carthay Circle Restaurant is known for without spending the time and money needed for a signature meal.
- You’re a group of adults who are looking for a nice escape from the theme park hustle and bustle.
- You want a great experience with great service — even if it’s just for drinks and appetizers.
You should SKIP Carthay Circle Lounge if…
- You’re hungry! The small plates at this lounge are just that…SMALL! They’re great for snacking but if it’s been a while since a full meal and you’re hoping to fill up, you might need to look elsewhere.
- You’re on a tight schedule. Stopping in at Carthay Circle Lounge, you’ll likely find yourself wanting to sit and stay awhile. If you’ve got a jam-packed day, consider opting for a quick-service spot!
- You’re balling on a serious budget. Carthay Circle Lounge may be MUCH cheaper than the neighboring restaurant, but it’s still not the least expensive option you’ll find. Consider theme park basics like you’ll find at Smokejumpers Grill or Award Wieners.
We truly enjoyed our visit to Carthay Circle Lounge! The atmosphere was delightful, the service was spectacular, and we had no complaints with anuthing we ordered.
The outdoor seating and more limited menu makes the lounge feel much more approachable than Carthay Circle Restaurant and the Mediterranean-Californian options stand out in their own right. We would certainly visit Carthay Circle Lounge for drinks and a bite — especially with the stellar quality of those cocktails! If you’re not too hungry, don’t mind a cheaper but still somewhat splurge-y experience, and are looking to relax in Disney California Adventure — Carthay Circle Lounge could be your stop.
Want to see our latest review of Carthay Circle Restaurant? Click here!
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The post You’re Paying TOO MUCH At This Disney Restaurant! first appeared on the disney food blog.