Let’s face it—dining at the Disneyland Resort is never going to be an inexpensive affair. Whether you’re eating inside the parks, at one of the three Disney-owned hotels, or in Downtown Disney, food comes at a premium. Of course, there’s a big difference between overpriced fare that leaves your wallet a little bruised and meals that completely clean out your bank account, and you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice quality in order to save a chunk of change. In fact, several of the quick service dining locations at Downtown Disney, in particular, share kitchens and menu items with more lavish table service counterparts next door. Play your cards right, and you may be able to affordably eat in style just steps away from the action of the theme parks.
As you walk through the Downtown Disney shopping and dining district, you’ll notice the restaurant marquis on either side of you, luring in tourists and locals alike. Exotic eateries like Catal Restaurant, Tortilla Jo’s, Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria, and Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen might make your mouth water as you envision tastes of the Mediterranean, Latin flair, delectable pizza, and Cajun specialties. Unfortunately, if you try walking up to any of these restaurants on a typical evening in Anaheim, you’ll find out that you have to wait at least an hour to be seated—if they’re accepting walk-ups at all. Even if you make a reservation, a glance at the prices on the menus can leave you with horrible sticker shock.
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None of the table service restaurants at Downtown Disney are particularly inexpensive, and some of them are downright pricey, which is why smart tourists and locals often skip the extravagance and opt for food that’s faster, cheaper, and more convenient. Four sit-down locations feature adjacent quick-service counterparts next door to let you sample their flavors without breaking the bank. Here is a look at your options:
Table-service counterpart: Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria
Finding decent pizza at the Disneyland Resort isn’t exactly an easy task. In the parks, you can choose between eight-dollar slices at Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port or mediocre personal pizzas at Village Haus Restaurant—neither of which exactly reek of authenticity. Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria makes a decent effort at bringing the taste of Italy to Southern California with its imported flour, cheese, and water, but the restaurant charges a premium. Napolini, on the other hand, offers thin-crust Neapolitan pizza by the slice, as well as tasty options like paninis and baked macaroni and cheese—all of which are available for less than $10.
Table-service counterpart: Tortilla Jo’s
Like Naples, Tortilla Jo’s is owned and operated by the Patina Restaurant Group, so its menu has been artfully crafted to include modern twists on traditional Mexican dishes. Next door, you can try out the more casual Tortilla Jo’s Taqueria for inexpensive fare that captures the same essence as the parent eatery. Standard options like tacos, burritos, and bowls are available with fillings that include grilled adobo chicken, barbacoa beef, grilled steak, and pork carnitas. Though entrees are similar to those you might pick up at your local Chipotle, the flavors here are unique and the prices are very affordable. You can even try one of the famed Tortilla Jo’s frozen margaritas while you eat.
Table-service counterpart: Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen
New Orleans’ Bourbon Street comes to vibrant life at the table service version of Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen—one of the best-themed restaurants at the Disneyland Resort. The adjacent Jazz Kitchen Express, however, still has the bold flavors for a fraction of the price. Selections like the Gumbo Ya Ya and Jazz Kitchen Jambalaya will make you think you’ve taken a trip to the Louisiana Bayou. The real standouts, however, are the Original New Orleans Beignets. They may not be shaped like Mickey Mouse, but these savory/sweet bits of fried dough are the perfect snack to grab on the trek back to your hotel at the end of the night.
Table-service counterpart: La Brea Bakery Café
If overpriced sandwiches, salads and pizzas have turned you off from the sit-down La Brea Bakery Café, you might want to give the location a second chance by hitting up the restaurant’s Express side. Clam chowder in a bread bowl gives the Pacific Wharf Café a run for its money, and the sandwiches and paninis are refreshingly tasty. Prices aren’t any lower than quick service restaurants inside the theme parks—but they aren’t any higher either.
Next time you find yourself wandering Downtown Disney without a table service reservation, don’t fret. Try one of these quick service counterparts, and you may be able to enjoy unexpectedly delicious fare on a budget.