A visit to Disneyland is often rooted in the past, the desire to replicate those joyful memories collected during each visit. That sense of nostalgia is reinforced as you stroll past the old-timey shops on Main Street and relive the magic steeped in classic rides such as It’s A Small World and The Jungle Cruise.
And yet, the notion of progress and discovery is just as integral. There’s a reason Walt Disney designated an entire section as Tomorrowland, and the constant evolution of the park including recent additions such as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Pixar Pier keeps the faithful coming back for brand new experiences.
With only so much time (and room in your stomach) during your trip to The Happiest Place on Earth, trying to come up with a meal plan can be a tough endeavor. Sticking with the familiar is safe but limiting. Then again, trying something different may lead to regret. So why not just bridge the two?
Below we’ve compiled some of our favorite Disneyland eats that provide the best of both worlds offering a fresh (and delicious) take on the familiar foods you know and love.
For Dole Whip Fans: Chili Mango Whip
If you want to get your Dole Whip fix, skip the inevitable line at the Tiki Juice Bar and walk a few steps over to the Tropical Hideaway which offers views of the Jungle Cruise not to mention a chatty parrot named Rosita. Along with the familiar plain-Jane soft-serve and float versions of the non-dairy frozen treat, you’ll also find variations on the park classic that are exclusively available at the lowkey open-air eatery.
The best of the bunch (and, quite possibly, the most exciting food option in all of Disneyland) is the Chili Mango Whip which will be familiar to fans of the Mexican mangonada, the kitchen-sink smoothie that’s having a moment stateside. There’s a lot going on here starting with the creamy, tropical swirl of Mango Whip that accompanies the traditional Pineapple. Add to that the sweet and sour splash of chamoy (a pickled fruit sauce); the citrus heat of the chili-lime seasoning tajin; plus the cooling crunch of jicama and cucumber; and you’ve got a veritable Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride of flavors and textures that perfectly suits the Loaded Whip’s Adventureland setting.
Related Reading: How to Make Dole Whip at Home
For Turkey Leg Fans: BBQ Turkey Leg
Turkey legs have long been a popular food option at Disneyland and while they are offered at several spots throughout the park, the only place you will encounter a saucy spin on the cartoonishly-large limbs is at the quirky Troubadour Tavern. Despite its name, the medieval-themed snack shop is merely a kiosk tucked away alongside the Fantasyland Theatre, home to the “Mickey and the Magical Map” stage show. Along with its off-the-beaten-path location it also has extremely limited hours which revolve around the show schedule. If you get your bearings and timing right you’ll be treated to hearty fare such as bratwurst and a selection of fully-loaded stuffed baked potatoes. But it’s that smoky, meaty turkey leg bathed in sweet BBQ sauce that’s truly worth all the effort.
Related Reading: The Basics: How to Cook a Turkey
For Churro AND English Toffee Fans: Churro Toffee
A hybrid of two beloved legends, Churro Toffee is essentially the Blue Ivy of Disneyland sweets. Toffee dominates here (which I guess makes it the Beyonce), but a slathering of white chocolate studded with an ample dose of cinnamon and sugar takes the sublimely sweet and crunchy confection to a whole other level. (If you’re bringing some home, make sure to store your stash in a cool place, though you’ll probably just end up eating it all immediately after purchasing.) The unique treat is available at multiple locations on the property including Candy Palace and Candy Kitchen in Disneyland Park and California Adventure’s Trolley Treats.
For Popcorn Fans: Outpost Popcorn Mix
One of the strangest Disneyland phenomenons (among many) is the increasing popularity of ornate popcorn buckets that are more fashion accessory than food receptacle. But for those who’d like to use these corny commodities for their stated purpose, a trip to Kat Saka’s Kettle in Galaxy’s Edge is in order. There you’ll find the multi-colored, sweet and spicy Outpost Popcorn Mix which is ideal for on-the-go-snacking. No surprise, you can opt for a bucket upgrade which, in this case, is shaped like a MSE-6 Series Repair Droid, better known to Star Wars fans as the Mouse Droid.
Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Eating & Drinking at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
For Monte Cristo Sandwich Fans: Three-Cheese Monte Cristo
If there’s a “Best Of Disneyland Food” list, the Monte Cristo will likely be on it, and rightfully so. The famed turkey, ham, and swiss sandwich that’s battered, fried, dusted with powdered sugar, and served with berry purée, is most notably offered at the Blue Bayou Restaurant but you can also find it at the more casual Cafe Orleans. There you’ll find a vegetarian, but equally decadent version of the croque-monsieur cousin which swaps mozzarella and double crème brie for the turkey and ham. The French toast meets grilled cheese fusion is a messy, meatless marvel.
For Lobster Nachos Fans: Maine Lobster Quesadilla
Thankfully California Adventure’s Lamplight Lounge continues to serve the cult-favorite Lobster Nachos popularized at the restaurant’s predecessor, Ariel’s Grotto. An equally delicious combo of tortilla, cheese, and crustaceans can be found nearby at another recent addition to the Disney dining landscape.
The Grand Californian Hotel’s poolside Craftsman Bar is already creating buzz with its elevated gastropub menu with selections such as Garlic Soy-Glazed Chicken Wings and a multi-meat Charcuterie Pizza. But the Maine Lobster Quesadilla, loaded with two cheeses (jack and queso fresco) and caramelized onions, then topped with spicy mayo, is the must-order. Pair it with a Pineapple Ginger Margarita and savor some time away from the insanity of the theme parks.
For Original Corn Dog Fans: Hot-Link Corn Dog
Disneyland’s made-to-order hand-dipped corn dogs are the stuff of legend which is why there’s often a queue at Main Street’s Little Red Wagon and California Adventure’s Corn Dog Castle for a taste of some cornbread battered goodness. At the latter, you’ll also find a hot-link version of the theme park staple, and if you prefer a little heat in your meat tube, this is the one to order. Just remember, yay on the mustard, nay on the ketchup.
Header image courtesy of Sarah Gardner