Disneyland’s Carnation Café Review

In this Carnation Café review we look at the food offerings for breakfast and lunch. Also, the history of the longest working Disneyland Cast Member is explained–plus how you might be able to meet him.  “Carnation Condensed Milk, the milk from contented cows.”

Carnation Café Review disneyland

From Parlor to Patio a Carnation Café Review

Originally opened as the Carnation Cafe Ice Cream Parlor on July 17, 1955, the Carnation Café has gone through a variety of changes over the last half century. The largest change came in 1997 when the Ice Cream Parlor closed it’s doors after being acquired by Nestlé, and the Carnation brand was phased out. During the Spring of 1997 the Carnation Cafe re-opened in the outdoor area that still exists today. The current indoor dining area, which was the Blue Ribbon Bakery a few years ago, was the site of the original Ice Cream Parlor. If you eat in any of the booths on the right-most wall, that is where the former ice cream parlor counter would have been. Today you can have some of the most sought-after breakfast items at any Disney Resort, as well as luscious lunches. Reservations are highly recommend during peak seasons, however I have never had to wait more then twenty minutes for a table when I did not have a reservation.

Breakfast of Champions

Carnation Café has a wonderful array of ways to start of your morning. First and foremost has to be Oscar’s Choice: All-American Breakfast.

Carnation Café Review Scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, Oscar’s potatoes, a croissant and your choice of bacon or sausage with fresh fruit in 2012. $9.99

Scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, Oscar’s potatoes, a croissant and your choice of bacon or sausage with fresh fruit in 2012. $9.99

Carnation Café Review As of 2013, two eggs any style accompanied by Cafe Breakfast Potatoes and Biscuit served with your choice of Hickory-smoked Bacon or Chicken-Apple Sausage.

As of 2013, two eggs any style accompanied by Cafe Breakfast Potatoes and Biscuit served with your choice of Hickory-smoked Bacon or Chicken-Apple Sausage.

I have ordered this many times and it’s best when Oscar is the one cooking. The eggs are always cooked to perfection, and I have never had a broken yolk on my sunny-side up eggs. The fruit and chicken-apple sausage are always fresh and full of flavor. The potatoes with sautéd white onions are “world famous”. If your interested in the recipe, Disney Parks Blog posted the recipe three years ago here.

Start the day with a Mickey Waffle

Another popular breakfast option, especially for kids is the Mickey-Shaped Waffle.

A Mickey-Shaped waffle served with hickory-smoked bacon or chicken-apple sausage links. $10.49 You can add apple or strawberry topping for 0.99. In 2012 you use to get one large Mickey-Shaped Waffle

A Mickey-Shaped waffle served with hickory-smoked bacon or chicken-apple sausage links. $10.49
You can add apple or strawberry topping for $0.99. In 2012 you got one large Mickey-shaped waffle.

In 2013 you get two smaller Mickey-Shaped Waffles.

In 2013 ,you get two smaller Mickey-shaped waffles.

Members of my party have ordered this multiple times and the waffles have always been cooked just crispy enough on the outside for texture with a warm and fluffy inside. You can also replace the sausage or bacon with additional fruit.

Huevos Rancheros–Off the Charts

During my last visit I wanted to try one of the Café Specialties, and decided on the Huevos Rancheros.

Corn tortillas, poached eggs, jack cheese, and fire-roasted salsa served with avocado-black bean pico de gallo. $9.99

Corn tortillas, poached eggs, jack cheese, and fire-roasted salsa served with
avocado-black bean pico de gallo. $9.99

Now, I love Oscar’s Choice for the combination of a well-made traditional breakfast and the nostalgia it brings, but the Huevos Rancheros may be the best single breakfast item I have ever eaten within a Disney Resort. The textures all play well together, and the fresh ingredients really make a difference with this entree. Unexpected delights like this that make me want to order more outside my normal trends. Seriously, if you are at Disneyland for multiple days try the Oscar’s Choice one day, and come back a second time for the Huevos Rancheros.

Don't Get the Ham and Cheese Omelet

Lastly, there is the Ham and Cheese Omelet which is my least favorite item of those I have tried on breakfast menu.

A Ham and cheese omelet served with cafe breakfast potatoes and fruit. $9.99

A Ham and cheese omelet served with cafe breakfast potatoes and fruit. $9.99

Nothing to write home about here, it’s just a basic omelet with melted shredded cheddar cheese in and on top of the omelet with the great breakfast potatoes and fresh fruit. It's just ok, not great.

Fresh OJ

Also don’t forget to wash everything down with a glass of orange juice.

Carnation Cafe Orange Juice (2013)

Carnation Cafe Orange Juice (2013)

Lunch

In my many years of visiting the park I never had visited the Carnation Café for lunch but decided it was time to change that. Being it was our first time for lunch at the Carnation Café I wanted to try a few different items. I checked my Yelp app on my phone and saw the fried pickles with dipping sauce were very popular.

Dill pickle spears dipped in parmesan and panko, fried golden brown and served with a house sauce. $5.99

Dill pickle spears dipped in parmesan and panko, fried golden brown and served with a house sauce. $5.99

Wow, just wow. I have had all sorts of deep fried artichoke hearts and zucchini but these really take the cake. We enjoyed them so much that even when our entrées arrived we ordered a second batch to be brought to the table. The inside was tangy and matched perfectly with the crispy parmesan and panko outside. I prefer the house-sauce but they are also good dipped in a side of ranch. If these were sold outside of Carnation Cafe at an outdoor stall like the Cones in California Adventure I think there would always be a long line. Up first is the Turkey Sandwich.

Smoked turkey, tomatoes, monterey jack, lettuce, and mustard aioli on a pretzel roll. $11.99

Smoked turkey, tomatoes, monterey jack, lettuce, and mustard aioli on a pretzel roll. $11.99

It seems the pretzel roll is a current food trend with even fast food joints hopping on-board. That said I tried it and was pleasantly surprised by the roll, which was closer to sourdough in texture. It was still a little chewy for me, but the thick cut tomato and smoked turkey worked well. The french fries are also the best I’ve had in the park.

Green Chili Cheeseburger–Yum

An angus chuck patty, manchego cheese, roasted poblano chile, tomato, lettuce, fried egg, and house sauce on a toasted brioche. $14.99

An angus chuck patty, manchego cheese, roasted poblano chile, tomato, lettuce, fried egg, and house sauce on a toasted brioche. $14.99

The burger was pretty good, and I mean the totality of the burger. The toppings were it’s saving grace because the angus patty was a bit dry and lacked flavor. The fried egg’s covered perfectly all of the poblano chile when I bit down. I was surprised that the chile was most more flavorful and less spicy then I originally anticipated.  The manchego cheese provided a lingering sweet aftertaste with every bite.

Chocolate-Cherry Coke…You Like Tootsie Rolls? Then get this drink.

To wash everything down I decided to try one of the specialty drinks, starting with the chocolate-cherry coke ($3.79).

Chocolate Cherry Coke with Sully Duffy (2013)

Chocolate Cherry Coke with Sully Duffy (2013)

All I can say is if you like tootsie-roll’s then you will love this drink. That’s even what the waiter had told me and I didn’t understand until I tried some. It literally tastes like your drinking liquified tootsie-rolls.

Lunch Round TWO

Several months later I returned to the Carnation Cafe for a second lunch to try a few more menu items. First up was the Walt’s Chili Starter.

Hearty chili topped with cheese, sour cream, and fresh tomato. $6.99

Hearty chili topped with cheese, sour cream, and fresh tomato. $6.99

The chili was rich, hearty and filling. I recommend a lighter entrée after consuming this as your starter. Now just in case you are a disney food historian, this is not Walt’s recipe. You can find that recipe at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.

Regular Cheese Burger–A Little Dry

I wanted to give the Carnation Café burgers another shot and didn’t want to be distracted by extra toppings, so this time I ordered the classic Main Street Cheeseburger.

Angus chuck patty, tilamook cheese, tomato, red onion, lettuce, house  sauces on toasted brioche. $11.99

Angus chuck patty, tilamook cheese, tomato, red onion, lettuce, house
sauces on toasted brioche. $11.99

The burger definitely had more flavor and was cooked closer to medium then the green chili cheeseburger I had prior. That being said it was good, not great.

USE CAUTION WITH PB&J Soda

Lastly I decided to wash everything down with the other specialty drink the Carnation Café offers, the PB&J Soda.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Soda (2013) $3.79

Peanut Butter & Jelly Soda (2013) $3.79

I had high hopes, having had the oddly amazing PB&J shake at the 50’s Primetime Café in Walt Disney World. This concoction was not palatable by any sense of the word. Also what is Disney’s new obsession with topping their drinks with flavored foams? Most of the foam’s are overly sweet, like liquified candy meant for a child. My advice, stay away, far away from this beverage. Instead try one of the excellent shakes. On a final note, one one of my trips I tried one of “Walt's Favorites,” the Homemade Meatloaf.

Homemade Meatloaf (2013)

Made with a special blend of Beef and Pork served with Ketchup Glaze, Mashed Potatoes, Mushroom Gravy, and Seasonal Vegetables. $12.49

The meatloaf itself was very rich and flavorful and the ketchup glaze really put it over the top. The red mashed potatoes were buttery and fluffy, but I wasn't a big fan of the succotash.

Who is Oscar?

Earlier in the article I mentioned an entrée named Oscar’s choice that was served with Oscar’s potatoes. So you might be wondering who is Oscar. Oscar Martinez is the longest tenured cast member at Disneyland. He started working at the resort in 1956 and has been at the Carnation Café since 1967. Many times when you order the Oscar’s choice he will cook it, come and deliver it personally and visit with you. Definitely a highlight for any Disney fan.

Lasting Impressions

I have never been let down at the Carnation Café and have always received warm and friendly service. The combination of classic atmosphere and delicious food keeps me coming back for two to three visits every Disneyland trip. Next time when you are in, say hi to Oscar. I confidently give the Carnation Cafe 5 out of 5.

8 comments add yours

  1. My friends and I use to go here often for breakfast. But I hadn’t been here for breakfast at all since its remodeling. And reading through your thorough breakfast review reminded me how the Croissantwich and Croissant Benedict are no longer on the menu. That’s just plain sad. I have been there to try their new lunch and dinner offerings tho’ and enjoyed everything I’ve tried so far including the PB&J Soda! It has a strong peanut butter after-taste that caught me by surprise at first, but I enjoyed it. One of the best things I’ve had there was the Pepper Jack Skellington Burger that was offered during Halloweentime. It was similar a patty melt but with bacon instead of onions. I hope it returns this year. If it were added permanently to their menu it’d be a hit because, you know…bacon! 🙂

    • Ahhh Bacon, the piece of food powerful enough to improve any dish. I have never had the croissant sandwich, but that sounds good.

  2. We’re planning our first trip to Disneyland in May. Thanks for this review of the Carnation and cool info about Oscar – that’s what we want to hear! Looking forward to deciding when we will eat at this restaurant and making reservations!

  3. I eat at the Carnation Cafe quite frequently. In fact, it’s almost every Saturday morning at park opening. That’s the best time to be in the park anyway, when the crowds are low, you can even see the Main Street vehicles empty on the way back from the partners statue hub to the plaza.

    I have never had a bad meal at the Cafe. For breakfast, Oscar’s Choice is my favorite. For lunch, I go for the Main St Hamburger. It’s divine every time. As for dinner, it’s usually the Chicken Fried Chicken. Talk about yummy. And another must is the fried pickles. A great way to start your meal.

    I’ve been fortunate to meet Oscar several times, but he’s there only during the week. The last time we spoke, his shift typically starts about 5am, and runs until about 2pm. So you can catch him during the breakfast and lunch hours. Recently he had been home sick for a few months, and I always asked how he was doing. Once I found out he returned about 2 months ago, I made it a point to see him and see how tell him how much we missed him. I hope someday Oscar received the honor of his own “window” on Main Street, right above the Cafe.

    The Cafe is also a fun place to eat and see the parade. I have captured many great photos from there while having a great meal. Can’t get any better than that. One last thing about the Cafe is their service. Everyone there is very friendly and they always get our order right the first time. Since we have breakfast there a lot, we try to ask for the same server, Chandler. We have struck up a friendship of sorts, telling stories and just getting to know each other. I worked at the Plaza Inn when I was 17, and even thought I was a big Disney fan at that time, I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I do now.

    The Carnation Cafe at 201 Main Street USA is usually my first choice for any meal in the park. If you haven’t been, you should try it out. It feels like home to me now. If you plan your day right, I would advise to get there a little early. Otherwise, they will give you a pager which you can walk all the way up and down Main St with. So you don’t have to sit there waiting and be bored.

    I too give the Cafe a 5 star rating. I am never disappointed.

    • Thanks for the insightful review. Based on your experience and history with the restaurant there couldn’t be a better place to start the day off at the parks.

  4. Great post! Fried pickles = heaven on earth. I could possibly live on these alone. Interesting about the pbj soda. I was wanting to try that next!

    • Disney has now officially retired the soda from the menu. I guess they read the review.

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