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