Review: Carthay Circle Restaurant

Located in Disney’s California Adventure theme park on Buena Vista Street, Carthay Circle is the newest full service restaurant to open at Disneyland. The restaurant was designed as a replicate the famous Carthay Circle Theatre. The interior is decorated in ornate furniture with rich gold and brown coloring to reflect Hollywood’s Golden Age. Built on two stories, guests can enjoy drinks and snacks in the lounge on the main floor or a meal upstairs in the dining room. 

Lobby in the Carthay Circle restaurant

I checked in for my 11:40AM reservation on time and waited about 10 minutes before being seated. Considering I was by myself and it was just before lunch, I thought it was a bit of a wait. The hostess who escorted me to my table talked about the history of the original Carthay Circle Theatre and its significance to Walt Disney. I didn’t realize that it was the theatre where Walt Disney held the gala screening of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’. The main dining area is located on the second floor of the restaurant along with a private dining room and an outdoor patio. I was seated in a smaller room just off the main dining area.

Main dining room in the Carthay Circle restaurant

One of the benefits of dining at Carthay Circle is the Word of Color Dining Package. Guests who order an appetizer and entrée or an entrée and a dessert receive a complementary ticket to a reserved viewing area for the World of Color Show. Without tickets from a dining package or a fastpass, guests must watch the show from the Toy Story Mania area or to the right of Paradise Bay.

Carthay Circle’s lunch menu

Carthay Circle’s menu has a number of traditional dishes such as burgers and fries, pasta and salads but also a features unique offerings such as beef cheek sliders and firecracker duck wings. There were also a number of interesting non-alcoholic beverages on the menu such as wildberry lemonade, rose petal soda and a Twin Bill, a mix of lemonade and iced tea. I opted for a Twin Bill, the pulled pork sandwich, the house biscuits and decided to try a dessert as well.

Sourdough bread basket

While I waited for my appetizer, a basket of warm sourdough bread and salted butter was brought to my table. Even though I love fresh bread, I tried not to eat too much because I knew I had an order of biscuits on the way. Surprisingly, the biscuits and the sandwich arrived at the same time. I felt that having the two items arrive at the same time defeated the purpose of an appetizer but the food runner left before I could say anything.

Carthay Circle’s House Biscuits

I decided to try the House Biscuits ($8) first which were warm and arrived in a basket together with a side of apricot butter. I was expecting fluffy biscuits but these were small and round with a crunchy exterior. They were about the size of a golf ball and didn’t look like any biscuit I had eaten before. I was skeptical until I cut into one to reveal a warm, gooey cheesy center. I was in heaven! The biscuits were wonderful on their own but absolutely divine once combined with the rich creamy sweetness of the apricot honey butter. I could have eaten an entire serving of these! There were about 7-8 biscuits in the basket – perfect for sharing!

Carthay Circle’s Korean Pulled Pork Sandwich
The kimchi side for the Korean Pulled Pork Sandwich

Next up was the Korean Pulled Pork Sandwich ($18) which came with a small side of kimichi and fries. The sandwich was served on a soft bun with a large heaping of pulled pork which was topped with a fried egg, a sprinkling of cilantro micro greens and sriracha mayo. Although the sandwich was plated beautifully, it was a disappointment the moment I took a bite. I believe pulled pork sandwiches should be soft, tender and juicy; it should be “melt in your mouth” soft but the meat in this sandwich was tough and dry. Worse, the pork was left in large unshredded pieces which it difficult to eat by hand. I ended up using a knife and fork to cut the sandwich into pieces. The texture of the meat also made it difficult to discern the flavours of the sandwich. The kimchi was also a disappointment as it was one dimensional – it had heat but seemed to be missing the tanginess and slight sweetness normally associated with the pickled cabbage. On the other hand, the French fries were very well done. They were thin and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Peach and White Chocolate Mousse Cannolis

The waitress came by for my dessert order once I was done with my meal. I wanted to ask the waitress a few questions about the desserts but she appeared rushed. In the end, I chose to have the Peach and White Chocolate Mousse Cannolis ($12) which were cannolis filled with white chocolate mousse served on a bed of grilled peaches with a peach sorbet. I had hoped dessert would be better than the entrée but was disappointed again. While the cannoli shells were crunchy, the white chocolate mousse filling lacked flavor. They had a nice thick consistency but no detectable white chocolate flavor or the usual “spices” associated with a cannoli.

After a few bites of my dessert, I noticed one of the hosts walking around room looking over at me. He appeared a bit hesitant and I wondered why he was hovering around my table while I ate dessert. He finally approached and sheepishly asked if I wouldn’t mind moving tables. I pointed out that I was almost done and would probably be gone within 10 minutes. He said they needed my seat to accommodate a larger party of eight guests. I just looked at him and he seemed genuinely embarrassed for having to ask. He offered to comp my dessert at which point I figured it was just easier to move; after all dessert wasn’t very impressive.

The lounge on the main floor of Carthay Circle

Overall, the design of the restaurant was well done – I enjoyed the attention detail, the decor and the general atmosphere was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the parks. However, décor and design will only go so far. I was not impressed with the food but figured maybe the dishes I ordered were duds, I could let that go. The service however was far from being on par with Disney standards. The server barely checked in on me but was attentive to her other table of four. I had to ask to have my water refilled several times and being asked to move tables mid-meal was unconventional and annoying. I don’t believe it is acceptable to interrupt a guest once they’ve already started their meal.

Carthay Circle Restaurant at night

I wanted very much to like Carthay Circle but instead ended up being quite disappointed. For the amount I spent on lunch, I would have chosen instead to have a counter service meal and used the extra money to purchase souvenirs. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt as they only opened their doors back in June. Perhaps I visited on an off day. Hopefully they are able to work out the kinks for future guests.


15 thoughts on “Review: Carthay Circle Restaurant

  1. Wow. You’re not kidding about ‘kinks’.
    Bringing an appetizer out with the main is a huge pet peeve of mine (or both apps at the same time if you’ve ordered two). What better way to say “we can’t wait to get you out of here”…
    But being asked to move while you were eating? Inexcusable.
    The restaurant looks beautiful, though.
    Thanks for the great review.

  2. Sounds like they definitely missed the mark. Bad or indifferent service can completely ruin your experience. And, boy do I agree with you about the pulled pork. I’ve had amazing versions and dry tough ones too. So disappointing!

    1. I could almost let the food go but the service wasn’t great. I’m almost willing to bet that if I had one other person with me, they wouldn’t have asked me to move.

  3. The service has been terrible there. I am told it was due to a lack of trained staff accustomed to fine dining. Therefore more seasoned counter service food workers were “upgraded” The dining choices are unconventional and not always great. The dinner steak for instance is essentially a slab of beef in the center of a plate with a ton of sauce, a few mushrooms and a couple grapes cut in half. For the price and considering the upscale nature of the establishment it is very disappointing. I cannot reccomend it to friends, nor would I return anytime soon, dispite the very ornate dining room detail. The bar on the other hand is wonderful, and while the drinks are expensive the bartenders are pleasant and helpful.

    1. Thanks for reading Ken!

      I didn’t realize that the restaurant had hired counter service staff. That might explain a few things. I have to agree with you about the price and upscale nature of Carthay Circle being a disappointment. I have sent an email to Disney. I hope that the higher ups are paying attention to our concerns.

  4. I ate the entire basket of biscuits and apricot buttah.

    But it was nice running into a celebrity while there in the lobby. I’m not saying who it was, but it was very exciting to meet them.

      1. We had three baskets on the table. Over on MY end sat a vegetarian and an Keiki. Guess who got the basket?

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