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Monday, April 29, 2013

The Disneyland Traveler Returns To The Carnation Cafe

There is no doubt the Carnation Cafe on Disneyland's Main Street is one our favorite places to eat in the park. There is just something quintessential Disneyland about dining from the simple menu in the open air under the brightly colored red and white umbrellas. Of course being in the outdoors, the dining experience got a little iffy when the weather got insufferably hot or briskly cold but fortunately, the warm Southern California temperatures have cooperated for the most part.

So leave it to Disney to come along and in their infinite wisdom try and fix a good thing. With the remodel of  the Carnation Cafe that took place last year, along with the outdoor seating, there is now a small indoor dining area that was formally occupied by the Blue Ribbon Bakery. The indoor dining was welcomed a few weeks ago when we hit the Carnation Cafe for dinner on a night when the temperature was rapidly cooling off. While the indoor space is not very large it is pleasant with rich woodwork and nice detail and did not feel cramped at all as with some of the other Disneyland dining locations.

But as it seems with many Disneyland changes, there is a BUT.... This time, with the slightly upscaled dining facility, the decision was to make some unpopular, unneeded, an unwanted changes to what had been a simple menu that had something for everyone and worked that way for years. Gone were the chicken pot pie, the shepherds pie, and very nice chicken breast sandwich on a croissant and what was formerly a popular half sandwich and soup option. Of course, the legendary baked potato soup was still on the menu but when I ordered it a few weeks ago, it was still good, but didn't have that over the top goodness that I was expected after ordering it so many times through the year.

Carnation Cafe's Baked Potato Soup
My sister is a pickle fanatic. The Carnation Cafe now offers a quirky deep fried dill pickle appetizer that my sister just had to try and so I sampled one as well even though, as for pickles, I can take or leave them. The deep fried dill pickled tasted just like it reads - a screaming hot dill pickle, coated, and deep fried served up with some kind of ranch dipping sauce. It wasn't bad but without my pickle crazed sister, it's something I would never order myself.

Deep Fried Dill Pickle Anyone?

I ordered the Green Chili Cheeseburger which I have been eager to try ever since I first read about it when the new menu came out. I'm a green chili (poblano) fan and putting one on top of an angus burger with manchego cheese and a fried egg seemed delectably different. The burger and toppings were served up on a fresh baked brioche bun and that's where this menu item went down hill for me. The bun was huge - just way too much bread and as for "fresh baked" - it really didn't taste all that fresh. I ended up discarding the top bun and eating the burger with a knife and fork using just the bottom portion of the bun. The meat seemed flavorless, as did the cheese and chili for that matter. The only part about the assemblage that I really enjoyed may have been the fried egg which was perfectly cooked (and it was the first time I had a fried egg on a burger which is an upscale trend that is gaining in popularity). The accompanying french fries were pretty run of the mill as well. So there I was in the Carnation Cafe with a soup that didn't let me down a little and a burger that disappointed me a lot.

The Green Chili Cheeseburger. In the end - a disappointment

Mrs. DisneylandTraveler went with the Fried Chicken Breast (a Walt's favorite the menu claims). It was served with mash potatoes, country gravy, and succotash. She let me sample a bit of her meal and I would have been happier ordering that but even the fried chicken and accompanying gravy had an issue as it seemed to be a little bit heavy handed with the pepper. The chicken had some quite noticeable and surprising zip to it. What was wrong with the chicken sandwich or chicken pot pie anyway? Many Carnation Cafe fans have asked that question.

The Fried Chicken Breast - Good but a bit peppery.

Which brings me to maybe my biggest disappointment of the meal. I flat out ordered the wrong thing. As we were walking in, we noticed a pasta dish with some succulent shrimp sitting out for display. The waitress explained that this menu item was popular over the Valentine's Day Limited Time Magic event and they offer it as a non-menu item. My sister and her husband opted for the shrimp pasta dish and couldn't have been more pleased. She offered me one of her shrimp and would have to agree. Best thing I ate the whole meal. It needs to be on the menu (or just bring the old menu back and everyone would be happy).

Finally - Excellent!
So even though I was a bit disappointed with Carnation Cafe on my last trip, I haven't given up hope. The chicken pot pie was always my go-to meal and now that its gone, I need to just find another one. This time it won't be a burger. Note: only covering the Carnation Cafe as a lunch/dinner table service eatery. We have not eaten breakfast there.

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