What WDW Vets Need to Know About Dining at DLR

HydroGuy

A Pirate's Life For Me
Joined
Jun 5, 2005
The first thing to understand about DLR dining is that about the only thing in common with WDW dining is that both involve food. If you want me to tell you where you should dine, sorry, that is not my purpose. My purpose instead is to give you some high level guidelines about how to dine and how not to dine at DLR which you can then apply to your own unique situation. Even so, I will squeeze in a few suggestions just to get you started. :)

As a preface I will encourage WDW vets not to look at the dining differences as deficiencies - as if DLR is somehow inferior in general or with regard to dining in particular. Rather, DLR has a different history and demographic visitor mix and that results in differences in how dining is approached and offered. The good news is that most of those differences are in the WDW vet's favor. The bad news is that if you do not understand the differences you could plan things in such a way that detracts rather than enhances your DLR visit.

This link on the DLR website is worth reading at some point: http://disneyland.disney.go.com/dining/

Let's start off with every diehard WDW vet's biggest question - ADRs. Then the second biggest question - Disney Dining Plans. Then we will move through other common questions and offer some high level guidelines.


How Do Dining Reservations Work at DLR?

Dining reservations are taken two months in advance at DLR (often called 60 days in advance - even though it is really two months) and they are not called ADRs - just reservations. Some people call it PS - Priority Seating. As of Oct 3, 2013, there is an online reservation system that functions like the one for WDW. Here is a link:

https://disneyland.disney.go.com/dining/

Here is a Disney blog article that discusses the online system:

http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2013/09/make-your-disneyland-resort-dining-reservations-online-beginning-october-3/

Note: The DLR hotel guests do not get any advantage on dining reservations over non- resort guests. Specifically, the "+10 days" rule used at WDW does not apply at DLR. You cannot use the two month point for making reservations and then make reservations for subsequent park days that are past the two month point. You will need to make reservations each day separately if doing so at the two month point.


Does DLR have a Dining Plan Like WDW and, If So, Does DLR Offer Free DDPs Seasonally?

Yes, DLR has a dining plan. No, it does not work like WDW. And no, DLR's DDP (Disney Dining Plan) is never free.

The DDP at DLR are merely vouchers for dining. You prepay for vouchers and then use them as cash. If you do not spend the entire voucher you lose the money. The DLR DDP is one of those rare areas which has a unanimous opinion by DLR vets: it is not a good deal.

If you want to read more about the DLR DDP see this link on the DLR website.


Do Dining Reservations Get Taken as Fast as at WDW?

In short, no. For reasons that will be explained, dining reservations at DLR are in low demand. This means that often you can make a reservation a week or even a day beforehand for a prime dining time and still get what you want.


Don't DLR Vets Care About Dining?

Rather than answer this with a simple yes or no, I will talk about demographics and history. My understanding is that WDW visitors are 85% out-of-towners and 15% locals. At DLR it is 30% out-of-towners and 70% locals. Further, WDW has roughly three times the visitors each year as does DLR. One item to understand is that the majority of visitors to DLR are not on vacation. They are predominantly day trippers from among the 20 million people who live in Southern California.

Disneyland started in 1955. It has always drawn heavily on local residents. Local residents on day trips do not view dining the same way as WDW vets on vacation. I personally grew up about 45 minutes away from DL (before it was DLR) and I know this very well. Our philosophy was always that dining was something to be done cheaply and quickly - because we were at DL for only one day a year and we wanted to do rides - not eat.

So answering the question about whether DLR guests care about dining, the answer is that by and large DLR vets do not care about dining the way WDW vets care. They do not view dining as part of the Disney experience. They tend to view dining as a distraction from what they came to do - to go on rides. As such it is common to see DLR vets and most DLR visitors have higher interest in fast counter service and lesser desire for slower table service options. For this reason the demand for dining at DLR is much, much less than at WDW and that is why reservations are available much closer to the date of your visit.

As a DLR vet, on my first visit to WDW in 2006 I did not get this. I could not understand all the fuss about ADRs. Now that I have visited WDW a few times I have grasped how dining can enhance the Disney experience. I have personally brought this philosophy back to DLR and now use a modified WDW approach to dining at DLR.


Should I Even Make Dining Reservations at DLR?

By all means, make dining reservations. With the new online reservation system on Oct 3, 2013, DLR is charging for cancellations like WDW has in recent years.


Does DLR Have Good Dining Options?

Yes DLR has good dining options. But it lacks the variety and creativity you see at WDW. Probably the biggest difference is the lack of ethnic dining options like those found at Epcot.

You will find enough choices to satisfy you over a 3-5 day trip. There is some good food at DLR. But WDW dining aficionados may be a little disappointed in the end. It really depends on the person. We enjoy dining at DLR - especially now that I use my modified WDW approach.


How Should I Approach Dining Differently at DLR?

The reality is that ADRs at WDW have gotten out of hand in my opinion. Making dining reservations six months in advance? Really? Committing to certain parks six months in advance based on expected schedules for shows like Fantasmic? That requires a lot of learning, pre-planning and energy. I can barely get my family of teens and college students to agree on anything even a month before. Then once you arrive you need to slavishly adhere to dining schedules. Don't get me wrong. I have really come to appreciate WDW dining. I just do not much like the process and the feeling of being a slave to my ADR times.

At DLR you have several factors working in your favor. First is the lower demand for reservations as already discussed. Second is that most of the guests are not looking for table service. And third is that everything is so close together. DL, DCA and DTD are all within a 5 minute walk of each other - 15 minutes if you are talking about the farthest reaches of each location. So is the GC Hotel. The DL Hotel and PP Hotel are another 5 minutes away.

Because the parks are so close, most DLR vets strongly encourage their WDW brethren to think about park hopping differently. One can experience a lot more in a given time if they park hop.

Since park hopping is so easy, DTD is so close, the DLR hotels (and their restaurants) are so close, and all you need are your feet, DLR itself lends itself to a much more dynamic, seat-of-the-pants experience. You can change your plans on a dime and still not miss out.

For example, say you have a dining reservation at 5PM in DL. And on that day you find yourself in the DCA park and everyone decides they want to see the excellent Aladdin show at 5. What to do? You can often call that afternoon and get your reservation moved later. Or just call and see if you can get a reservation for the next day. There is no need to work everything around your dining reservations.

Similarly, let's say it is a hot afternoon and your kids are having fun at the pool. But there is a dining reservation. At WDW you will be strongly tempted to roust everyone out of the pool, dry off, get dressed and make it to the bus stop (20 minutes early, right?) so you can get to your ADR. At DLR just postpone it and let your kids do what they want at that moment - to swim!

At WDW the ADRs are relatively inflexible and can drive your day and park choice. At DLR you can choose whichever park you want to visit that day, park hop, and still eat at all the places you want. Dining no longer drives your day. Your day is driven by whatever happens to come up that day. If you can let go of your ADR fixation at WDW, the DLR approach is a much more relaxed and, dare I say, fun experience.

So which reservations should you make? I would suggest the best approach is to make reservations with a tentative mindset. There may be one or two that are fixed - say your Blue Bayou reservation at DL. But overall treat your reservations as tentative. Don't make hard reservations for every lunch and dinner and force the whole group into that schedule. Rather, make reservations at places you want to dine and then once you get there go with the flow. Be ready to move reservations to another day on the fly and cancel some of the reservations as a result.

I tell my family each morning which reservations we have that day and when. They know which ones are the ones we need to try hard to make, and which ones we can let go based on how the day goes.

Keep the DLR Dining number handy on your mobile phone and if you think you want to dine somewhere, just call. Even a few hours ahead of time can save you a wait.


Can We Dine Outside at DLR?

It rains much less at DLR than at WDW and the humidity and heat are much less. So DLR offers more outside dining than you find at WDW. If it is warm out then it is really nice to eat outside as much as possible.


Which Restaurants Take Reservations at DLR?

See this list on DIS here: Disneyland Resort Priority Seating Information


Where Can I Find DLR Restaurant Menus?

See this list on DIS here: DISneyland Menu Databases


Is There Any Place Special We Should Dine?

Probably the most special and unique place to dine at all of DLR is the Blue Bayou at DL. It is built into the POTC ride and it is fun to sit and watch the guests float by. The Blue Bayou is DL's signature restaurant. The Napa Rose at the GCH is a top notch restaurant as is Steakhouse 55 at the DLH. The new Carthay Circle Restaurant in DCA offers signature dining. Ariels Grotto at DCA offers indoor and outdoor dining. The outdoor dining is right on the Paradise Pier Lagoon and a nice place to sit and take in the park on the water - especially during warmer times.


How Do the DLR Counter Service Offerings Compare to WDW?

At this point it should come as no surprise that since DLR caters more to the "eat quick and cheap" mentality of many Southern California day trippers that their counter service offerings are pretty good. Many would say they are superior to WDW in both quantity and quality.

With this in mind, it is another impact on the whole reservation issue at DLR. Since there are more quality CS options that do not accept reservations then the overall need for reservations at DLR is even less. If you find you do not have time for a sit down lunch one day - or are just too "fooded out" from table service - just cancel your table service reservation. Or, heaven forbid, don't even make one in the first place! Then head to a CS option.

There really are lots of good CS options and I hesitate to start naming them because it makes it sound like the ones I don't mention are in some way inferior. They aren't. We personally would eat at just about any of them but tend to find ourselves more often at Jolly Holiday Bakery and Plaza Inn at DL, and Flo's V8 Cafe and Pacific Wharf Cafe at DCA.


Is There Character Dining at DLR?

Yes. Again, it is not in as much demand as at WDW but it is available. See http://disneyland.disney.go.com/dining/list/#/character-dining


Does DLR Have Any Special Dining Packages for Shows Like Fantasmic!?

Yes. For more information see these links:

"World of Color Superthread" www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=37986447

"Fantasmic! Superthread" http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2671983
 
Last edited:

Hound 109

<font color=teal>So non-screamin' family members c
Joined
Oct 10, 2006
Cool. A dining Super Thread.

The differences of the DLR dining plan vrs. the WDW dining plan would be helpful info to first time DLR visitors.

& also the fact that there is no free dining offered (at least hardly ever offered) at DLR...is something that seems to be discussed quite a bit.

Thanks HG!

:)
 

Judy from Boise

Watch out – might take away your
Joined
Aug 24, 1999
I am one who prefers DLR dining because of the emphasis on quick and tasty counter service with the opportunity to eat outdoors. I think DLR counter service restaurants have as many "ethnic" choices woven through their regular menus. What DLR lacks are the themed dining enviornments........that again I find intrusive so I don't miss them.

The one WDW restaurant I would love to have at DL is Boma !
 
  • bleeps

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 15, 2003
    Awesome, awesom post, HydroGuy! I couldn't agree more with everything you said!

    As WDW vets with just one DLR trip under our belts, we did find that the trade-offs all worked out and made sense -- so, it's true that you don't have to do the kind of lavish planning and then stick to your plans at DLR the way you do at WDW, and that allows you to be much more flexible and relaxed at DLR.

    We did make reservations at Blue Bayou, Wine Country Trattoria, Napa Rose, and Storytellers (for breakfast). I'd say the only of those that we didn't, strictly speaking, need (meaning that there were plenty of tables for walk-ins) was Storytellers. On the one hand, given that we are foodies, we *kind of* missed the variety of options (esp. of table service/signature places), but the quality and variety of CS places totally made up for it.

    Also, while we always have gotten the dining plan at WDW, we found that without it at DLR we ate more the way we usually do at home -- so by the last day we weren't feeling in what we call a *food coma* from many days' overindulgence! We also so enjoyed the freedom of having so few reservations.

    I know you've said this elsewhere and I completely agree -- no matter how many times WDW see/read/hear about the compactness of the property at DLR, you really can't believe it until you experience it. THAT also makes the dining experience and the planning thing just so much easier -- and we definitely would have made reservations at one or two places in DTD if we'd realized how convenient it is.

    I wish the moderators would start an entire dining section for DLR (not the sticky that they have, but a whole board) and this should definitely be the first sticky on it!
     

    skiingfast

    <font color=teal>Has had no bacon<br><font color=b
    Joined
    Mar 12, 2010
    does the Disney Dining plan at DLR work the same as it does at WDW?
    I think that should be added to the OP, because it's the number 1 or 2 question about DLR dining that people with WDW dining experience have.
     

    Hootch

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 4, 2006
    be doing one day at DLR this summer. I know, I know, that isn't enough time to really explore the parks, but this is a Southwest US trip and not a Disney trip. Maybe it will whet the appetite for a dedicated trip in the future.

    Are there times to avoid at CS locations in the summer, i.e. go before 11:30 AM or after 1:30 PM for lunch? Given the limited time, dining is not a priority but a necessity to make it to midnight.
     
  • skiingfast

    <font color=teal>Has had no bacon<br><font color=b
    Joined
    Mar 12, 2010
    Are there times to avoid at CS locations in the summer, i.e. go before 11:30 AM or after 1:30 PM for lunch? Given the limited time, dining is not a priority but a necessity to make it to midnight.
    That will certainly help. Though the CS locations don't get huge lines and the available tables handle crowds pretty well until peak times.
     

    HydroGuy

    A Pirate's Life For Me
    Joined
    Jun 5, 2005
    I am one who prefers DLR dining because of the emphasis on quick and tasty counter service with the opportunity to eat outdoors. I think DLR counter service restaurants have as many "ethnic" choices woven through their regular menus. What DLR lacks are the themed dining enviornments........that again I find intrusive so I don't miss them.

    The one WDW restaurant I would love to have at DL is Boma !
    Judy, I have seen you post this opinion before and I think it is a great opinion to post. ::yes::

    Since I am not a WDW vet but a DLR vet first and foremost, I do not find anything "wrong" with DLR dining.

    But...

    I do miss things like Sci-Fi Dine-In. Food pretty good IMO if you like burgers. But atmosphere is everything a Disney restaurant should be. I heard they were thinking about something similar for Cars Land and it did not make the final cut. But something like that at CL would be awesome. :thumbsup2

    We also like Beaches & Cream - I have not found anything like this at DLR. We like Whispering Canyon. The Big Thunder Ranch BBQ is the closest thing at DLR and not too bad.

    We sort of like Boma's but there is nothing at all like this at DLR as you pointed out.

    50's Prime Time Diner? Nope, nothing at DLR like this.

    I have not made it to all the Epcot World Showcase restaurants yet. We have done San Angel (inside), Naples, Teppan Edo, Rose & Crown and Le Cellier. DLR just can't offer this kind of variety or setting.

    On the other hand, Blue Bayou does not have anything quite like it at WDW - unless you count San Angel at Epcot. Sort of.

    Bottom line for us is that we are not pickie eaters or foodies and the DLR options always work for us just fine. I just wish they expanded into more creative areas like Sci-Fi or 50's Prime Time.

    :)
     
  • HydroGuy

    A Pirate's Life For Me
    Joined
    Jun 5, 2005
    be doing one day at DLR this summer. I know, I know, that isn't enough time to really explore the parks, but this is a Southwest US trip and not a Disney trip. Maybe it will whet the appetite for a dedicated trip in the future.



    Are there times to avoid at CS locations in the summer, i.e. go before 11:30 AM or after 1:30 PM for lunch? Given the limited time, dining is not a priority but a necessity to make it to midnight.

    Dining at CS places can get busy even at DLR. The usual times would apply. Avoid CS 11:45-1:15PM, and 5:45-7PM. As much as you can eat at off times will be better.
     

    Judy from Boise

    Watch out – might take away your
    Joined
    Aug 24, 1999
    Judy, I have seen you post this opinion before and I think it is a great opinion to post. ::yes::

    Since I am not a WDW vet but a DLR vet first and foremost, I do not find anything "wrong" with DLR dining.

    But...

    I do miss things like Sci-Fi Dine-In. Food pretty good IMO if you like burgers. But atmosphere is everything a Disney restaurant should be. I heard they were thinking about something similar for Cars Land and it did not make the final cut. But something like that at CL would be awesome. :thumbsup2

    We also like Beaches & Cream - I have not found anything like this at DLR. We like Whispering Canyon. The Big Thunder Ranch BBQ is the closest thing at DLR and not too bad.

    We sort of like Boma's but there is nothing at all like this at DLR as you pointed out.

    50's Prime Time Diner? Nope, nothing at DLR like this.

    I have not made it to all the Epcot World Showcase restaurants yet. We have done San Angel (inside), Naples, Teppan Edo, Rose & Crown and Le Cellier. DLR just can't offer this kind of variety or setting.

    On the other hand, Blue Bayou does not have anything quite like it at WDW - unless you count San Angel at Epcot. Sort of.

    Bottom line for us is that we are not pickie eaters or foodies and the DLR options always work for us just fine. I just wish they expanded into more creative areas like Sci-Fi or 50's Prime Time.

    :)
    My opinion is just that.....MY opinion ! My family loves Whispering Canyon, Sci -Fi, and Ohanas........I try to tolerate them with a smile for their sakes ! In return they indulge my need to see Illuminations at least 3 times a trip :)

    I am under impressed with most of the world showcase restaurants.....but love the beer !

    But anyone who tries DLR food with an open mind should be pleasantly surprised . I really enjoyed the new restaurant (quick order counter service) at the DL hotel. Beautiful hawaiian burger with sweet potato fries. YUM. Able to sit outside on the patio Priceless !
     

    Huff

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 2, 2007
    Have to agree about ADR's 6 months in advance is a pain. None the less, its not the issue so many make it to be. It has never taken me more than about 15-20 minutes to make all my ADR's for a week visit at WDW. The way I plan them it allows us quite a bit of flexibility by having multiple days that each show is possible to see and make our ADR. We do have hoppers so we're not tied to a particular schedule. We wake up each morning and decide which park to go to.

    I also agree that dining at DLR isn't really a part of our Disney experience as it is at WDW. We often dine off-site for breakfast and sometimes dinners too if parks close early. We greatly prefer the food and prices in DTD over eating in the parks but thats true at WDW also with the exception of Epcot CS being great.
     

    Huff

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 2, 2007
    We also like Beaches & Cream - I have not found anything like this at DLR.
    Head to Farrells which is 8 miles away from Disneyland in Brea. Ya, you gotta leave Disneyland and its only an option if you have a car, but at WDW its going to take you 40-60 minutes to hop around as well. If you have your own car, Farrells is a classic ice cream parlor that makes Beaches & Cream pale in comparison.
     

    tanyaewa

    Just can't get enough!
    Joined
    Jan 23, 2010
    Appreciate they well thought out post, hydroguy. Always great to have a definitive thread. I am sure you will add to it as time and thoughts permit.

    When I help newbies plan DLR trips I suggest they think ahead to a single reservation venue per day and leave the other meals open to timing and circumstance. The number of cs restaurants allow for a good amount of flexibility.
    The reservation line is also helpful to add a possible reservation to character meal or featured venue if time and scheduling permits.
     

    Schiffy

    Schiffy
    Joined
    Apr 27, 2004
    Great post, going to DL for my first time this weekend (before Hawaii cruise) and just going to go with the flow. This helps.
     

    OKW Lover

    Retired and living 2 miles from The Castle.
    DIS Lifetime Sponsor
    Joined
    Apr 29, 2004
    Thanks for this very helpful thread. As WDW veterans (100+ visits) but still newbees at DLR (only 3 visits) we just recently searched for the answers to questions you covered in the first post. :worship:

    Now a question. On our last trip to DLR, we ate at the Chef's Counter in the Napa Rose restaurant. It was such an outstanding experience that we are wondering if there are similar opportunities at any of the other upscale restaurants.
     

    HydroGuy

    A Pirate's Life For Me
    Joined
    Jun 5, 2005
    Now a question. On our last trip to DLR, we ate at the Chef's Counter in the Napa Rose restaurant. It was such an outstanding experience that we are wondering if there are similar opportunities at any of the other upscale restaurants.
    I can't think of anything like that. The NR is a special place.
     

    Halloweenqueen

    Whenever Candle Lights Flicker...
    Joined
    Mar 21, 2007
    Wonderful as always!

    While WDW has the upperhand when it comes to themed dining, DL is far superior when it comes to CS.
     

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