Avoid Long Waits, Restaurants Near Disneyland to the Rescue

Table of Contents Anne Marie PanoringanPedestrian-Friendly FindsVenturing Further Out for Anaheim AlternativesBordering Buena Park PossibilitiesAnne

If you are planning a visit to Disneyland or Disney California Adventure (DCA) in the not-so-distant future, you’ll want to educate yourself on the current dining situation. Families with children will want to pay special attention, as the way in which guests order food has evolved since both theme parks reopened on April 30, 2021. Beyond the stand-alone soda and snack carts, most meals will require a certain amount of planning.

Anne Marie Panoringan

Voice of OC’s food columnist — reporting on industry news, current events and trends. Panoringan’s prior work includes writing about food for 8 years at the OC Weekly in which she interviewed more than 330 chefs, restauranteurs and industry professionals for her weekly “On the Line” column. She has been recognized by the Orange County Press Club and she also is a recurring guest on AM 830’s SoCal Restaurant Show.

Except for outdoor vending, nearly all quick-service food outlets (and a few carts/kiosks) highly encourage mobile ordering and payment via the Disneyland app prior to claiming your food. Available standby lines have been few and far between during the gradual reopening of Disneyland and DCA, and places that accept seated reservations are typically booked up by the time you arrive on site. 

My initial experience using Disneyland’s app was at the beginning of June. I actually canceled my first order because there was only one person in the standby line. I received my food almost immediately after a receipt was handed over. Yet when seeking lunch, Disney’s app listed wait times of at least an hour at quick-service outlets before pickup. When you consider estimated waits at most attractions weren’t as long, it was a little ridiculous. The line I encountered at Frontierland’s Stage Door Cafe wasn’t for standby – it was a queue for paid orders! Managing to get a fried chicken meal from Plaza Inn on Main Street 30 minutes later, I refused to endure a longer waiting game for dinner. 

Coincidentally, I visited Disneyland during the same weekend that Avengers Campus was opening inside Disney California Adventure, also impacting wait times on the app. Friends who spent the day at DCA that same weekend reported that Pym’s Test Kitchen (the newest eatery) was selling out of its entire menu well before dinnertime. One friend was so determined to dine there he went back the following day, pre-ordering early so his meal was guaranteed to be available for lunch. 

Disney’s phone app may make food or beverage transactions more streamlined with cashless payment and limited in-person interaction, yet coordinating one person’s (much less an entire household’s) eating schedule is easier said than accomplished when roaming a theme park. Exploring local joints outside of the park is the way to go when experiencing Disney dining fatigue like I did. 

For your upcoming visit, I’ve assembled a list of suggestions that my friends and I frequent outside of Disney and its downtown district. You’ll find options that are walkable and affordable, as well as dining spots for people looking to spend a little more or willing to drive a few miles out of their way for a tasty experience. 

Pedestrian-Friendly Finds

Without a set of wheels and uninterested in paying for rideshare? Many properties surrounding the Disneyland resort have shifted from less-inspired menus to including regional and smaller dining chains that famished families can appreciate. 

Almost a decade ago The Pizza Press was a random eatery along Harbor. Today this build-your-own pie concept has risen in popularity with outlets in a handful of states, with the original hole-in-the-wall relocated to the Anaheim Hotel, a short walk away from Disney. For a modest fee customers work their way down the line editing and “publishing” a blank dough canvas to their liking. Bourbon bacon, chevre cheese and squash mingle next to more traditional toppings. You can pair your custom creation with a craft beer before digging in. 

Custom pizza and salad offerings from The Pizza Press. Credit: Photo courtesy of The Pizza Press

Launched at the end of 2020, Anytime Hawaiian’s Harbor outpost is a few doors over from the Grand Legacy at the Park hotel. A popular yet costly travel destination, Hawaii is well-known for its unfussy cuisine. Plate lunches comprised of white rice, a scoop of mac salad plus protein of choice are an Aloha State staple. Open until 10 p.m. as of this writing, its quick-service menu features all-day breakfast, saimin (noodle soup) bowls and a variety of musubi, Anytime’s island version of sushi. 

The San Diego-based concept known as Puesto placed its next O.C. location along Disney’s major cross street of Katella, making it walkable from the convention center (See: Beyond Van Gogh and Richard Chang’s review) and adjacent to Westin’s newest site. From the honeycomb windows to enclosed booths peering directly into the kitchen, it’s a property for the senses. Simmer down from the heat with ceviche, or order the chicharrones with a guac for a twist on chips and dip. Puesto’s tacos are cheesy in a good way, and the mushroom handhelds taste just as hearty as meat. 

Pro tip: Diners that aren’t registered guests at hotels are still welcome in most hotel restaurants, but most people aren’t aware of this. With plenty of hotels within walking distance to the park,  this opens up untapped options for Disney visitors.