Disney California Adventure’s Carthay Circle Restaurant, the centerpiece of the Carthay Circle Plaza, is one of the finest restaurant and lounges in the Disneyland Resort.
The building itself is a replica of the iconic Fox Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles, California. The now-demolished theater, that was most popular during Hollywood’s golden age, is famous for being the site of the official 1937 world-premiere of Walt Disney‘s first feature-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. While Disney’s replica does not house a theater, it does house the restaurant, lounge, as well as a the members-only lounge, “1901”.
Every square foot of Carthay Circle interior is ornate and immaculate, from the wrought-iron sconces, to the gold-foil-patterned ceilings. You won’t find any enamel paint, cheap upholstery, or harsh lighting here; just beautiful wooden archways, and soft, warm tones. The carpeting in some areas is a replica of the carpeting in the original Carthay Circle Theatre, but most of the decor is original Disney conceptualization and imagineering. The look and feel here is so immersive that you forget you are within the confines of a hustling, bustling theme park; and aside from your mobile phone sitting on your table, you may forget what century you are in. I personally love the piano/jazz versions of classic Disney songs softly in the background, and the cool air-conditioning which is perfect on a hot, busy day in the parks.
When you first step past the Carthay Circle foyer, you are met with the reception area, which includes the check-in desk, part of the lounge, as well as the stairway and elevator to the main dining restaurant (reservation only) and restrooms. Beautiful geometric lanterns hang overhead, and a wood and glass wine case separates the area from the main bar and lounge area. No reservation required for the bar and lounge, however wait times vary greatly with time of day and crowd flow.
The main lounge area features high-top tables, and lavish golden drapes with ornate tassels. In either part of the lounge you can order appetizers and small plates for sharing, such as the cheese board or a flatbread, both of which change ingredients seasonally.
The bar itself sports warm backlighting and an antique-styled draft beer tap. Here, as well as anywhere in the lounge and restaurant, you can order classic cocktails reminiscent of those popular in the 1930’s, after prohibition’s repeal. Try the delicious Carthay Manhattan, or Walt’s favorite: the Scotch Mist.
Even the garnish station sports an elevated look, with cubical glass jars and a custom ice-sphere press for martinis.
Carthay Circle serves some of the most stiff drinks in the Disneyland Resort, so even though that martini is 12 bucks, it’s a pretty good bang for you buck. The classic, smooth flavors are a nice break from the sweeter and more colorful drinks of the Cove Bar.
Upstairs, the hallway leading into the main dining rooms features more gold drapery and geometric light fixtures. Just like the downstairs lounge, virtually every room upstairs features vintage photographs of Walt, some with his various celebrity friends, as well as photos of the original Carthay Circle Theatre. The details in the various wallpaper patterns throughout the restaurant are exquisite, especially within the wooden wall panels. One set of these panels actually hides a hidden door to a supply room for custodial cast members to access.
As you enter the proper restaurant portion of Carthay Circle Restaurant, you are are standing in the main dining room, with its visible kitchen and exposition window. The centerpiece of the room is a wine station. Like the foyer, only real, fresh flowers are featured, this time Calla Lillies. A few of the tables in this main dining room feature a very subtle and obscure figure in the wood-grain which you will likely only realize when pointed out: the face of the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. However, the pièce de résistance of this room is the ceiling fresco, which contains scenes from the enchanted forest from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Again subtle, but very familiar once you identify the scene.
The main dining room is connected by even more dining rooms and open-air patios. The largest of these rooms is the Hollywood room which can seat many small parties or one party of around 20. The Hyperion and Buena Vista rooms are very intimate private dining rooms which seat only up to five guests, all available by special reservation via Disney Dining.
Between the Hyperion and Buena Vista rooms is the most highly coveted private room in the restaurant: the Premiere Room. Seating 12, in addition to special reservation, a deposit is [usually] required to book this room. The Premiere Room is located in the center of the Carthay Circle tower, with three windows overlooking Buena Vista Street, boasting a direct view down the street toward Disneyland park. You can see the Disneyland fireworks directly centered from the middle window of the room. The exclusive room features its own small side stations for glasses and pitchers, and has a closing door for privacy.
If you look closely in the above photo, you can see that below the table is a granite real-life replica of Snow White’s wishing well. The iron chandelier is inspired by the Evil Queen’s crown with a small poison apple hanging from the center. Looking to the right side when facing the windows is Walt’s first and last photos ever with Mickey Mouse. This room is so special that it can be a truly emotional experience.
There is so much more to Carthay Circle Restaurant not highlighted here: the patios, views, and rooms that I didn’t get photos of. Next time you are in Disney California Adventure, stop in for a drink, or even just a peek. You’ll likely love it. 🍸