The Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles opened its doors in 1926 and hosted the premier of Walt Disney’s first animated feature-length film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 and later in 1940, Disney’s Fantasia. So it makes sense that Disney would honor this historical theater by paying homage to it in some form at its theme parks.
At Walt Disney World in Orlando, a replica of the Carthay Circle Theatre can be found at Disney’s Holywood Studios as a gift shop. At Disneyland in Anaheim, the revered theater is reincarnated as a lounge and restaurant in the resort’s California Adventure park.
The Carthay Circle Lounge is located in one-half of the first floor of the building, the other half is the check-in and waiting area for the restaurant upstairs. The Lounge has a small bar, a large community table, a few high-tops and some cocktail tables.
Reservations for the lounge are not taken and they only let in the number of people the Lounge seats, so there’s usually a line to get in that forms during peak times. Each time we’ve visited the lounge, we’ve never had to wait for more than 20 – 30 minutes to get in.
We usually visit the Lounge for an afternoon cocktail or snack or hit it up for a pre-dinner cocktail. There are a few food items on the menu such as flatbreads, tacos, sushi and other dishes that change frequently. But here, cocktails take center stage next to the framed photos of Walt Disney himself and Hollywood icons.
Beer, wine, and specialty cocktails make up the drink menu. It’s here where I experienced perhaps the best Manhattan I’ve ever had, and one that I look forward to each time we visit. The Carthay Manhattan is made with Bulleit Rye, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, and Luxardo Gourmet maraschino cherries served with an ice sphere made from locally sourced purified water. Simply fabulous!
We had to give the Pepperoni Flatbread a try, and it was actually pretty good! This wasn’t on the same level as the sub-par quick service flatbread available in some other spots. Crispy, a nice sauce and a good amount of toppings made this an enjoyable pizza for us to share.
The Spicy Chicken Roll was also a winner with the “spicy” coming from the sauce that is in the roll rather than the chicken itself. This was a large roll, with plenty of chicken and like the flatbread, was enough for the two of us to share.
Upstairs in the Carthay Circle Restaurant, where reservations are accepted and recommended, the menu is billed as “eclectic Southern California” with a focus on locally sourced, fresh ingredients. The menu changes seasonally, so some of the dishes I’m talking about today may not be available during your visit.
For starters, we went with the Fire Cracker Duck Wings ($15) which are tossed in a Sriracha Chili Sauce to give them a nice kick. Think buffalo chicken wings, but a bit less meaty. There was no “gamey” taste and the hot Sriracha sauce wasn’t overpowering or excessively hot. A nice choice for two to share.
We had to give the Carthay Signature Fried Biscuits a shot ($12) and were a bit disappointed. They weren’t a biscuit like we were expecting, instead, it was more like a gluey ball of fried dough that was supposed to be stuffed with white cheddar, bacon, and jalapeno, but was hard pressed to find any bacon or peppers in there. While they are billed as a signature appetizer, they were pretty bad.
Another appetizer we tried were the Chili Relleno that were served with a crispy duck confit, butternut squash, and a pear vinaigrette. This was actually pretty good! Full of flavor, the duck confit added a nice addition and the chilis didn’t’ have us reaching for a glass of water.
Salads, a chicken satay dish and blue crab lettuce cups wrapped up the selection of appetizers available on the menu.
Up next were our main entrees. There were only a handful of choices and all options were represented: pasta, lamb, pork, beef, poultry (quail, actually), and fish. The Thick-Cut Pork Chop ($38) was up first and I’ll say this chop was “good,” as there was nothing that stuck out and had either of us saying “wow, this is a great pork chop!”
Next, was the Grilled Angus Beef Rib-Eye ($45). This was one of the items recommended by our server, so I had some high expectations. The steak wasn’t all that thick and was very fatty. Now, before you say “rib eyes have fat,” yes they do. But this had more fat than I would have expected. However, the flavor was good, it was cooked to my desired temperature, but for the price, there are better restaurants to have a steak at.
The service and ambiance are the stars in this restaurant, unfortunately, the food comes up a bit short. We both left remarking that next time we’ll probably skip the restaurant and grab bites downstairs in the lounge. For the price of dinner, there are better options at some of the resort hotels if you want to stay somewhere on the property.