I would have to say that New Orleans Square might very well be my favorite section in all of Disneyland. From the eerie grandeur of the Haunted Mansion to the minute details throughout that evoke the jewel of the Gulf Coast, there’s real life, drama and class in every corner. All the space is perfectly proportioned, too, without an ounce of fat. Everything makes sense. Here, it seems, no corners are ever cut. Magnificent!
Happily, all of the food establishments in New Orleans Square are just as quality-driven. I can’t list one place there that is even average, not even the food carts. What brings out this special magic? It’s hard to say. Maybe because people associate New Orleans with food excellence, the park felt morally obligated to step up their game. It does not make sense that a section only a few feet away (like Frontierland) can produce food of such a different quality, but I swear it’s true, folks.
I don’t think you can do better in the park, for price, value and overall appeal, than the French Market Restaurant. Located attractively by the train station, facing the Rivers of America, this is a wonderful establishment that is considered casual dining, moves like quick service, and gives you the feeling that you are truly somewhere special. The Blue Bayou has all the reputation (and prices to match!), but I honestly feel this is the gastronomic heart of New Orleans Square.
In the open-air dining area, you can watch people casually strolling by as you listen to live jazz and sip a (non-alcoholic) Mint Julep. No matter how harried things can be, this festive environment has a way of soothing the mind, even in the dead heat of summer. All of the elements that make the park so great meld here in this one spot: the trees, the architecture, the smatterings of kitsch, the whimsy, the charm. You could ask for no better backdrop for a meal, I can assure you!
The food is just great. Given the constraints of food service in this capacity, they do some really amazing things. The jambalaya is not your typical Cajun style (this is Disneyland, after all, so they don’t really over-spice), but I really love it. They spoon a large ladle of tomatoey rice with vegetables, make a deep well and top it with a generous portion of shrimp and chicken. Flanked by cheddar cornbread and perfectly cooked tender-crisp vegetables, it’s a marvel. I had this very meal outside in the pouring rain, underneath a small cloth cover, and had one of the most pleasant eating experiences in my life.
Every time I have come here, either with a group or by myself, I have been nothing but satisfied. Some of the food isn’t always tip-top — it can happen, and it’s understandable. On one visit my Roast Beef Royale’ had somewhat gummy potatoes, and the beef seemed a bit over-tender (if that even seems possible), but it was all still highly edible. The consistency of the French Market still tops that of the other restaurants in the park by a wide mile.
They also have lovely desserts. I had a mini cheesecake with raspberries and a Jack Skellington head perched atop — it was something you would expect to see at only the fanciest of cafes, and was available here for a modest fee. Again, just magic.
Overall Grade: A
If you really want to put a big exclamation point of your Disneyland experience, I would strongly suggest you eat here. It is everything the park should be, and if I didn’t already vow to eat at every restaurant in the park, it would be the only place I’d ever dine.
Cuisine: American, Cajun-Creole, Healthy Selections
Service Type: Casual Dining
Price Range: $$ ($10-$20 per person) *
Meals Served: Lunch, Dinner, Snack
Location: New Orleans Square