From Carthay to the Cafe, Buena Vista Street Brings Tastes of the 20’s

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“If Main Street, U.S.A., is the romanticized version of Walt Disney’s hometown, Buena Vista Street is the next chapter of Walt’s life when he came to California,” says Ray Spencer of Walt Disney Imagineering. “It’s an extension of where we started at Disneyland park . . . and now our guests can step across the plaza and get the rest of the story.”

A big part of that story was the premier of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937 at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles, and that landmark building is the inspiration for the spectacular Carthay Circle Theatre that anchors Buena Vista Street. This new landmark for Disney California Adventure park becomes one of the premier dining locations at Disneyland Resort, the Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge.

Celebrating “opening night at the movies” during the Golden Age of Hollywood, Carthay Circle Theatre is a spectacular new landmark at Disney California Adventure park. The historic design will draw guests inside to discover Carthay Circle Restaurant upstairs, with a menu created by award-winning Executive Chef Andrew Sutton, and a lounge downstairs, with each telling the story of Disney movie-making through the years.

“Carthay Circle Theatre is the perfect building to visually anchor Buena Vista Street,” says Ray Spencer, the creative director for Buena Vista Street for Walt Disney Imagineering.  ”Stately, identifiable and quite spectacular.”

Couple the design with a seasonal menu that celebrates California’s diverse cuisine, toss in the flair of Disney theming, and it’s a winning combination for a casual and fun dining experience at the end of Buena Vista Street.

“The iconic central tower is the heart and soul of Carthay Circle Theatre,” Spencer says. “There’s a lot of ornate, custom woodwork – probably more details than the original theater. It’s full of textures and materials, custom tiles and plaster; very elegant, warm and rich.”

The building is modeled on the original Spanish Revival architecture of the 1920s, but not an exact duplicate. In the first-floor foyer, the décor tells the story of the relationship of Carthay Circle Theatre to the Walt Disney Company, with photos and artifacts from the 1937 premier of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” Disney’s first feature-length animated film.

The first-floor lounge features an artifact case with treasures from the Disney Archives that periodically will be changed. “You’ll see pieces you’d never have the opportunity to see, except at the archives,” Spencer said. “And we won’t stop the clock in 1937, but will pay tribute to the studios and its achievements through the decades.”

The interior of the 68-seat bar and wine lounge is reminiscent of the grand palace movie days.

The upstairs dining room and terrace feature elegant, custom woodwork and millwork in rich tones, artwork and a beautiful center atrium skylight. Photos show Walt Disney and wife Lillian in formal attire at movie premieres and celebrations of accomplishments by The Walt Disney Company. It creates the feeling of a premiere after-party and “It’s as though you’re invited to the party,” Spencer said. The 200-seat dining room is divided into small rooms for a more intimate experience, including a terrace with seating for 56.

While the interior evokes the grand elegance of a classic movie premiere, the ambiance of the restaurant and lounge is warm and family friendly.  “We’ve created a sanctuary to escape from the bustle of the park,” says Andrew Sutton, the executive chef. The design and theme are social and informal – a place where guests enjoy beautifully prepared seasonal cuisine. Servers jauntily attired in slacks and bolero-style jackets interact with guests in a friendly manner, guiding them through the inventive menus in the restaurant and lounge.

“Upon arrival, guests are greeted downstairs and escorted up the graceful staircase or by elevator to the restaurant,” says Joy Cushing, restaurant manager. The Carthay Circle Restaurant features tabletops with handsome artwork, dinnerware with the restaurant’s logo and Italian linen napkins – an upscale-casual ambiance.

Downstairs, the Carthay Circle Lounge is the place for a quick meal, shared plates and a glass of wine, craft beer or handcrafted seltzer soda.

In each place, historic photographs and artifacts create a sense of place and tell the story of the Walt Disney Studios. Disney continues its tradition of legendary service in this comfortable, relaxing atmosphere.

While Walt Disney’s animation was a hit at the original Carthay Circle Theatre in the 1900s, the cuisine is the star of this modern-day rendition of the famed movie house. Acclaimed chef Andrew Sutton, executive chef at Napa Rose restaurant at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, also is executive chef of Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge. Gloria Tae, Sutton’s protégé at Napa Rose, is chef de cuisine.

Sutton describes the menu as “Southern California cuisine – breezy, light and fresh.” The menu offers five varieties of sustainable fish, both wild and farmed, in dishes such as sushi-grade yellowtail grilled with jerk spice, topped with a tropical salsa of pineapple, mango, black beans and lime, and Sierra Golden trout roasted with couscous, lemon and oil.  The lunch menu includes an udon noodle bowl with red Thai curry broth, and an Angus burger with Tillamook cheddar cheese.

Vegetables are hand selected by staff who visit the Santa Monica market and local farms seeking the best of the best local produce. With a nod to the heyday of the Carthay Circle Theatre, old-fashioned dishes such as “liver and onions” get a modern twist, with crispy fried chicken livers served with a salad with buttermilk dressing, bacon and onions.

Desserts, too, honor the seasons, with summer desserts including “Peaches In All Their Glory” and seasonal county pie with whipped brown sugar sour cream.

“Its modern cuisine that pays tribute to the bold and diverse flavors of Southern California,” says Sutton. “We live in the ‘salad basket of America,’ with farmers, artisans and ranchers.”

A friendly wine program includes both Old and New World wines, with a focus on California vintages.  All of the servers have wine training.

Kids can choose from fun creations such as sloppy joes with house-made slaw, pasta and mini crispy tacos, or a beef filet or fish for dinner.

Each guest who orders an appetizer and entrée or an entrée and dessert will receive complimentary, center-stage viewing for the “World of Color” nighttime, water spectacular on Paradise Pier Bay. Lunch guests and guests who have dinner before 7 p.m. will receive tickets to the first “World of Color” show; guess who dine after 7 p.m. will receive tickets to the second show.

The Lounge menu is divided into Bites, Rolls, Snacks, Small Plates and Finger Desserts, served in a place to “relax, share and have fun,” Sutton says. Tastes range from hot shrimp with a chilled spicy tomato shooter to duck confit sliders with apricot conserve, watercress, crisp onions and Taleggio cheese.

Appetizers are paired with hand-crafted classic cocktails, California craft beers and world-class wines. Handcrafted purified seltzer sodas dispensed from antique seltzer bottles and meddled with seasonal fresh fruit are a specialty.

The Carthay Circle Restaurant will be open daily from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. For reservations: 714-781-DINE or email [email protected] with date, time and contact information. “World of Color” packages are available to each guest who orders an appetizer and entrée or an entrée and dessert. They will receive complimentary, center-stage viewing for the nighttime, water spectacular.

Buena Vista Street also offers three spots for quick bites: Fiddler, Fifer & Practical CafeMortimer’s Market andClarabelle’s Hand-Scooped Ice Cream.

The 178-seat Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe (134 inside, 44 outside) offers Starbucks coffee drinks; signature sandwiches such as a turkey Rueben, paneer and roasted vegetable and salami with olive tapenade, and roast beef and cheddar, as well as savory soups including vegetarian cream spinach, chicken tortilla, classic chicken noodle and cheesy enchilada. Sweet rolls, pastries and breakfast sandwiches are on the morning menu along with specialty coffees.

Mortimer’s Market will offer whole and cut fruits, bottled water, juices and soft drinks. (According to Disney legend, Mortimer Mouse is the name Walt Disney gave his new creation in 1928. He later changed it to Mickey.)

Clarabelle’s Hand-Scooped Ice Cream features Dreyer’s ice cream, including bars dipped in milk or dark chocolate that guests can finish with sprinkles, pop rocks and other fun toppings.  Hot fudge and strawberry sundaes and other frozen delights round out the sweet offerings.

Stay tuned to Disneyland News Today for continuing coverage of Buena Vista Street leading up to it’s Hollywood premiere during the media festivities taking place June 13-15, 2012.

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About the author

Tom Corless

Tom has been regularly visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort from the time he was 4 months old. While he has made countless visits in the last 28 years, he did not become a truly active member in the Disney fan community until the summer of 2007, when he decided to launch the WDW News Today website and podcast. Tom has since become an Orlando-local and is a published author on Walt Disney World.
Contact Tom at [email protected]

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