Do note that even with an early morning arrival, we still had a wait of about 3-4 hours before we were texted back to be seated via the virtual waitlist. Return times are distributed at the restaurant podium. The virtual waitlist opens at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM, if capacity allows, and they book up early—a window of about half an hour max for each release. If you’re planning your day at Buena Vista Street, do keep in mind that seating is first-come, first served. Thankfully, there are plenty of things to do, so after a stroll through the stores and other areas that are newly reopened, we made our way back to Carthay Circle for our meal.
Outside, guests can scan a QR code to find the Carthay Circle menu.
Plenty of socially-distanced seating has been set up off to the side of the restaurant. Thankfully, most tables offer umbrella cover, save for some of the smaller ones.
A note on seating, however—while you may score a beautiful table along the avenue, with views of Buena Vista Street, you might also end up in the back, practically in the queue for Disney Junior Dance Party, which makes things… far less picturesque.
Once seated, paper menus are still provided.
Despite the lounge-y streamlined menu, there are plenty of classic cocktails available. Do note that a meal must be ordered in order to also order an alcoholic beverage.
For those worried that you’ll miss out on the ambiance and grand interior of Carthay Circle, the inside of the restaurant is still available for guests to walk through.
As Orange County shifts back into the Purple Tier, this socially-distanced indoor seating will remain off-limits, as only outdoor seating is allowed for now. The restaurant is nicely dressed up for Christmas with a tree and garland.
A special display for the 65th anniversary of “Lady and the Tramp” is available, curated by the Walt Disney Archives.
Back at our table, our meals have arrived!
There are a number of new dishes on the menu, including the Shrimp Spring Rolls and the Chicken Meatballs (which the chef, Alex Flores, kindly recommended—we’ll have to come back for those!) Wanting something slightly heartier, we went for the Roasted Colorado Lamb and the Strozzapretti Pasta.
Roasted Colorado Lamb – $26
Roasted Colorado Lamb, Calabrian Chili Harissa, House Hummus
A charred piece of lamb is served on a smooth bed of hummus and chickpeas, then topped with sprigs of cilantro and mint, and swirled with spicy Calabrian chili oil.
We found the lamb to be cooked perfectly, with a nice char on the outside. The meat by itself tasted okay, but really shined when paired with the house-made hummus. We also appreciated that there were actual chickpeas in addition to the hummus, just to switch up textures a bit. In fact, the hummus was so delicious, we’d love to order this by itself as an appetizer.
The Calabrian chili oil was flavorful, but didn’t have too much of a spicy kick to it. When all three flavors—the charred, slightly smoky lamb, zesty hummus, and spicy, peppery sauce were mixed together, it was delicious.
The portion size was just right for a light lunch while out shopping, and it’s not too heavy for these slightly cooler autumn-winter days. Despite how delicious it was, though, the lamb is a little on the pricey side at $26.
Strozzapretti Pasta – $20
Strozzapretti Pasta, San Marzano Tomatoes, Basil, Parmigiano-Regianno
Next up was the Strozzapretti Pasta, where we learned a bit of a lesson in specialty pasta shapes: Strozzapretti noodles are an elongated form of Cavatelli that is hand-rolled, giving them an amazing texture that’s thick and hearty.
The pasta is topped with a dark red sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes, red chili flakes, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The sauce added some kick to the dish, with a little bit of heat coming from the red chili flakes. The tomatoes gave an otherwise heavy pasta dish a fresh twist.
The Parmigiano-Reggiano was plentiful, enough to compliment the dish and add a nutty flavor… but we’re “basic”, and we’d probably request extra cheese next time when ordering.
Overall, all of the flavors in this pasta came together to make a wonderful dish, and one that’s slightly more affordable at $20 (and vegetarian, to boot.)
Is it worth the hassle of arriving early and securing a wait time for Carthay Circle at Buena Vista Street? Well, yes and no. Between the excitement of finally having a park partially open, the general ambiance of Carthay, and wanting to eat something that isn’t a churro or a cheeseburger, Carthay Circle seems like the perfect place to dine at. However, keep your expectations tempered, because you may well end up eating a $26 lamb chop in a closed ride queue, even after jumping all those hoops to eat there. Still, the Cast Members were incredible as always, and we even got a visit from the chef, making experiences like these extra special. We’d probably recommend waiting until indoor dining reopens to some capacity, or see if other table service restaurants reopen in time for the optimal experience and value proposition, but if you really want to sip on that Ginger Rogers cocktail, just make sure you wake up early (and are hungry enough to order a meal.)
Will you be heading into Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure this week for some shopping and dining? Let us know in the comments, and check out our video tour below:
Check out our other posts from the reopening of Buena Vista Street: