Review: Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue Dining

Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue restaurant is an all-you-can-eat, full service dining establishment located in Disneyland’s Frontierland area. Reservations are accepted and recommended. They offer lunch and dinner everyday.

Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue restaurant entry way

Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue restaurant entry way

Howdy Partners! One of my favorite places for a sit down meal is Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue. Sadly, with the announcement of Star Wars Land beginning construction in 2017, the days are numbered for the entire Big Thunder Ranch area. Next time you plan a visit to Disneyland, I recommend you dine here before it’s gone.

Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue restaurant sign

Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue restaurant sign

Ambiance

The rustic setting of the Big Thunder Ranch area of Frontierland is magnificent. Although located adjacent to Fantasyland, the separation of the two is very distinct. The inclusion of a mini petting zoo, wooden buildings and ranch-style fencing really adds to the atmosphere.

Big Thunder Ranch Seating area

Big Thunder Ranch Seating area

Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue restaurant is entirely outdoor seating. At the front of the dining area is a cute stage where performers sing, dance, and interact with children. The Western-style vibe is very apparent.

Big Thunder Ranch Stage with Kids

Big Thunder Ranch Stage with Kids

During the various seasons of the year, cast members put up decorations to celebrate. I went around the 4th of July. As such, you can see the American flag motif in the photos. Halloween and Christmas are especially magical times with plenty of seasonal touches to really put you in the mood.

Big Thunder Ranch 4th of July decorations

Big Thunder Ranch 4th of July decorations

Menu

If you enjoy classic barbecue food, then this place is right up your alley. Both the lunch and dinner menus offer ribs, chicken, ranch beans, coleslaw and cornbread. Dinner offers two additional items: Smoked sausage and corn cob wheels. Vegetarians have the option of substituting the meat for a seasonal veggie and tofu skewer with barbecue glaze.

Although this is an all-you-can-eat joint, desserts are extra. Servers provide a list of sweets you can order at the beginning of the meal in preparation for the end. I’ve never personally tried any of the desserts because by the time I finish my main meal, I’m too full to eat anything else.

Big Thunder Ranch Dessert Menu

Big Thunder Ranch Dessert Menu

Soft drinks are included in the meal price, which makes Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue restaurant a good value. The price for lunch is $24.99 for adults, $11.99 for children. Dinner is $6.00 more for adults and $3.00 additional for kids.

Soft drinks are served in mason jars

Soft drinks are served in mason jars

Food

When it comes to dining, I’m more about quality versus quantity. Fortunately, Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue food is both. As indicated previously, lunch offers ribs and chicken. The ribs are pork and the chicken comes in assorted pieces. If you prefer white meat to dark, you can inform your server and they’ll accommodate your request.

Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue Utensils and Plates

Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue Utensils and Plates

 

If not prepared correctly, barbecued chicken can get dry. Fortunately, the first batch we received was perfectly moist and tender. The second round was a bit drier. Nevertheless, the flavor was really good overall. The sauce was sweet, but not too sweet. There was a hint of vinegar with a tiny bit of spiciness on the back end. It was just enough spice to warm your mouth ever so slightly, but so mellow that a young child could endure it.

All you can eat!

All you can eat!

Chicken was moist and tender

Chicken was moist and tender

The pork ribs had the same sauce and were fall-off-the-bone tender. I love pork ribs, so eating here is a nice treat. If it weren’t for the fact that ribs high fat content, I could’ve eaten a bucket all by myself. My only two complaints were that it lacked a deep smokey flavor and also a char that’s normally associated with barbecued ribs.

Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue Ribs and Chicken

Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue Ribs and Chicken

On the side were ranch beans, coleslaw, and cornbread. The ranch beans were good, but nothing extraordinary. They had a nice sweet tanginess and the beans themselves were cooked well.

Big Thunder Ranch Beans

Big Thunder Ranch Beans

As for the coleslaw, I’m not a huge fan in general, especially mayonnaise based versions. The one at Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue restaurant is a vinegar based recipe, so I did eat some. The red and green cabbage with other veggies tasted pretty good. As someone who doesn’t normally eat coleslaw, I actually found this one tolerable.

Vinegar based coleslaw

Vinegar based coleslaw

The cornbread was outstanding. It was moist and flavorful. I thoroughly enjoyed the little bits of corn kernels in the batter. Whipped honey butter is provided to spread atop the bread and it also had an awesome flavor.

Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue Cornbread

Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue Cornbread

Little kernels of corn in batter, yum!

Notice this little kernels of corn?

Whipped honey butter for the cornbread

Whipped honey butter for the cornbread

Service

Cast members at Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue restaurant are very friendly. My wife and I have never had a bad experience eating at this establishment. Everyone is dressed in Western apparel and are “quick on the draw” to tend to your needs. The staff seems to work as a group instead of a single cast member in charge of one table. My glass was never empty and ordering additional food was easy.

Big Thunder Ranch Stage

Big Thunder Ranch Stage

Overall

I will be very sad to see Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue restaurant ride off into the sunset in 2017. It’s the only place in either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure parks where you can get an “all-you-can-eat” meal. Some hotel restaurants around the resort do have buffets, but lack the unique outdoor charm this place offers. If you’ve never eaten here, I highly recommend you mosey on over to rustle up some of this delicious chow. So long partners!

Have you dined at the Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue restaurant? We’d love to hear about your experience!

One Thought on “Review: Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue Dining

  1. Pingback: Dining at Disney EP14 - Best Places to Carb Up for runDisneyWe Be Geeks

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