Upon entering the Carthay Circle Lounge at Disney California Adventure park, one is immediately whisked away to early 20th century Los Angeles. Its décor is richly furnished with leather seating, vintage style lamps, and earthy tones reminiscent of the era. The wood floors and thick curtains really enhance the interior as well. Many old time photos of Walt Disney and other luminaries of the time period really presents a nostalgic vibe.
The food of the Carthay Circle Lounge is almost anachronistic to the décor. It is a very contemporary menu consisting of mainly California Asian fusion cuisine. This is a tapas style menu, so be prepared to order multiple items. It is really upscale bar food, the kind one will likely see in a high-end gastropub.
The Carthay Circle Lounge is a place my wife and I frequent often. It’s a great place to getaway from the crowds on Buena Vista Street. The quiet ambiance is a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of the park. I’ve had the opportunity to try almost every dish on the menu, so I’ll just point out a few highlights.
If you’re in the mood for something refreshing on a hot day, the Chilled Watermelon Skewers are just the ticket. Four small squares of watermelon are topped with a Mango-Lime sorbet and dusted slightly with a chili powder. The chili powder is a great touch because it opens your palate to the sweetness of the fruit and sorbet. For convenience, they are presented with a clear plastic skewer.
In contrast, they also offer something for the chili-head like me. Those who enjoy some spicy heat, I would highly recommend the Hot Shrimp. Although it comes with only one large shrimp, it is big enough that it requires a few bites. The Chilled Spicy Tomato juice packs a nice punch in terms of spice. I’ve had this a few times, and the level of heat does vary. Sometimes it warms your mouth to point of needing a sip of water, and other times it’s quite mild.
Another delectable treat is the Santa Monica Deviled Eggs. The egg whites are perfectly cooked and hollowed out vertically with only the top 1/3 removed (unlike most restaurants that divide them in half horizontally). The filling consists of egg yolks whipped with Lemon Créme Fraiche. Each portion is topped with smoked salmon and a smattering of crushed capers. This is one of the most perfect deviled eggs I’ve ever tasted. The dish combines the creaminess of the egg yolk, smoky flavor of the salmon, the slight citrusy brightness of lemon, and the saltiness of the capers.
They also serve Roasted Moroccan Lamb Meatballs, which seems out of place given the main thrust of the menu. Nevertheless, this mediterranean-inspired plate is quite good. The lamb meatballs were cooked to perfection, with a slight char on the exterior and the inside moist and tender. It comes drizzled with a Tzatziki and Pepperoncini sauce.
For the hungrier crowd, they also serve a few small plate dishes. While one may not think of asparagus as being substantive, the Jumbo Asparagus might just change your mind. Each spear is about the diameter of an average person’s index finger. They are cut about 6-inches in length and come wrapped in American Prosciutto, which is more thickly sliced than the traditional Italian style. Generous amounts of shaved parmesan adorn the top along with a handful of toasted pine nuts. Everything is tied together with a Parmesan Aioli sauce.
Another heartier offering is the Duck Confit Sliders. This is one of my wife’s favorites. It’s quite rich and decadent for a small plate. The meat is prepared confit style, which means the duck is poached in its own fat. This lends to a slight oily mouth feel, but it is not too greasy. The chefs mix in some sweetness with an apricot conserve, which pairs excellently with the robustness of the duck. A conserve is made with dried fruit, so the texture is thick and chunky.
The Carthay Circle Lounge has an extensive list of drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Their wine selection is very generous, although I’m not well-versed enough to gauge how well they are stocked. The bartenders are quite knowledgeable and their cocktail menu seems themed to the early 20th century era. As for the choice of beers, its more about quality than quantity. They offer a variety of microbrews, including some local types.
My wife is not much of a drinker, so she usually orders one of the non-alcoholic beverages. Her favorite is the Wildberry Lemonade. This is mixture of lemonade and sparkling water infused with a variety of berry flavors. It comes topped with a wildberry fruit foam, which adds a touch of creaminess. This is a bit on the sweet side, so it is not as appealing to me.
I do enjoy beer and appreciate the small selection available. On tap they have three varieties from the Anaheim Brewing Company, as well as Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale and Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA. If you’re not sure what to order, they do have a tasting flight that includes the three beers from Anaheim and comes with some salty bar mix.
The cocktails are quite unique and include what is purported to be Walt Disney’s “drink of choice,” the Scotch Mist. I’m not into hard liquor, but was curious to try this libation. If you love the flavor of scotch whisky, then this is the one for you. Personally, it was a bit harsh for my taste and can essentially be classified as a standard scotch on the rocks with a lemon twist.
One of the delights of ordering at the bar is the way they make martinis. The bartenders have a special device that takes a large piece of ice and creates a perfect sphere. This is not the type of machine one can order from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Anyhow, if you’re craving a unique experience, order one directly at the bar and enjoy the show.
The service at the Carthay Circle Lounge is very good, when it’s not busy. For the most part, the wait staff is attentive to your wants and needs. However, when the lounge area starts to get full, the attention of the staff lacks a bit. Not that they’re bad servers, it’s just that they tend to get overwhelmed.
For a nice break from the crowds, the Carthay Circle Lounge is a perfect choice. The interior décor instantly takes you to another time and place. For a delicious snack or light dinner, the food is on par with many upscale tapas bars. The beverage selection is enough to satisfy any type of drinker. This is the kind of place I would envision Walt sitting with Imagineers to devise the next big thing or to go alone and enjoy a bit of solitude.