Happy Days are here again! When I first entered Flo’s V8 Café last year, memories of my childhood sprang forth. I grew up with the television show Happy Days and this restaurant provided instant nostalgia. It’s easy to imagine sitting inside with Richie, Potsie, Ralph Malph and the Fonz in a booth nearby. Although rooted in a classic 50s diner style, Flo’s seamlessly and excellently incorporates the Cars movie theme. Everything from the floors and overall décor to the background music and neon accents really sets the mood well. Only when looking or eating outside that one realizes they are actually in a theme park eatery.
This is a quick-service restaurant, so it isn’t quite like the diners of yesteryear. Patrons make their selections from cashier stations in front of the service counter. After paying, you pick up the food and choose a seat either indoors or out. One thing that stood out to me is that you get to use real metal utensils. Most quick-service eateries around the resort just offer plastic forks and spoons. It’s a nice touch and reinforces the 50s vibe. There is ample seating whether you choose to dine inside or outside. If you’re in the mood for a great view, it’s best to veer left of the counter. That side of Flo’s offers a spectacular vantage point of Radiator Springs Racers. It does tend to be a bit more crowded in that area because many guests already know of its sublimeness.
When one thinks of a 50s diner menu, burgers and fries are what come to mind. However, Flo’s does not carry either item. Instead, the offerings veer more towards classic comfort foods of the era. The main menu consists of New York Strip Loin, Citrus Turkey Breast, and Pork Loin. These meats come with a choice of two sides including mashed potatoes with gravy, roasted corn medley, baked beans, peas and carrots, as well as cold dishes such as pasta salad and cole slaw. For the vegetarians, there is also a Veggie Tater Bake. On a lighter note, they have a Citrus Turkey Salad entrée. Dessert is not something to be missed either. They have classic milkshakes and Flo’s “Pie-O-Ramas.” The pies are individually portioned and made in-house. Chocolate Mud and Apple Cheddar are the mainstays, with a seasonal fruit pie that changes during different times of year. There is also a breakfast menu, but I have not tried anything from it. As such, I will save that for a later review once I sample the offerings.
Even though Flo’s V8 Café is a fast food type restaurant, the dishes make it feel like table service. I have been to this establishment a few times and have tried most items. On a recent visit, my wife and I decided to get the New York Strip Loin and Citrus Turkey Salad. We went during lunchtime, but it really doesn’t matter if it’s the afternoon or evening because the dinner selection is identical.
The New York Strip Loin seems to me like a misnomer. Although it’s technically steak, the way the meat is presented reminds me of pot roast. The beef is sliced rather thin, about 1/8-inch thick. It is served at medium temperature. In my opinion, steak is better medium-rare or even rare in some instances. Be that as it may, the strip loin is covered with a home style beef gravy. My wife opted for the mashed potatoes and baked beans as the sides. It also comes with a garlic chive roll as well.
The steak had good flavor, but not great. Wether it had to do with the level of doneness or the quality of the cut, it could be better. The meat was not overly tough, but it didn’t melt in your mouth either. Chewing is definitely required. Both my wife and I really enjoyed the mashed potatoes. It contained flecks of red potato skin that provided a nice textural contrast. Thankfully, they use real potatoes instead of dehydrated flakes. Given that my wife had the steak, we requested they cover it with their home style beef gravy (turkey gravy is the other option). While the mashed potatoes were really good, the baked beans were decidedly not. It was the first time either of us had tried them. We will be sure to avoid this particular side in the future unless changes are made. The flavor was vinegary and not very good. Moreover, it seemed the cooks utilized two different styles of beans, both being rather thick-skinned and under-cooked. This is a vegetarian dish, but I believe changes need to be made by incorporating either bacon or smoked ham.
My favorite salad of the entire Disneyland Resort is the Citrus Turkey Salad. This entrée includes mixed greens (thankfully no iceberg!), arugula, julienned carrots, sliced yellow peppers, and cucumbers. They serve it with a side of citrus tarragon dressing and a garlic chive roll. My only minor quibble with this salad is the yellow peppers. I think pepperoncinis would be a better choice by adding a bit of zing. Nevertheless, this salad is a wonderful combination of flavors that is second to none at the resort. The turkey is not processed like deli meat, but is sliced thinly. It’s the same as the hot dish, but I believe tastes better cold. They likely brine the meat because it is moist and has a nice depth of flavor. The carrots add a nice crunch, as well as a touch of sweetness for contrast. Cast members only give a small amount of the citrus tarragon dressing in a plastic ramekin, but they are happy to provide more if you ask. Given the size of the salad, I would recommend getting extra.
Both dishes were served with a garlic chive roll. I believe if they were able to somehow serve them fresh and hot, the flavor would be outstanding. However, the rolls are room temperature upon arrival and just taste okay. It’s like a Krispy Kreme glazed donut, once it’s cold, the special flavor is lost.
On a previous occasion, my wife and I had dessert. We opted for the Signature Apple Cheddar pie. After all, if it says “signature,” a restaurant is staking their reputation on that particular item. Anyhow, we both really liked the flavor of this dessert. It was sweet, with a touch of savory and creaminess from the cheddar cheese. The pie dough is not super flakey, but it did have a nice hearty texture. People tend to be divided on the taste of this dessert. Some really enjoy it and others not so much. At the very least, I would recommend trying it and decide for yourself.
Flo’s V8 Café is on par with other quick-service establishments in the fact that you place your order at the cash register and pick it up from the food station behind. I have not personally encountered any problems during my visits and the cast members are always Disney friendly as usual. The cleanliness of the restaurant is outstanding. Someone is constantly cleaning tables and making sure everything is in order. I love the fact that they have the metal flatware and the distribution station was kept full and neat at all times.
If you’re in the mood for some Happy Days 50s nostalgia and classic comfort food, this is the place for you. The atmosphere is wonderful and there are many areas inside and out which offer spectacular views of Cars Land. The food at Flo’s V8 Café is really good and, in my opinion, has the best salad around. If you’re only in the mood for a snack or dessert, the pies are a great choice. In any event, I would recommend taking the time to stay, look around, and enjoy everything this unique restaurant has to offer.