The Hungry Bear Restaurant is located in Critter Country on the banks of the Rivers of America. It sits directly across from Splash Mountain and offers magnificent views of the river and Tom Sawyer’s Island. The seating area is rustic to go with the restaurant’s overall theme. There is ample seating room on two levels. So, unless it’s extremely busy, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a table.
What makes this place so special is the spectacular panorama. You get this sense that you’re in a remote backwoods location harkening back to the days of Huckleberry Finn. The feeling is reinforced as you see the Mark Twain Riverboat, Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes and Sailing Ship Columbia glide past you in the river. Only the food and fellow diners remind you that we are living in the 21st century.
This is a Quick Service establishment, so the menu is limited and the same for lunch and dinner. There are three sandwich choices, two types of burger variations and Big Al’s Chicken Salad. On the side, they offer three selections including onion rings, sweet potato fries, and zesty slaw. The zesty slaw only comes with either a sandwich or burger and cannot be ordered separately. Hungry Bear also has a few desserts, the most notable being the Lemon “Bumblebee” Cupcake and Trixie’s Pie. For the kids, they sell hamburgers, chicken breast nuggets, and a POWER pack (yogurt, sliced apples, banana, and “fish” crackers). They even have something for young toddlers, which is a “Yummy Cheesy Macaroni.”
I have been to most restaurants at the Disneyland Resort, but amazingly enough this was my first time here. Since it’s in close proximity to New Orleans Square, I have a tendency to eat in establishments around that area. Anyhow, my wife ordered the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich with a side of sweet potato fries. People have raved about the sweet potato fries and deservingly so. While I personally do not like the flavor of sweet potatoes, I did try a few pieces for the sake of this review. Texturally speaking, they were crispy on the outside and starchy inside. Whether it is the nature of sweet potato or that the pieces are cut on the thin side, it did not have a fluffiness factor. My wife really loved the flavor of the fries and highly recommends them.
The Fried Green Tomato Sandwich is something that I would not personally order, but since my wife had it, I tried a sample. The green tomatoes are crusted with cornmeal before being fried. It is topped with Havarti cheese, jicama-mango slaw, and a slightly spicy remoulade. Everything is served on a multi-grain french roll.
In terms of flavor, I believe the combination accomplished what Disney wanted. The green tomatoes provide a faint sourness which is countered by the creaminess of the Havarti cheese. Crunch is achieved through the jicama in the slaw, with the mango adding a bit of sweetness. The remoulade was sort of spicy, but nothing close to being hot. A Fried Green Tomato Sandwich is not something I would normally choose at a restaurant and this did not change my mind. I tend to veer towards meat when ordering a sandwich. Nevertheless, the flavors were good and my wife enjoyed her meal.
My choice was Big Al’s Chicken Salad with a side of onion rings. The salad does not come with a side, so I ordered the rings separately. I was delightfully surprised how good the onion rings turned out. There was no description of the dish, but my taste buds were telling me they were beer battered. It was fried perfectly with a delicate crispness on the outside without being overly greasy. Taste-wise, it was one of the better onion rings I’ve enjoyed.
Big Al’s Chicken Salad pays homage to one of the famous bears from Country Bear Jamboree. Big Al was the fattest bear in the bunch, so the offering is likely a hint that he should go on a diet. Anyhow, the salad is mixture of romaine and iceberg lettuces with smoked chicken, cubed watermelon, candied pecans, dried cherries, thinly sliced pickled red onions and honey-lime vinaigrette dressing. At first glance, the salad seems small. However, once you start digging into the bowl, you realize there is a lot packed inside.
It was pretty good overall, but not great. I appreciate a healthier alternative to the burgers and sandwiches, but think there is definitely room for improvement. My main gripes were with the choice of lettuces and the scant amount of meat. Iceberg is my least favorite lettuce and screams “cheap” to me. The watermelon, candied pecans and dried cherries made the flavor tilt toward the sweet side. Mixed greens would have provided some bitterness for contrast. And, as you can see by the picture provided, the small amount of smoked chicken was hidden by the other ingredients. Furthermore, the smoked chicken was essentially lunch meat you find at the grocery store sliced thinly.
Hungry Bear Restaurant also offers a couple of signature desserts. However, my wife and I did not want to stuff ourselves with sweets. From what I have read and heard, the Lemon “Bumblebee” Cupcake is really good. It is a vanilla cupcake with lemon cream filling and a honey-lemon frosting. Trixie’s Pie is advertised as being individually handmade with a lattice-top. This is another item that pays homage to the Country Bear Jamboree. From what I have read, this pie is made with blueberries. Next time I’m in the mood for sweets, I will give them a try.
This is a Quick Service establishment, so the procedure is to place your order with a cashier and pick it up at the food station. Unfortunately we did encounter a bit of a problem due to an error by the cashier. She had pushed the button for the Turkey and Provolone Sandwich instead of the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich. Like always, the cast members were nice and made the correction. Be that as it may, it did take a long time for the substitution and I had to request they replace the onion rings as well because they got cold while waiting. The dining area looked great with three cast members maintaining cleanliness.
What sells the Hungry Bear Restaurant is the view. There is no other place like it in the park. It is almost a hidden gem because it sits in Critter Country, which is often overlooked by guests. The food is anachronistic to the restaurant’s theme though. I can’t imagine Mark Twain eating a Pioneer Chili Cheeseburger in the 1800s. Nevertheless, this is a family-friendly location with room for kids to run around. It’s a nice place to relax and imagine yourself in a different time and place while eating some good food.