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Café Orleans: Laissez bontemps rouler! *

Café Orleans: Laissez bontemps rouler! *

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The new Café Orleans logo

If you ask an average Disneyland guest which area of the park may be their favorite, there is a strong possibility that New Orleans Square may be the choice. Reasons why could include that this "land" is home to the Park's most popular attractions – Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Perhaps a favorite shop such as Cristal d' Orleans was where a treasured souvenir was located. Maybe the touch of jazz brought to life by the likes of the Royal Street Bachelors or the Side Street Strutters tempts you to relax and sit a spell? Or it could be that some of the best dining experiences in the Park are found along its streets – The Blue Bayou, The French Market and Café Orleans.Even the mysterious Club 33 is found here.

Call it the flavor of the Big Easy if you will. All of the above ingredients make for a tasty experience. And with the talents of a master chef in Walt Disney to oversee the creation of this concoction, is it any wonder that it tends to be one of the busiest areas of Disneyland all year round?

Dining in New Orleans Square has offered a trio of options for meals over the years. While the Blue Bayou handled the more formal sit-down meal service, the French Market and Café Orleans tended to the more casual approach with what was termed buffeteria meal service. Here guests would make choices along the service tables with their selections placed on trays for presentation to a cashier and then head off in search of a table of their own choosing. Not an unpleasant way to dine, but perhaps slow at times. Certainly it is not uncommon to find fairly long lines of guests queuing for meals during peak periods.

But as things change, it became apparent that Café Orleans faced more than its fair share of challenges. Over the years there may have been duplications in some of the menu items offered at both Café Orleans and the French Market. And Café Orleans did have a smaller seating capacity to contend with. Smaller capacity means fewer meals are served as fewer people can dine during a period of time. Add to that a shared kitchen and perhaps things didn't work out quite as well as they could have. So for the last few years, Café Orleans tended to be just open table space for guest seating rather than a dining location. It was rare for it to be open for meals except for the highest periods of guest attendance, and even then with an extremely limited menu. Kevin Yee (columnist for MiceAge) was one of the Cast Members who worked here during some of those days and his stories (from MousePlanet) paint an interesting picture of those times.

Disneyland Panavue Slide from the collection of Roger Colton

So, faced with an opportunity, Disneyland rose to the occasion and performed a makeover of this dining location. It seems that guests had indicated that they were looking for more formal dining options inside the Park. Taking a cue from that, Café Orleans was set to fill a role that had somewhat been handled by the Blue Bayou. And considering how often guests would find reservations completely booked early each day, adding another option for them was a great idea.

The revised facility was set to reopen in the summer of 2006. Keeping most of the décor intact, the facility was changed to reflect its new role. The buffeteria line has given way to tables and chairs to expand the seating capacity, and ultimately serve more guests each day.

The new menu is a real team effort with a definite New Orleans flavor. It was developed by Chef Christopher Maggeti, Chef Jean-Marc Viallet and Operations Manager Robert Clunie. With the exception of the New Orleans Gumbo, all of the menu items are found only at Café Orleans – right down to the desserts. But more about that later on…

With a bit of preview and adjustment, the date for reopening was set for Sunday, June 25th – the day after the Pirates premiere event. With Disneyland Ambassadors Rebecca Phelps and Andrae Rivas on hand to welcome everyone, the ceremony to reopen Café Orleans began promptly at 11:30 a.m. with a bounty of guests and Cast Members in attendance.

Disneyland Ambassadors Rebecca Phelps (left) and Andrae Rivas (right) begin the festivities at Café Orleans
Photo by Roger Colton

The Cast Members of Café Orleans dressed for the day and got the crowd into a Mardi Gras spirit with plenty of beads for everyone to enjoy
Photo by Roger Colton

Even the scissors for the ribbon cutting came properly attired for the festivities
Photo by Roger Colton

Gary Maggetti, the West Coast Director of Food and Beverage for Disney, welcomed everyone to the reopening of Café Orleans
Photo by Roger Colton

He then led the crowd assembled in a brief French language lesson, inviting us all to say, "Laissez bontemps rouler!" which translates to
"Let The Good Times Roll!" *
Photo by Roger Colton

With that the ceremonial ribbon was cut and Café Orleans was opened for lunch
Photo by Roger Colton

The official first party of guests to dine at the reopened Café Orleans, the Stapleton Family of Carlsbad, California
Photo by Roger Colton

As we had other plans that day, we made a Priority Seating (714-781-DINE) request for lunch the following afternoon at 1:10 p.m. for a party of two. Arriving a few minutes ahead of schedule, we were quickly escorted by our hostess to a table in the shade next to the walkway between Café Orleans and the Fantasmic viewing terraces. Our waitress quickly came and took our requests for a beverage while we looked over the menu.

Today's menu
Photo by Roger Colton

So where to start? Pomme Frites! Hands and menus down, this is the way to start a meal here. We shared an order between the two of us, but I saw many tables where there were two or more orders being served and immediately enjoyed by diners of all ages. "Traditional French-fried potatoes tossed with Parmesan cheese, garlic and parsley, served with a Cajun spiced aioli." These are addictive and I see them becoming a guest favorite very quickly once the word gets out.

Our choices for an entrée were the Mardi Gras Crab-Salad Sandwich and "The Big Easy" Shrimp Salad. Beverages come with all of the usual suspects to choose from including the Disneyland Mint Julep -- with plenty of refills while enjoying your meal.

The Mardi Gras Crab-Salad Sandwich
Photo by Roger Colton

"The Big Easy" Shrimp Salad
Photo by Roger Colton

Both were excellent! The light citrus vinaigrette was a perfect match for the Cajun spices on the grilled shrimp. And the zesty citrus aioli was just the right touch for the crab salad. However, we still managed to save room for dessert. Our choice? Why, of course! An order of the "Mickey"-shaped Beignets.

All that for one person? Not this time
Photo by Roger Colton

The Crème Anglaise and the Raspberry Coulis were great accompaniments to the beignets. Fresh and hot with plenty of powdered sugar… If you have enjoyed some of these at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen on a previous visit to Downtown Disney, then you have to try these at Café Orleans.

Admittedly, we were testing the waters on only the second day of operation. Giving credit where due, the Cast Members serving us were outstanding. Glasses never went empty for more than a few seconds and the team who came to our table was attentive and efficient, even letting us know who was taking over as our server after a break had been completed.

If there was anything to note, it was that there were a number of tables set, where guests had yet to be seated after making their Priority Seating requests. And I didn't see a large number of guests waiting for tables, so I have to assume that someone must have forgotten about their times. All the more the pity as they truly missed a wonderful dining experience in New Orleans Square. Here's hoping that you can enjoy the same in the near future!

* Laissez bontemps rouler! (lay-zay bone-tonh rule-ay) - Let the good times roll!

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  • so i guess youre saying the pomme frites are a step above the mcdonald's fry wagon?   ok  i'll give it a try this weekend.  thanks Roger
  • Thanks for the articles and pictures!!!  Seeing as I leave near WDW, I'll have to wait a while to try this restaurant.  That crab sandwich would have been my choice, too.  And at first I thought the Beignets were in the shape of a lamb...but they are Mickey shaped!  Thanks for making me hungry, Roger!!!  I'm jealous!
  • Sounds delish.  Thanks for the review!
  • Quick question for Roger, if he checks this...or anyone else who has been able to go.  My sister is vegitarian, which always severely limits where we can dine.  August will be our first trip back in 17 years.  From your picture of the menu, I didn't see anything vegi.  Is there a vegi option on the menu, or one available on special request?  Thanks for the great pictures and info!
  • For the vegetarian? Try the La Salade de Maison and the Three-Cheese Monte Cristo! I saw lots of folks enjoying both.

    Bon Appetit!
  • In New Orleans, they say, "Laissez bontemps rouler!" (lay-zay bone-tonh rule-ay). Sounds like the food and beverage guy translated each word and strung them together rather than translating the whole expression.
  • Thanks for the nice remembrance of the Sara Lee restaurant (Cafe Orlean's name when I was busboy and waiter in the summer of 1976.)  The new menu has some familar dishes from the 70s--sandwiches, salads and desserts, mostly.  The pommes frites are a nice touch.  I'll bring my family back with waiter service.  
  • Is that why the asterisks are next to the "Laissez les bon temps...", Roger? Well, in any case, the new Cafe Orleans sounds pretty good - I'll be there next week and I'll have to give it a try.
  • I had the COMPLETE opposite experience at Cafe Orleans.  We never saw our waiter except to take our order and then when the bill came. We waited 45 minutes for our food. Normally if you're waiting that long your waiter comes to your table and apologizes for the long wait. He didn't do that. When the waiter took our drink orders I asked for a Mint Julep and our waiter told us they ran out (even though we saw tables STILL being served this drink while we were waiting for our own food). I only got one glass of Ice Tea out of the deal since no one came to refill. To get the bill we had to flag down three people to call our waiter out to us. I had the Monte Cristo sandwich and found it to NOT be worth the price they were charging for it.  I felt like I was at an overpriced Dennys.

    I'm sure you're thinking that I must've been a jerk if Disney Cast Members treat me this way, but it was quite the opposite.  I'm a type of person that doesn't like to draw attention to myself and I'm one of those kids that "plays well with others".

    I've a feeling that when this reviewer dines it was when management was trying to make the experience overtly exceptional so that they WOULD get good reviews by press, but I went during normal bussiness hours and I felt a little cheated by my experience at Cafe Orleans.
  • A couple of things...

    What Gary said was ""Laissez bontemps rouler!" (lay-zay bone-tonh rule-ay)" and we all replied with the same in return.

    The translation of the phrase "Let The Good Times Roll" (by Google's language tools) is the result of my writing the story after a long day at work, finishing at about 3 in the morning.

    As for my review, I stand behind it, 100 percent. I was not invited to any preview, nor was the mangement visible in attendance during my dining experience. And for the record, I did dine during normal business hours.

    If my experience had been anything along the lines of TicketMediaGuy's, you definitely would have read about it right here.

  • Cafe Orleans is also (now) a very pricey lunch and dinner experience.  It is also the home of the (now very expensive) Monte Criso Sandwich (in two forms of incarnation.)

    Blue Bayou has also skyrocketed in price on their new menu...and there is little to no price variance there between the lunch or the dinner menu...and, the reserved dining thing is making it danged hard for the daily visitor to pop in and enjoy the experience of dining at either of those two restaurants...which I have heard a lot of people grumbling about as they were turned away.....

  • Btw  - that saxophone playng wolf...Tex Avery, anyone?  RED HOT RIDING HOOD?  


  • Went to Cafe Orleans this past Saturday armed with 11:30am (opening) Preferred-dining-made-at-the-Californian-whatever-you-do-don't-call-them-reservations. Waited in the surprisingly broiling sun to get in. "I'm sorry, we can't let people inside until we open at 11:30."  Computers down - reservations lost - except for friends of a cast member who got seated first. Finally seated at 11:40am - wouldn't have made a difference except for the heat.

    Needless to say, I was not in a good mood to start with. I had studied the menu, so I had fair warning about the prices. The waitress did everything in her power to put me in a better mood. At that point, all I really wanted was air conditioning and a cold beverage. We ordered pommes frites (at $5) as an appetizer - yes they were worth $5, but you have to eat them while they're hot - and you should have 3 or more people at your table, or at least 2 hungry people to order them.

    The cold beverages continued flowing - I was doing better.  Both the monte cristo and the crab salad sandwich were great - the crab maybe even better for the heat that day. Worth the price? I thought so, but I'm a tourist not a local. I would definately go there, sit down, and get those sandwiches for $15 a pop, than fight a line for a burger and fries that will be $8-$10.  When fritters and a Coke are $8, $15 seems ok for a sandwich - as long as it's good - and I was pleased with everything we ordered at Cafe Orleans. I know I didn't have the stamina to brave the mobs around the Blue Bayou.

    I didn't remember Roger mentioning the pirate medallion given at this restaurant.      "It's free !"    (as long as you call a $30 minimum purchase free)  I think there will be 8, and I'm sorry I don't know the other restaurants you can get them at.

    During the weekend, we also had breakfast and lunch at Carnation Cafe halfway up Main Street - both were good meals, fairly priced - much better than what I remembered.   At night - we lived at Tortilla Jo's. It's always been hard to find a good restaurant at Disneyland, but that seems to be slowly changing.

    And Roger, I did take some pins (3) that I didn't want, to see if i could trade them. Well, three days, two pins carts, and countless laynard-ed people later, I came home with 20 new pins. Thanks a whole #$%^@* lot, Roger!

    So help me, I swear I am not going to get interested in trains.
  • Ah, the lure of pins...

    Glad to hear you enjoyed Cafe Orleans!

    And I didn't mention the medallion cause I didn't get one. Hmmm...

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