When forced to think about Disney's California Adventure, the old Disneyland parking lot comes to mind. That's because Disneyland's bastard stepsister of a theme park stands on the former Disneyland parking lot. For the longest time, I bitterly resented the existence of "Parking Lot Land" because that meant I'd have to park my car in the new, massive "Mickey & Friends" structure built to replace the old lot, which also meant I'd be much farther from the only place I wanted to visit—the happiest place, Disneyland.
But now I finally have a reason to visit the Other Disney Park. At California Adventure's Paradise Pier, nestled between two souvenir shacks and across from the Jumpin' Jellyfish parachute ride is the Corn Dog Castle. Watching all those colorful jellyfish full of screaming kids rise and fall over and over again inspired some serious hunger pangs—I love jellyfish, especially with peanut butter. But the odds of me enjoying a PB & Jf sandwich at a Disney theme park were about the same as scoring a nice platter of Nemo sashimi, so a corn dog became the only appealing alternative.
I had no control over my sudden want of this corn dog, really. Its heady, greasy aroma wafted over to me and gestured for me to come over like a wispy cartoon-smoke hand from a Goofy short. Quickly, I floated my way closer and closer on the wings of this irresistible scent to the Corn Dog Castle's queue. A smiling cartoon corn dog with a monocle and a red-velvet crown grasps a corn dog himself while looking down on the line. "Eat me!" the Corn Dog King seems to taunt.
The Corn Dog Castle offers an exquisitely spare menu, very much like Hot Dog on a Stick's, with dogs and Cheddar logs stuck on Popsicle sticks, dipped in quicksand-like cornmeal batter and deep fried. Also available are small bags of Lay's Potato Chips, various sodas, tea, coffee and hot cocoa. Take a clue from Corn Dog King's name, and stick to the breaded wieners.
Corn Dog Castle's all-beef corn dogs come in two varieties: Hot Link and Original. When given these choices, I always go for the spicy no matter how much Pepto I'll have to shoot later. Full of garlic, red peppers and other bold spices, this juicy hot link drips and mingles its robust essences into the corn dog's greasy, sweet, cakey cornmeal sheath. The sum effect is a taste experience as pleasantly varied as the theme park itself.
The deep golden crust is delightfully fragrant and reminiscent of a pastry shop at dawn that's suddenly been plowed into by a truck hauling restaurant fryer grease. No worries here because Disney's recent, well-publicized health guidelines ban the use of trans fats in all Disney theme-park restaurants (though this ban isn't quite complete until 2008). Besides, as long as you eat responsibly and don't make this corn dog a regular part of your diet, it's totally worth it.
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Or is it? Cost-wise, maybe not. The Hot Link Corn Dog with a bag of chips runs about $5.80. Admission into Disney's California Adventure is $63. This fiery corn dog could burn a sizable hole in your wallet, unless you exploit a little-known Disney loophole.
I used to work at Disneyland in the Plaza Pavilion restaurant as a dishwasher, food runner and busman for several years while attending college. During new "cast member" orientation, I learned all sorts of fascinating Disneyland secrets and little-known facts—for instance, anyone can enter the park for free to shop for an hour. All you need to do is go to the Guest Services window and let them know you're going shopping or even dining. They run your credit card (but don't charge it) so you have a big incentive not to wander the park or hang with Buzz Lightyear for the entire day. Just make sure you get your corn dog (don't forget the mustard!), return with a receipt within the one-hour window and you're golden—just like your big, fat, glorious corn dog.
CORN DOG CASTLE, LOCATED AT DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE, 1313 S. HARBOR BLVD., ANAHEIM, (714) 781-DINE; disneyland.disney.go.com/. hours vary; see website for park hours. DINNER FOR TWO, $10. NO ALCOHOL.
Read Eddie Lin's food blog at deependdining.blogspot.com.