Things have changed a lot since Downtown Disney opened in early 2001. The parking, which used to be free for the first three hours, is now only free for two. And among the three original restaurant tenants that were there opening day, Y Arriba Y Arriba is long since forgotten and the House of Blues moved to Anaheim Gardenwalk last year, the building it once occupied now razed to make way for a bowling alley.
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But it's probably a safe bet to say that Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen—the only one that remains of the original tenants—isn't going away anytime soon. The food is decent and has only gotten better since I tried it the first time 16 years ago. One thing I like about eating there these days is the service, which is exemplary. During a recent meal, they split a shared plate without me having to ask.
Though the beignets here aren't as crisp or addictive as the ones I've eaten at New Orleans' iconic Cafe du Monde, they're good for what they are: the not-to-sweet cousins of donuts buried under an avalanche of powdered sugar. And I've yet to be disappointed with anything that has the words gumbo, jambalaya, or etoufee in it. In the soup trio called "1-1-1" you get two out of the three in one order. It's essentially a sampler. The chicken etoufee is full of pep, rice, and poultry. The gumbo has a slow burn and pieces of andouille. And the soup du jour, which is usually the cheesy baked potato, possesses a creaminess that counteracts the spice of the other two. But really, any dish here validates why Jazz Kitchen will continue to endure for as long as Uncle Walt's own little recreation of New Orleans in Anaheim.
Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen, 1590 Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 776-5200; www.rbjazzkitchen.com