Now that Show Your Disney Side is officially going on, I have some bad news for you guys: The parks are (and are going to stay) super crowded. The lines are going to be worse than ever, the crowds are going to be super dense, and even if you show up at 3 in the morning, I'm pretty sure you're going to run into some traffic.
Disneyland has some pretty awesome food, but today (and tomorrow) is not the time to try it. Give the cast members a break, head off the resort to try some food, because there's a lot of good food vaguely near Disneyland.
In no particular order, here are 10 great restaurants to try near(ish) the Disneyland Resort.
Joe's Italian Ice (Anaheim/Garden Grove)
There's a fair share of Italian Ice/Custard places around Orange County now, but none of them command as much respect as Joe's, the lonely little hut just outside of the Disneyland Resort area. Joe's is the great uniter, drawing basically every Orange County demographic to its windows. Redevelopment and eminent domain be damned, Joe's will (or at least should) live forever.
Now, to better describe it, the words of the our chief Mexican himself:
This summer hasn't exactly been scorching (knock on bark beetle-infested wood), so I've yet to trek to Joe's Italian Ice on a sweltering night with central Orange County's eternal heat-beater question: what should I eat at Joe's Italian Ice?
Do I want a cup of Italian ice, with flavors that spread as quickly as the ice melts exposed to the heat that slowly leaves the asphalt river that is Harbor Boulevard? Do I order a cone of soft-serve ice cream, or go for the velvety orange cream, tasting of Orange Bang! fake-citrus glory? Do I combine both in a Joe Latti? Or screw the Philly stylings of Joe's and go for a sundae?
Everything works at Joe's, but the trick is to visit at night, when the different tribes of the regions congregate: tourists done with a day at Disneyland, convention-goers looking to brain-freeze their way out of meeting stupors; Viets, Mexis, gabachos, old, young, cholos, hipsters, all looking for some relief from summer's ceaseless bake.
Thai Nakorn (Garden Grove)
Thai Nakorn might be geographically kind of far from the parks, but at just a 10-minute drive, it's a hell of a lot quicker than waiting in the capacity lines for turkey legs.
Also, it's some of the best Thai food you can get in Orange County. The pad thai ('cause I know all of you want to know about it) is fresh and bright, served hot and delicious with peanuts, sugar, and chili flakes on the side so you can season to your own palate. The chicken in the curries is some of the most succulent, well-cooked chicken I've ever had in Thai food. The first time I bit into it, my eyes momentarily widened as my brain scrambled to figure out what was going on (this has only happened two other times).
Yes, when you drive up it might look a little deserted (I'm pretty sure the parking lot isn't big enough to fill the dining room), but the food is great, so eat up.
The Globe (Garden Grove)
For a bit, the Globe had a little bit of a service problem. The food was good, but would take forever to come out. Thankfully, after changing chef's, everything is now quick and tasty.
But while the food is good, the best thing about the Globe is the beer. There, you'll find one of the best selections of Belgians in Orange County, as well as the wonderful Chimay Challenge. It's a fun one (as you can see above), so ditch the kids for a little bit and take the drive down to Garden Grove.
Cham Sut Gol (Garden Grove)
Cham Sut Gol in Garden Grove is about as far as I can get from Disneyland while still being able to make an argument that it's kind of near Disneyland (15 minutes isn't that bad, guys, come on).
Okay, it's kind of a drive, but visiting the area without having Korean food is criminal. Cham Sut Gol is, as always, the best place to introduce people to Korean barbecue. There, you'll find good solid basics, brisket, bulgolgi, and other standard meats without the tongue and offal that can turn off the less adventurous eaters.
If people need convincing, make sure to mention the unlimited ice cream. And then show up during happy hour for a nice little discount and smaller crowds (careful, waits here can beat waits at Disneyland on Friday and Saturday nights).
Oh, and make sure to get the sesame oil.
Zankou Chicken (Anaheim)
Orange County is graced with one outlet of the legendary Zankou chain, and it just happens to be in Anaheim.
I'll let the words of the mysterious Edwin Goei convince you of its greatness:
At this lone OC outlet of the Zankou chain, you see the twirling birds constantly being basted by the dripping juices of those that rotate above it. And since turnover at Zankou is as continual as train depot, the chicken is always hot, always fresh. The skin, of course, is the best part — so well-rendered, it flakes off by itself in crispy sheets, as if it were trying to shed. The flavor of the skin is of chicken concentrated, but you taste the powdered spices that season the bird. It's like a salty poultry chip with slightly bitter, burnt herb finish. And the chicken itself? Well let's put it this way, pull on the leg bone and the thing slides off clean, leaving the meat behind, steaming and still fuming. Forget about the breast though, as it seems to be dry. The dark meat is the money meat here, moist, juicy, full of chicken-y flavor, ready to slathered in their house garlic paste and then tucked into pita bread.
Anepalco's Cafe (Orange)
Just a few exits away heading south on the 5 from Disneyland is one of the best restaurants in Orange County.
In our 2013 Best Of Issue, Anepalco's Cafe won Best Restaurant honors. Here's that blurb, it doesn't come close to doing the restaurant justice.
Danny Godinez could've stayed with his original Anepalco's Café near St. Joseph's Hospital in Orange, and his legacy in Orange County restaurant history would've been secured gracias to his chilaquiles, an unthinkable concoction of Mexican, French, high-dining and street-food technique that won a fanatical following who continue to line up every weekend for brunch–and you should, too. But this wasn't good enough for Godinez; not only did he open a second Anepalco's Café in Orange, just down the street from Angels Stadium in the Ayres Hotel, but he also boldly continued his fusion experiments. Operating from the same Mex-French foundation, Godinez stuns with every breakfast, lunch or dinner, whether it's the best eggs Benedict in town or a huitlacoche burger that should become the next cronut, prime rib rubbed in an achiote sauce that flutters off the fork, or an ahi crudo pambazo that improbably, incredibly combines Mexico City grub with the finest-grade tuna this side of Sushi Wasabi. The restaurant's reputation is such that produce growers and supermarket execs eat at the new location multiple times per week, leaving bills that could pay for a month's worth of rent in South OC. Yet success has never embiggened Godinez's head–you'll almost always see him bussing tables, dressed as a working-class stiff.
Papa Hassan's Grill (Anaheim)
Who can resist meat on a stick. Papa Hassan's has some of the best food you'll eat in your life. I'll let Mr. Goei take it from here.
For years, Papa Hassan's used to be an Old Towne Orange institution. Then, after it suffered a devastating fire in 2010 and the building was sold to Chapman University, it moved to Anaheim, on Brookhurst Street. Now lost in a vast jungle of Middle Eastern stores and restaurants in the city's Little Arabia, you'll find it squeezed in tight between a halal Sizzler and a hookah store. Try the shawerma wrap as refreshing as it is filling. There's the shrill of tomato, the spicy-but-sweet hits of onion and, in the background, the steady hum of beef. Though you'll taste hints of mint and tahini instead of Thousand Island, you'll find yourself lapping up the leftover drippings from the wrapping as though you just finished an In-N-Out Double-Double. End with the dessert called "Heaven." It's actually aish al saraya, a thrilling chilled Lebanese bread pudding layered with custard, dripping with the sweetness of honey and topped with whipped cream–one of the best things you'll taste in Anaheim, in Orange, on Earth.
Feeling a sausage? Disneyland is only a 12-minute drive from Old Towne Orange, where you can find some great restaurants, including LinX, one of the best sausage proveyors in Orange County.
Now, the words of Gluttony Correspondent Kristine Hoang:
Though a LinX dog is smaller than the average hot dog, LinX makes up for it with its unique array of topping choices, which include giardiniera relish and apple-bacon kraut. The T.J. street dog — a polish dog topped with avocado and applewood smoked bacon — is a popular contender for customers, but if that's not what you want, griddled franks and bratwurst are just as good.
Giant Manhattan (Anaheim)
Say you're visiting from New York, and you're craving a slice. Where would you go? Giant Manhattan has got you covered.
Once again, Gluttony Correspondent Kristine Hoang:
New Yorkers eat their slices folded in half, so pies need be wide. As its name promises, Giant Manhattan Pizza takes portion size very seriously. You want big pizza? Giant Manhattan Pizza will give you gargantuan pizza. If you thought New York pies were already pushing it in the size department, try Giant Manhattan Pizza's 30 diameter pie. How many times can you fold that.
Tulsa Rib Company (Orange)
Ah, Tulsa Rib Company, you old Orange County stalwart. I could say so many things about you. You were the first time I had real American barbecue. You were also one of the first write ups I did for this lovely rag.
Alright Disnerds, if you want barbecue and you don't feel like waiting at Big Thunder, head on over to Tulsa Rib Company. Get the Ribs (hurr durr), but make sure you get the Tulsa potatoes — they're beautiful medallions of scalloped potatoes, lovingly fried and tossed in herb butter.
They're one of the best potato dishes you can eat in Orange County.
Oh, and everything else is pretty good too.