You can always find great bites (and, of course, rides) tucked into Disneyland and the adjacent California Adventure park, but a few weeks of the year, the Happiest Place on Earth also becomes one of the most food-focused theme parks in the state—with a special focus on foods you can find within the state.
That’s because the annual California Adventure Food & Wine Festival is inspired by the cuisines of the West Coast and pops up around two months each spring. And this year is the longest-running fest yet.
Included with admission and running now through April 21, food stalls will pop up along the stretch between Golden Vines Winery and Paradise Park selling à la carte sandwiches, pastas, tacos, chicken wings, sliders, macarons, soups, fruit tarts and whatever else you might be craving as you wind your way through the thoroughfare. Items are often inspired by California cuisine (like, say, ocean-farmed salmon served with a Meyer lemon relish), not to mention the state’s diverse bounty and cultures (barbacoa street tacos with pickled onions; olive-and-artichoke toast). And because this takes place in California Adventure and not in the Disneyland park, there’s beer, wine or a cocktail at most stands, plus colorful non-alcoholic options. Most items cost around $8, though you can also pay a flat $56 for a selection of eight dishes.
According to general manager Gary Maggetti, the fest’s culinary team tries to switch up the menu 60 to 70 percent each go-around, but in 2020 they’ve refreshed the food selection by 80 percent and the drinks by 100. Fans of the fest might notice another change: This year there are fewer ticketed events (like receptions with chefs and winemakers), which have been shelved to make room for more free programming such as chef demos and artist meet-and-greets.
Other 2020 additions include the use of plant-based Impossible Foods products, which make their way into a burger-inspired mac and cheese, a slider, and a meatball sub; new food stands, including the fruit-forward One in a Melon stall; new merch; and all new desserts (hello, lychee-and-rose custard).
To help you navigate the three dozen dishes on offer, here are five to catch at this year’s fest. And if you’re still hungry, there’s always our guide to the best food in Disneyland.
Fried chicken and waffle sandwich
You could go out for a traditional brunch, or you could go for an entire brunch in one bite: This dish does classic chicken and waffles in taco form, placing hand-breaded chicken into a sort of waffle taco shell, then tops it all with a slaw that’s tossed in a mimosa-inspired vinaigrette, plus little orange juice “bubbles” that pop as you chew.
Find it at the Golden Dreams stall
Shrimp and braised corn
The Off the Cob stand is all about elote in various forms, but the shrimp with braised corn is one dish that isn’t afraid to get heated. The star here is the chorizo, which adds perfect spice to the mix of green onions, braised corn and crispy kernels, making not only a well-seasoned dish but a pleasantly textural one.
Find it at the Off the Cob stall
Back near the the water wheel at Grizzly River Run, just off the beaten path from the rest of the vendors, you’ll find a stand dedicated to one of California’s biggest crops. This is where you can snag that aforementioned olive-and-artichoke toast, as well as a perfect bite that, despite being breaded and fried, still manages to taste light and refreshing: These fried artichokes come drizzled with a lemon aioli and a pinch of herbs and microgreens for a taste of the Golden State.
Find it at the I Heart Artichokes stall
While most of the fest’s dishes skew mild, there’s one stand serving pepper-infused plates, so spice fiends, take note. The Peppers Cali-ente booth offers a habanero-infused paloma, some grilled shrimp tacos under a pineapple-chili salsa, and this comforting, creamy pile of rotini pasta tossed in poblano sauce and drizzled with red pepper and cotija: easily one of the more unique dishes to be found.
Find it at the Peppers Cali-ente stall
Black garlic pork belly banh mi
California Adventure’s Lucky Fortune Cookery recently launched a vegan bánh mì, but unlike this meaty version, it’s not braised with black garlic. To find the umami-packed, limited-time pork belly sandwich you’ll need to head toward the Silly Symphony Swings and the festival’s garlic-focused stand, then order up for a tender, rich and slow-cooked slab of pork belly on a French roll with cilantro, jalapeño, daikon radish and pickled carrots.
Find it at the Garlic Kissed stall
The California Adventure Food & Wine Festival runs now through April 21. Entry is included in California Adventure admission, with ticketed add-ons such as kitchen tours and wine seminars available for purchase. Food and drink can be purchased à la carte at each food vendor, or sampled via the $56 eight-dish Sip and Savor Pass.