*This gluten free dining experience took place in October 2017.
Lunch at Cafe Orleans
Cafe Orleans, located in New Orleans Square in Disneyland, has been on my short-list of places to eat at Disneyland after reading a review of the gluten free monte cristo option from Alexis’s Gluten Free Adventures. So, I knew I had to make a reservation for our recent October trip to Disneyland. Unfortunately, as you’ll read in this review, the restaurant experience I had was pretty awful, enough that I’m not sure I could ever back again (and I don’t think I’ve said that about many Disney restaurants). It’s a bit of a bummer, but I felt that my experience was worth sharing so that others do not get disappointed or have to experience what I did on our visit.
The theming and location of Cafe Orleans makes it super charming. It is exactly what you’d expect from a classic N’awlins restaurant.
The outside and inside of the restaurant both have great seating.
Inside, don’t forget to check out the vintage espresso machine that Lillian and Walt Disney purchased when they went on a trip to Italy. It’s really cool to see this still in the restaurant to this day.
On our visit, we were seated outside — perfect for a sunny and cool fall day in Anaheim.
Cafe Orleans does carry an allergy-friendly lunch and dinner menu. This includes options like Shrimp and Grits and a Lobster Cobb Salad. But, the big reason I wanted to go to Cafe Orleans was to get the gluten free version of their famous Monte Cristo sandwich. I had heard nothing but rave reviews about this from Alexis and several others, so I knew I had to order it — especially, since I have reintroduced some dairy back into my diet.
Disneyland’s Special Diets Department recommends that if you want this dish that you pre-order it ahead of time. So, I emailed them 2 weeks in advance with the request and received a confirmation that they would let the restaurant know of this request. I suppose that we should have stopped by earlier in the day, since after being seated we were told that the received no request and that they could not accommodate me, unless I wanted to wait an hour.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go very well from start to finish here. Our server immediately asked us for our order before we had even fully sat down in our chairs and when I asked my pre-order, she came back to our table and let me know they had no record of it. She told me I could order from the regular allergy-friendly menu or wait an hour for a Monte Cristo. At this point, I asked to speak to a manager but was told that this was not possible, and that it wasn’t possible to speak with a chef either. After about 10 minutes of insisting, I was greeted by the head server of the restaurant who told me the same thing.
At this point, I was nearly in tears just trying to figure the situation out. I even offered to come back in the evening if they could get a reservation for us so that I could get the Monte Cristo without an issue but was told that wasn’t possible either. At this point, we decided we were going to leave the restaurant and just get food somewhere else, when Austin, one of the managers came to the table.
He was nice enough and did work with us to get a Monte Cristo made in about 25 minutes. Like Alexis’s experience, he told me that the Pommes Frites that Alexis got on her visit were not able to be made gluten free, even with a new pot of oil that they were already heating up because the fries contain gluten. When I asked, they refused to let me look at the ingredients and just said it wasn’t an option (though, Alexis was able to get them, as they are the same fries used throughout Disneyland property and are actually gluten free). At this point, I was so embarrassed by the situation that I just let the Pommes Frites request go.
Austin asked if we wanted an appetizer while we waited and he brought me the La Salade de Maison with Baby Greens, Cherry Tomatoes, Candied Pecans and Goat Cheese with a Raspberry Vinaigrette. This is listed safe for Gluten/Wheat, Egg, Fish/Shellfish, and Soy Allergies and could be made dairy free by omitting the cheese.
Unfortunately, this was a bland tasteless salad. The goat cheese was overly strong and didn’t go well with the raspberry vinaigrette. It’s rare that I don’t I finish something, and I actually didn’t eat much of this salad at all because of the overall taste.
Finally, my Monte Cristo Sandwich arrived. Monte Cristo’s include Sliced Turkey, Ham, and Swiss fried in a light batter, dusted with Powdered Sugar, and served with a Berry Puree. The batter they use here is Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour, which does contain dairy in it.
After all of the drama and frustration, I have to admit, the sandwich was worth the hype. This was deep fried to perfection. Golden brown on the outside with a light dusting of sweet powdered sugar and piping hot and tender on the inside. The combination of the salty ham, turkey, and Swiss combined with the sweetness of the powdered sugar and berry puree were just perfection. In fact, I was seriously worried it wasn’t gluten free. It was that good.
Brandon also tried it and thought it was outstanding and one of the better gluten free fried dishes he’s tried. And, he actually wish he had ordered one too. So, I suppose out of the frustrating experience, at least the sandwich was really terrific.
I don’t know that I could truly recommend Cafe Orleans. As we were finishing our meal and paying, another manager came out and very rudely showed me that Disneyland’s Special Diets had given them a different date and that I made a mistake arriving when we did. I was able to show her my confirmation and my email to special diets with a screen shot of our reservation that I had given to Special Diets as a back-up. But, I was informed that next time they wouldn’t be able to accommodate. It was just a really disappointing end to an overall frustrating experience from start to finish.
Both Brandon and I agreed that it didn’t seem like the team at Cafe Orleans really wanted to accommodate special dietary needs and in fact, made it a point to let me know what a hassle it was. I’ve been to Disney restaurants more times than I can ever count, and this was the first time I’ve ever truly felt like my order was an annoyance for them. If you go to Cafe Orleans, I recommend not only pre-ordering your Monte Cristo with Special Diets but also going there before your reservation to confirm they have your order. I think that’s probably the only way to ensure there are no surprises or let-down’s in your experience. I would also insist on talking to a manager to discuss too. I will give a shout-out to Austin, one of the managers, because he was the only one who seemed to be apologetic or understanding of the situation.
The Monte Cristo was amazing, but the experience we had, unfortunately, was not. On our next visit, I would probably skip this one for the experience alone, which is a bummer.
Have you been to Cafe Orleans? What was your experience dining there?