July 24, 2024

Best Counter Service Restaurant at Disney California Adventure

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Disney California Adventure has better food than Disneyland. That's not the hot take that it once was, as DCA has developed an all-star restaurant roster over the last several years, but I'm guessing it's still

Disney California Adventure has better food than Disneyland. That’s not the hot take that it once was, as DCA has developed an all-star restaurant roster over the last several years, but I’m guessing it’s still a mildly unpopular opinion given the legacy of Disneyland dining.

The more controversial claim would be that Disney California Adventure is the best theme park for food in the United States, but that’s not the one I’m making here. Maybe a different day. For now, I’m not interested in catching the ire of EPCOT enthusiasts who will point to World Showcase and that park’s many festivals.

More interesting than that, is the trajectory of the culinary landscape at Disneyland Resort. I don’t want to recite the entire history of the resort or anything, but back when DCA opened, it had too many restaurants. Fast-forward over 20 years, and now it has too few. In between, a lot of changes happened, and many of the once-great restaurants and once-awful eateries have switched places.

For example, if you time-travel back a decade when the big overhaul had wrapped up, the best counter service restaurant at Disney California Adventure was inarguably Flo’s V8 Cafe. It served up diner favorites that were at once ambitious and comforting. Now, Flo’s is a shadow of its former self, coasting on its reputation and location.

Also back a decade ago, some of the holdovers from 2001 had become stale, with Award Wieners and pretty much everything in Pacific Wharf being meh at best. Fast-forward to today, and Award Wieners is now criminally underrated and Pacific Wharf no longer exists, having been replaced by San Fransokyo Square, the new Big Hero 6 area. Oh, and its food is fantastic!

Just as Flo’s V8 Cafe in the then-new Cars Land was the undisputed champion in 2012, I think it’s fair to say that the sorta-new San Fransokyo Square is home to the best restaurant–and by a wide margin–in 2023’s Disney California Adventure.

I’m talking about Lucky Fortune Cookery.

This actually shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, as we’ve been singing the praises of Pacific Wharf as a whole since the last big menu overhauls in Summer 2019. There’s a reason why every single spot in this food court made our List of the 23 Best Restaurants at Disneyland Resort earlier this year.

Well, the menus have only gotten better with the Big Hero 6 refresh. That’s true for Cocina Cucamonga and Aunt Cass Cafe (formerly Pacific Wharf Cafe), but nowhere has seen as pronounced of an improvement as Lucky Fortune Cookery. If you picked up this quick-service spot and plopped it into Far East Plaza or Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, it would hold its own and draw a formidable line. Seriously, it’s actually good by L.A. standards and not just top tier Southern California theme park cuisine.

Let’s start our review of the individual entrees by getting the Teriyaki Chicken out of the way. This is served with with Sautéed Vegetables and Steamed Rice, and is essentially a holdover from the days when the Lucky Fortune Cookery served take-out style rice bowls.

This is perfectly fine. It’s a quality dish that’s presented nicely and is sufficiently filling, and tastes good enough. At one point, it was Sarah’s go-to dish in Pacific Wharf, but that hasn’t been the case for years, and certainly isn’t true now. In short, time has passed this by as everything else has improved dramatically. Unless you really want something safe, don’t get this.

We’re suckers for Roy Choi’s restaurants in Los Angeles, and his trademark Korean-Mexican fusion food has been hugely influential in the Southern California culinary scene. This includes Disneyland, where the Beef Bulgogi Burrito with Seasoned Rice, Cabbage slaw and Garlic Chips is a dish that would be perfectly at home on a Choi menu.

That’s true both in terms of taste and quality, too. The bulgogi beef is glorious–tender, tangy, perfectly marinated, and with a salty and semi-sweet flavor that is addictively delicious. Its juices are soaked up by the rice and slaw, allowing the excellent tortilla to hold up admirably against what could otherwise be a messy dish.

Seriously, this may not look like much, but it is one of the best dishes in all of Disneyland Resort. That was true before the Baymax takeover of this area, and remains the case even today. The difference in the past was that this would always be my go-to at Lucky Fortune Cookery, whereas now I’m “forced” to make some tough choices.

Another not-s0-new dish is the Pork Wonton Nachos: Hoisin-glazed Pork, Cheese Sauce, Spicy Aïoli. Pickled Cabbage, Jalapeños and Toasted Sesame Seeds.

These are to DCA counter service what the Lobster Nachos at Lamplight Lounge are to DCA table service. That’s hyperbole, but only slightly. Again, we have a dish that feels Roy Choi’s influence–this feels like something straight from the menu at Chego (RIP). The flavor here is unique, the toppings are delicious, and there’s a bit of savory/sweet/spicy playfulness. The texture of the light and airy wonton chips is also interesting, and it all comes together for a satisfying and mouth-watering dish.

If the pork were just a bit better, this would actually be better/more interesting than the aforementioned Lobster Nachos at Lamplight Lounge for me. As it stands, this is a fun, flavorful, and filling counter service dish–and at a fair price. Another highly recommended option.

Now we arrive at the newcomers, starting with the Karaage-inspired Crispy Chicken Sandwich with Slaw and Togarashi Mayonnaise on a Potato Bun, served with Garlic Chips. I am an absolute sucker for karaage, and have extolled the virtues of Japanese convenience store fried chicken several times on this blog. Point being, I’m naturally predisposed to liking this dish, but also have reasonably high expectations for it.

Thankfully, this is on par with Family Mart’s Famichiki and 7/11’s Seven Chicken. (That’s high praise!) I’ve had this three times now, which alone probably tells you everything you need to know. The fried chicken has been perfectly-prepared on each occasion, fantastically juicy and with the right amount of crunch.

The Togarashi mayonnaise adds light spice and richness, without masking or overwhelming. It’s a perfect enhancement to the karaage. My only complaint is the inconsistency of the bun. It’s kind of amazing to me that Disney would nail the difficult components of this sandwich, and then just fumble the simplest element…but it’s not the first time, and probably not the last.

Regardless, I still love the Karaage Crispy Chicken Sandwich and will continue to taste-test to see what happens with the bun situation (for research!). This is now my go-to dish in San Fransokyo Square, surpassing even the QuesaBirria Tacos at Cocina Cucamonga, as well as the above-mentioned Pork Wonton Nachos and Beef Bulgogi Burrito. Sure, it’s more straightforward–but it’s incredible.

Speaking of karaage, there’s the Yaki Udon with Karaage-inspired Crispy Chicken and Mushrooms, Sugar Snap Peas, Roasted Red Peppers, Bok Choy, Dark Soy and Hoisin Sauces.

This would be my new go-to dish at Lucky Fortune Cookery, but there’s only one problem: it costs $18.50. That’s almost double the price of the Pork Wonton Nachos and is several dollars more than the burrito or sandwich. However, it’s also much more filling and is doing a heckuva lot more. (Also, you can get the Yaki Udon minus the karaage for $5 less. Personally, I think the chicken is worth the $5 surcharge.)

I’ve already covered the karaage above, and this is the exact same cutlet used on the sandwich. So no need to extol the virtues of Japanese karaage again (no matter how much I might enjoy subjecting you to that once more).

Under that karaage, there’s a serious amount of vegetables, the highlight of which is (somehow) the bok choy. I eat a lot of cabbage against my will, but I actually devoured this happily. The other vegetables, mushrooms, peppers, and sauces gave this a tremendous flavor…and a delightful oiliness that I don’t get at home.

Somewhere under all of those vegetables, there are thick and chewy udon noodles. These are the heart and soul of the dish, absorbing the flavors of the vegetables. These udon noodles had the perfect elasticity and were cooked just right; hopefully the Lucky Fortune Cookery kitchen is consistent with that. If ignoring prices, this is my #1 dish in San Fransokyo Square.

For our final entree, we have the new Beef Birria Ramen with Consomé, served with House-made Birria, Soft-boiled Egg, Monterey Jack, Cilantro, Roasted Corn, Onions and Radish.

This isn’t the first time that Lucky Fortune Cookery has served up a ramen option, and the results have been mixed in the past. Honestly, the jury is still somewhat out on this dish for me. Part of that is my own fault. I saved this dish for last, using the excuse that I “needed” to order the sandwich a couple of evenings because taking photos of the ramen would’ve been “too tough.” (Ignoring the fact that artificial and indoor light exist.) I thus was “forced” to eat the ramen on what ended up being literally the hottest afternoon of the year in Anaheim. Probably not the ideal dish for that day.

That was an issue because this is a heavier and hotter ramen, to the point that it’s almost a stew. I’ve been to tons of ramen shops in Japan, and have never had a bowl quite like this. Fortunately, I’m no purist–some of the best bowls I’ve had are the ones that eschew convention and try new things.

Even so, I was a bit taken aback by this at first–it’s really rich and heavy, and again, is strikingly stew-like. But with each bite, I found myself enjoying this more, savoring the spiciness and nuanced flavors underneath. In the end, I unashamedly slurped up the remaining broth when done with the noodles–and my mouth is literally watering as I type up this review. So that should say a lot.

Still, I’m not quite sure this coalesces into a great bowl of ramen, so I’m also unsure of whether I can enthusiastically recommend this to others. With that said, you should start by ordering the QuesaBirria Tacos next door–the definitive birria dish in San Fransokyo Square. If you love those and think they’d be just as good or even better with noodles, you’ll love this. It’s something I’ll definitely be ordering again–but probably on a chillier evening.

Sarah also ordered the Plant-Based Kids Yaki Udon with Mushrooms, Sugar Snap Peas, Roasted Red Peppers, Bok Choy, Dark Soy, Hoisin Sauce. Same idea as the regular version, but with a portion about half the size.

She’s been trying several kids menu items at Disneyland of late (for research, I guess?), and this is far and away the best and biggest portion. It’s great to see Disneyland offering ambitious dishes for kids, and this is far superior to the laughably bad Cheese Quesadilla (among other things) served up at other spots.

Crispy Vegetable and Chicken Pot Stickers are available as a side at Lucky Fortune Cookery.

These are actually pretty tasty, with a nice crunch and decent flavor. They’re also something you could prepare at home…and they cost the same amount as the children’s portion of udon. To each their own, but I don’t think the Pot Stickers are worth it.

Finally, Lucky Fortune Cookery is home to the Baymax Macaron. Disney California Adventure has served up macarons for Halloween, Christmas, and festivals for years; to my knowledge, this is the first one on a permanent menu.

I’m generally a fan of the Disneyland macarons. They satisfy the superficial desire for something Instagrammable, but are usually delicious (even if laden with artificial flavors and colors). This does the past incarnations one better, with a plain appearance and color, and rich chocolate-hazelnut spread and buttercream filling inside. It’s a must-order for the kawaii factor alone; the deliciousness is an added bonus!

One final word of warning that I want to add is that the Mobile Order and seating situation in San Fransokyo Square is pure chaos. In putting together this review, I ate at Lucky Fortune Cookery on 6 different occasions–most of them during or near the start of the off-season, and all before the Big Hero 6 area officially debuted. All but one time, I ate here during off hours (2-5 pm or after 8 pm).

Even then, Mobile Order wait times were lengthy and the seating situation was rough. If you’re planning on dining anywhere in San Fransokyo Square, I’d highly recommend doing it early (right at 11 am), mid-afternoon, or late. Another one of my go-to moves is walking from here to the back porch of Flo’s V8 Cafe. So long as you dine during off-hours, it’s easier to find a seat there–and the atmosphere is unrivaled.

Ultimately, there’s a lot to love about Lucky Fortune Cookery. I truly believe this spot is something special and hits the same highs as some of the Chinatown and K-Town neighborhood spots in DTLA strip malls. The menu is inventive and interesting, and showcases Disneyland’s culinary team at the height of its game with a sense of self-assuredness and confidence that park guests will respond to more ambitious and envelope-pushing cuisine. And they’re right, as Lucky Fortune Cookery is now more popular than ever.

That’s a huge win for those of us who like more than just bland and boring theme park fare. But it also means that Lucky Fortune Cookery doesn’t always hit those same highs. Lines can be insanely long and Mobile Orders can take forever to be processed. The kitchen struggles to keep up in preparing the ambitious dishes, and quality can be inconsistent as a result.

Hopefully, Disney’s culinary team finds a solution that involves more menus like this elsewhere to offset demand rather than cutting corners to simplify the menu here. Disneyland has captured lightning in a bottle with Lucky Fortune Cookery, and it’d be a shame to see this excellent restaurant lose its luster.

Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!

Your Thoughts

If you’ve dined at Lucky Fortune Cookery since the new Big Hero 6 area overhaul (or even the new menu in 2019), what did you think of the food? Did you find it ambitious and envelope-pushing…or too exotic? Have you had any issues with Mobile Order or finding a table in San Fransokyo Square? Do you think Lucky Fortune Cookery is the best restaurant at Disney California Adventure? What about in Disneyland Resort as a whole? If not, which restaurants do you prefer? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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