June 18, 2024

Inside Disney’s Secret Dining Room

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We're big fans of secret spaces and hidden gems in the parks and resorts. This List of the Top 10 Quiet Corners of Walt Disney World shares some of them, and regular readers know that




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We’re big fans of secret spaces and hidden gems in the parks and resorts. This List of the Top 10 Quiet Corners of Walt Disney World shares some of them, and regular readers know that we routinely sing the praises of Magic Kingdom’s little-known balcony in the busiest area of Fantasyland and another nearby relaxing respite from the crowds.

Unfortunately, there are not as many spaces that offer a reprieve from the chaos and crowds at Disneyland Resort. The more consolidated and cramped layout of the California parks mean there aren’t as many places to escape other people. This is something of which we’ve become acutely aware while searching for quiet areas to soothe a fussy baby.

What if we told you there’s not only a secret space that checks all the right boxes, while also being one of the 24 Best Restaurants at Disneyland. In fact, it’s one of the most enjoyable dining experiences in either park, or even Downtown Disney and the hotels, for that matter. The cuisine is crowd-pleasing, the food is fun–it checks the right boxes from a culinary perspective, too!

We’re talking about Lamplight Lounge in Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure, the reimagined restaurant that took over the spaces of two different dining options, and offers a wide variety of seating outdoors and inside as a result. Even longtime Disney diehards who frequently eat at Lamplight Lounge may not know this secret dining room exists. Heck, we didn’t until after dining here about a half-dozen times!

For starters, Lamplight Lounge is one of our favorite table service restaurants in either park (behind only Carthay Circle Restaurant in DCA). It’s a laid back spot that’s decorated with Pixar art and other items, and feels like it could be an employee lounge in Emeryville where the fabled animation studios is headquartered.

Lamplight Lounge is fantastic for lunch or dinner, but our favorite meal is the “brilliant brunch” at Lamplight Lunch (full review), which has a slew of standouts. The vibes are immaculate for brunch, with open air seating boasting big views of the bay. Exactly the type of decompressing experience we crave after Early Entry and racing around at rope drop.

Anyway, let’s head inside the exclusive dining room at Lamplight Lounge, which is one of Disney’s coolest secret spots in the parks that you might not know even exists. This spot is tucked away on the lower level along with the rest of the main dining rooms at Lamplight Lounge. After checking in and going down stairs, you head straight through to the far opposite side.

From there, you’ll head “backstage” at Lamplight Lounge, heading beyond the main dining room into an area vaguely reminiscent of the boiler room at Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout.

This, as you may recognize, is a maintenance service elevator vault door, still in operation, waiting for you. We invite you, if you dare, to step aboard because in tonight’s episode you are the star. And this elevator travels vault door directly to . . . The Twilight Zone The Office.

Okay, kinda mixing attraction references here, but for whatever reason, when I first headed back to the secret dining room, it gave me serious Tower of Terror flashbacks. I was half-tempted to ask the Cast Member introducing it how good his Rod Serling impersonation was, but feared hearing “who?” or just generally coming across as a weirdo.

Anyway, access to the secret dining room is carefully guarded behind the vault door. And as hinted at above, the secret dining room is known as “The Office.” (So no, that was not an odd reference to another television show above.)

The Office’s vault door is also no ordinary vault door, and has a show element–you initiate an opening sequence, for lack of a better term. It’s nothing amazing or anything, but it is sufficiently fun that everyone in our party wanted to (and did, thanks to a patient Cast Member who I assume hears the exact same request from just about every group seated here) do it themselves.

Opening the vault door is one of those little things that’s immensely satisfying, like a really good back crack or pulling the lever in Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. Disney needs more of these tactile moments that don’t seem like much, but are somehow immensely cathartic. Not the point of this post, though.

Upon entering The Office at Lamplight Lounge through the vault door, you’ll see an intimate space that seats up to 13 people. You can pretty much see it all in my photo above: one booth plus another circular wooden table with leather seats and a wood table.

Red walls with hand-drawn sketches of Pixar animators, plus another shadowbox with coasters signed by more animators and Pixar executives featuring doodles and messages to the opening team of Pixar Pier and Lamplight Lounge.

Above the leather seats, there are also games on the wall that you can take down and play.

It’s a pretty straightforward space, but there are a few things that make The Office special. First and most obvious, it’s exclusive. If there’s one thing Disney fans love, it’s exclusivity. You may scoff at that, calling it superficial or whatever, but it’s 100% true. How many of you have Club 33 on your bucket list? Who among us hasn’t bought Annual Passholder-exclusive merchandise–even the stuff that’s a bit ugly because they added one too many graphic to it?!

One thing we love as Disney fans is being “in the know” or part of a select group who appreciates and enjoys the parks on a different level than the average guest. Things like knowing backstories or being able to spot little details–things of that nature also qualify. This is important to many of us also because it’s what helps separate Disney theme parks from ordinary amusement parks.

The Office has that quality in spades. It’s not just the exclusivity of knowing about and getting to dine in this secret space. It’s also the show of getting inside, and what the room itself features in the form of art from the Pixar animators. You’re feel like you’re in a special place.

It’s hard to convey this, and I’m probably not doing it full justice. For me, the best example is Tiffins or Nomad Lounge at Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World. Like Lamplight Lounge, these spots aren’t themed in the traditional sense of the term. Instead, they’re decorated with inspiring and aspirational messages about travel, and items from the Imagineer Joe Rohde and his creative team.

A big part of what’s special about Tiffins and Nomad Lounge for Disney fans is the sense that it’s a place designed by Imagineers, for Imagineers. It’s easy to imagine them unwinding there after a long day working on Pandora, because they probably did!

Lamplight Lounge is like that, but for Pixar Animation Studios. More specifically, The Office seems very much like a space that Pixar creatives could’ve pushed to have set aside for themselves during the design process of Pixar Pier. It’s not hard to imagine John Lasseter–a passionate parks person with a lot of power at that time–wanting The Office to exist so he had somewhere quiet to hang out with his family or friends when visiting DCA.

Even if that’s not exactly the story of how this secret space came to fruition (and I have no clue, to be clear), that’s what it feels like. As if you’re hanging out in one of the old haunts of Pixar employees–where they might’ve sketched out ideas for upcoming animated movies on the back of napkins. It has an “if these walls could talk” vibe, much like the Tam O’Shanter. That’s another restaurant that comes to mind when in The Office, and the sketches on the wall are reminiscent of the Brown Derby. So there’s definitely an old Hollywood sense to the space.

I still feel like I’m failing to articulate what makes The Office feel special. I guess it’s one of those “if you know, you know” types of things. If not, this is all probably nonsensical rambling, so hopefully a majority of you know!

While the secret room itself is a cozy escape from the rest of Lamplight Lounge and Disney California Adventure, it is worth noting that you don’t have to totally forfeit the “big views” of Paradise Bay if dining here.

You actually have the best of both worlds, as just outside The Office, there’s a private patio that faces Pixar Pier and affords an excellent vantage of the Incredicoaster launch.

All of this should sound great, and it is. Now time for the bad news. You can’t reserve the secret room at Lamplight Lounge. Not only that, but being seated here requires a tremendous amount of luck and/or Cast Member magic, lucky timing, and being the right party size.

I mentioned earlier in the post that we hadn’t been seated here (or even heard about it) our first half-dozen or so times dining at Lamplight Lounge. Well, that’s because on every one of those occasions, our group was 2-4 people. The chances of a couple (or even two) being seated in a space that accommodates up to 13 is exceedingly rare.

So step one for being seated in the secret room at Lamplight Lounge: make friends. Or have a big family, but that’s going to take longer and be more expensive, so maybe just go the friends route. This is one of those rare occasions where a big group is an advantage rather than a disadvantage for Disney dining.

If you have a larger party, ask about the secret dining room at the host stand. In addition to that, go to the restaurant right when it opens for the day and make the request to have your party seated in The Office. At the end of the night is another option that might work, or on a rainy day or during a hard ticket event.

Basically, I’m just listing occasions when demand is likely to be lower and, in turn, it’s less likely that The Office is already occupied. Any of those scenarios increases your odds of being seated in the secret dining room, and some of them might even work for smaller parties.

Dumb luck is another big one. From what we’ve heard, that’s the most common scenario for being seated in the secret room. It often comes down to a guest celebrating a birthday or a Cast Member opting to make some magic for someone. But you can’t really plan for dumb luck, and you’re reading a post about the secret dining room so that’s presumably not going to be your approach, anyway.

Honestly, I wouldn’t stress out too much over being seated in The Office. It’s a cool space and I do think that every diehard Disney or Pixar fan should try to see inside at least once. But you remember that rambling section of this post where I tried to explain why it’s so special? If that explanation didn’t “click” for you, it could be because this type of space won’t resonate with you. (It could also be because my writing isn’t lucid.) And there’s nothing wrong with that!

If we were taking Disneyland first-timers or family, we actually would not request The Office. As cool as I think it is, I also have the ability to “read the room” and know that my parents or our normie friends would not feel the same way. They’d wonder why the heck I’m so excited about a windowless room…and why we passed by ample amounts of open air seating with views of the bay on a brilliant California day. Hopefully that attitude is fairly common, and will either reassure you that The Office isn’t a must-do…or make it easier for you to score a spot in this secret dining room at DCA!

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 many other SoCal cities!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think of The Office? (No, not the one with Dwight, Jim and Pam?) Would you prefer sitting in here or in the normal dining rooms at Lamplight Lounge? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? 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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