(01.07.2012) I am a Disneyland junkie. It’s hard not to be, especially when Disneyland is just a hop, skip, and a jump away. However, it shames me to admit that before I actually went to Club 33, I did not know what Club 33 was. I passed by the entrance many times, but I never stopped to think that it was anything more than another Disneyland prop.
What I particularly like about Disneyland is that it has a history and a story to everything, and Club 33 is no exception.
This secret, 5 star restaurant was originally designed by Walt Disney because he wanted a place to entertain his VIP guests, like visiting celebrities and dignitaries. Inspired by pieces in France and his experiences at the World Fair in 1964, Walt set off on a mission to create a higher-end lounge at his park. Though he died just 5 months before it was completed in May 1967, his vision was brought to life in Club 33. To this day it remains exclusive, with a 14 year wait list to become a member. The perks extend beyond the restaurant, but I think the restaurant itself is pretty cool for Disney buffs.
I was lucky enough to visit Club 33 through a generous friend who reserved tickets for all of us through his work.
To enter the club, you need to arrive at your reservation time to a nondescript door in the French Quarter. You press the hidden doorbell, give the attendant your name, and wait for them to buzz you in. When you enter, the first thing you see is their lift – a real working lift that holds 3 people at a time. The colors are rich, the look is old fashioned, and the hostess is dressed in period clothing.
The lift takes you up to the dining areas. There are 2 different dining areas – the Trophy Room, a room fitted with darker woods, richer tones, and stuffed, mounted animals, and the main dining room that is brighter, more open, and slightly more formal.
When I entered the 2nd story of Club 33, the initial impression of the decor that I got was that it is similar to the Haunted Mansion. Fitting, I suppose, since they are both modeled after the same New Orleans feel.
The dining experience is a mix between a full service, fine dining restaurant and a buffet. Though your main course is made to order in the kitchen, there’s a full salad, seafood, and dessert buffet. Some of the tasty things they offered were lox, caprese, lobster tail, crab claws, and shrimp cocktail. Everything was incredibly fresh.
For my entree I ordered the Chateaubriand, medium rare. I’d recommend switching out the side to the truffle mac & cheese because it was better than the parsnip potato puree. It was tender and very flavorful, and the sides balanced out the meat perfectly.
Club 33 is also the only place in Disneyland that serves alcohol. They use top notch alcohol, and though they only make classic drinks (think martinis, vodka cran), they don’t skimp on the alcohol.
What I thought was the best part of my entire meal, however, was the dessert buffet. Holy sweet tooth, everything looked amazing.
I was impressed (but not surprised) by Disney’s attention to detail with the monogrammed desserts.
Out of everything, my absolute favorite thing (my mouth waters just thinking about it) was the smore. It has a soft, cookie-like graham cracker on the outside, with light, fluffy marshmallow & rich chocolate on the inside. The entire thing is drizzled with chocolate. When you bite into it, all the sweet flavors merge and explode inside of your mouth. It’s so sweet it makes your teeth ache, but when you’re done with it you’re left wanting more (I had 4).
After lunch we explored the balcony outside. I think this was my absolute favorite part because of the unique view it offered us. The servers are also extremely accommodating and were more than happy to come outside with our group onto the balcony, tell us more about the history, and take pictures for us.
I got to explore after eating and found a lot of really interesting things. I’m a big bathroom person – that is, I pay attention to bathrooms. I guess after reading Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations,” and his tip to never eat in a restaurant with a dirty bathroom (because if they can’t keep their bathroom clean, what do you think their kitchen looks like?) I’ve been ultra conscious of bathrooms. Club 33 has really interesting toilet seats – they look like wicker chairs.
They have a fully functional phone booth from the movie “The Happiest Millionaire” and apparently if you call a phone from it (you have to be directed to the operator first, you can’t make the call directly yourself), the caller ID comes up as “The Happiest Place on Earth.”
I found this tidbit really interesting – Walt Disney wanted this restaurant to provide the best dining experience for customers and actually had microphones installed into the ceiling, camouflaged by the lights, so that he could essentially listen in on the customer’s conversations to hear if they had any complaints about their food. That way, the server could come by and take care of the problem, like magic. Creepy? A little. But you could bet that it was the best experience a customer ever had. They don’t use it anymore (or so they say…).
Club 33 was a really cool way for me to start of 2012. Aside from the delicious food, and the feeling of being able to experience something brand new to me, I really liked learning all the little known facts about Disney history. Disney buffs, make sure you put this one on your bucket list!