Monday, April 6, 2009

My Town Monday: Downtown Disney

When I first moved to Anaheim 23 years ago, there was a strawberry field where Downtown Disney us now located. The resort added this outdoor dining and shopping mall in 2001, and it was an immediate hit with visitors and locals alike. It's adjacent to both the Disneyland Hotel and Disneyland, with its own monorail station. Best of all, visitors get three hours of free parking, though visitors to the park are discouraged from parking there.

Downtown Disney (DTD from now on) has a number of restaurants including a Rainforest Cafe, House of Blues, ESPN Zone, and my personal favorite, Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen. I love the colorful umbrellas hanging from the ceiling.



You can smell the beignets as you approach the Jazz Kitchen, and the architecture is reminiscent of New Orleans's French Quarter, one of my favorite places in the world. The menu reflects the Big Easy's signature Creole and Cajun cuisine, but with "Disney" spices, probably because DTD caters to families and kids aren't always very adventurous in their food choices. Cajun food can be red hot, but not at DTD. The Jazz Kitchen's food is subtly spiced, much to the relief of my finicky stomach. We went there on Christmas day and dined on Cajun roasted turkey breast, probably the best turkey dinner I've ever had. They're very good about letting people split an order, and believe me, it was more than enough food for the two of us.


We recently returned and split California Club Sandwich: Toasted sourdough bread, smoked bacon, Cajun roasted turkey breast, sliced tomatoes and avocado mayonnaise. (Yes, that's half of the sandwich.) We asked for Creole seasoned French fries instead of the jalapeƱo and bacon potato salad that normally comes with the club sandwich. The Jazz Kitchen Cheeseburger, made of ground filet mignon cooked to order with Jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles is also delicious. LOL, can you tell I love to eat?

DTD also has a movie theater and a number of retail stores, including the Lego Imagination Center, and Compass Books, the only retail bookstore in Anaheim.

There are disadvantages to living in a tourist mecca, bad traffic being the worst one, but there are advantages, too. One of the latter is being able to to visit during the off season. Another is that there's always a restaurant open, even on a national holiday. One of the bad things is the cyclical nature of tourism and it's ups and downs as the economy fluctuates. Anaheim relies on hotel taxes for much of its revenue, and the downturn in the economy has hit hard here. The library system has had to cut back on hours. I don't expect things to bounce back soon, but I'm hoping I'm wrong.

It's spring break, but when my DH and I visited Downtown Disney in late March, the crowd was sparse to say the least. I asked our waiter if business was down this year compared to last and he said that it seemed to be, though things had picked up after a slow winter. Let's hope they pick up soon.

Linda

My Town Monday is the brilliant brain child of writer/blogger Travis Erwin. Thanks, Travis! Go to his blog to read his latest post and find links to the other participants.

9 comments:

debra said...

I heard on NPR that Disney is going to lay off people, too, but from mgmt rather than the workers. I've never been to a Disney-related place (except for the land of perky people, the Disney Store, when my kids were small).

Teresa said...

Hi Linda,

We really used our resident's year passes when the kids were little doing the rides over and over again in the off season!!! That restaurant sounds good. I'll have to blackmail my family into taking me there for my birthday next month...

The local paper had an article about Disney giving people pink slips. With this economy, vacations are the first thing to cut corners on, and Disney has never been cheap.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Debbie, I just saw that. Most of the layoffs will be in Florida, but 300 "cast members" in Anaheim will be laid off. It's the economy. Even the "happiest place on earth" isn't immune.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Teresa, you're right about Disney being expensive. It always was, a bit, but lately the admission prices have really soared, and then when you add in the cost of lodging, food and all the tchotchkes the kids want, it can get really expensive. I think there will be more people on "staycation" this year, even if gasoline prices stay low. A good time to travel if you can afford it. There will be deals everywhere.

pattinase (abbott) said...

My son-in-law grew up there as I've probably told you. He regards it as heaven.

lyzzydee said...

I can't listen to the tinkling of Disney music without it bringing a lump to my throat!!!
We have been a fair few times, but it is so expensive now and I don't like the way they con you into buying tickets more that yoiu will use (If you buy in England they will sell you a five day pass for £3 less than a 10 day pass, its so that you feel you have to go and get value for money!!!) Still love it everytime I go though!

Barrie said...

I've never eaten at the jazz restaurant. Next time, next time...

Travis Erwin said...

I've been to DTD in Orlando and had a blast. If I ever make it back to California I'm sure I'll try out the west coast version.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Patti, I don't know about paradise, but the weather is great.

Lyzzydee, I agree that the costs can be prohibitive, but it is a lot of fun.

Barrie, hope you both have a chance to try the Jazz Kitchen someday.

Travis, we don't have quite as much to offer here on the West Coast, but our weather is better than Florida's. Well, at least it's not as humid.