ANAHEIM, Calif. – Celebrating “opening night at the movies” during the Golden Age of Hollywood, Carthay Circle Theatre is a spectacular landmark at Disney California Adventure park. The historic design draws guests inside to discover Carthay Circle Restaurant upstairs, with a menu created by award-winning Executive Chef Andrew Sutton, and a lounge downstairs, with each telling the story of Disney movie-making through the years.
“Carthay Circle Theatre is the perfect building to visually anchor Buena Vista Street,” says Ray Spencer, the creative director for Buena Vista Street for Walt Disney Imagineering. ”Stately, identifiable and quite spectacular.”
Couple the design with a seasonal menu that celebrates California’s diverse cuisine, toss in the flair of Disney theming, and it’s a winning combination for a casual and fun dining experience at the end of Buena Vista Street.
“The iconic central tower is the heart and soul of Carthay Circle Theatre,” Spencer says. “There’s a lot of ornate, custom woodwork – probably more details than the original theater. It’s full of textures and materials, custom tiles and plaster; very elegant, warm and rich.”
The building is modeled on the original Spanish Revival architecture of the 1920s, but not an exact duplicate. In the first-floor foyer, the décor tells the story of the relationship of Carthay Circle Theatre to the Walt Disney Company, with photos and artifacts from the 1937 premier of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” Disney’s first feature-length animated film.
The first-floor lounge features an artifact case with treasures from the Disney Archives that periodically will be changed. “You’ll see pieces you’d never have the opportunity to see, except at the archives,” Spencer said. “And we won’t stop the clock in 1937, but will pay tribute to the studios and its achievements through the decades.”
The interior of the 68-seat bar and wine lounge is reminiscent of the grand palace movie days.
The upstairs dining room and terrace feature elegant, custom woodwork and millwork in rich tones, artwork and a beautiful center atrium skylight. Photos show Walt Disney and wife Lillian in formal attire at movie premieres and celebrations of accomplishments by The Walt Disney Company.
It creates the feeling of a premiere after-party and “It’s as though you’re invited to the party,” Spencer said.
The 200-seat dining room is divided into small rooms for a more intimate experience, including a terrace with seating for 56.
While the interior evokes the grand elegance of a classic movie premiere, the ambience of the restaurant and lounge is warm and family friendly. “We’ve created a sanctuary to escape from the bustle of the park,” says Andrew Sutton, the executive chef.
The design and theme are social and informal – a place where guests enjoy beautifully prepared seasonal cuisine. Servers jauntily attired in slacks and bolero-style jackets interact with guests in a friendly manner, guiding them through the inventive menus in the restaurant and lounge.
“Upon arrival, guests are greeted downstairs and escorted up the graceful staircase or by elevator to the restaurant,” says Joy Cushing, restaurant manager. The Carthay Circle Restaurant features tabletops with handsome artwork, dinnerware with the restaurant’s logo and Italian linen napkins – an upscale-casual ambience.
Downstairs, the Carthay Circle Lounge is the place for a quick meal, shared plates and a glass of wine, craft beer or handcrafted seltzer soda.
In each place, historic photographs and artifacts create a sense of place and tell the story of the Walt Disney Studios. Disney continues its tradition of legendary service in this comfortable, relaxing atmosphere.
While Walt Disney’s animation was a hit at the original Carthay Circle Theatre in the 1900s, the cuisine is the star of this modern-day rendition of the famed movie house. Acclaimed chef Andrew Sutton, executive chef at Napa Rose restaurant at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, also is executive chef of Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge. Gloria Tae, Sutton’s protégé at Napa Rose, is chef de cuisine.
Sutton describes the menu as “Southern California cuisine – breezy, light and fresh.” The menu offers five varieties of sustainable fish, both wild and farmed, in dishes such as sushi-grade yellowtail grilled with jerk spice, topped with a tropical salsa of pineapple, mango, black beans and lime, and Sierra Golden trout roasted with couscous, lemon and oil. The lunch menu includes an udon noodle bowl with red Thai curry broth, and an Angus burger with Tillamook cheddar cheese.
Vegetables are hand selected by staff who visit the Santa Monica market and local farms seeking the best of the best local produce. With a nod to the heyday of the Carthay Circle Theatre, old-fashioned dishes such as “liver and onions” get a modern twist, with crispy fried chicken livers served with a salad with buttermilk dressing, bacon and onions.
Desserts, too, honor the seasons, with summer desserts including “Peaches In All Their Glory” and seasonal county pie with whipped brown sugar sour cream.
“Its modern cuisine that pays tribute to the bold and diverse flavors of Southern California,” says Sutton. “We live in the ‘salad basket of America,’ with farmers, artisans and ranchers.”
A friendly wine program includes both Old and New World wines, with a focus on California vintages. All of the servers have wine training.
Kids can choose from fun creations such as sloppy joes with house-made slaw, pasta and mini crispy tacos, or a beef filet or fish for dinner.
Each guest who orders an appetizer and entrée or an entrée and dessert will receive complimentary, center-stage viewing for the “World of Color” nighttime, water spectacular on Paradise Pier Bay. Lunch guests and guests who have dinner before 7 p.m. will receive tickets to the first “World of Color” show; guess who dine after 7 p.m. will receive tickets to the second show.
The Lounge menu is divided into Bites, Rolls, Snacks, Small Plates and Finger Desserts, served in a place to “relax, share and have fun,” Sutton says. Tastes range from hot shrimp with a chilled spicy tomato shooter to duck confit sliders with apricot conserve, watercress, crisp onions and Taleggio cheese.
Appetizers are paired with handcrafted classic cocktails, California craft beers and world-class wines. Handcrafted, classic cocktails using the art of mixology and muddled with seasonal fresh fruit are a specialty.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
For reservations: 714-781-DINE or email email@example.com with date, time and contact information.
“World of Color” packages: Each guest who orders an appetizer and entrée or an entrée and dessert will receive complimentary, center-stage viewing for the nighttime, water spectacular.
About the Disneyland Resort
The Disneyland Resort features two spectacular theme parks – Disneyland (the original Disney theme park) and Disney California Adventure park – plus three hotels and the Downtown Disney District, comprised of unique dining, entertainment and shopping experiences. The Resort’s hotels are the luxurious, 948-room Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, which also features 50 two-bedroom equivalent DVC units; the magical, newly renovated, 969-room Disneyland Hotel – both AAA Four Diamond properties - and the 481-room Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel with its “day-at-the-beach” fun. For information on attractions and vacations at Disneyland Resort, visit www.disneyland.com, call (866) 43-DISNEY or contact local travel agents.