I finally got to experience the magic of the Blue Bayou at Disneyland’s New Orleans Square

Miranda Defoor smiles in the Blue Bayou restaurant

Miranda Defoor, Reporter

Ever since becoming an annual passholder at the Disneyland park in California, I’ve had two goals. The first is to go to Club 33, which is a private, members-only club in New Orleans Square in the Disneyland Park. Since the membership for Club 33 can be years long and costs anywhere from $12,500 to $30,000 annually, I had to go with the second best thing.

The Blue Bayou is still fine dining in the Disneyland Resort, also located in New Orleans Square. It’s place that almost everyone who’s been to Disneyland before has seen, even if they don’t know it. The magic of the Blue Bayou dining area is walking in from the sunny and warm California weather into a cozy and dark Louisiana night. If the opening ride scene on Pirates of the Caribbean hasn’t made much sense while riding, it’s because it’s truly not a part of the ride, but part of the dining area and experience of the Blue Bayou.

The dining area of the restaurant is completely inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. From the point of view of the ride, guests get to see the tables with strings of dim but colorful paper lanterns overhead. Lots of riders yell to the diners to throw bread to them on the boats, and, if it’s quiet enough, the Blue Bayou restaurant music can be heard in the ride boats, too.

As many times as I’ve been on the Pirates ride, I have wanted to eat at the Blue Bayou. The ambiance seemed so magical, like everything at Disneyland, and the idea of being inside an attraction during a meal was even more exciting. Eating there meant I would have the opportunity to spend more time in the attraction than when I was just passing through on the ride. I would finally get to be fully immersed in the theming and experience that has been so carefully crafted by imagineers at Disneyland.

The Blue Bayou does dining for both lunch and dinner. Lunch is a little cheaper, but the dinner menu has more options. We were able to look over the menu while we were waiting for a table since it is on display just outside of the lobby and available on the Disneyland app. Guests can scope out options before even being seated in the waiting lobby.

For the sake of my trip, dinner was a better time for reservations. Reservations are not explicitly required, but people have waited up to 45 minutes with a reservation, and maybe hours without. Disney allows, and encourages, guests to make reservations up to 60 days in advance. So I did.

My reservation was at 7:30 p.m., but the cast members, that’s the title for all Disneyland employees, let us check in at least 15 minutes early. By 7:15 p.m., we were seated in the lobby and waiting for a host to seat us in the dining area.

Because so much of Disneyland is aimed at families of four or more, we spent less than ten minutes in the lobby before my party of two was seated. I had been told that getting a seat near the water, and the boats passing by from the Pirates ride, would mean a special request or waiting even longer for an empty table, but as we were walked from the waiting lobby to the dining area, we were led straight to a table along the water.

I was already overwhelmed with excitement from being in the restaurant when we were seated. Trying to take in the massive dining area, the theming, dim lighting, and sounds from the ride nearby was so much at once.

We were two tables over from the kitchen, which was the only downside to our table. The entire dining area is only lit with the strings of large paper lanterns and flickering candles at each table, so the constant opening and closing of the kitchen doors shined lots of light in the area we were seated. It didn’t affect the ambiance too negatively, but it would have been better to be seated a little further away.

After getting our menus, our server brought us bread and drinks. Disneyland doesn’t serve alcohol anywhere besides Club 33, so even though Blue Bayou is one of the fine dining places in Disneyland, there is no alcohol served.

Sitting so close to the water was more incredible than I expected. The Pirates ride looks completely different from the point of view of the dining area. The classic smell of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride water is mixed with the Cajun and Creole inspired food being served, but it isn’t a bad thing. It’s a comforting reminder of an age old ride I have always loved. Being able to watch the ride boats go by was so exciting. As we sat watching and listening to the boats, the table next to us starting tossing slices of bread to the riders. Through all the times I’ve been on Pirates, I’d never seen anyone actually get bread thrown to them, so the entire group cheered when someone caught the second piece thrown at the boat.

Although the ambience and theming of the restaurant is magical and immersive, the food I ordered was not much better than any of the other sit down or quick service restaurants in the parks. I’ve heard mixed reviews from other people who have been there. Some have said the food is outstanding and some shared the same experience I had: it was good, but not quite what is expected for fine dining.

The menu is expensive, and for that high price you have to be willing to pay for not only the food, but the experience as well. I ordered pasta, and my boyfriend ordered salmon. My meal was great, but it was still not the stand out meal of the trip. My boyfriend, however, said his meal would be in the top three of any meals he’s had.

Even though I felt my food was just average, the service from the cast members was so quick and friendly. We were seated quickly. Our drinks never made it past half full before they were refilled. The food came out quick, and our server was always checking in with us.

The magic, though, is what I was most excited for and what stood out for me. It’s an experience I never thought I would have, and one I will never forget.