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What to Eat at Disney California Adventure’s Annual Food & Wine Festival

The annual spring festival returns with banh mi and salt & beer vinegar parmesan chicken wings

Salt and beer vinegar chicken wings at Disneyland’s 2018 Food & Wine Festival
Carlye Wisel

If fruit sushi, chicken wings, and Vietnamese sandwiches sound like tasty theme park food, then the return of Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival should come as relief for weary food lovers. The annual event brings a slew of a la carte kiosks with specialized dishes, in addition to tasting seminars, cooking demonstrations, celebrity chefs, and wine and beer pairing dinners to the Anaheim theme park. And there’s plenty to eat beyond the basic hot dog.

Much like last year’s smorgasboard of small plate offerings, the thirteen festival kiosks stretching across the center of Disney California Adventure serve much beyond standard theme park fare. Many items are brand new — sadly, the beloved garlic oil-infused ice cream has not returned — but emerging stand-outs include the spicy salmon Peruvian poke and the salt & beer vinegar parmesan chicken wings (from the aptly named Cluck-a-Doodle-Moo kiosk), whose tangy flavors play well off each other.

Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival
Spicy salmon Peruvian poke
Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival
Fried artichoke carbonara

Other dishes include the fried artichoke carbonara, which despite lacking the eggy texture of its name pairs a salt-pepper flavor with possibly the best bacon crumbles Disney’s ever cooked up. The shrimp boil tacos with andouille sausage and black garlic soy-braised banh mi are too some of the festival’s best, while the sea bean-topped compressed Asian cucumbers are a refreshing antidote to overindulging.

And then, of course, there is frushi. The fruit sushi Franken-roll was culled from Walt Disney World’s Flower & Garden food festival where it’s praised like an Aztec god, but DCA’s version is different and undeniably delightful. The mix of strawberry compote and coconut rice in a sweet wrapper topped with sundae cup strawberry sauce and greek yogurt “wasabi” just works kind of brilliantly, despite how strange or hokey it may sound.

Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival
Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival
Shrimp boil tacos

It’s a different story with the popcorn lemonade, served with tequila or as a non-alcoholic drink with whipped cream and candy corn floating on top. The as-seen-on-Instagram butter-flavored beverage could be called divisive, but it’s almost worth trying as a litmus test; apparently, plenty of people who order it come away obsessed. It’s just five bucks which is a pretty cheap thrill at Disney.

Paradise Garden Grill will also have a new seasonal menu, serving beer-battered cod, vegetarian meatball subs and a sausage trio platter. Catch the food and wine kiosks, in addition to ongoing events, daily until April 12, 2018.