Downtown Disney in Anaheim
[Editor’s note: As a parent of a picky eater, I can sympathize with the plight of those fighting the good fight when it comes to mealtime. So we planned an entire page dedicated to making food extra enticing.]
You might have passed by this Downtown Disney eatery without ever suspecting just how very, ahem, wild it would be to enjoy a meal inside. The Amazonian jungle-filled interior will calm your beast of a picky eater by its highly elevated fun factor alone. Apes beat their chests, brightly colored macaws squawk from all corners, a trumpeting elephant blasts out as one of the frequent rainstorms whooshes through (a treat for any SoCal’er).
Nestled in a forest of banyan trees and swinging vines (occasional glimpse of a starry sky peek through), you can make an adventure out of coming to dinner without ever stepping foot on a ride…or a line for one. One could even time dinner to end with a bang, by checking the Disneyland website for its nightly firework schedule. Downtown Disney offers validated parking to enjoy the festive experience, so be sure to bring in your ticket when dining.
Delightfully delish dishes appeal to the imagination, such as the Mini Mojo Bones (St. Louis-style pork ribs) or Shrimpkens (popcorn shrimp with Jurassic Chicken dino-shaped bits). While kids will go ape over Gorilla Grilled Cheese and Python Pasta, parents can enjoy a more civilized Cedar Plank-seared Tribal Salmon or Kale and Red Quinoa salad. While kids peruse the aquariums filled with tropical fish, parents can also belly up to the Magic Mushroom Bar for a Cheetah Rita (a rather tasty top shelf marg) or a Mongoose Mai Tai.
* As with any Disney-adjacent restaurant, be sure to make reservations to ensure a table without a lengthy wait.*
Kim Anh Chang answers the phone from a bustling New York City eatery, where she’s partaking in a restaurant hop while on vacation. For the self-described “true foodie”, trying new foods is among the best parts of traveling. Unfortunately, when it comes to eating, not everyone in the Chang household shares the same adventurous spirit.
Chang’s daughter, Sam, was a notoriously picky eater who refused to swallow what she was served. That’s when mom Chang got creative. Ignoring the old adage not to play with food, Chang did just the opposite: She created art with it.
“As I started making more, I realized it was pretty fun,” she recalls. “It became a hobby to me.”
Now, Chang creates “art plates” for her almost three-year-old daughter once or twice a week to help inspire her to try new things. She’s made a Rapunzel portrait using ramen noodles for the princess’s signature golden locks, for example, and a fish from a slice of spam.
“I’m using all the ingredients I use with our own family meals,” says Chang. “My goal is for her to grow up being used to eating whatever the family is eating.”
When Sam’s not eating the food, she’s helping cook it. Her mom finds that her daughter is more likely to eat what she participates in making. Chang’s quirky and inspirational dishes have given Chang a following in Orange County’s local parenting scene. The Anaheim mom is the talk of Facebook chat boards and is gaining an increasing number of Instagram followers. She hopes her plated art meals inspire other families to make some food art of their own.
“You don’t have to make it fancy, but these artful plates do help them,” says Chang. “It makes them more interested in what they’re eating.”
By Michelle Thompson