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Disneyland Article
History Of Blue Bayou Disneyland Most Popular And Perennially Booked Restaurant
Julie Tremaine
You decide you want to have a meal at Blue Bayou, the restaurant in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. But you can’t just eat there whenever you want. You need a reservation. So you pick up your phone and open the Disneyland app to book a spot, only to find there’s no availability — not for a single table on a single day at any point in the future.

So you follow the advice from the Disney groups on social media, who have cracked the code. New reservations, they tell you, are released 60 days out, and the inventory refreshes at 3 a.m. PST every morning. You set your alarm for 2:57 a.m., open the app, and start refreshing.

You hit refresh, and refresh, and refresh, until finally, you see it: an available reservation for Blue Bayou. You click. But unless you’ve got your information already saved in the app, it's gone by the time you’ve entered your credit card to hold the table. By 3:05 a.m., every table that has been released for the date — two months in the future — is taken.

It may sound outlandish, but this happens to Disneyland hopefuls every single day.

Part of the problem, to be sure, is Disneyland’s ongoing staffing problem, which is limiting dining capacity in restaurants and therefore slimming down reservation availability. But part of Blue Bayou’s massive appeal is the restaurant itself.

To start, it’s the finest dining in Disneyland Park (outside of Club 33, the private club above New Orleans Square that costs $33,000 in initiation fees and requires a multi-year purgatory on a waiting list to be considered for membership).

But the other part of what makes Blue Bayou so special is that it’s the only place in Disneyland where you can sit down for a nice meal and still feel like you’re on a ride. The restaurant isn’t just themed like Pirates of the Caribbean, or nearby to the attraction. It’s actually inside the ride: when you’re floating through the swamp at the beginning of Pirates, you can see diners sitting at tables in what’s decorated to look like an evening soiree in the courtyard of a New Orleans mansion, colorful lanterns illuminated overhead, the smell of the restaurant’s signature Cajun-inspired cuisine wafting out to the boats.

One glimpse of the dining room is enough to explain the restaurant’s popularity. But it’s not new. The place has been a runaway hit from the start.

Blue Bayou opened in tandem with Pirates of the Caribbean on Mar. 18, 1967. The ride and its restaurant were among the last projects Walt Disney personally oversaw, though they opened after his death in Dec. 1966. At its debut, Blue Bayou was the first restaurant to ever be built inside a ride attraction anywhere in the world.

Legend has it that Disney’s original vision for Blue Bayou was for the restaurant to include a pirate-themed stage show as part of the experience, according to Mental Floss. “Had Disney kept the original plans, however, the eating experience wouldn’t have been so serene,” Stacy Conradt wrote. “While guests dined on Creole cuisine, pirates would amaze and entertain them. After giving it a dress rehearsal, Walt told his executives that ‘in this restaurant, the food is going to be the show, along with the atmosphere.’”

What you would have seen on that menu would be similar to a fine dining restaurant in New Orleans. On this early (but undated) menu posted on the Disney fan blog Magic Feather Memories, there are items like Crevettes Bayou, which were “Petite Bayou Shrimps with pineapple in cream sauce” for 85 cents and Seafood Creole (“King crab meat, Bayou shrimps and whitefish in a Cajun sauce of green peppers, tomatoes and celery on rice pilaf” for $3.25).

One thing that you can still order today is the Monte Cristo Sandwich, “Sliced breast of turkey, choice ham and Swiss cheese dipped in egg batter and fried to a golden brown, served with a compote of seasonal fruit.” Back then, it cost $2.25. Today, it’s on the lunch menu for $29.

As much as Blue Bayou has a rabid fan following, the food gets mixed reviews, especially since Disneyland reopened last April.

“It's definitely pricy [sic] and the food is fine but not outstanding,” one Disneyland Redditor commented. “But the environment is great and it's definitely worth doing at least once.”

“I've been going there for 41 years and the service and food quality have declined considerably,” another Reddit user said. “The food isn't bad but it isn't that great either. It is average. You are paying for the atmosphere.”

Since reopening in May, though, there has been one other major difference: the restaurant now serves alcohol, making it the only place in Disneyland Park where visitors can have a drink, other than Club 33 and Oga’s Cantina.

If you aren't afraid of a little uncertainty, there’s another option. Disneyland guests who don’t mind taking their chances might have better luck trying to get a walk-up table at the restaurant, either by talking to the Cast Members at the door or by using the Disneyland app. Your best bet if you’re trying that way: have the app open and ready to join the walk-up list just as the restaurant opens for the day. It will be one more thing you have to do on your phone in the park, but if you’re using Genie Plus, you probably already have it in your hand anyway.

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