I have been very fortunate throughout the past decade to have had the opportunity to eat at Disneyland’s exclusive Club 33 several times. An organization I teach for holds their annual meetings there. You have to be a member to eat there – and of our colleagues has been a Club 33 member for years. I am told that membership costs about $10K a year.
I had the presence of mind to take pictures this time around, which was just a few weeks ago. Here then is my personal tour of Club 33 – and a food review too.
But first a bit of history. Club 33 is located in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square, which was designed to capture the atmosphere of the nineteenth- century New Orleans French Quarter. I have actually been in the real French Quarter and while Disneyland captured some of the feel of that historic place, the reality is that the real French Quarter is a bit sleazy, which of course Disneyland is not.
According to a history scroll I was handed by a cast member at Club 33, Walt Disney felt that a special place was needed where he could entertain visiting dignitaries and others in a quiet, serene atmosphere where superb cuisine and distinctive decor would complement one another. He asked artist Dorothea Redmond to provide watercolor renderings of what such a place might look like. Accompanied by renowned decorator Emil Kuri, Walt and his wife traveled to New Orleans to select many of the beautiful antiques that are on display. After years of planning, Club 33 became a reality in May of 1967 – a few months before I was born. Sadly enough, it was never seen by its creator because Disney died of lung cancer five months earlier.
Club 33, so named after its address, 33 Royal Street, is comprised of two dining rooms and several adjoining areas, all of which hold a wide array of magnificent antiques and original works of art. After ascending in the French lift to the second floor, guests enter into The Gallery. Here they find interesting items such as an oak telephone booth with beveled leaded glass panels adapted from the one used in the Disney motion picture “The Happiest Millionaire” and a rare console table which was found in the French Quarter of New Orleans. In The Gallery, as elsewhere in the Club, are many original works by Disney artists and sketches done as design studies for New Orleans Square and the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.
The Gallery leads into Lounge Alley which serves as a vestibule and also the buffet for the Main Dining Room and Trophy Room. One wall displays several conceptual sketches of New Orleans Square, and directly across from these sketches is a custom-designed harpsichord decorated with a hand-painted scene depicting New Orleans harbor in the nineteenth century. The furnishings are a combination of antique and reproduction pieces.
The Main Dining Room is decorated in First Empire, recalling the era of Napoleon and the early nineteenth century. Three glimmering chandeliers and wall sconces illuminate the entire room. Much of the framed artwork on the walls is again, the work of Disney artists. Fresh flowers, parquet floors, and antique bronzes create an atmosphere of serenity and warmth.
The Trophy Room is the second dining room and offers a more informal atmosphere. The cypress-planked walls provide an excellent background for sketches done as design studies for the Jungle Cruise and Tiki Room attractions. The design of the room incorporates the use of microphones in the center of each chandelier and a vulture with the ability to speak. Walt Disney’s intention for this concept was humorous in nature, as the vulture was to converse with guests during dinner. The Trophy Room also contains a number of antiques and it is usually sunlit from a long row of windows.
Today, Club 33 functions as an exclusive private club where members or their guests may enjoy a gourmet meal complemented by the finest wines.
So let’s talk about the food now. They serve everything buffet style. As you can see in the picture above, there are appetizers served on ice, that feature shrimp, lobster and crab. Another case has a selection of gourmet cheeses, marinated and roasted vegetables, salads, and cold cuts.
If you’re smart you grab two plates and load one up with the appetizers and then grab the entrees with the other. No need to make room for bread as they serve sliced artisan bread in baskets on the tables, along with butter. Bottled water is served as well as coffee. Adult beverages, including fine wines and mixed drinks, are available at the only bar found anywhere in Disneyland.
The entrees always seem to include baked fish, roast beef, and lamb chops. The fish is served with a cream sauce that is rather mild. The lamb chops are drizzled with Au Jus and while I loved them one of my colleagues felt they were too rare. Creamy mashed potatoes and saffron rice were offered on this particular evening, as well as roasted vegetables that included broccolini and carrots. Is the food really gourmet? Well, it’s better than Hometown Buffet and on a par with what you might find at a nice Las Vegas casino.
The desserts are the real prize at Club 33. They have a chocolate fondue tower and provide fresh fruits and marshmallows and wooden skewers, so you can dip the items in chocolate and bring them back to your table. Other desserts include fruit tarts and rich chocolate cake, as well as mini fruit pies and other bite-size offerings.
I know many Disney cast members who have never set foot in Club 33. It is an honor to be able to do so, at least once a year!