Avalon White Clam Chowder with applewood smoked bacon and fingerling potatoes, $5.00.
Avalon Cove by Wolfgang Puck
and The Cove Bar
Are you getting hungry while visiting Yester California Adventure?
Did you bring a credit card?
The Avalon Cove restaurant is at the entrance to the parks Paradise Pier section.
Although Paradise Pier is supposed to conjure up images of long-gone California seaside amusement parks such as Ocean Park Pier in Venice and The Pike in Long Beach, those parks never offered the fine dining experience that Avalon Cove offers.
The entrance is under a tower that looks like raspberry swirl ice cream cone.
This is not an ordinary theme park restaurant.
Avalon Cove is operated by Wolfgang Puck, chef to Hollywoods rich and famous celebrities—and quite a celebrity himself.
Wolfgang Puck is credited with defining and popularizing California cuisine and Asian fusion cuisine, and for inventing gourmet pizza.
Sure, Wolfgang Puck lends his name to airport eateries and frozen pizza.
However, Avalon Cove is a real, one-of-kind restaurant for those who appreciate creatively prepared, beautifully presented meals made from the finest, freshest California ingredients.
The 350-seat Avalon Cove restaurant features a fanciful undersea decor, with hand-made lighting fixtures and a costly Italian glass mural.
How about a leisurely four course meal with fine wine?
Perhaps a different wine with each course?
This theme park isnt “dry” like that other theme park across the Esplanade.
A spectacular Italian glass mural covers one wall of Avalon Cove.
Lets look at the dinner menu...
Crispy Calamari with cilantro mint aioli and spicy marinara 10.00
Iced Oysters on the Half Shell with cocktail sauce and citrus mignonette Market Price
Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail with avocado, watercress and cocktail sauce 15.00
Wolfgangs Iced Seafood Sampler for Two oysters, shrimp, crab 19.00
with half lobster Market Price
Tuna Sashimi Appetizer with spicy tartare, ginger, chives, avocado, and ponzu 12.00
Grilled Beef Satay cilantro mint aioli and spicy Thai cold noodles with crushed peanuts 9.00
Spicy Tuna Roll chopped fresh tuna, chili sauce, green onion, avocado and sesame seeds 8.00
California Roll crab, avocado, cucumber and sesame seeds 8.00
Soups and Salads
Garden Tomato Gazpacho with cucumber raiita, basil oil and parmesan crostini 4.00
Avalon White Clam Chowder applewood smoked bacon and fingerling potatoes 5.00
Caesar Salad with curly romaine, parmesan crostini and freshly grated Parmesan 7.00
Baby Spinach Salad bosc pears, blue cheese, spiced candied pecans 8.00
Cobb Salad with romaine, watercress, tomatoes, eggs, green beans, smoked bacon, blue cheese
with chilled shrimp 16.00
with crab meat 18.00
Four Cheese Raviolis with tomatoes, basil and freshly grated Parmesan 14.00
Spaghettini Shrimp Pomodoro tomatoes, garlic, basil and extra virgin olive oil 16.00
Linguine with Clams with butter, oregano, garlic, and white wine 16.00
Penne with Chicken asparagus, blanched garlic, oven-dried tomatoes and pine nuts 15.00
Grilled Salmon with ginger tomato fondue and baby vegetables 18.00
Seared Big Eye Tuna with “Hong Kong Style” stir-fried vegetables 24.00
Grilled Mahi Mahi Teriyaki Style on wasabi potato puree 19.00
Maine Lobster steamed or grilled with bearnaise sauce Market Price
Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Half Steamed Lobster
garlic mashed potatoes and drawn butter Market Price
Veal Picatta with sizzling lemon caper butter and garlic potato puree 23.00
Grilled New York Steak Bearnaise potato puree and steamed asparagus 25.00
Grilled Chicken with double blanched garlic and French fries 16.00
18% service will be added to parties of eight or more
Its not cheap, but its not out-of-line for what you get.
And, if you think about it, the superb Avalon White Clam Chowder for five dollars may actually be a better value than a five-dollar corn dog elsewhere at Paradise Pier.
Its the kind of menu that causes diners to ask “Whats cucumber raiita?” and
“Whats citrus mignonette?”
But thats okay.
Go ahead and ask.
Try the tuna sashimi appetizer and mahi mahi with wasabi potato puree.
Or play it safe with a shrimp cocktail and a steak.
Enjoy a great view at night.
The view from Avalon Cove is spectacular, especially at night.
You can choose between indoor and outdoor seating.
If youre not up for a big dinner, consider having a drink and some of Wolfgang Pucks bar food at The Cove Bar, a full bar upstairs from the Avalon Cove dining room.
Welcome to The Cove Bar. Sit under the gazebo roof or in the open.
Its easy to get a table at Avalon Cove.
You dont need a reservation, which is unusual for a restaurant of this caliber.
The Cove Bar has plenty of seats, and most of them are usually empty.
Maybe there arent enough people around here who want to spend $43 for park admission and then another $100 or so for dinner, wine, tax, and tip.
At night, The Cove Bar is spectacular. So where are all the people?
Avalon Cove by Wolfgang Puck opened along with the rest of Disneys California Adventure in February 2001.
But it didnt last long.
At the beginning of October of the same year, Wolfgang Puck gave up on his ambitious, upscale seafood eatery.
Avalon Cove must have seemed like a good idea before it opened.
How could Avalon Cove miss?
The big crowds who would fill Disneys California Adventure would jump at the chance to dine at an excellent restaurant by the legendary Wolfgang Puck.
The business model of fine dining within a theme park worked well in Florida.
Most table service restaurants at Epcot were full every night.
In fact, the restaurants were among the biggest attractions at Epcot.
Guests bought admission tickets for Epcot just so that they could dine there, and they ran up big lunch and dinner checks enjoying multi-course meals and fine wines.
Some Epcot restaurants were Disney operations, while others were run by outside restaurateurs.
The problem was not Avalon Cove itself.
It was in the wrong place.
The big crowds never materialized at Disneys California Adventure.
The restaurants at EPCOT Center (now Epcot) were instantly successful with Orlando locals and out-of-town guests when the park opened in 1982; for one thing, there werent too many other choices in the area at the time.
But Southern Californians and out-of-town Disneyland guests in 2001 had no shortage of other choices.
And while EPCOT Center opened with a full roster of compelling attractions, the decision makers for Disneys California Adventure were unsuccessful in producing a park that would pull in crowds.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times on October 2, 2001, “California Adventure was expected to attract about 7 million visitors annually, or 19,000 a day. But in the week before the terrorist attack, the park had been drawing an average of about 4,500 per day, according to a Disney official who asked not to be identified.”
After September 11, the already abysmal numbers dropped even further.
First Wolfgang Puck. Then Family Dining. Now Ariels Grotto.
Avalon Cove wasnt the only failed high-end restaurant at Disneys California Adventure.
At the same time that Wolfgang Puck closed his Avalon Cove,
Robert Mondavi Corp. ended its operation of the Golden Vine Winery restaurant.
The change wasnt as visible because Mondavi stayed on as a sponsor after Disney took over the operation.
Avalon Cove reopened a few months later as a Disney-operated character-dining restaurant.
A year later, its name changed to Ariels Grotto.
Avalon Cove in its original colors.
Ariels Grotto (shown here in 2006) is the same building.
Wolfgang Pucks failed restaurant is only a memory, but the building itself hasnt changed much.
As the two pictures above show, the building is now white with a red roof.
The interior of Ariels Grotto still takes advantage of the expensively outfitted interior of Avalon Cove.
Ariels Grotto caters to the stroller set with princess dining.
The former Avalon Cove became “Ariels Grotto - Disney Princess Celebration,” with Ariel joined by other Disney princesses, such as Belle, Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora.
The menu now offered comfort food dishes such as Chicken & Biscuit Pot Pie and Maliboomer Meatloaf.
There was still some seafood—Paradise Bay Fish & Chips, SurfnSalmon B.L.T. and Bayside Shrimp Cobb Salad—but nobody would mistake Ariels Grotto for a fine seafood restaurant.
The draw became character interaction, not cuisine.
Now, Ariels Grotto offers character meals at breakfast and lunch only.
At dinner, Ariels Grotto offers a prix fixe package which includes access to a preferred viewing area for World of Color.
The Cove Bar is still called The Cove Bar, although its not listed in the Disneys California Adventure guide map.
It makes sense that it wasnt renamed “Teenage Princess Ariels Full-Service Bar.”
The Cove Bar still offers spectacular views, but the bar food is no longer from the kitchen of Wolfgang Puck.
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© 2007-2012 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks
Updated June 22, 2012.
Photograph of Avalon White Clam Chowder: 2001 by Kevin Yee.
Photograph of Paradise Pier entrance and Avalon Cove: 2001 by Allen Huffman.
Photograph of Avalon Cove interior with glass mural: 2001 by Kevin Yee.
Transcript of Avalon Cove dinner menu: based on a 2001 photograph by Kevin Yee.
Photograph of the view from Avalon Cove: 2001 by Kevin Yee.
Photograph of The Cove Bar by day: 2001 by Kevin Yee.
Photograph of The Cove Bar at night: 2001 by Allen Huffman.
Montage of signs: (left) 2001 by Allen Huffman, (center) 2001 by Allen Huffman, (right) 2006 by Werner Weiss.
Photograph of Avalon Cove with blue-gray roof: 2002 by Werner Weiss.
Photograph of Ariels Grotto with red roof: 2006 by Werner Weiss.
Photograph of Ariels Grotto with strollers in front: 2006 by Werner Weiss.