Since its debut in 1967, Club 33 has maintained its status as the most exclusive area of Disneyland, a restaurant open only to its members and their guests.
Developed as a place for Walt Disney to take his investors and business associates and named after its park address “33 Royal Street,” the secretive establishment has welcomed the well to do for decades with its tremendously high costs to maintain a membership (well over $10,000 per year).
Recently, to keep the club feeling fresh, Disneyland has given it a major renovation for the first time, moving its entrance, adding a jazz lounge, and overhauling its menu. Now separated into Le Grand Salon (the dining room) and Le Salon Nouveau (the new lounge), Club 33 is larger and more elegant than ever, replacing dated details with contemporary charm. But Disney fans shouldn’t fret, as many of the club’s iconic old elements were retained in the transition.
The new entrance to Club 33 in New Orleans Square is now even less noticeably marked than its prior home. The old “33″ sign and logo still remains where it always was, now hiding backstages areas behind it. Just down the path sits the new door, with etched glass above it featuring the new logo.
Previously, ringing the Club 33 doorbell would result in a cast member opening the door to see if a guest has a reservation, often resulting in a flurry of quick camera snaps from onlookers. Now the new door has a small window in which staff can more privately ensure that only members and their guests get a peek inside. (Images of the Ink and Paint Club in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” come to mind. Resisting the urge to say “Walt sent me” is difficult.)
Just inside, a small landing room provides a chance to confirm a reservation and offers a first look at Club 33 merchandise behind a glass case.
Prices have actually dropped on much of the merchandise, with more reasonable costs allowing patrons to take a piece of Club 33 home. Mickey Mouse ears, iPhone cases, paper weights, pins, pens, jackets, pillows, and more merchandise is available.
Before being led upstairs into Club 33, guests may wait in the Court of Angels, an area formerly accessible to every Disneyland park guest – a much maligned change that many fans have had no issue being rather vocal about. The grand staircase has always been a beautiful spot in Disneyland, now blocked from the public’s view by stained “glass” gates.
Click and drag around the 360-degree panorama below.
The previous entrance to Club 33 offered an opportunity to ride in a lift commissioned by Walt Disney after seeing a similar one in France. Now, a more modern elevator exists inside the Court of Angels, far less ornate than its predecessor – but definitely more functional for those who can’t ascend the stairs.
Climbing these stairs is a new experience, not previously part of a day at Disneyland. At the top, a mosaic of the new Club 33 logo marks the restaurant’s entrance. Opposite the entrance, a small outdoor hallway is home to the club’s restrooms and is also the new location of one of its old iconic elements, the phone booth fashioned from pieces of one seen in the Disney film “The Happiest Millionaire.”
It’s worth noting here that while photography is permitted in public areas of Club 33, it is now strictly prohibited inside the restrooms – which is a shame as they are simply gorgeous, particularly the men’s room. With deep cherry woods, ornate fixtures, and even a lovely fragrance, the restroom is worth a visit even if one doesn’t have to “use” it.
Likewise, Club 33 now prohibits video recording throughout the restaurant for the privacy of its members and their guests, so no video tour is available here.
The new lobby is grand, open, and inviting. It’s a striking difference from the deep tones of the old Club 33, now bright and full of light.
The room is also home to a few familiar items from the past, including Lillian Disney’s harpsichord, a grandfather clock, and an animatronic vulture that was once perched motionless in the club’s Trophy Room (now kitchen), fully animated for the first time. Every few minutes, the vulture flaps its wings, takes a breath or two, and even speaks English.
Club 33 splits into its two halves here, the left entrance leading into the lounge and the right hallway heading into the dining room.
The hallway bears little resemblance to its former appearance. Once again gone are the dark colors, replaced by white walls, sheer curtains, mirrors, and a large mural depicting a formal garden scene.
Here hangs another piece of Club 33 history, one of the mounted butterfly displays from the former Trophy Room.
Buffet tables are gone from Club 33, no longer part of the menu. The bar is also removed from this area, now located in the lounge. As a result, the hallway stretch leading into the dining room is far more open.
The only recognizable area of Club 33 is the dining room, now known as Le Grand Salon. Though it too received an overhaul, it retained its basic shape and overall feel. New furniture and place settings have been added while the former fireplace has been replaced by a large picture window, brightening up the room. Dining there gives a feeling of comfortable elegance.
Artwork will be rotated over time, keeping the decor feeling new.
Club 33′s new menu was developed by Chef Andrew Sutton, of Napa Rose and Carthay Circle fame. He has brought his California tastes to the restaurant, focusing on fresh local ingredients. Accompanying his menu is an extensive wine and cocktail list. The cocktail book has so many original drinks that it’s a bit overwhelming to choose from, though the star stands out as the Club 33 Diamond Martini, complete with diamond-shaped ice – quite crisp and refreshing.
A meal begins with truffle brioche served with fresh butter with “Club 33 herbs” – soft and warm, all too tempting to fill up on.
New appetizers are among the best tastes on the menu, including the Grilled Quail with Figs and Summer Corn Velvet and Zucchini Blossom Stuffed with Mushrooms on Fresh Field Pea Coulis. For those a bit more adventurous is the Boudin Sausage and Pâté Maison with Apricot Mustard and Grilled Apricot.
Portions are small (or, at least, smaller than typical oversized American portions) but extremely flavorful with unique textures and tastes across each dish.
The star of the second course is easily the Heirloom Tomatoes Salad with Crispy Burrata Cheese and Green Tomato Gazpacho. The cheese is literally dripping with flavor, encased in its breadcrumb crust and coupled with beautiful fresh tomatoes served multiple ways.
The Watermelon Salad with Southern Orange Crème Fraîche and Petit Greens is certainly worth ordering as well.
The classic Chateaubriand steak is gone from the menu, as is the favorite truffle mac and cheese. But its replacement is actually a better steak and overall dish, Pan Roasted Angus Hanger Steak with Cabernet Jus and Tender Haricot Verts. It’s a much smaller portion but so much more flavorful and tender.
Other delicious choices include the Breast of Chicken with Grilled Peaches, Toasted Pecans, and Collard Greens and Layered Ratatouille with Red Quinoa, Black-eyed Peas and Tomato Coulis.
Where the previous menu felt dated, Chef Sutton’s new Club 33 menu boasts bold flavors that deserve small bites to savor. And with several courses to each meal, huge individual portions aren’t needed to feel satisfied in the end.
The one miss may be the Berkshire Pork Medallion Gratin with Southern Red Bean Ragu, as the pork arrived chewy while the beans were rather uninteresting.
The must-have dessert is the Vanilla Mascarpone Velvet with Summer Peaches and Lemon Balm Peach Nector – luscious with just the right amount of sweetness.
The Warm Monkey Bread with Old Fashioned Vanilla Ice Cream with Candied Pecan Praline Liqueur is fantastic too.
All of the above are part of the lunch menu. A completely different dinner menu is offered as well. Seafood varies day to day, depending on what local fisherman can deliver. Club 33 is also making as many ingredients in house as possible, including their own aged hot sauce that should at least be sampled.
Whether dining there or not, members and their guests may enjoy Le Salon Nouveau, the new lounge that features a decidedly different look and feel than anything Club 33 has ever seen before. It’s an open, cushy, relaxing area that begs to steal hours of one’s day.
Leading into the lounge are the club’s wine cases. Club 33 now has a unique wine system that allows them to serve expensive vintage wines by the glass while keeping them fresh.
Just past the wine cases, intimate booths line the side walls, each with a different subtle Disney theme related to New Orleans Square – including The Haunted Mansion.
The main lounge seats many, either at tables near a grand piano, at a well decorated bar (complete with special effects), or in one of several other booths carrying a theme of “The Princess and the Frog.”
Tucked in a corner is the former French lift, now turned into a small seat / photo opportunity – an unfortunate side effect of the Club 33 update.
Le Salon Nouveau may not match in decor with the rest of Club 33, but it’s certainly an area that guests could easily watch the day melt away from within in complete comfort.
Overall, the update to Club 33 is a welcome one, despite some dramatic fan outcries. Aside from the loss of the Court of Angels, it has not detracted from the look of New Orleans Square much, hardly noticeable to the average guest – except perhaps the obviously off-center dining room picture window. It looks fantastic from the inside, but is clearly not quite right from outside.
But the majority of the changes made to New Orleans Square to accommodate the new areas of Club 33 are hardly a nuisance.
In the end, Club 33 is designed for its members and their guests to have somewhere quite exclusive and special to retreat to, either for a meal or simply for some relaxation. The recent refurbishment has heightened both of those aspects with a superior menu and fancy, but still inviting environments. It’s a beautiful restaurant that almost anyone would be happy to enjoy time spent in. Disneyland is not a museum and while Club 33 had a lot of history to it, its new transformation is definitely an improvement.
For comparison’s sake, here’s a video tour (when video was allowed) of the old Club 33, taken just weeks before it closed for refurbishment:
(Photos of the old Club 33 can also be found here.)
More photos from the updated Club 33 at Disneyland: