Hidden in the streets of New Orleans Square at Disneyland in California is a restaurant so exclusive that most park guests don’t even know it exists. Sadly, I must admit that I will probably never have the chance to experience the secrecy, majesty and history behind Club 33, so when I saw a review of it pop up in my Twitter feed today, I was giddy with delight.
Tony Spittell presents a Disney Culinary Quest on the DisUnplugged Blog, and his review of Disneyland’s Club 33 presents all the grandeur and spectacle of one of Walt’s greatest visions.
Located at 33 Royal Street, just steps from the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean and the Blue Bayou Restaurant, Club 33 is a members-only respite, and the only location at Disneyland park to serve alcoholic beverages.
As of 2010, there is a 13-year wait list to become a member of Club 33. The club only has 487 members. But once you become a member, you need to pay an initiation fee (more than $10,000) and an annual fee (around $3,200). Members are also able to visit the sister location at Tokyo Disneyland.
The inspiration for Club 33 came when Walt Disney visited the World’s Fair in New York in 1964-65, and he saw many corporate VIP lounges. So, when New Orleans Square went under development, he wanted to have a similar place for Disneyland’s corporate sponsors and VIPs. Club 33 opened in May 1967, five months after Walt’s death.
To gain access to the club, guests must press a secret buzzer near the entrance. A cast member will buzz you in to the lobby if you have proper access. Once in the lobby, it’s a small area. There is a stairway or an ornate lift to the second floor dining areas. The lift is a replica of one in Paris that Walt Disney fell in love with during a vacation. A team of Imagineers worked to recreate the lift to exact measurements and specifications.
The decor is full of pieces that Lillian Disney selected. You can also find props from Disney films like “Mary Poppins.” There’s also a harpsichord that was made for Lillian. Sir Elton John has played it while at Club 33.
Walt Disney also wanted to use his audio-animatronic technology inside the restaurant. In the “Trophy” room, a vulture and some other animals visibly have microphones hanging from them. Walt wanted someone to listen to guest conversations and use the animals to respond.
The most important thing about Club 33 is the food. A fan website www.DisneylandClub33.com has present and historic menus. You could get a five-course meal with a wine pairing, or select something a la carte. But either way, the menu is vast including duck, walnut crepes, chateaubriand, scallops and more. There’s even a children’s menu that takes a kiddie twist on some elegant adult favorites like the angus beef cheeseburger or the petite filet of chateaubriand.