I think of Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue as the forgotten Disneyland table service restaurant. While Blue Bayou, Napa Rose, or Carthay Circle enjoy a certain amount of buzz, no one ever really talks about this particular dining establishment. Perhaps it’s because it’s relatively hidden compared to the other restaurants. Or maybe it isn’t yet old enough to have a reputation. Today I will help to boost the reputation of this restaurant, because any place that allows me and my loved ones to stuff my face with unlimited ribs should be loudly and frequently celebrated.
Before I start my review here is a little history lesson on this location. Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue was added to Disneyland in December, 1986, along with the neighboring Big Thunder Ranch petting zoo. It started its life as a quick service restaurant with a menu consisting of turkey legs, chicken, and prime rib, but for whatever reason it never gained the amount of popularity Disney had hoped. For most of its life it remained in the dreaded “seasonal” operating status, meaning it was only open during the busiest days of the year. Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue was closed permanently on January 21, 2001, and it remained shuttered until Disney revitalized the entire Big Thunder Ranch area in 2009. Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue returned as a family-style, all-you-can-eat table service restaurant. Fun fact: From 1996 to 1998, Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue was rethemed to promote Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame film and renamed to “Festival of Foods.”
Was Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue worth it? I thought it was. Some people may balk at the $26.99 price tag, but if you think about it you’ll be spending bare minimum of $10 for a quick service meal in any restaurant in Disneyland. Considering the unlimited food, included soda, fast and friendly service, and live entertainment, I think that makes it one of the best values in the park.
What do you think? Have you ever eaten at Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comment section below.