What a thrill to find Big Thunder Ranch BBQ delivered on everything we hoped to experience when we went there! Dorothy and I wanted to try their barbecue since we stopped by on our last visit. Then we heard from family that it was decorated for the holidays. We expected a lot. We actually got more even than we’d hoped to find. I suspect Disneyland is in the top 99 percentile for excellence in attention to detail when it comes to creating an all-inclusive environment.
The whole space of Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue was decorated for the holidays including the delivery wagon and a surrey. The stage, which fits between the open doors of a barn, was decked out too. The backdrop and a sign hanging from the front wall of the barn all advertised Santa’s Reindeer Round-up. As we wandered around the grounds while we waited for our table, we found the reindeer. Disneyland has a small herd there though I didn’t bother to count the actual number.
Lunch shows up family style
The hostess took us to our shaded table after a very short wait, which was probably due to coming at 3:45 PM. Our waiter, David, was prompt, courteous, and helpful. The Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue serves family style – or as Disneyland describes it, “cowboy-style grub,” so there’s no menu, except for the dessert menu. You can also request a vegetarian plate instead of the meats. Lunch, which is served until 4:00 PM, includes BBQ chicken, BBQ ribs, corn bread muffins, BBQ baked beans, and cole slaw for $19.99. This is an exceptional value considering that it’s all-you-care-to-eat for that price.
My fresh brewed iced tea, which was excellent, and Dorothy’s Coke were each $2.99. Delivering our drinks in old-fashioned mason jars added a touch of authenticity to the Western ranch theme.
If you want dinner, $24.99, it includes everything in the lunch menu plus smoked sausage and corn on the cob, which comes in wheel shaped slices about 1-1/2 inches thick. Because we were there after 4:00, we got to upgrade to the dinner so as to try everything.
Several dishes were delightfully different
The cornbread was moist, crumbly, and slightly sweet, possibly because it actually included kernels of corn. It came with little balls of butter. If you have never enjoyed cornbread before, you may not realize that good cornbread is crumbly, at least when you try to spread butter on it.
The cole slaw was delightful as it was made with vinegar. Nevertheless, it is sweet too. The cabbage was crisp and crunchy. We found it a wonderful balance to barbecued meats and sweet beans. For the other side, Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue serves ranch beans, the best BBQ baked beans I can recall, but then I like pinto beans in a sweet, molasses style sauce.
The pleasant surprise came when we first tried the barbecue chicken and ribs, which were different than any barbecue meats you normally find. The chicken, instead of being slathered with sauce, was cooked with a barbecue rub. This made it flavorful without a lot of added sugar. The chicken was thoroughly cooked. The only thing I personally would have liked different is for the skin to be more crispy.
The ribs too were different. They came covered with a thin layer of barbecue paste, like you might make from combining a barbecue rub and oil. Again, the flavor was excellent, the meat tender and moist.
The smoked sausage was a Polish sausage. Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue served the sausage in roughly four inch sections that are slit lengthwise then grilled.
The corn wheels, cut from corn on the cob, were a special pleasure. It was actually sweet, not a given in Southern California. I grew up in Wisconsin where sweet corn was a summer treat.
Special attractions during the holiday season
While the Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue always has entertainment, leading up to Christmas, they also have Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and Santa’s Reindeer Roundup. Be aware that the entertainers take a lunch break around 3:45 PM so if you want to be there while they perform, check on their schedule with Disneyland. Also, on busy weekends and holidays, if you really want to eat here, call to make reservations at (714) 781-DINE or (714) 781-3463.
Some rare restaurants manage to capture the sights, the sounds, and the flavors of their theme in an exceptional way. Big Thunder Ranch serves up fabulous BBQ in a Western ranch setting. It does this so well that it definitely fits into this category. The food was distinctive and flavorful; the service was superb; and the total experience was exceptional and unique.
Please let me know what you think of the Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue. Or comment about your favorite restaurant in Anaheim or surrounding cities.
Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue
Frontierland in Disneyland
Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue website
The restaurant’s hours are related to the park hours. Call their reservation line to confirm: (714) 781-DINE or (714) 781-3463
Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue location
- Anaheim Convention Center, 800 W Katella Ave, Anaheim, CA 92802: 1.0 miles
- Disneyland, Anaheim, CA: 0 miles
See above review – cowboy-style grub served family style
$15 to $35.99 Per Person
“Price reflects estimated individual check average, except Character Dining and buffet locations where pricing is based on individual adult pricing. Excludes alcohol, tax and gratuity.” (quoted from Disneyland’s website)
- Casual Dining
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