Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Club 33

Restricted to members only, Club 33 is a private facility created by Walt Disney so he could entertain celebrities and other dignitaries when they visited Disneyland. Located next to the Blue Bayou restaurant in New Orleans Square, the club is so exclusive that the only indication it’s there is a discrete address (“33”) outside a nondescript gray door. In fact, I never even heard of Club 33 until Tim casually mentioned it a few months ago. At that point, I became determined to get inside. After much prodding, Tim finally checked with his radio contacts and, sure enough, was told we could get access through a member who was a friend-of-a-friend. We made dinner reservations for four (us, plus my friend Carla and her daughter Megan—both huge Disney fans) for Friday night.

Not knowing what to expect, I decided to google “Club 33” and found a loving, but “unofficial” website that explained everything. Latecomers would not be seated and there’s a dress code “to retain the high standards” and “elegant ambiance” of the club. Shorts, tank-tops, and (ye gods!) flip-flops were not allowed, but men could wear jeans and a collared shirt. It was suggested that women wear a casual dress or pants and a top. After spending a sleepless night worrying about my ensemble, I settled on a denim skirt and nice sleeveless blouse. Tim wore a button-front shirt and black Levi’s.

Our reservation was for 5:30PM, so we arranged to meet Carla and Megan outside the park a half-hour early. Anticipating long lines at the security gate, we left the Disneyland Hotel, where we were staying, at 4:30PM. Flying on winged feet, we made it to Disneyland in record time (10 minutes) and immediately proceeded to Guest Relations to pick-up our admission tickets. I called Carla to tell her where we were.

“We’re right here!” she said, waving at me from a handful of paces away.

Armed with our complimentary one-day, park-hopper “Club 33” passes, we entered Disneyland and headed straight for New Orleans Square. We arrived at 5:05PM just as throngs of people poured out of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. None of them noticed the unassuming gray door next to the number 33.

Tim spoke into a brass voicebox to the left of the door, notifying the hostess that we had arrived, while Carla, Megan and I changed out of our comfortable flip-flops into real shoes. It was far too early, so we were told to come back at 5:30PM, which we did.

Eventually, the door opened and a young woman asked us inside. We waited in the lobby while our table was being prepared. After several minutes, we were invited upstairs to the main dining room. Carla and Megan rode the antique French lift (i.e., elevator), while Tim and I walked.

The entire restaurant was decorated in the ornate style of mid-19th-century New Orleans: lots of wood, draperies, and chandeliers. Period furniture and large (fake) flower arrangements lined the halls.

“I almost expect the flowers to start singing,” Carla whispered as we headed toward our table.

The dining room was dark and quiet. Through the shutters, I caught a glimpse of Mark Twain’s steamboat as it circled Tom Sawyer’s Island.

Our host handed us a menu with two dinner options: (1) a five-course price-fixe ($75) meal, that featured lots of fish and red meat, which I don’t eat, and (2) an a la carte list of entrees and starter plates. I ordered the free-range chicken breast and salad with pecans and melon dressing. Tim got the giant prawn and steak. Before surrendering his menu, Tim drew our attention to the disclaimer at the bottom of the page, reminding us that “Club 33 maintains a minimum food charge of 66.00 per person.” Yikes!

As soon as we ordered, a much younger man appeared with four small plates on a tray.

“Compliments of the chef,” he announced rather stiffly. “Lemon goat cheese tarts.”

He then placed the plates in front of us. “They’re finger foods, so you can eat them with your hands,” he shyly added, as we chuckled to ourselves. The tarts were delicious.

Tim’s meal was disappointing, but the rest of us thoroughly enjoyed our food. We, of course, ordered dessert even though we were all pretty full. Tim had a piece of outside-down cherry cake with cherry ice cream, while I wolfed down a bowl of vanilla ice cream and shortbread cookies. Yum!

On the way out, we stopped at the ladies room while Tim looked down at New Orleans Square. Grabbing a stack of highly collectible Club 33 hand towels, we laughed at the toilets that looked like small Victorian thrones (very uncomfortable!) We then left, but not before purchasing souvenir Club 33 pins to commemorate the evening.

Outside the gray door once again, we changed back into our flip-flops. I felt a bit like Cinderella reluctantly leaving her glass slippers behind.

Carla and Megan ran off toward the Haunted Mansion, while we strolled back to the hotel. “Maybe we’ll return one day for my birthday,” I wistfully sighed to myself. (Note to Prince Charming: this is a hint!)

1 comment:

Ginny said...

I am so jealous. I once got conned into treating my daughters and grandkids at that Bayou restaurant because somebody gave me the misinformation that they served wine. Wrong! Only at Club 33, I take it.

The picture of the ladies' loo is priceless.