Yesterland
“Great food IS rocket science”
 

Taste Pilots’ Grill
 
“It’s an aero-DINE-amic experience!”
Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, 2004

There’s a comic book-style explosion on the front of an aircraft hangar here at Condor Flats. An eye-catching orange jet is frozen at an upward angle. This scene represents test pilot Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier on October 14, 1947.


The orange jet is Yeager’s experimental U.S. Air Force aircraft—the Bell X-1, “Glamorous Glennis” (named as a tribute to his wife). This Bell X-1 is a replica. The real one is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2002

Frozen Bell X-1

Did the Bell X-1 grab your attention? It’s supposed to draw you into Taste Pilots’ Grill.

Haha. Test pilots, taste pilots. There’s no end to the puns around here.

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, 2001

Menu on the exterior

Before you go in, check the menu to the right of the entrance. The bleu cheese burger is called the Wild Bleu Yonder Burger. Tom Wolfe’s 1979 best-selling book about post-war test pilots and the early astronauts was called The Right Stuff, so this menu has The Flight Stuff and The Side Stuff.

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2003

Giant neon graphic

Once inside, look up at the inside wall above the entrance for the other side of the explosion.

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2002

Counter service

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2009

Menu above

As you wait to order, look at the full menu above the counter. Figure out the difference between Full Throttle Fries and Flyby Fries.

Service is usually pretty fast. Before you take your tray to a table, there’s another stop you’ll want to make.

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

Industrial-looking toppings bar

Head to the well-stocked toppings bar and pile on traditional burger toppings such as lettuce, tomatos, and onions—or create a more interesting taste profile with green chilies, pico de gallo, and various sauces. Turn your burger or sandwich into a feast.

You can also top your criss-cross Flyby Fries with barbecue sauce, hot sauce, salsa, jalapeños, or anything else from the toppings bar.

The toppings bar has beautiful large lettuce leaves and substantial tomato slices—not shredded lettuce or chopped up tomatoes. Yum!

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Fresh and perfect

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2009

Topped and ready to eat

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2009

Inside seating

Grab a table inside this airfield hangar repurposed as an eatery. Pretend you’re at a hangout for test pilots, with mementos of their accomplishment decorating this utilitarian space.

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

Homage to the Bell X-1

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2002

Test pilot junk on the ceiling

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2002

Jukebox

Sorry. The jukebox is not operational; the coin slots are sealed. That’s intentional. There’s a music loop with over an hour of aviation-oriented songs, such as “Come Fly With Me” by Frank Sinatra, “Space Oddity” by David Bowie, and “Straighten Up and Fly Right” by the Andrews Sisters.

If it’s a nice day, you might prefer to sit outside.

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, 2002

Outside seating

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Chris Bales, 2015

Space Shuttle nozzle

There aren’t as many artifacts out here as inside, but there’s one that’s quite impressive—a main engine nozzle for the Space Shuttle. A sign provides information:

“This nozzle provides the propulsion needed to boost Shuttles into orbit. Each Space Shuttle has three of these engines. Together the engines deliver the equivalent of 37 million horsepower (a typical automobile engine provides less than 200 horsepower). Space Shuttle Main Engine Nozzle Manufactured by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Inc.”

Who says theme parks are not museums?

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2002

More outside seating

If eating burgers and other fast foods in an industrial setting makes you feel like a test pilot, then this is the restaurant for you.


Taste Pilots’ Grill at Condor Flats was an opening day restaurant at Disney’s California Adventure in February 2001.

Condor Flats had trouble conveying the theme of a “a high-desert airfield dedicated to the wonder and ingenuity that helped spawn California’s legendary aviation industry.” Originally a sub-land of the park’s Golden State land, the “runway” was squeezed between Grizzly Peak, Disney’s Grand California Hotel, and the tall show building of Soarin’ Over California (a part of Condor Flats). It felt more like a narrow mountain valley than an open desert.

As the trees grew, the desert theme became even less convincing. The opening of Cars Land in June 2012 gave the park a spectacular desert land.

The Bell X-1 on the restaurant’s exterior was an odd feature. As a decoration “bolted” onto the façade, it did nothing to add authenticity to Condor Flats. It was not something you would see at a real airfield.

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Chris Bales, 2012

Façade update in progress

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Façade without Bell X-1

Taste Pilots’ Grill remained relatively unchanged until the fall of 2012. That’s when the Bell X-1 and the comic book explosion disappeared. More substantial changes to Condor Flats would have to wait for a budget.

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Chris Bales, 2015

Smokejumpers Grill

Finally, in 2015, Condor Flats would be merged into Grizzly Peak. Smart! But instead of erasing the airfield theme entirely, it would be a hybrid, becoming the Grizzly Peak Airfield section of Grizzly Peak. That way, the existing structures could be reused with only cosmetic changes—paint colors, siding, signage, architectural details, exterior and interior decor, and place names. Tall evergreen trees and other mountain landscaping complete the new look.

Taste Pilots’ Grill closed January 7, 2015 and reopened March 20, 2015 as Smokejumpers Grill. The rest of Grizzly Peak Airfield opened less than two months later. Thanks to talented Imagineers, the theming is a dramatic improvement.

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Chris Bales, 2015

Distinct resemblance to Taste Pilots’ Grill

Taste Pilots’ Grill at Disney’s California Adventure

Photo by Chris Bales, 2015

New decorations, but similar ambiance

The restaurant’s new theme replaces one group of daring individuals (test pilots) with another: smokejumpers—airborne firefighters who parachute into remote areas threatened by wildfires!


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Updated July 24, 2015.