We head out to visit Disney’s Contemporary Resort and the iconic Chef Mickey’s restaurant that’s located on the fourth floor Grand Canyon Concourse. Whether there’s something in the water, a fear of Donald Duck’s imminent retribution, or it’s simply Disney’s unyielding marketing machine, every child who enters this world wants to eat here. That power transcends price, food quality, logistics, and by all other accounts, logic. After all, a family of four eating dinner at Chef Mickey’s will pay about $217.45 with tax/tip for a buffet that is almost universally panned on pricing and food quality.
In case you don’t want to trudge any further on what I’m sure will end up being a 2,500 word treatise on shrimp quality, I will break it down for you right off the bat: Chef Mickey’s is expensive and the food is edible, at best, but you are paying a premium for all of the fun and joy that the experience offers. The wonder of walking up to the massive A-frame building with the monorail running through it. The smell of green clove and aloe wafting over you as you feel the power of the air-conditioning long before the sliding glass doors open. The excitement of entering the lobby and riding up the escalator towards Mickey’s kitchen. The fun of waving up to the guests riding on the monorail to Magic Kingdom just like you’ve waved down at those heading to breakfast so many times before. They say that you can’t put a price on happiness, but I think that we can all agree that Disney manages to do a good job of doing exactly that.
It is probably inevitable that you will balk at the check when it arrives, but the pictures taken, memories created, hugs shared, and autographs collected will (hopefully) far outlast the payments on that second mortgage. And if you want to rationalize it further, you might consider just how (un)important food quality is once the meal is over. We have all probably enjoyed fantastic food and service with the happy memories that go along with it. But Goofy was probably not involved. And you will probably enjoy Chef Mickey’s and everything that it offers even though fantastic food and service probably won’t be involved.
And with that, let’s continue to the trash-the-experience-and-make-you-feel-bad-about-wanting-to-go portion of this review.
Derek and family were nice enough to invite me along for the ride. I will tell you that if there is anything more embarrassing than taking buffet food pictures at the buffet, it’s returning to a table for one after an extended photoshoot only to find Chip and Dale looking feverishly at their watches while the character attendant gives you that, “Really, guy” look. And yes, really, I needed that third picture of the ketchup. You never know which pictures are going to shine.
Chef Mickey’s charm is primarily derived from two sources – one is the monorail whizzing by overhead every few minutes.
But Contempo Cafe, the quick service located right next door, offers even better views of the monorail overhead and commands closer to $20 than $60 for a beverage, entree, and dessert. All of which will be potentially higher quality.
The overwhelming reason why people pick Chef Mickey’s is the characters and fun that comes along with it as Pluto waves goodbye to us and Donald visits a delighted family behind him.
The characters actually changed outfits as of this past December. Immediately above, an apron-less Pluto is the new look. I did a pretty lousy job of capturing the characters this time around, but he is sporting a handkerchief with an orange spatula on the back. He means serious business when it comes to pancake flipping.
Of course, Chef Mickey’s is the only location where diners meet each of the “Fab 5” characters – Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto. The fact that the characters are actually the chefs cooking the food in the back might explain a lot…
It’s hard to be adequately attentive to the risotto when you spend the majority of your time hugging Duffy bears and leading parades around the restaurant. Above is Mickey’s old outfit.
The new duds are certainly busier. Minnie used to sport her usual red polka dot dress.
The characters still do a good job of making the rounds inside the restaurant, though it’s not quite as personable as some other buffets where there are fewer people and a little more privacy. Garden Grill is my favorite character meal because the circular shape of the restaurant typically means that you have a private audience with the characters if you’re on the lower level, which is where I would request a table. The last time Erin was at Chef Mickey’s, her table was right next to the buffet line and a lot of the kids would demand the attention of the characters as they waited in line for their chicken nuggets.
Chef Mickey’s serves breakfast and brunch, in addition to dinner. With tax, the cost for the morning and afternoon meals is the same at $48.99/adult and $29.82/child ages 3-9. Dinner comes in at $58.58 for adults and $35.15 for kids. That’s not as much of a bump in the dinner price as other buffets. For example, Crystal Palace breakfast is ~$40/adult, while the dinner price is ~$55, a difference of $15. You might consider that if you’re hemming and hawing over visiting for breakfast, brunch, or dinner.
Here’s how Chef Mickey’s stacks up against other breakfast buffets:
- 1900 Park Fare: Adult: $42.60, Child: $25.56
- Ale & Compass: $24.50
- Akershus: $55.38, Child: $33.02
- Boma: $30.89, Child: $17.04
- Cape May: $40.47, Child: $24.50
- Chef Mickey’s: $48.99, Child: $29.82
- Crystal Palace: $40.47, Child: $24.50
- Cinderella’s Royal Table (Tip included): $67.93, Child: $40.85
- Garden Grill: $40.47, Child: $24.50
- Hollywood & Vine: $40.47, Child: $24.50
- ‘Ohana: $40.47, Child: $24.50
- Trail’s End: $23.43, Child: $12.78
- Tusker House: $40.47, Child: $24.50
- The Wave Adult: $24.50, Child: $13.85
After tax, most character meals are priced at $40.47/adult and $24.50/child. Chef Mickey’s is about 25% more expensive than that. The princess meals cost a lot more while those without characters cost somewhere between $23 and $30 per adult and $13-$17 for kids.
Chef Mickey’s remains one of the most difficult reservations in all of Walt Disney World to get, despite the higher prices. Brunch is the easiest meal to secure with breakfast typically seeing better availability than dinner. As always, reservations open up as a date approaches. You might not be able to find anything at Chef Mickey’s a month in advance, but a day or two in advance, people finalize their plans and cancel reservations all the time.
Chef Mickey’s offers breakfast from 7am to 11:15am and brunch from 11:30am – 2:30pm. Pricing is the same for both meals and the lunch hours do potentially make Chef Mickey’s a more convenient stop after a morning spent touring Magic Kingdom. A lot of people who frequent websites like these are probably looking at those early reservations with plans to walk to Magic Kingdom for rope drop immediately after. But for those who prefer to sleep in an extra hour, you might instead book brunch for around 12:30pm, which gives you plenty of time to enjoy two of the least crowded hours at the Park, some FastPass+ experiences, and potentially a show or two before heading over to the Contemporary for a break.
Online, this is what’s guaranteed at Chef Mickey’s breakfast:
We’re actually going to see all of these items stick around for brunch, with the exception of the Carved Ham, which is switched out for Roasted Turkey later in the morning.
The buffet is expansive with few items repeating on each side of the carving station.
I would offer one other tip on timing – brunch seatings end at 2:30pm and as people leave, the characters will have fewer and fewer tables to visit, which means they’re more likely to spend more time with your table and potentially revisit a second or third time before heading back to the kitchen to start on dinner. On my previous visit, we were seated around 1:50pm with a 1:45pm reservation. It took a while for the characters to come around the first time, but as more and more people left with nobody to replace them, the characters started dropping by much more frequently and two different character attendants came by to make sure we had all the time we needed with each character.
With an earlier reservation, every table would be full and quickly replenished with new guests, which means fewer opportunities to spend time with the characters and attendants that are far too busy to come by multiple times to make sure everybody is satisfied. Note that this is only true when there is an extended amount of time in between meals or at the end of dinner service. At a buffet like Crystal Palace or Tusker House, which picks up for lunch immediately after breakfast ends and then dinner immediately after that, you don’t get the same lull in traffic between meals.
Another buffet trick is to book a late breakfast just before lunch service takes over. If you do that, then you’ll pay the breakfast price and be able to select favorites from both menus. Typically, the buffet will be half breakfast and half lunch until the last breakfast folks clear out, at which point the buffet will be turned entirely into lunch offerings. At Chef Mickey’s, breakfast officially ends at 11:15am with brunch taking over at 11:30am. With a reservation between 10:45am and 11:15am, you could easily enjoy all of the breakfast offerings before a few are switched out for brunch, but it’s probably less interesting than Tusker House or Crystal Palace, where just about everything for breakfast is switched out for a different dish. You can check out my Crystal Palace experience with the late breakfast that turned into lunch, here.
You’ll find a couple of different rooms at Chef Mickey’s.
Very few tables have much of a view of Magic Kingdom, but you might ask at check-in if one is available.
What is perhaps the “main dining room,” away from the buffet, is usually loud and less private, which means you’re more likely to have others invade your time with the characters as they make their rounds. You might request a table elsewhere.
Those seated in the area directly behind the check-in area will enjoy a better view of the monorail overhead.
These tables then line the buffet. That two-top towards the bottom of the screen is an example of one where the characters may become distracted as they try to visit with you.
For better or worse, we’ll take a look at all of the brunch offerings. You can always fill up on “Assorted Breads…” It might actually be wise to fill up on bread.
We have a variety of “Jams and Jellies,” in addition to Cream Cheese, Red Pepper Cream Cheese, and Dill Cream Cheese. It’s nice to see some elevated offerings to go along with your Bagel or what have you. The Red Pepper version had a nice, mild kick to it, making your plain bagel a little more interesting.
Elsewhere on the bread front, you’ve got fluffy Biscuits and hearty Sausage Gravy.
Smoked Salmon, Shaved Red Onion, Capers, Diced Tomatoes, and Hard-boiled Eggs. There should theoretically be some Lemon Wedges as well.
There they are.
You can prepare yourself a little salad if you’re so inclined with Sliced Cucumber, Onions, Tomatoes, Chopped Egg, and Olives along with Spring Mix and your standard Salad Blend.
That’s alongside Ranch, Italian, and Blue Cheese Dressings and Caesar Salad.
In the back, you’ve got Tomato and Basil Ricotta Salad, which was nice and fresh with juicy tomatoes and soft, creamy cheese with a nice zing from the vinaigrette.
We’ve got “Power Green Salad” up front with a tomato that I’m not sure is supposed to be there.
The Seasonal Apple Potato Salad is interesting with the apples supplying a sweet crunch to a refreshing potato salad.
Surprisingly, the Shrimp were fantastic – large, plump, and no shells or veins to be found. Typically, you find tiny little Peel and Eat Shrimp at buffets that aren’t worth the time to peel, but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at these if they were served as part of a Shrimp Cocktail at your standard table service restaurant. They were probably a little small for a “Jumbo” Shrimp Cocktail, but you can grab as many as you want, so it’s a little less important. It doesn’t take any effort to offer better shrimp, but I was impressed that Disney actually bothered. The Cocktail Sauce was nice and spicy too.
Disney buffet fruit is usually a losing battle here with Watermelon, Honeydew, Cantaloupe, Grapes, and Greek and Strawberry Yogurt. Slimy and overripe, for the most part.
It looks like we see the Hard-boiled Eggs again along with what may be Quinoa, Pineapple, and Grapefruit.
It looks like we’re missing the Granola.
Moving on to hot foods, we’ll begin with some items that should be present for both breakfast and brunch with the Cheesy Potatoes, Ham & Cheese Scramble, Veggie Scramble, and Oatmeal. I’m a big Cheesy Potatoes guy, so I enjoyed those in particular. The various egg dishes are proficient, though we’re far from Boma Goat Cheese Scrambled Eggs territory. If you’re looking for the best breakfast buffet, then I’d probably look in Animal Kingdom Lodge’s direction. Of course, my favorite morning meal, California Grill Brunch, is just upstairs.
Some Oatmeal Mix-ins.
Sesame Ginger Tofu, Breakfast Potatoes, Pork Sausage, and Bacon. This was all just fine too – about what you would expect from a resort quick service. The Bacon did stand out as being nice and crispy without a lot of grease.
The Pancakes are made fresh on a griddle on the buffet line, which is a nice touch.
Here accompanied by Maple Syrup.
We’re largely in Brunch territory with Jalapeno Cornbread, Green Beans, Asparagus, and Street Corn.
Ordinarily, “Street Corn” might be an indicator that the elote is coated in cotija cheese, among other things. At Chef Mickey’s, it could well be that they found the corn in the street and just wanted you to know. This sort of thing probably gets more appetizing as it gets later in the afternoon, which may also factor in to when you decide to book breakfast or brunch.
There’s more hot brunch-y food with Tortellini Marinara, Baked Salmon, Shrimp & Grits, Mongolian Beef, and Rice. The Salmon was actually pretty good – a thick piece of tender, flaky fish with a nice seasoned crust, and the Beef wasn’t bad either for those looking for some meat. You’re more likely to regret the Shrimp & Grits and the Tortellini didn’t look particularly appetizing.
You can probably count the number of people getting Chef Mickey’s soup on one hand, but we have Smoked Tomato Bisque and Chicken Noodle.
The Roasted Turkey would probably be a disappointment if the carving station is a big part of your buffet experience.
It was on the dry side as well.
Kids enjoy a handful of basic selections that anyone is free to load up on, including Turkey Sausage, Tator Bite Tots [sic], French Toast Sticks, and Scrambled Eggs.
We’ve also got Chicken Nuggets and Macaroni and Cheese.
More tots and corn.
The Mickey Waffle station is every bit the disaster that you would expect. We have Warm Cherry Topping, Chocolate Sauce, and Caramel Sauce on the side.
Just in case the kids at the table next to you aren’t already spending their morning banging their silverware together, this extra dose of sugar ought to do the trick.
As far as I can remember, you don’t typically see all of these candy options on the buffet line for breakfast elsewhere. You can always use these mix-ins with the ice cream, too.
And then there’s more dessert:
Soft serve is a focal point of any Chef Mickey’s meal, whether you have to sneak a cone at 7:30am or indulge later around lunchtime.
And you can always load up on condiments.
And burn off even more calories with the frequent napkin twirling.
Overall, how hard you come down on the food is up to you. The breakfast items are pretty good for the most part and somewhere in the vicinity of on par with what you would receive at a Value resort quick service. There’s enough variety in the Mickey waffles, eggs, meats, potatoes, and yogurt that if you never venture away from that, then you would be doing quite well for yourself. Relatively speaking. The cold salads are of decent quality for the most part and should add a bit of freshness to your meal. Everybody knows a scoop of caprese salad reduces the calories of Mickey waffles by half. Once you get into the shrimp and grits, asparagus, and other items added later in the day for brunch, I think you’re mostly in for a disappointment.
So in 2,000+ words I have hopefully managed to tell you exactly what you already knew. Chef Mickey’s is a little more expensive and the food is a little (and occasionally a lot) worse than other similar buffets. But there is no other restaurant in the world that offers the opportunity to enjoy a meal while the Fab 5 visit you tableside and the monorails whiz guests to and from Magic Kingdom overhead.
But is it worth it? Like most things Disney, the fact that it’s booked solid is some indication that it’s worth the premium over similar experiences. And I think a lot of people will find value in trying it once. That’s particularly true on the Disney Dining Plan at dinner, where guests will find a lot of value while the meals still cost just one credit. If you don’t think much of the atmosphere, but still want to enjoy a character breakfast with similar characters, then I would look at Garden Grill (Mickey, Pluto, Chip, Dale) or Tusker House (Mickey, Donald, Daisy, Goofy). Without characters, Boma, The Wave, and Trail’s End get my vote.