Ale & Compass Restaurant opened in the old Captain’s Grille space at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort back in November of 2017. While the meal that we’ll focus on as part of this review, the breakfast buffet, was enjoyed by yours truly just this past Sunday, I took most of the photos of the interior back in November 2k17. That means there are some Christmas decorations around that won’t be present most of the year. Hopefully you can use what you learned at the Imagination Pavilion to envision what the space would look like with fewer Christmas trees and wreaths. Or, if your visit is planned for mid-November through the first week in January, this is exactly what the restaurant should look like. You’re in business either way.
According to Disney, we have the opportunity to “dine on New England comfort food and classic seafood dishes in a gastropub-inspired restaurant that’s reminiscent of a cozy lighthouse.” The greeter happily alerted us to the lighthouse theme as we were being seated.
The word “gastropub” has always grossed me out a bit because “pub” doesn’t seem like a word you’d expect to hear after someone starts talking about their gastro tract.
But the phrase was apparently coined back in 1991 and refers to a “bar and restaurant that serves high-end beer and food.”
“High-end” is relative, of course. I’m going to have to see Bud Light on draft before I think we can safely make that designation.
Otherwise, how you come down on the restaurant probably depends on your personal tastes. Sterile or minimalist? Masculine or cold? Stately or devoid? Gastrointestinal tract infection or home run?
Personally, I like the muted color palette and the calm dining experience that Ale & Compass should typically provide. It does seem a little plain, though. Granted, you probably are not hanging a lot of paintings and such up in your lighthouse, but it seems like some playful touches could have been added to make it “feel” a little more Disney. Of course, the Yacht Club is the Beach Club’s more serious older sibling and Disney has expanded the convention space at the resort considerably. Ale & Compass is probably built with your stereotypical businessperson in mind. Those types of people are probably happy to arrive at their table without a painting of Mickey in a sailor’s hat giving a thumbs up, as comforting as you and I might find that.
Here’s what the restaurant looked like in its Captain’s Grille days.
It might be comically garish. On the other hand, if you really like the color yellow, you probably preferred the old look.
Ale & Compass ends up being the Grand Floridian Cafe of the Crescent Lake Area, offering an easy dining experience with plenty of availability for last minute walk-ups. Looking at reservation availability for a party of four for tomorrow, virtually every single time slot remains available.
Breakfast is served daily with seatings from 7:30am through 11am:
Back when the restaurant reopened as Ale & Compass, there was no breakfast buffet option. It has since returned at a price of $23. The buffet includes choice of entree and coffee, tea, juice, and soft drinks, in addition to unlimited access to the buffet, which advertises:
Seasonal Fruit, Assorted Yogurt Parfaits, Smoked Salmon with Accompaniment, Assorted Breakfast Pastries, House-made Granola, Bagels, Parker House Rolls, Artisanal Cheeses, Charcuterie, Smoked Trout Dip, Assorted Spreads, Jellies, Preserves, Oatmeal with Traditional Garnishes, Biscuits and Gravy.
The buffet value depends on the entree that you select with a la carte pricing ranging from $12 to $19. If you’re considering one of the pricier options, and the $19 Open-faced Skirt Steak Sandwich in particular, then the Buffet is almost a no-brainer. Adding a soft drink or juice will add another $4+ to the price of the meal and you can order more than one as part of the buffet offering:
So if you’re in the mood for Orange Juice and a cup of Joffrey’s Coffee, then you can add both at no extra charge as part of the $23 Buffet price. On the other hand, if you’re eyeing the $12 Salted Caramel-Apple French Toast, and come on, who isn’t, then you’ll be paying more of a premium for buffet access.
As far as the a la carte menu items are concerned, there’s a large variety of choices with some artisanal touches. Originally, I noted the dearth of seafood on the menu. The Lobster Omelet was the most popular dish back in the Captain’s Grille days and while we still haven’t seen its triumphant return, we do have Shrimp & Grits now on the menu. You’d still think that Ale & Compass would be ripe for a Crab Cake Eggs Benedict or something similar.
Plaza Restaurant, over at Magic Kingdom, manages to do the Lobster-Fried Green Tomato Eggs Benedict at the $18 price point. There doesn’t seem to be a reason why something similar couldn’t be done here.
Nonetheless, there is a nice assortment of options with several entrees that sound promising.
And we do find some seafood in the $15 “Captain’s Bloody Mary served with a Lobster Claw Garnish.” Bloody Marys seem to be the milkshakes of the morning in that they’re always getting bigger with more stuff spilling out of the top of the glass. The version at Ale & Compass was quite good – the mix tasted like it was freshly made with a robust spiciness. There were a couple bites of lobster inside of the claw and the bacon tasted great after soaking in the spicy tomato juice for a bit. Unless you really don’t have interest, I’d pay the extra few dollars to upgrade from the $12 version that is in no way Instagrammable no matter how much you try to tilt the picture. If it’s not on Instagram, you’re losing money.
The $11 “Agua Fresca Libation – Paul Cheneau Cava with Agua Fresca Strawberry and Hibiscus” impressed as well. I appreciated how thin and easy to drink it was – there was no syrupy residue from a fruity liqueur or the viscosity and pulp that orange juice typically brings. Instead, the mild, natural sweetness of the strawberry and hibiscus seemed to enhance the crispness of the cava. I would have ordered eight more if they weren’t $11 each.
I also appreciated the salt and pepper grinders on the table – a colorful addition with so much beige and navy blue around. Note that a lot of salt comes out of that grinder with just a little bit of twisting. You’ll want to start gently.
The $5 Fresh-squeezed Orange Juice was pretty forgettable. I don’t think I would have been able to differentiate it from your typical glass of Tropicana.
We’ll begin on the buffet side of things with fresh Cantaloupe, Watermelon, and Mixed berries.
The mixture of juicy Blackberries, Strawberries, and Blueberries was a welcome sight over your typical slimy mixed melon that seems to be what’s delivered with so many sides of Disney “fresh fruit.”
To the rear we’ve got whole Oranges, Apples, and Bananas. It seems a bit unlikely that anyone would go Full Orange in this setting, but you certainly have that opportunity.
Multigrain and Regular Croissants are available – light, fluffy, and buttery.
Then we have Chocolate Croissants in the middle – nice and flaky with plenty of chocolate shavings. Then on the right, we’ve got an assortment of tasty muffins. The Blueberry and Chocolate varieties were particularly tasty.
I apologize for the world’s worst picture of yogurt, but here we are with a couple of different flavors with some fresh fruity mix-ins.
The Cheddar Biscuits, served warm, were a highlight – buttery, cheesy, light, flaky, and entirely irresistible. I wanted to stuff a couple in my pants to take home.
Add some hearty, comforting, creamy Sausage Gravy if you’d like. Probably not to your pants.
The Cinnamon Rolls were just right, warm, soft, and gooey with that deliciously sweet cream cheese icing on top.
Oatmeal is available.
With Craisins, Golden Raisins, and Brown Sugar.
Bagels, and Plain or Whole Wheat Muffins are available.
With butter, jam, and marmalade.
We’ve got three cheeses on the buffet with Brie, Tillamook Smoked Cheddar, and Manchego with an attractive assortment of berry and flower garnishes. No caviar, though.
Getting low for the choicest shots.
And up high with Country Ham, Soppressata, Mortadella, and Capicola. I felt very European for a minute or two as I enjoyed a little of this and a little of that.
With Egg, Capers, and Red Onion for the Salmon and Smoked Trout Dip that’s tasty on the Bagels. Back when the restaurant opened, the Trout Dip was a major part of an entree that would have set you back $13 by itself. Just a couple slices of each of those meats on your plate would also make up a $28 breakfast entree at Be Our Guest.
We were looking forward to trying the Parker House Rolls that were advertised online and on the printed menu, considering a set of five of them would set you back $12 as an appetizer during lunch or dinner. While they weren’t on the buffet, our server had no problem bringing us a plate of four.
I would have loved it if the Pub Cheese, Citrus Butter, and Bacon Jam that arrive with the appetizer had been featured on the buffet. We’d be in heaven. That Citrus Butter is so good.
Perhaps foolishly, I’m going to compare the breakfast buffet offerings with those found at California Grill and I think that Ale & Compass does a good job of being a budget version of the much more expensive meal.
You can pull up my most recent California Grill Brunch review here. A word of warning, though: Don’t open it unless you want to start strongly considering a $90/person meal. Obviously, everything at California Grill is elevated compared to Ale & Compass, but for about $70 less per person, I thought the Yacht Club’s breakfast held up well. It also benefits from being offered seven days a week, versus just on Sundays over at the Contemporary Resort. A family of four could all order the buffet meal at Ale & Compass for about the cost of one person over at California Grill. The two experiences are wildly different, but if you’re on the fence about the cost of California Grill, then you might find Ale & Compass an adequate replacement. The idea behind the two is basically the same – enjoy the buffet as you wait for your plated entrees.
Those rocking the buffet at Ale & Compass will be granted immediate access, which is a nice bonus if you’re heading in famished. It’s probably only been 8-10 hours since you were at ‘Ohana, after all. Or am I just speaking for myself, here?
If you’d like a little extra time to nibble on pastries and such, then you might ask your server if it’s okay if you hold off on putting in your entree orders until after you have an opportunity to hit up the buffet. You may be a little less inclined to order the Dark Chocolate Waffle after downing eight or ten of these Chocolate Muffins. It took exactly 15 minutes from the time we put in our entree orders until the food arrived, which was an adequate amount of time to get started on the buffet. Still, I wouldn’t have minded another ten minutes with the buffet stuff.
Since I complained so loudly about the lack of seafood in my original review, I went with a dish that wasn’t on the original menu in the $16 “Shrimp and White Cheddar Grits with Poached Eggs, Chorizo, and Charred Tomato Stew.”
It’s not evident from the picture, but it was a huge portion. Even without the buffet goodies, I’m not sure I could have finished it.
The Shrimp were delicious – plump and firm with a satisfying snap to each bite. The egg was poached nicely too with firm whites and a creamy yolk as it sits on top of a large mound of creamy grits. One thing that didn’t really work was the Charred Tomato Stew, which ended up being too thin, in turn watering down the grits and making them runny.
Fortunately, the flavor was on point, bringing a roasted tomato quality that helped balance out the spice from the plentiful Chorizo. Overall, it was a ton of tasty food and an absolute steal at sixteen dollars.
Erin went with the $15 “Country Ham and Cheddar Omelet with Arugula and Seasonal Fruit.” The Omelet enjoyed large chunks of the meaty Country Ham and plenty of Cheddar melted on top, but the eggs weren’t as light and fluffy as we would have liked – the whole thing is just kind of flat against the plate. There also didn’t seem to be too much purpose to the arugula, which ended up being a little difficult to remove as the cheese had melted around it. I’d recommend going in a different direction.
The Buffet here is meant to be more of an accompaniment to your entree than the main course, which is why you won’t see eggs, bacon, sausage, etc. present.
If you’re after more of your prototypical breakfast buffet, with those sorts of items offered, then I’d go with The Wave at the Contemporary Resort. I review that experience here.
The atmosphere is similarly relaxed and you’ll be able to enjoy more of a variety of hot items.
Back to Ale & Compass, the $14 “Blueberry-Bacon Pancakes with choice of Sausage, Bacon, or fresh Fruit” were better.
Bacon is actually added to the batter, giving the fluffy pancakes a saltier character that was sweetened up deliciously with the heavenly citrus butter, maple syrup, and fresh blueberries.
The few bites of house-made sausage had a nice little spice to them and a bold pork flavor. Much better than your typical, greasy links.
I had high hopes when I ordered the $19 “Open-faced Skirt Steak Sandwich with Caramelized Onions, Poached Egg, Fennel, Watercress, and Tomato Salad with Truffle Vinaigrette” on a previous visit.
While it looked the part, I found the sandwich portion disappointing – the steak was tough and over-seasoned. The plating is also a little awkward because it’s actually served in more of a bowl with the rounded edges of the plate rising away from the ocean and towards the sky. So as I was trying to cut the bread, the plate rocked back and forth. And while that might be in line with the theming, the crusty bread was really salty and the onions on top didn’t seem to help contrast that. The egg didn’t provide much benefit in the flavor category and the dominant flavors seemed to be salt backed up by pepper. It looks really good though.
The accompanying salad was excellent – extremely fresh with a nice lemony flavor with some balsamic.
I’ve always enjoyed my breakfasts at Ale & Compass. On most weekdays, so few tables are occupied that meals are quiet and relaxing. Service is typically friendly and efficient. Our most recent visit was on a Sunday morning, which is typically the busiest day of the week for breakfast at the resorts. While the restaurant was nearly full, we instead enjoyed the hustle and bustle of everyone enjoying their meals. The noise level is definitely above average in those instances. Stick to a non-holiday weekday if you’d prefer to avoid the crowds.
Lunch is served from 11:30am through 2pm and features many entrees under $20, including a steak with the same accompaniments as breakfast:
A lot more seafood is available for lunch, which probably makes some sense. That includes the Maine Lobster Roll, Fish & Chips, Fish Tacos, White Clam Flatbread, Lobster Corn Chowder, Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, and more.
If you’re interested, I review various cocktails and appetizers in a separate review of the attached Lounge, here.
In something that you almost never see, the Lounge offers a Happy Hour daily from 4pm through 6pm. The Long Island Iced Tea is “Bacardi Superior Rum, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Hendrick’s Gin, Cointreau, and Sweet-and-Sour with a splash of Coca-Cola.” As usual, Disney leaves out the tequila. Your “Just Peachy” consists of “Cîroc Peach Vodka, Aperol, Peychaud’s Bitters, Peach and Blood Orange” and your “How Dare You” is “Fernet Branca Menta, fresh Lemon Juice, and Simple Syrup topped with Tonic Water.” All those drinks are normally $11.25, so you’re saving about 28.9% by ordering them during Happy Hour. The Red Wines are usually $13 a glass, while the whites are $11 a glass, so you’re potentially saving even more money there. Jai Alai comes in at $8.25 during the rest of the day, while Yuengling is $7.25 and Bud Light is $6.50, so your prospective savings are lower.
Back to the restaurant, the hearth oven plays a big role during lunch and dinner.
You’ll likely see some Flatbreads roasting inside – there’s also a breakfast option with Sunny–side Egg, Applewood-smoked Bacon, Ham, Provolone, and Arugula.
Several varieties of Flatbread are available later in the day, including Chipotle-Barbecue Chicken, White Clam, Seasonal Vegetable, and Applewood-smoked Bacon with Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Cheese. The area you see above is also where the buffet items are set out during breakfast.
This is the $19 White Clam Flatbread with Provolone and White Cheddar.
It’s a nice, large, shareable size as a starter with the five clams decorating the top of the dough, in addition to a lot of clams baked in with the cheese and herbs on top of the flatbread. The crust had a nice chew, but without any sauce to speak of, the whole thing was on the dry side. That’s not the worst thing in the world as the oregano, garlic, cheese, and olive oil combine with the salty littleneck clams to make for an interesting, if not one-dimensional, flavor profile. I think this works best as a shareable appetizer for that reason. We’re far from Pepe’s territory with this one.
The $18 “Bacon and Vermont Cheddar Burger with Caramelized Onion on a Parker House Bun with Applewood-smoked Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, and Herb Mayo” was a winner.
And a steal for the price given the high quality of the beef and the tremendous flavor from the bacon. The bun had a terrific buttery quality with a nice crispiness. It may be the best burger in the area now, easily eclipsing what’s offered at Beaches and Cream or Crew’s Cup.
The chips were good too, if not a little on the thin side for my tastes. But they tasted freshly fried and the vinegar flavor was present, but subtle. That’s probably just about what you want.
I didn’t do a very good job of capturing the size of the $17 “Fish & Chips with Lemon-Caper Tartar Sauce.” There’s a second piece of fish, just as large as the one visible, hiding behind it. And it’s cod, so it’s a really nice, flaky, flavorful fish in a light, incredibly crispy, beer batter. I don’t think I can overemphasize the quality of the fish – it’s a 15 out of 10. The tartar sauce also has a pleasant, zesty flavor to it. I thought the lemon might be overbearing, but it was far from it. There is a lot of vinegar going on with the meaty fries – I thought it overwhelmed the potatoes. You could ask them to go light with it if you’re concerned. You can also opt for a side of the same Chips as we saw with the Burger.
There’s quite a bit of value offered here given the high quality of the food and the large size of the portions. Anyone in the area looking for an economical, casual lunch should give it a lot of thought.
Five desserts close out the lunch and dinner choices:
Along with some After Dinner Drinks:
It’s a nice assortment of choices for those who might like to sit and relax for a bit after the meal.
Or go straight for dessert.
This is the $8 “Twelve-Layer Chocolate Cake – Flourless Chocolate Cake and Ganache served with Milk-Coffee Chantilly.” It’s as rich and decadent as you’d expect with a luscious chocolaty flavor, but still light and creamy given the thin width of the cake. It’s still probably best shared among a couple of people.
The $10 “Trio of Puddings – Chocolate, Blackberry, and Butterscotch with Mix-ins.” This offered a nice opportunity to do some dipping, and the puddings tasted really good – it was a light, sweet way to end the meal. I’m not sure if there was a tremendous amount of value involved, but it was fun to mix and match the “mix-ins” with the various flavors of pudding.
Kids are of course welcome, but it doesn’t feel like the sort of space for which they’d be enthralled. Here’s their breakfast menu:
It looks like kids are welcome to grab what they’d like from the Buffet at no additional cost. But correct me if I’m wrong and you were charged an extra dollar or two. I love it. You love it. It might be a shame that a couple of these entrees aren’t available in a larger size. A breakfast sandwich on a Parker House Roll would be delicious and that Mickey Frittata sounds intriguing, though I doubt too many kids are jumping at the thought of Sunflower Cookies and Turkey Bacon.
The majority of these items are a little out there. I can’t imagine 5-year-old me would be into Quinoa, Herbed Sweet Potatoes, Broccolini, Clams, or Brussels Sprouts, and you might even need to convince me that Skirt Steak isn’t for girls. There is a Cheeseburger at least. But even then, you wonder why some of these items aren’t offered for adults, too. Kids can get Cornbread Stuffing with the Baked Sustainable Fish, which doesn’t appear anywhere else, for example. Baked Shrimp and Clams also sounds like something I might be interested in over that Flatbread with some clam shells stuck to the top of it.
Overall, Ale & Compass Restaurant offers a very pleasant, typically quiet and relaxing dining experience in a classy, stately space with courteous servers who are trying their darnedest to move over to Yacht$man. Like you, probably, so many of my theme park experiences are full of hustle and bustle that it’s nice to take a load off without being seated on top of another party at a restaurant that seems like they’ll do anything to get you out of there three minutes quicker. Prices also don’t typically break the bank.
I’d keep Ale & Compass in mind. We’ll take a look at dinner separately.