Review: The Wave Breakfast Buffet at Disney’s Contemporary Resort with Bonus Dinner, New Bar Menu, and Wagyu Sliders From Contempo Cafe

I had written a lengthy review of my experience at the California Grill brunch around this time last month in this post. And while I can’t personally identify with someone that wakes up on a Sunday morning not looking to plow through a table full of mimosas, it’s possible that you’ll be looking for breakfast at Disney’s Contemporary Resort on a day that is not Sunday. And not everyone has in mind to spend $80/person on what is already going to be an expensive vacation. So with that in mind, I thought we’d take a look at the breakfast buffet at The Wave… of American Flavors.

As always, you’ll find The Wave on the first floor of the resort just past check-in/concierge.

There are a few things you need to know about The Wave, the first and most important of which is the correct pronunciation. Yes it is “Wave” like the ocean or “wave goodbye we don’t want to talk to you Josh lol.” But you want to say “Waw-vay” with “waw” being like the wo- in wonton or ju- in “Juan” or wo- in “wobble.” This will make the restaurant, which specializes in locally sourced ingredients, sound much more exotic.

Lunch is my favorite meal:

In a world where the signature burger at Pecos Bill at Magic Kingdom is $15.99, meals here are not much more expensive and would provide better food in a more relaxing atmosphere. The website’s advice is usually to eat where you are, particularly on a first, second, and probably third vacation. Once you’ve “done it,” you might start to look at some meals at the various resorts. Yes, the Contemporary “is only about a ten minute walk from Magic Kingdom,” but you’ll also need to budget time to walk to the Park entrance, find the restaurant, check-in, be seated, order, eat, pay the check, then walk back to Magic Kingdom and go through security/bag check for a second time. If you’re standing in front of Peter Pan’s Flight at 11:30am, you can easily eat at Pinocchio Village Haus in 45 minutes. To do The Wave, you’d be looking at:

  • 10 minutes to walk to the entrance
  • 12 minutes to walk to The Wave
  • 2 minutes to be seated
  • 60 minutes for the meal
  • 10 minutes to walk back to the entrance
  • 5 minutes to get through bag check and walk to the tapstile
  • 10 minutes to walk back to Fantasyland

That’s more than twice as long. It’s not the end of the world, which is why you might consider it on a return visit, but most people are going to be better served eating at Magic Kingdom even if the food is not as good. Those planning on spending some time enjoying the Contemporary Resort’s grounds will also find more value.

Here’s the breakfast menu:

The buffet costs $23/adult and $8.50/child ages 3-9 and includes choice of non-alcoholic beverage. If you add $3.50 for a beverage to the price of the average breakfast, you’ll come out with $16.50, so the buffet is about $6.50 more than going a la carte. Upstairs, Chef Mickey’s breakfast is $40/adult and $24/child. And while the two are not really comparable experiences given Chef’s characters, the meal costs about twice as much for adults and nearly three times as much for kids – for food that is objectively worse.

Depending on how you count the items offered, there are between 30 and 35 choices on the buffet, including several that are also served as entrees from the a la carte menu, like the Wave Signature Sweet Potato Pancakes.

I thought the Tropical Fruit Cocktail with Coconut Syrup was a bit odd, bit it did make the fruit a little more interesting.

The parfaits are among the best items on the buffet – consider saving the Banana White-Chocolate Caramel Parfait for dessert. It has a distinct Bananas Foster vibe.

Here we have a Ham and Cheese Pinwheel, Southern Biscuit Canape with Old Bay Aoli, Sliced Egg, Bacon, and Cheddar, and a Smoked Salmon Canape with Dill Cream Cheese on a Mini Bagel. I would have perhaps liked to have seen a smoked salmon “bar” with a couple of different flavors, but this is still a nice offering. The biscuit was really good too – some salt and spice along with the heftiness of the fresh biscuit and slice of hard boiled egg.

Hmmmmm…yeah…no thanks…

A variety of danish, muffins, croissants, and cinnamon buns are available. I tried the chocolate croissant, which was fresh and flaky with a surprising amount of nuance with the chocolate and powdered sugar.

The bread on the right arrives with the bread service at dinner, in addition to some English muffins and two types of bagels.

Turn around and you’ll see Fruit Loops and Corn Flakes, in addition to two types of milk.

Hot food starts with scrambled eggs, buttermilk biscuits, pork sausage gravy, steel cut oats, and I guess I’m not really sure. Some kind of bean dish? The eggs here are particularly good – I couldn’t believe how often they were switching out the food even when only a small portion had been taken.

Bacon, Pork Sausage, Eggs Benedict with Key Lime Hollandaise, and Roasted Vegetable Egg-White Fritata. The bacon had a nice crispiness and both it and the sausage were appropriately salty and flavorful. I didn’t detect a ton of lime in the Eggs Benedict, but the eggs enjoyed a nice creaminess over the chewy Canadian bacon and perfectly toasted English Muffin. Longtime readers know that I am all about the fritata and this one impressed as well, in addition to standing out as a potentially healthy option amidst a lot of more decadent dishes. Everything here is at a minimum as good as you’d receive at a similarly priced table service restaurant at breakfast. And that’s not usually the case with buffets, where quantity typically trumps quality.

Mickey waffles, dusted with powdered sugar, are always a fun and welcome addition. These had a nice fluffiness to them. Trust me on the Sweet Potato Pancakes, which are served with a pecan-honey butter that is so good. Don’t sleep on these and make sure you get some of the butter – it should be delivered to the table because it has nuts in it.

I really liked the Hash-Brown Potatoes as well – a nice, meaty crunch to the potatoes with a lot of creamy cheese mixed in. And finally, save room for the Grits with Tillamook Cheddar and Bacon – very creamy and rich and packed with bacon and cheddar.

Food-wise, this was easily the best breakfast buffet that I’ve enjoyed on property – eclipsing Trail’s End, Chef Mickey’s, 1900 Park Fare, Boma (narrowly perhaps), Hollywood & Vine, etc. Note that I have not yet tried Captain’s Grille. There’s a deceptive number of options and just not enough tummy room for all of the good stuff.

Breakfast begins at 7:30am, so you could feasibly start your day here and make a 9am Magic Kingdom open without a ton of effort. And if you’re staying at the Contemporary Resort or Bay Lake Tower then you probably want to plan at least one breakfast, perhaps later in the morning on a lazy/late start day.

The Wave Bar/Lounge offers a lot more than just an excuse to park at the Contemporary and walk to Magic Kingdom.

You’ll actually find a separate lounge menu here and they will be more than happy to offer you a lunch or dinner menu from the restaurant depending on the time of day. At ten bucks, the Flatbreads are an incredible deal.

The draft beer menu is quite good for Disney – the Jai Alai is a world class IPA, in addition to coming in at a 7.5% ABV. I’m not sure anything from Orlando Brewing stands out, but it’s a nice opportunity to try something you probably won’t find at home.

Disney debuted a new standard lounge menu last month. This is the $9.75 Raspberry-Ginger “Vojito” – Finlandia Raspberry Vodka, Ginger, Mint, Raspberry Puree, and fresh Lime Juice topped with Coconut Water.

What I was served was really gross in the opinions of myself and good friend of the site Old Bill and I would remind you that I will drink almost anything. I’m not sure if it’s a recipe thing or the fact that coconut water tastes like….I guess I can’t say. But… “not good.”

Upstairs, Contempo Cafe saw a major menu revision at the end of October:

While not everything arrives with a new name, many of the ingredients at least read like they’re upgrades.

Here’s Disney’s more readable version:

The addition of the “American Wagyu Beef Slider Duo” is probably a signal that the “America Kobe Beef Hot Dog” at Yak & Yeti is going to be a thing for a long time.

I ordered a set of course, described here as the $12.99 American Wagyu Beef Slider Duo – Red Wine Vinegar Onions, Red Pepper-Ranch Cream, Pepper Jack, Marinated Tomatoes, Leaf Lettuce, and Bread and Butter Pickles served with French Fries.

It looks like the “leaf lettuce” and “bread & butter pickles” are up to you from the toppings bar. The “marinated tomatoes” are the usual pico de gallo and the “red wine vinegar onions” tasted like your typical pickled variety. What’s described as “Red Pepper-Ranch Cream” looks to be just a very thin sauce of which there isn’t a whole lot of and then there’s a very thin slice of cheese melted underneath. Maybe they just really want you to be able to see the wagyu from all angles.

The beef was higher quality than your typical Disney hamburger and unlike most everywhere else on property, cooked to a nice pink medium. It was more tender and while I wouldn’t ordinarily describe beef like this, delicate.

And with the addition of the toppings, the flavor was robust, more “beefy” than usual even if I didn’t think the advertised toppings were quite up to snuff.

The two sliders combined do still come in at less food than a Disney burger of a similar price point as we’ll see in a moment. If you favor an increase in quality in exchange for a decrease in quantity and are in the mood for a burger then you may have a look in this direction. Overall, I thought they were “just okay” and would order something different next time. But you could certainly do worse.

This is Tom’s more substantial $12.49 Contempo Smokehouse Burger – Angus Chuck Burger, Smoked Bacon Marmalade, Fried Onion Ring and Cheddar on a Brioche Bun served with French Fries.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but the soft, buttery brioche buns are a big improvement compared to the previous, clunky version. And the burgers may have improved a bit as well or at least Disney has figured out that they can mask how overcooked the meat is by adding a bunch of toppings. And that’s true here – the bacon marmalade has a pronounced salty/sweet smokiness to it and it’s thick enough that there are actually pieces of bacon mixed in. The onion ring is thick and provides a nice crunch on top of a decent slice of perfectly melted cheddar. As far as Disney quick service burgers go, this one is a good choice and a decent value at only a few more cents than the typical bacon burger.

Overall, Contempo Cafe continues to provide a better menu than most resort quick services and the product served is typically above average. They’ve also taken away the arguably-confusing kiosk ordering process and deliver the food to your table. It’s probably not worth going out of your way to visit and the outdoor seating at Captain Cook’s at the Polynesian Village might be more scenic, but I would go to Contempo over most other options. If you find yourself touring the Monorail Deluxes during the holiday season or another time of year, then you might choose it for a relatively quick meal.

For dinner, The Wave’s menu typically sees more seasonal changes than most. Unless your visit is during the same season, it’s likely that whatever you see on the menu now will be switched out for something else. Here’s winter 2k16:

From the appetizers, the Bacon & Eggs and Caesar Salad are menu mainstays and the Lump Crab and Florida Rock Shrimp Cakes usually just change the sauce and accompaniments. On the entree front, you’ll usually see two different steaks, a chicken breast, a pork chop, and two or three other choices.

Here’s the menu from Fall 2015:

I only get around to writing about half of my on-property meals. This one is avec the Milz family from September 2015, so I will just briefly discuss the items and you can perhaps get a better idea about sizing, ingredients, and quality.

It may be difficult to impress on a Caesar Salad, but The Wave does a nice job with the creamy buttermilk in the dressing and the depth of flavor on the brittle croutons on top.

The Rye Manhattan is my favorite of the standard bar menu drinks – very boozy.

I was really impressed by my $29 Grilled Hanger Steak with Ginger-Soy Marinade, Udon Noodles, Baby Bok Choy, Carrots, and Snow Peas. You’ll typically see some Asian elements on The Wave’s menu – currently a similar udon noodle dish is available as a vegetarian soup. The steak, which was cooked to the appropriate medium temperature, had a nice char to it. This particular cut is popular because it’s significantly less expensive than tenderloin while still offering the richness of flavor. At Disney, it’s still around 30 bucks, but the portion with the two pieces is more substantial than your typical 6-ounce filet, which Disney is charging $50-$55 for.

While probably not a traditional accompaniment, the sweet spiciness of the glaze tasted great with the soft udon noodles. Overall, it was an overwhelming portion of flavorful food executed very nicely. I wish it was still on the menu.

This is the $34 Grilled Colorado Lamb Chops with Barely Buzzed Mac & Cheese, Grilled Asparagus, and Rosemary Butter. I am not a lamb person very often – the price always seems high for what amounts to four or five bites of meat. But Colorado is well known for their lamb with producers there telling you that their animals are bred for the flavor and quality of their meat rather than the quality of their wool. The lamb here is sweet and a little earthy, a flavor of which is brought out by the pine-y fragrance of the rosemary in what is more like a glaze than a typical butter. The Mac & Cheese brought me right back to Jiko circa 2010, when a similarly decadent dish was served alongside their famous filet.

The $33 Herb-Salted Beef Tenderloin – Caramelized Crimini Mushrooms, Organic Green Peas, Whipped Potato Puree, and Sauce Bordelaise. At the moment, the restaurant is serving a “Grilled Beef Tenderloin – Glazed Root Vegetables, Cheddar Mash, Red Wine Reduction.” So it’s a similar idea. This is one of few exceptions to the rule that all standard 1-credit-on-the-Disney-Dining-Plan restaurants serve the same “New York Steak” for $31-$35. What you receive here is of higher quality though the portion size is perhaps two ounces less. The bordelaise is flavorful and decadent and a little bit of the red wine sauce goes a long way to sweetening up the meat and offering a peppery kick. The peas underneath offered a nice crunch and the potatoes do a nice job of soaking up all of the other flavors with a really creamy texture. Also very good.

The service I’ve received here has always been friendly and competent with cast members that not only have the ability to go above and beyond, but are happy to do so.

Overall, Disney’s Contemporary Resort has a solid lineup of offerings and the relative convenience of walking or monorail-ing over from Magic Kingdom is attractive compared to what are some potentially lesser options. One should still consider the value of their time and whether the potential of a better meal is worth spending that time away from the theme parks. For some people and in some situations, the answer will be yes, particularly if you’re interested in exploring the resorts a bit.


  1. Gigi says

    The $10 flatbread might be a good value, but the last time we visited it was one of the worst things we ate anywhere on property. It was served barely warm and the crust was still raw. The bartender grudgingly sent it back to the kitchen where it was, apparently, placed under the heat lamps to “warm it up”. When I insisted again that the crust wasn’t baked, the bartender sent it back a 2nd time and promised the chef would make a new one. A new one came out alright – the bottom was burned to a crisp and the toppings were still just lukewarm. Oh, and my wine was served in a dirty glass. Maybe it was an off night, but others around us were having issues too. Maybe we’ll eat in the restaurant next time.

  2. andrea says

    Thanks for The Wave breakfast review! We have never eaten here, and on this upcoming trip we are going there once for dinner and once for breakfast. I don’t normally get excited for breakfast buffets, but this one looks awesome! Staying at Polynesian, so this will definitely be a lazy day breakfast.

    • Joel says

      We have eaten at the Wave for breakfast and dinner and they have both been good experiences. We have also eaten at Contempo a couple times without complaints. Never a “magical” or “memorable” experience at either place, but with the price point and the quiet atmosphere, it was a nice break from all the noise. Especially this time of year when it is busiest. Thanks Josh.

  3. Jeni says

    We had the Wave Breakfast Buffet in October when we were there & staying at Bay Lake. I was unsure about the Sweet Potato Pancakes because I’m not a big Sweet Potato fan but they were delicious. The whole buffet was very good for the money & there was hardly anyone there. Definitely an easy place to walk up to without a reservation.

  4. Mary Ann says

    We loved The Wave, but I think it’s one of those places you have to go to with the purpose of trying something new since the menu changes so often.

  5. Allan says

    Stop telling people about Wave. We like that it is under the radar and rarely misses. Plus it usually has the best micro brew menu on property.

  6. Stanh says

    “Food-wise, this was easily the best breakfast buffet that I’ve enjoyed on property – eclipsing Trail’s End, Chef Mickey’s, 1900 Park Fare, Boma (narrowly perhaps), Hollywood & Vine, etc.”

    Wow!…Good to know!

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