Chef Mickey’s Character Dining at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
My Grandson, Apollo, was turning 3 years old and I wanted something spectacular and memorable to mark this special occasion. As Florida residents and Disney Annual Passholders, we frequently take him with us to the Disney theme parks. We have been ever since he was 9 months old. So simply attending Magic Kingdom (his favorite) or Animal Kingdom wasn’t unique enough. It had to be a little more unusual — something as remarkable as the Disney Parks but distinctively different. We wanted him to know this day was not the same as our usual visits to Disney. After all, it’s not every day a toddler turns three, is it?
We opted for a Disney Character Brunch at Chef Mickey’s inside the Contemporary Resort Hotel. Hubby and I love the California Grill on the 15th floor of this hotel; in fact, it’s one of our favorite fine-dining restaurants on Disney property. But, certainly Chef Mickey’s would be very different then the award-winning exquisite cuisine experienced in their signature dining spot high atop Seven Seas Lagoon. We knew there would be no comparison, but hoped, and even expected, Chef Mickey’s to be just as noteworthy. The following Review reveals whether this popular Disney restaurant met our expectations.
Chef Mickey’s Check-in Procedure
Upon arriving at Chef Mickey’s we checked in with the hostess. Our brunch reservation was for 12:55 and we arrived at least 15 minutes early, just as Disney recommends. We were given one of those restaurant “pagers” — the kind that light up and vibrate when your table is ready. This one was pure Disney though, as it included trivia questions about Walt Disney World, each with multiple choice answers. The birthday boy latched onto ours, so we didn’t get to play. A small price to keep an active toddler somewhat occupied!
After receiving the “pager” we were told to get in line for a family photograph, taken by Disney photographers. (Perhaps the reason they request that you show up early.) Of course, there’s no obligation to purchase the photos. But you know how that goes. Once you see those adorable shots, you just have to have one. The photo process is the same as in the Disney theme parks. After shooting several poses the Disney photographer scans your Magic Band or PhotoPass Card and they are conveniently linked to your online Disney account where you can preview and purchase them. I must admit, ours came out much better than expected. And yes, I did purchase one!
Shortly after our photo shoot, the “pager” went off. Coincidence or strategic? I’m not sure, but the anticipation was growing for Apollo who was more than ready to see his favorite Disney Characters.
Birthday’s Are Special at Chef Mickey’s
Here’s the first thing that impressed me: A Birthday Card signed by all 5 of the Disney Characters that were present that day was already on our table. Apollo discovered the card immediately and was elated to see who it was from. However, the real surprise here was for me. In my quest to keep an active and adventurous 3-year-old under control, I had forgotten to request anything special for Apollo’s birthday upon check-in. I booked my reservation online through the official Disney dining website, but unlike some other restaurant reservation forms, there was no spot to place a special request. Typically, you are to mention any special occasions to the hostess, who in turn alerts the restaurant staff. But a conscientious hostess saved the day! Apparently, she had noticed that Apollo was wearing his Disney Birthday Button and acted on it, without me having to ask. Kudos to this young lady for her attentiveness. I could tell that birthday’s are special here at Chef Mickey’s, and the hostess and servers go above-and-beyond to make sure your child is recognized.
As you can see, we were also celebrating Apollo’s very first Disney Annual Pass. Children under 3 have free theme park entry, but ages 3 – 9 require a child’s ticket. A milestone for Apollo who was becoming increasingly upset that he didn’t have his own Magic Band like Mimi and Pappy. We chose a fire-engine-red color for him! After our brunch at Chef Mickey’s he was able to use it for the first time at Magic Kingdom. He was prouder than a peacock on Pine Island! In the mind of a 3-year-old, he’s all grown up now.
Chef Mickey’s: Buffet-Style Quick Service Disney Dining
Chef Mickey’s is a casual buffet-style restaurant serving American cuisine in a large open area that is brightly colored with a
lively loud atmosphere. Since it’s a buffet, you can feed hungry kids (and Grandma’s) quickly. There’s no waiting to order, other than the included non-alcoholic beverage of your choice. Our server greeted us almost immediately after we were seated, and took our beverage selections. Service was fantastic the entire time, but that’s to be expected with a buffet. Our server was an older woman (a bit surprising to me in a place with a gazillion hyper kids running loose) and was excellent at offering drink refills and clearing the dirty dishes from our table in order to make room for the next trip to the buffet. We never had to flag her down for anything.
Chef Mickey’s Food Choices for Brunch
For me, this was the weak link in my Chef Mickey’s experience. Don’t get me wrong, there was certainly no shortage of food. And with unlimited trips to the buffet, you could eat till your heart’s content. It was the food quality that was disappointing. For Apollo’s very first birthday we took him to lunch at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom, which is also a Disney Character buffet. I really enjoyed the food there, and thought the quality was excellent. I was expecting the same at Chef Mickey’s, but the food quality was a let down. I concluded that the food is much better at Tusker House but the Disney Character interaction is superior at Chef Mickey’s. Therefore, it boils down to what’s most important to your family… food quality or the Character experience.
Because we booked a brunch reservation we had both breakfast items and lunch selections on the buffet. I really appreciated the separate buffet bar with food choices made especially for children. It included all of Apollo’s favorites — things like chicken nuggets, mac ‘n cheese, potato nuggets, and Mickey-shaped waffles. I particularly liked the baked salmon, fresh carved baked ham (with choice of sauce), and seasonal kale salad. Pretty much everything else I tried, I didn’t like — the spare ribs were overcooked and tough, the kielbasa was also tough, the smoked salmon way too salty for my taste buds (couldn’t eat more than two bites), lobster bisque was a big disappointment (ate a few spoonfuls just because I felt guilty leaving so much in my cup), and I should have passed on the chocolate chip pancakes I forced myself to eat. Hubby liked the cheesy potato casserole and said the peel-n-eat shrimp were okay. But in the end, I would have to agree with Apollo… dessert was the best part of the meal (don’t tell his Mother, but he had two portions!).
As previously mentioned, return visits to the buffet are unlimited, so I suggest sampling a variety of foods in small portions then returning for the ones you liked best. I also noticed there were some vegetarian-friendly foods as well as Gluten-free options. Here’s the link to Chef Mickey’s brunch menu.
TIP: For tourists visiting Walt Disney World or Florida residents staying on Disney property I would recommend Chef Mickey’s for breakfast. The breakfast foods on the buffet seemed to be better, and it is less expensive than brunch. Also, it’s probably better time management to eat breakfast and then spend the day at the Disney parks, rather than have to leave the parks in the middle of the day for brunch.
The Disney Characters: The Main Attraction
As with all things Disney, the Characters are usually the main attraction. And so it was at Chef Mickey’s! There were 5 different Characters the day we were there — Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, and Goofy (Apollo’s favorite). I was amazed at the effort put forth by the Characters to stop at every single table. In addition, they allowed ample time for each family to take photos or short video clips. You never have to be concerned about your child missing a visit from them. Even if you’re at the buffet and think they’ve bypassed your table, don’t worry, they’ll come back around. The Characters seemed to meander the restaurant in a strategic fashion and were excellent at making sure no child was missed. After all, isn’t that what we really paid for?
Whenever the Disney Characters were making the rounds, it was quite a lively scene, to say the least. At Chef Mickey’s you don’t have to put a muzzle on your child’s mouth. They can make as much noise as they want and it won’t be a distraction to other diners, because their kids are roaring with laughter and ear-splitting noisy as well. One thing to keep in mind is that the Characters DO NOT talk. Therefore, any “Happy Birthday” song requests must be made with the staff who will do the singing, and the Characters will break out with napkin swinging and dancing. This seemed to happen about every 15-20 minutes. Some songs were not birthday related, but appeared rather impromptu. These short bouts of sporadic interactive song-and-dance with the kids were awesome and certainly kept them occupied. Of course, if you just want your little mouseketeers to eat, the dancing could become a distraction, for sure!
TIP: Bring your own camera or cell phone for photos in the restaurant. The only Disney photographer available is the one for the family photo while you’re waiting to be seated. There were NO photographers inside Chef Mickey’s.
TIP: Very small children may be terrified of the Disney Characters (as Apollo was during his 1st birthday at Tusker House). For little kids they’re so much bigger in real life than watching them on TV. It may help to have them watch YouTube before going to the restaurant. There are a multitude of video clips from Chef Mickey’s to choose from.
The Icing on the
For some people “the icing on the cake” is simply a metaphoric expression. But at Chef Mickey’s it was so much more than that. To our surprise, a yummy-looking “Birthday Cupcake” was delivered to Apollo by our server, Ms. Teresa. (Remember, we had forgotten to request these additional birthday items!) For the second time during our visit to Chef Mickey’s I was “wowed” by their keen sense of awareness of any special occasions being celebrated, like our Grandson’s birthday. Even though Mimi messed up, the ‘Mouse’ seemed to work his Disney magic, and we all lived happily ever after. Well, you get the idea, right? The only way Chef Mickey’s could go from good to great, was by making a BIG deal over Apollo’s 3rd birthday… and they surpassed our expectations in that regard.
Ms. Teresa brought the cupcake to Apollo, then proceeded to light the candle. It didn’t matter that he didn’t like it (the icing was lemon flavored, somewhat tart for a toddler, I suppose). Pappy enjoyed eating the cupcake along with the decorative chocolate Mickey-ears, while Apollo had a blast playing with the “candy confetti!”
While the food is not fantastic and the prices are pure Disney (fantastically high), to see the non-stop smile on Apollo’s face and hear his contagious giggling with frequent outbursts of laughter, was priceless! That said, it was worth every penny AND a return visit!
A Few More Tips…
TIP: Because of the popularity of this Disney Character Dining experience, it books up quickly. But even if the reservation system indicates it is totally booked, don’t give up. I recommend checking several times a day (both online and by calling). With Disney Dining there are always cancellations. I made our reservations only a few days before we went!
TIP: If you’re driving to the Contemporary Resort to have brunch at Chef Mickey’s, please note that free valet parking is NOT included (as it is with some Disney restaurants). We paid $25 to valet park and an additional $5 tip. A bit pricey, and I wouldn’t do it again. You have the option to self-park (a mile away), or here’s an idea… The Magic Kingdom is only a short (10 minute) walk to the Contemporary Resort if you’re coming from there. Or, take the “Resort” Monorail from the Magic Kingdom which stops directly at the Contemporary!
TIP: Attention Annual Passholders… Don’t forget to ask for your 10% dining discount. Our total bill for brunch for 2 adults and 1 child was $104 + tax and tip. The $10 discount paid for half of the gratuity!
Have you been to Chef Mickey’s? Please share your experience or helpful tips with our readers. Or, perhaps you have a question about this Disney restaurant. Simply reply in the comment box below!