Chef Mickey’s is a character buffet with Mickey Mouse and friends in Disney’s Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World. This Chef Mickey’s review covers dinner at the restaurant. Dinner at Chef Mickey’s varies in price depending upon season, but it’s always pricey–typically in excess of $40 per adult. The menu at Chef Mickey’s is basically just a variety of American comfort foods, almost all of which is standard fare that will appeal to picky eaters. It’s also one of the most popular restaurants at Walt Disney World, with Advance Dining Reservations absolute necessary (you’ll want to secure them 100+ days in advance). Chef Mickey’s participates in the Disney Dining Plan, and accepts Tables in Wonderland for a 20% discount. Due to its high price, it’s a good use of a Disney Dining Plan table service credit if you’re trying to maximize your value on the Disney Dining Plan. It’s also one of the Best Value Character Meals on the Disney Dining Plan.
Mickey Mouse is the original rodent restaurateur. The story of Remy in Ratatouille is nice, but it’s quite clear he saw the success Mickey was having and decided to rip off the idea. The only difference is that Remy can actually cook. Mickey spends all of his time out meeting guests, and as a result of his slacking, what the kitchen produces suffers. The Mouse just doesn’t seem to care. His restaurant remains popular and difficult to book despite the cuisine, so why bother? Well, because he’s a cheerful rodent dedicated to happiness, and not a ruthless businessperson, but I digress…
Chef Mickey’s is insanely popular and difficult to book. It’s a restaurant with a ton of fans, and I suspect this review won’t sit well with those fans. So, before we continue any further, I ask the fans out there to give serious though to why they like Chef Mickey’s. I’m guessing there are a few reasons: 1) nostalgia, 2) the setting, 3) the characters, and 4) the food.
I think the first three reasons are all very valid. I’m betting many guests who visit Chef Mickey’s regularly do so because they have fond memories of it being their kids’ first character meal, maybe even the first time meeting Mickey Mouse. Among serious Disney fans, Chef Mickey’s has almost become a rite of passage character meal. Many guests form great memories during this rite of passage experience and want to return as a result. Nothing wrong with that. We all want to go back to the places where we made great memories.
The setting is also pretty cool. There’s something to be said for dining in the Grand Canyon Concourse of the Contemporary with monorails passing overhead. Same goes for the characters. You have all of the Fab Five at Chef Mickey’s (in cool outfits, no less), making it one of the best experiences for character dining.
These three things can make it easy to overlook the faults in an experience. Namely, the food. It’s just not good, and is not a valid reason for liking Chef Mickey’s. Usually, when I have a bad meal at Walt Disney World, I try to give the restaurant the benefit of the doubt, thinking of the ways my experience might have been an outlier or just unlucky, and find a reason to give it another chance despite the meal. I just can’t give Chef Mickey’s the benefit of the doubt after our dinner.
Our meal wasn’t bad because of any issue that could be described as “variable,” like the food being cold or overcooked. It was just plain bad. Ingredients seemed cheap, most buffet items lacked flavor, and everything was just generally low-quality. The food felt like a total afterthought, as if people were there primarily for the ambiance and character interactions, and food didn’t matter. I commented to Sarah during our meal that I would have gladly traded our food at Chef Mickey’s for something at the nearby Contempo Cafe counter service restaurant, and she wholeheartedly agreed. That’s sort of sad considering we could have had a meal at Contempo Cafe for ~$15/person, and Chef Mickey’s was about triple that price. Granted, Contempo Cafe is our #1 counter service restaurant at Walt Disney World, but still…
Now, I understand that Chef Mickey’s is basically aiming for family-friendly comfort food (this is certainly no Boma or Tusker House), but it seems like there was no effort put into any of the items on the buffet. Maybe the rationale is that it’s all for kids with simple tastes (but what about their parents?), I’m not really sure. Almost like the attitude of Rizzo the Rat when he proclaims, “they’re tourists, what do they know?” in MuppetVision, except for food.
Before we delve into particular food items, let’s take a quick look at the decor of the restaurant. Aside from the monorail overhead, the restaurant just consists of colorful designs, Mickey Mouse pop-art, and a Mickey head motif. It has a bit of a 1990s vibe to it, but not in a way that feels dated. I like the design, especially the color and pop art. For the most part, it just feels fun–exactly how a character meal like this should feel. Plus, you absolutely cannot beat that monorail overhead. Just look at it!
This ambiance alone almost makes the restaurant worthwhile. Too bad you can have the same ambiance by just sitting in the Grand Canyon Concourse for free, or by eating at Contempo Cafe for a fraction of the price. Plus, in those places you won’t be subjected to the total chaos that is Chef Mickey’s.
Here’s one of the buffet lines. Notice that the names of the food are scribbled onto the glass. Classy.
As for the food, the silver lining is that it’s not all atrocious. There are some glimmers of mediocrity in the mix that give Chef Mickey’s some redeeming value. Let’s take a look at the various items.
Here’s a plate of various meats and mashed potatoes. Anyone familiar with our blog will instantly recognize this vegetable-free plate of food as mine. The carved beef sirloin was low quality but above average relative to other stuff here. I liked the mashed potatoes, but they seemed like a cheap kind of instant potatoes.
The ribs aren’t always available at Chef Mickey’s (the nightly menu does change some), but don’t get too upset if they’re not there. I’ve never met ribs I didn’t love…until Chef Mickey’s. Okay, I still ate a lot of them, but it was because it was a ‘lesser of evils’ situation.
Some carved turkey on this plate. Quality-wise, it seemed like one of the better things available, but it was prepared dry.
Some chicken, scalloped potatoes (I think), and “salmon.” I’m not entirely convinced the salmon was made of fish.
Lots of random stuff on this plate. We tried everything at Chef Mickey’s (just thinking about that gives me mild PTSD) and most of the food was completely forgettable. Actually, that should be “food with an asterisk,” because I’m not sure if some things meet the FDA definition of food. I like processed guilty pleasures just as much as the next guy, but it seemed like everything at Chef Mickey’s was processed and low quality.
When I said everything lacked flavor above, perhaps I was being too harsh. About 50% of the menu tastes like butter and/or cheese. So there’s that…I guess.
At this point, you might be thinking (like I was): “Well, at least dessert should be good. Kids love dessert!” Well…you’d be wrong. Above is a brownie-like thing. It was not good.
Above is a lineup of various nice-looking bite-size desserts. Yep, they look nice…
Unfortunately, “taste” is not something they had much of. On the plus side (possibly), I think preparation might have been the issue here. So you might have better luck with these.
The bread pudding was actually halfway decent. The other desserts probably made it seem better than it was, but either way, it wasn’t bad.
The character interactions were generally good. In all of our experiences at Chef Mickey’s, the place has been a zoo, but that’s absolutely to be expected of a restaurant like this. Kids get excited, parents let them run around…it happens. Don’t eat here if you’re not keen on the idea of someone else’s rugrat jumping around your table.
We loved the outfits that each of the characters had. For how busy Chef Mickey’s is, the character interactions are solid.
Characters are good about spending time and having fun with each table; it’s not just a matter of posing for photos and moving along.
One downside was that it was difficult to get photos without other guests or Cast Members in the background, but that’s a problem at all character meals. It’s just exacerbated at the popular ones, especially when tables aren’t spaced out (as is the case at Chef Mickey’s).
Another issue for us is that not many character attendants were around. For most guests this probably isn’t an issue because it’s parents wanting photos of their kids. Sarah and I don’t have much use for photos of one or the other of us–but not both of us–in the shot. I wish character attendants trailed each character at every character meal.
Before start thinking I’m just a curmudgeon who hates fun, classic Walt Disney World experiences, wait until you read our upcoming Cinderella’s Royal Table review. To give you a brief synopsis, our expectations were far exceeded and we absolutely loved it. See? Not all negative!
Overall, Chef Mickey’s is one of the worst restaurants at Walt Disney World when it comes to food. The thing is…this may not even matter. So many people just want the Chef Mickey’s experience. The ambiance is fun and the character interactions are good at Chef Mickey’s. So, maybe the Mouse is right when it comes to the food being an afterthought for many guests. The only other mouse-operated restaurant I’ve visited was Chuck-E-Cheese, and it was pretty much the same way. Yet, I still loved that place as a kid, and I suspect many families will love Chef Mickey’s despite the food. Personally, it would be low on my list of character meals to revisit in the future because of its high price and poor food. If I’m being honest, though, and we had kids, I’d still make sure they experienced Chef Mickey’s once. (We’d probably do breakfast, though, as our last breakfast at Chef Mickey’s was good. Granted, that was about 5 years ago.) This really speaks to the draw of Chef Mickey’s as a place where families make memories, even if it is seriously lacking as a restaurant.
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Have you done Chef Mickey’s at Walt Disney World? What did you think? Worthwhile for the characters, for the food, or for both? Is this meal something you’d like to try? Any specific recommendations from the buffet? If you have any questions or thoughts to share, please post them in the comments. We love hearing from readers!