The Wave Review

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The Wave…of American Flavors is a Walt Disney World table service restaurant located in Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The Wave is a trendy American-style restaurant serving a menu of sustainable and locally sourced foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The restaurant participates in the Disney Dining Plan; depending on what you order, it can be either a good or bad value on the Disney Dining Plan. As you’ll read in this review, this restaurant is like a wave of excellence breaking right in the lobby of Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

We’ve now eaten at The Wave a few times, and each time it has been very good. The first time we dined at The Wave, it was a last minute addition (same day ADRs), and this trend has continued with each subsequent trip there. It seems as if the restaurant is never that busy.  On the particular day of this review, we found ourselves hungry and not wanting to eat counter service again. So, we made the voyage to the Contemporary. I think I speak for everyone when I say that I’m glad we ate there. It was–no joke–better than our recent experiences at the Contemporary’s elite restaurant, the California Grill.

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Each time we’ve dined at The Wave, it has been fairly dead, although we’ve heard it can be quite busy when there is a convention in the Contemporary. Given that it is generally so slow for both lunch and dinner, I wonder why the tables are spaced so close together. Perhaps they are going for an American spin on Biergarten? As far as decor goes, The Wave is fairly bland. It looks “contemporary,” but without any of the character you’d find at a trendy stand-alone restaurant in a city. Rather, it looks like what you might find in the lobby of a Hyatt. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this theming, it’s just a little mundane for Disney.  

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As with most Walt Disney World restaurants, a meal at The Wave begins with bread service. The bread and butter at The Wave are excellent. Yes, the photo makes the bread service look ordinary, but the multi-grain bread is fresh, and, more importantly, the salted butter is out of this world. It’s not as good as the pretzel bread at Le Cellier or the garlic bread at Yachtsman Steakhouse, but it’s still very good.

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On two of our visits to The Wave, we had the signature “Appetizer for Two,” which included scallops and Lump Crab-Florida Rock Shrimp Cakes with an excellent creamy sauce. Unfortunately, it appears the Appetizer for Two no longer includes the scallops, but fortunately, the crab/shrimp cakes were the star of this appetizer, and they’re still available. These cakes are served with a menagerie of other ingredients, but nothing overpowers the taste of the shrimp and crab, and the meat to breading ratio is very solid. As long as these cakes are in that Appetizer for Two, we’d highly recommend ordering that.

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For some reason, the first time we visited, the Bison Burger sounded really good, so I opted for that. Not very daring, I know, but I love Bison Burgers. If there is a Bison Burger on the menu at a restaurant we visit, there’s at least a 50% chance that’s what I’ll order.  This burger was so delicious (the three cheese spread is incredible), that it’s the only thing I’ve ordered on subsequent visits. The whole menu looks excellent, and I think next time I’ll order something different, but for now I’ll give you a collection of Bison Burger photos I’ve taken at The Wave over the years.

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One our first visit to The Wave, Sarah ordered the Seasonal Soup and Sandwich. She raved about both, especially the soup. I don’t recall what kind of soup it was (even if I did, it wouldn’t do you much good as the soup changes seasonally), but I know the sandwich was turkey. Although I love deli sandwiches, I’m of the opinion that there are better things to order at most table service restaurants, since deli sandwiches typically aren’t very complex. I tried this one, and it was excellent, but definitely not as good as the Bison Burger (which itself is far from being the most interesting menu item).

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More recently, Sarah ordered the Cobb Salad (from the appetizer menu). This was also pretty good, but after having the Hollywood Brown Derby’s Cobb Salad, there truly is no comparison. It really isn’t fair for the other Walt Disney World restaurants to have to compete with the Brown Derby’s Cobb Salad.

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The desserts served at The Wave are all mini dessert trios. Sarah has more experience with these than me (I’ve ordered dessert at The Wave only once) and she has been impressed with each of the desserts she has tried. It’s great that these trios offer a way to try three different desserts, but the downside is that if there’s one dessert you really want, it’s one-third the size it otherwise would be, and you get stuck with two other desserts you might like less. For people interested in variety, this system is excellent. For those who know what they like, it’s not ideal.

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Based solely on the cuisine, the Wave is an excellent–and highly underrated–option. Appropriately priced for what it offers, the Wave can provide great value-for-money relative to other Walt Disney World restaurants depending upon what you order; it can also be a relatively pricey meal depending upon what you order. We have always enjoyed our meals at The Wave, and for being an “American” restaurant, it actually served more inspired cuisine than some of the restaurants in World Showcase. Although it’s not as “aggressive” about the local product sourcing and sustainable ingredients as a chic metropolitan restaurant, it’s clear some effort has been put into making the menu akin to a chic American eatery. Unfortunately, the ambiance of the restaurant is not as impressive, with relatively plain surroundings and too many tables. Luckily, though, the Wave is rarely crowded, so the spacing of tables is often a non-issue.

Your Thoughts…

Have you dined at The Wave? If so, do you agree with our assessment, or were you unimpressed with your meal? What dishes did you order? Share your thoughts in the comments!

To read other Walt Disney World restaurant reviews, check out our Disney Dining Reviews Index.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

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14 Responses to “The Wave Review”

  1. Lisa says:

    Hm. Thanks for the review. I may have to find a way to include this dining option into our next trip.

    Keep the reviews a’comin!

    • Don says:

      We ate there numerous times in December of 2011 but it was always at breakfast. The breakfast was buffet….does that change for lunch and supper?

  2. Sarah Wu says:

    Your photography is so beautiful makes that burger look so delcious : ) I can’t wait for my Disney world trip.

  3. Mark says:

    My wife and I were there with friends in mid September. We found the food and service excellent and recommend it to all. The atmosphere,while not overdone in any way, had a cozy feel to it.

  4. kev1417 says:

    Tom, Have you ever been to Table Services places JUST for dessert? Where would you rank them only for desserts? We are never on the dining plan so we don’t feel the need to pay out of pocket more than what we have to. However, we are big on desserts and have thought about going late some nights to these restaurants just for the desserts and the experience of the place. Recommendations for doing that?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Unfortunately, no. Dessert is the thing that most often gets skipped when we’re paying out of pocket at table service restaurants. I’d rather have an appetizer, and I think there are some EXCELLENT far cheaper counter service desserts.

      If I were to recommend one place to try that, I’d say Flying Fish. Their desserts are excellent and it’s a great excuse to check out the Boardwalk (and Flying Fish itself) without ordering an expensive meal at a Signature Restaurant. Sci-Fi is another choice (for the milkshakes), although I’d recommend just doing a full meal there.

  5. Mark Hickson says:

    During my last visit there I ordered the Chili-Soy Marinated Flat Iron Steak with locally sourced Seasonal Vegetables and Udon Noodles. Sounds great, but unfortunately it fell short. The Steak was served over Udon noodles with a few greens of an unknown type. The Steak had a drizzling of a lite herb and Mayo sauce. I found it to be chewy and a little tough to cut. The Udon was not prepared in a Japanese fashion but was more like a European pasta. For having Chili-Soy and Udon Noodles as ingredients of this dish, you would expect a little kick with a Japanese flair. Bottom line, it looked good but was boring to eat. I did not finish it. Maybe in the future I’ll just stick to their great bar!

  6. Bernadette says:

    Our family of five stayed at the Contemporary last August during our first-ever trip to WDW (to say we are looking forward to going back again would be an understatement…). We ended up making same day lunch ADRs at The Wave due to a tropical storm that kept us all resort-bound for part of the day. Knowing nothing about The Wave, we really weren’t expecting much, but it turned out to be an amazing meal (and yes, even during a tropical storm the place was largely empty). We are a bit unusual as far as dining goes – my daughter and I can’t have gluten, so neither of us gets to eat out very often. Not only did The Wave handle our needs, but the food was fantastic as well. To complicate matters further, at the time my nine year old son was completely tube-fed. He had the patience of a saint throughout the trip,but obviously sitting in a restaurant watching the rest of us eat was not exactly fun. Seeing that my son was wearing a pin lanyard, our server brought over a huge pin board and let all three of our kids trade to their hearts’ content. Dining at The Wave was definitely one of the highlights of our trip!

  7. Alessandra says:

    I still dream over that Bison burger! Best burger we’ve eaten at WDW! Amazing!

  8. Dan says:

    We ate here in Dec 2012, and we gotta say we will not return. We are a family of 4 -myself, my bride, my son (21) and my daughter(16). We were there on a week night, and it was very uncrowded. Service was very slow, considering there may have been 5 or 6 other small parties in the restaurant. We are by no means picky or large portion eaters, but we found the portions very small. I had the steak, which was at best, average. I cannot recall what the other members of my party ordered, as they were not memorable. The dessert was good, agreed, but for us there are waaay too many choices still to be tried at WDW before we would put this on our to do again list. Have a nice day.

  9. Justin says:

    Been there for lunch and dinner. Service can be kind of slow when the restaurant is busy, but the food was excellent both times. Agree on the bison burger, and the dessert trios ARE outstanding. I loved the seasonal choices!

  10. Jessica says:

    My fiance and I went to The Wave in October for lunch, and we were both underwhelmed. The food was tasty, but the menu offerings were fairly standard “hotel restaurant” food. I always make the disclaimer, though, that we went for lunch and I wonder whether it may be a better destination for dinner. But overall, it’s not somewhere I’d choose to go to again given the other restaurant options at WDW unless I was with an exceptionally picky eater.

  11. John says:

    This seems to be another one of those Disney restaurants that started off great….and then slowly drifted off to mediocrity.
    We ate at this restaurant when it first opened and it was terrific!
    No matter what we ordered, one dish was better than another.
    But….the last couple of years …..the quality of the food has gone down considerably.
    We tried it one more time last year….and it was once again disappointing….especially for the money charged.
    We each tried a different menu selection and all of them were ok….but….nothing special …..and nothing like the terrific food served when it first opened.
    We even tried the basic steak selection which ended up dry, tough, chewy and tasteless.
    This use to be a great restaurant, but something has happened here.
    Go upstairs to the Contempo Cafe…..much less expensive…and you will enjoy the food more.

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