Brunch at the Top at California Grill is an all-you-can-eat meal with unlimited mimosas atop Walt Disney World’s Contemporary Resort with views of Magic Kingdom. In this review, we’ll share food photos from our meal, thoughts on whether it’s worth the money, and how brunch compares to other meals at Cali Grill. (Last updated January 26, 2019.)
As for how brunch at California Grill compares to dinner? There’s an obvious ‘apples to oranges’ challenge here, as brunch offers an all-you-can-eat buffet spread plus a la carte entree selections and unlimited mimosas whereas dinner is entirely a la carte. There were some really good–great, even–items available in California Grill’s brunch spread, but the best of these did not compare to the best of the dinner menu.
January 2019 Update: Sarah returned to California Grill for a “girl’s brunch” with a few friends. (I was not invited and instead had to subsist on frozen burritos from Trader Joe’s before foraging for food in Magic Kingdom–not that I’m bitter or anything.)
She and her friends ordered multiple entrees this time, an ‘aerial view’ of which is pictured below. Sarah shared that aside from a few seasonal changes to the buffet, everything remains as it was when we dined here last summer. It still remains one of the absolute best meals at Walt Disney World.
For us, California Grill’s brunch is the second-best dining experience we’ve had at Walt Disney World, behind only Victoria & Albert’s. Once you factor the nature of the meal, ambiance, price, and everything included, Brunch at the Top is very difficult to beat.
With regard to the Victoria & Albert’s comparison, it’s actually been a while since we’ve dined there, so we can’t offer a totally current assessment of that meal. We’ve heard absolutely nothing to suggest the quality has changed in any way, and it still wins awards and accolades, so it’s probably safe to assume.
Even so, Brunch at the Top is somewhat difficult to compare to Victoria & Albert’s. A big part of the appeal of California Grill’s brunch is that it’s sophisticated and refined, yet low-key and relaxed. It’s similar to Victoria & Albert’s in that it’s a departure from the normal Walt Disney World dining experience, yet almost at the other end of the spectrum in terms of ambiance and the nature of the meal.
If I had to choose one of the two meals, my pick would be Brunch at the Top. (Unless money were no issue, in which case I’m going nuts with all of the upgrades on the Victoria & Albert’s menu!) For what it is, Victoria & Albert’s is not particularly stuffy, but Brunch at the Top is still much more my speed.
Then again, we are millennials. To our people, brunch is an irresistible siren’s song that beacons with the promise of avocado toast, and California Grill provides the perfectly-relaxed setting for scheming about what we’ll ruin next. We millennials just love to ruin things. Or so I’m frequently told.
But I digress. We did Brunch at the Top on the last day of our Walt Disney World trip, and it was the perfect way to decompress and have a leisurely experience before heading home. It was almost like doing a land and sea trip, with the cruise after a week at Walt Disney World as a way to unwind.
Part of me is a bit apprehensive about making such an enthusiastic recommendation for Brunch at the Top. If I’ve learned any lesson in recent years, it’s that Walt Disney World has a tendency to ‘iterate’ on popular experiences that are high quality or good values until the only thing ‘high’ about them is the price. Look no further than Le Cellier 10+ years ago versus today for that.
Perhaps I should take solace in the fact that many of you don’t trust my opinions or taste. Before you race off to make an Advance Dining Reservation for Brunch at the Top, remember that I’m the same reviewer who showers praise on Country Bear Jamboree and pans breakfast at ‘Ohana. I’m definitely wrong about California Grill’s brunch, and you should totally go to Chef Mickey’s instead.
Now that we’ve established that the rest of this review is pointless because no one should go to Brunch at the Top under any circumstances whatsoever and instead enjoy the glorious cuisine of Chef Mickey’s (California Grill’s brunch is nearly the same cost and doesn’t even have Pluto preparing the food!), let’s set the stage for the experience you will (not) have when you (don’t) go to this brunch…
Upon taking the elevator up to California Grill, you’ll be greeted by a host who will hand you a mimosa or specialty non-alcoholic beverage, either of which are included in the brunch’s price. Throughout the meal, you can order additional unlimited mimosas or other drinks, which are also included. You read that correctly: unlimited alcohol at Walt Disney World.
Across from the mimosa station, you’ll see musicians performing beautiful renditions of Disney music (both attractions and films) as well as playful mixes of non-Disney favorites. “Africa” by Toto and “Grim Grinning Ghosts” were hits with guests at our meal.
You’ll then walk to your table, noticing along the way the light and airy daytime atmosphere of California Grill. Perhaps you’ll wonder why a restaurant with such a prime location and floor to ceiling windows mostly operates when it’s dark out. (It had been over a decade since we last had an earlier seating at California Grill, and I almost forgot how great the restaurant looks with natural lighting.)
Shortly after being seated, your waiter will arrive, and offer a tour of the buffet. They will explain some of the choices, their favorites, and that sort of thing. The server will also bring out additional drinks and take your entree order (this is something of a hybrid meal).
It’s difficult to convey in writing, but for us, this really set the tone for what would be an incredibly fun meal. The drinks, music, bright setting, a staggering buffet spread, our server’s friendliness–all of it–had us excited before we tasted anything. We had high expectations going in thanks to feedback from friends who had done the brunch, but this took our hype to the next level.
Thankfully, Brunch at the Top delivered on the hype. For my first round, I opted for sushi, selecting a mix of maki rolls and nigiri.
Normally, we prefer nigiri to rolls. The nigiri here was just fine, though. The cuts were a bit on the lean side, and not quite as rich or flavorful as we hoped. Still good, and adding a bit of wasabi helped. The rolls were surprisingly good, and I returned to the buffet a couple of times for more of these.
Next, it was time for the charcuterie spread. And wow, what a spread it was. Highlights included Napoli Salami, Serrano, Wagyu Sausage, Venison Terrine, Pork Belly Rillettes, Toscana Salami, Prosciutto, Tillamook Cheddar, Barely Buzzed Beehive Cheese, and Point Reyes Blue.
I had multiple plates of charcuterie, and was very pleased with the selection. It definitely wasn’t on par with the likes of Palo, but it far surpassed what you’ll find at any other buffet at Walt Disney World.
After that, it was time for more sushi, deviled eggs, parfait, some surprisingly good salad, and more. I don’t recall everything we had, but it’s not like you need a play by play on the meal.
There were also an assortment of breads, which I’m sure were high-quality and house-made, but you clearly do not know me if you think I touched bread on a buffet. That’s like getting fruit or vegetables–you don’t want to let the house win!
We made several more rounds to the buffet before the realization set in that we were getting really full and had still yet to order our entrees. After seeing a few gorgeous plates of it pass by our table, I opted for the Grilled Hanger Steak.
This was fantastic–a breakfast steak rivaling what just about any non-Signature restaurant at Walt Disney World is serving for lunch or dinner. My cut was tender, and the chimichurri sauce provided depth and a mild kick. When perusing the menu, I was concerned it might be there to mask a subpar cut of meat, but that most certainly was not the case.
Sarah ordered the Maine Lobster Eggs Benedict. Also fantastic, and topped with a generous portion of lobster. I personally preferred the steak, but both were really good.
Although we don’t normally comment on service in restaurant reviews since it’s hit or miss, I do want to pause here to note that our service here was exquisite. Attentive would be an understatement, as our server anticipated what we’d want and even offered to preemptively address a very minor problem later in the meal (so minor that I wouldn’t have even said anything). She was truly fantastic.
The meal concluded with a beautiful selection of desserts, which we got boxed for the road. We ended up eating these hours later at MCO, which was probably not the ideal scenario for evaluating they’re taste. They were still pretty good; very high quality stuff.
Ultimately, California Grill’s brunch is an experience that will not disappoint. While the price might induce some sticker shock, we view this as a good value as compared to other Signature Restaurants. At dinner, you’ll easily pay as much or more for a meal, and won’t have access to unlimited alcohol, sushi, or fine meats and cheeses. With that said, it’s easy to focus on these “unlimited” components to the meal to evince its value or quality, but that’s only one part of the equation. The atmosphere here is something special, with the rarified quality of California Grill cut with a “chill” vibe. Brunch at the Top just feels like a different dining experience than other Signature meals at Walt Disney World, and it’s all the better for that.
Are you a fan of California Grill? Have you done Brunch at the Top? Do you agree or disagree with our take on the meal? Is Brunch at the Top something you’d like to do on an upcoming Walt Disney World trip? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!