Review: Cape May Cafe – Better Minus Buffet?
Cape May Cafe is a table service restaurant in Yacht & Beach Club Resort at Walt Disney World. This reviews the new family-style dinner, which replaces the New England Clambake Buffet. It features food photos, thoughts on how this all-you-can-eat meal compares to its predecessor, a look at atmosphere, whether it’s worth the money, and more.
In normal times, Cape May Cafe participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a 1-credit table service restaurant for dinner, which has historically made it among the Best Uses of Table Service Credits. Of course, that’s temporarily suspended right now, but presumably that info will be relevant again in the not-too-distant future. Cape May Cafe also accepts the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount and Disney Vacation Club or Annual Passholder cards for 10% off.
Prior to this meal at Cape May Cafe, it had been over a decade since we did dinner at the buffet–way back to our Before Blog days. Despite being asked about the New England Clambake Dinner Buffet countless times by readers, it was always “on our list” of places to revisit and review. However, when push came to shove and we had the Disney Dining Plan, we always found excuses to dine elsewhere. There was a reason for that…
It’s not exactly a good or interesting story; we simply had a poor experience our one and only time doing the dinner buffet at Cape May Cafe. The rational side of our minds knows that any restaurant can have an off night, and we should’ve long ago set that aside to dine there again. (As an even more extreme example, we haven’t been back to Hollywood Brown Derby in a while because one of us had a memorably bad meal on the very same night that the other had an exceptional one. Sometimes you just get lucky or unlucky.)
This perhaps lingered in our minds longer than it should’ve, “thanks” to Cape May Cafe’s pungency. We often walk past the restaurant en route to dinner at Beaches & Cream or Crew’s Cup, and have our recollections refreshed in the process. The point is that while other Walt Disney World fans were disappointed by the announcement that Cape May Cafe would reopen as a family-style restaurant, we were slightly relieved. It presented the perfect opportunity to turn the page, so let’s do exactly that…
In terms of decor and atmosphere, Cape May Cafe is a delightful mix of pastel colors, airy design, seaside murals, and beach items. It’s certainly not the pinnacle of themed design at Walt Disney World, but there’s something about it that just feels charming and calming, which is really saying something since this is normally a buffet.
Cape May Cafe is quintessential 1990s Walt Disney World, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s not overly dated, and has the perfect amount of detail, quality, and comfort. There are no attempts to be hip or on-trend, and the end result is a restaurant with a distinct personality. We love it, and will be among the first to grab the pitchforks if Disney ever removes those iconic umbrellas!
The family-style dinner at Cape May Cafe starts with Breads and Spreads: Parker House Rolls and Cornbread with Roasted Garlic-Herb Butter, Salted Butter, and Cheese Spread.
The quality on the breads themselves was middling; nothing noteworthy about them for better or worse. Both the roasted garlic-herb butter and salted butter were fantastic.
Next up is the Seasonal Harvest Salad: Arugula, Kale, and Romaine with Orange Segments, Cherry Tomatoes, Red Onions, and Sun-dried Cherries, with a Citrus-Vanilla Vinaigrette.
I didn’t try the salad. It’s an all you can eat meal and this isn’t my first rodeo; I’ve got no time for this nonsense. Sarah liked the salad. It was reasonably ambitious and the citrus elements were refreshing, supposedly.
The next item to come out was the Turf Platter: Slow-roasted Strip Loin with Chimichurri and House-made Steak Sauce, Oven-roasted Lemon-Pepper Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, and Farmer’s Market Vegetables.
Everything here was pretty good. The chicken was mostly juicy and flavorful, same for the steak, and the mashed potatoes (as always) were addictively delicious. There’s something about Walt Disney World mashed potatoes that I just love. (I’m guessing it’s the butter.) Not everything in the platter was of equal preparation, but it was more consistent than what you’d find on a buffet.
In between the platters, the Lobster Macaroni & Cheese arrived.
Predictably, this was fairly light on lobster, but still a fantastic mac & cheese with rich flavor and the perfect texture. Those rare bites that did have lobster chunks were absolutely sublime.
Next up is the Seafood Boil: PEI Mussels, Peel-n-Eat Shrimp , Cape May Clams, Sustainable Catch of the Day, Red Bliss Potatoes, and Corn on the Cobb.
This was mostly fantastic. The mussels, shrimp, and clams all tasted far better than we anticipated. That trio was tender, hearty, high-quality, and had an exceptional flavor thanks to the buttery broth. There was also a freshness to this Seafood Boil, and I simply cannot imagine a buffet rivaling the quality here.
By contrast, the sustainable catch of the day (mahi mahi) very much seemed like a stereotypical “buffet fish” that had slow cooked under a heat lamp for hours, maybe days. If I weren’t told what it was, I wouldn’t have known. It was flavorless, overcooked, and so tough it barely tasted like fish. The potatoes and corn were fine accompaniments, but again, not the type of filler I’m after in an all you can eat meal.
My favorite items, and what I ordered more of, were the mussels, clams, mac & cheese, and strip loin.
One thing that makes me uncomfortable about family style meals is all of the waste. We try to never throw away food (even from the Italy booth!), so this is a tough one for us. You’re left with the dilemma of filling up on things that you didn’t want to begin with (salad) and/or that taste terrible (mahi mahi), or having the stomach space for dishes you actually want and like at an expensive meal.
With that said, you can always place very specific requests at Cape May Cafe or any other family style restaurant at Walt Disney World. You could even do this with your initial order by letting the server know you don’t want salad, mahi mahi, or whatever.
When it came time to order “refills,” we did exactly that. I wanted more of the slow-roasted strip loin prepared medium rare. (A couple of pieces in our first platter were medium well and were decidedly less tasty.)
As the ultimate hack, I also requested a side of extra chimichurri.
Although I love chimichurri, perhaps this was a bit excessive. The meat stood well on its own; slathering it in so much oil when I was already pretty full wasn’t the most brilliant idea. So scratch that “ultimate hack.”
For dessert at Cape May Cafe, the table receives a platter.
Ours included a raspberry cream puff, sugar-free cheesecake, lemon curd, and Cafe May Cafe’s iconic Oreo Bon Bons.
If your party is already feeling full before dessert, our strong suggestion would be requesting a platter of the Oreo Bon Bons instead of the normal mix. (Of the other items, only the curd is worthwhile–the cheesecake is an abomination.)
Trust us, you cannot go wrong with the Oreo Bon Bons.
You might recall us raving about these Oreo Bon Bons back at Christmas when they made a triumphant return to Beach Club Marketplace. At that time, we excitedly called them a must-have bygone era Walt Disney World dessert that had disappeared several years ago.
These are a brilliant medley of texture and flavor, and are worth the price of Cape May Cafe by themselves. If Cape May Cafe offered an All Bon Bon Buffet, I’d do it. No joke. I’d probably have to beach myself on a lobby couch afterwards from eating too many of them, but let’s be real–that’s happening regardless!
While we’re mostly heaping praise on Cape May Cafe’s family-style dinner, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that there’s an added charge for steamed crab legs and whole Maine lobster. (Given the all you can eat circumstances, we ordered neither.)
The latter I can understand; the charge seems fair and it’s an item you wouldn’t find on a typical buffet. The surcharge for crab legs is a disappointment, as this is something previously included in the Cape May Cafe dinner buffet. It’s conceivable that seafood supply chain issues are the cause of this, but it feels like a cash grab. Honestly, I would’ve preferred if crab legs weren’t offered at all for the time being. Charging extra for them just rubs me the wrong way.
Ultimately, I don’t know if it’s fair to say the family-style dinner at Cape May Cafe is better than the New England Clambake Buffet. For us, it probably was. However, we can also recognize that there’s a degree of absurdity in comparing meals over a decade apart. That’s especially true when many Walt Disney World fans adored the dinner buffet, some doing it every single trip for years. As we stress to others, any restaurant can have an off night and shouldn’t be reviewed on that basis.
Accordingly, it’s impossible for us to answer the titular question. Instead, we’ll judge the Cape May Cafe family-style dinner on its own merits and against comparable meals at Walt Disney World right now. On those bases, it’s a very good–but not quite great–dining option with several dishes that get high marks and a few that fall short. For now, it’s among the best all-you-can-eat restaurants at Walt Disney World and gets our recommendation–until Tusker House and Sebastian’s Bistro return!
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Have you done the new family-style dinner at Cape May Cafe? Are you happy about this change, or hopeful that the New England Clambake will return once circumstances allow for it? Any favorite dishes at Cape May Cafe? Do you agree or disagree with our review? If you haven’t dined here, does this sound appealing to you or not? 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!
Went expecting the traditional Cape Amy buffet that we dine every time we’re at Disney because there was a huge variety of food for everyone in the family with different likes .
I wasn’t aware of the new family dining style . Very disappointed as they choose your food bring a tiny plate of seafood with a tiny corn while everyone who wants turf sits and waits , salad basically lettuce w/dressing on it no cucumbers tomatoes croutons etc . Felt like a tiny bowl of lettuce . Disappointed as [email protected] we could’ve had a better meal not worth the price at all!! Will not go back unless they start the buffet again. I also let the manager know that this overpriced meal was terrible. He claims he will pass this info on and apologized
This is the buffet we always look forward too. We tried the new family style and were completely disappointed. Totally rushed. They brought (by multiple waitresses) small plates of it all at one time and we had NO room on the table to even pass things around. Got 1/4 of an ear of corn for four people and 2 small red potatoes. Ask for more and it was a small plate of another 1/4 ear of corn and single serving of whatever and no where to put it on the table. Ordered the expensive crab legs bc that’s our tradition there and literally had to sit the shell pail (also was given as a scrap pail for family style) on the floor. Will never go back until it’s the same buffet as before. Wasteful-bc they just throw what they want at you, not filling bc you hate to bother to ask for more of what you NEED and want (no where to sit it anyway) and just not a good value like before.
Does anyone know if the characters will return?
Ate there a month ago and the food was awful, and the service was rushed. The fish is better from the frozen food section of your local grocery store. No flavor in the seafood boil at all. Finally the beef was over cooked. Will not be returning and this is after I and my family have been going to Cape May cafe 4 times a year since 2014.
As a frequent patron of CAPE MAY I can say that I am not happy with the change to family style and will not be returning until the all you can eat crab leg buffet returns. I have been to numerous non-Disney buffets over the past several months. Buffets are possible. It’s not that Disney can’t do them, they choose not to do them.
Since when is going to a restaurant, which used to offer a buffet of choices, and now being told what you will get to pick, a good thing. So many choices have been excluded. Let’s face it, being asked to pay for crab legs, when it was previously included, is an insult. I can only hope enough previous patrons say no to family style throughout Disney. However, Cape May especially. It’s not even remotely the same experience. Don’t buy the reasoning for the change has anything to do with pandemic any more, as several other buffet establishments managed to adapt with no problems. Not to mention all the waste of food with family style. Hate to suggest a mass boycott, as I love Disney. However, what else will make them change it back.
Based on some of the comments here and on TripAdvisor (not very kind to say the least), we are doing dinner at Cowfish in City Walk and giving up our Cape May Cafe dinner reservation. Will return when the buffet resumes.
Haven’t been there in the last year, but have had a couple of great meals at Cowfish in the past. Enjoy!
S Martin: You are so right about the smell in the lobby (and in the corridor going around the restaurant. It was terrible.
The move to family style and no more crab legs included really guts what was one of WDW’s best buffets for value and also taste. This was a mandatory once if not twice ADR for me on the DP. As well as the crab legs feast, they always had incredible cold salads including unique and tasty Israeli couscous salads and a selection of imported cheese and olives. I always found unique extras on the buffet that I couldn’t find anywhere else on property. Most just beelined straight for the meats and didn’t take the time to check out the dozen or so different cold salads. There was a reason this was such a busy venue and tough-ish ADR to snag. Once you got past the smell in the lobby, it was a very good meal. Unless guests demand change and the included crab legs return, I’ll savour my memories and travel to Disney Springs for dinner instead.