Contempo Cafe Review
Contempo Cafe in Disney’s Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World is a quick service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu items. This review covers all three. Contempo Cafe participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a counter service credit. It does not accept the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount. Contempo Cafe is a good value when paying out of pocket; it also can be one of the best value quick service restaurants for value on the Disney Dining Plan if you order a one of the more expensive entrees (there are only a couple).
I wouldn’t necessarily describe Contempo Cafe as unassuming, but I guess it sort of is. Besides the monorail overhead and the Mary Blair mural nearby (neither of which are actual characteristics of the restaurant), it just looks like a plain food court. In hotels that have nice table service dining, these “plain food courts” are sometimes afterthoughts that really don’t add much to the dining experience. That is not the case at all with Contempo Cafe.
To the contrary, Contempo Cafe is the best counter service restaurant at Walt Disney World. It may seem like this statement is intended for shock value because you literally never hear it called that, or even ranked alongside fan favorites like Sunshine Seasons, Flame Tree BBQ, Columbia Harbour House, or Tangierine Cafe. It’s better than each of those restaurants…it’s just often overlooked. In our 2017 update to our Top 10 Counter Service Restaurants at Walt Disney World article, Contempo Cafe once again claims the top spot, although the newly-refurbished (as of Spring 2017) Gasparilla Island Grill at the Grand Floridian is a formidable challenger at #2…
Since you probably won’t read any other site proclaiming Contempo Cafe is the best counter service restaurant at Walt Disney World, this is part review, part “advocacy piece,” I suppose. Let’s take a look at everything Contempo Cafe has going for it, as well as its weaknesses.
Contempo Cafe replaced the Concourse Steakhouse a few years ago, right at the start of Disney’s push for more diverse food offerings, and it probably benefited a lot from being developed at that time. This diversity is a big part of the appeal of Contempo Cafe. Of the counter service “heavy hitters” at Walt Disney World, only Sunshine Seasons can boast this type of diversity. Flame Tree BBQ, Columbia Harbour House, and Tangierine Cafe all have their specialties.
While they do offer things that deviate from these specialties, if you don’t like the specialties, there’s no draw to those restaurants. Contempo Cafe has a menu that includes several flatbreads, salads, hot sandwiches, and cold sandwiches. While there are “basics” in these categories like the Angus 1/3lb Cheeseburger, there are also more ambitious options. Some items are things you’d never expect from counter service, like pot roast. It’s a surprisingly deep and diverse menu.
Theming is the biggest weakness of Contempo Cafe–there really isn’t any theming to Contempo Cafe itself. However, this didn’t hold Sunshine Seasons back from being our #1 restaurant previously, and at least Contempo Cafe has the monorail overhead and the Mary Blair mural. Sunshine Seasons just has people racing to get Soarin’ FastPasses.
Much like Sunshine Seasons, Contempo Cafe is fairly loud during peak meal times at Chef Mickey’s. In Contempo Cafe’s defense, while it doesn’t have any real theming, we like the self-service ordering system, and we’ve never encountered crazy crowds here (perhaps it’s worse during conventions?).
Now, let’s take a look at some of the food…
Like many other Walt Disney World counter service restaurants, Contempo Cafe uses a tracker system for ordering. After you order and pay, you receive this tracker, which is placed on your table.
This is not a pager. When your food is ready, it’s brought to your table, which the Cast Member locates through the tech-wizardry of this little device (assuming it’s working).
We’ve only done breakfast at Contempo Cafe once, when arriving at Bay Lake Tower on a redeye, and not wanting to do anything else. I had the Grilled Breakfast Sandwich, which was surprisingly good.
It was large and the eggs were real, which itself is a small miracle from counter service breakfast at Walt Disney World. It was a bit greasy, but I’d recommend it.
Sarah opted for an oversized Mickey waffles, which was overpriced and tasted exactly how you’d expect. They’re a fun novelty if you’re eating from a buffet and “need” a cute Instagram photo, but then will actually eat something else. I cannot fathom ordering Mickey waffles by themselves (after this experience, Sarah agrees).
Now let’s take a look at lunch and dinner at Contempo Cafe…
We’ve had several of the flatbreads at Contempo Cafe, and each has been impressive. These get swapped out fairly regularly, so there’s no telling if what’s mentioned here will be available on your visit.
We highly recommend the Chicken Artichoke Flatbread, which has with creamy spinach-artichoke spread, tomatoes, and basil. It has a good amount of chicken, and the spinach-artichoke spread is really good.
The Marinated Beef Flatbread with oven-roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, goat cheese, and arugula is out of this world. This is among the best flatbreads at Walt Disney World, and that includes those at Jiko and California Grill.
We expected the beef to be tough, as is often the case with chunks or strips of beef used served as parts of other dishes, but that wasn’t the case. It was tender and perfectly cooked, and it worked very well with the goat cheese, arugula, and other ingredients. These ingredients complimented one another very well, and formed a complex flavor.
The Caprese Flatbread is also good, but it just doesn’t seem as substantive. Probably better as a snack to split rather than an actual meal.
Another great menu item is the Grilled Chicken Sandwich Herb Marinated Chicken with pepper jack cheese and salsa-ranch dressing on a multi-grain bun. I’m not often a fan of grilled chicken sandwiches at Walt Disney World, since they normally lack flavor, but this one is great.
The real strength of this sandwich is that salsa-ranch dressing, which gives it great flavor and works well with the pepper jack cheese. The multi-grain bun is also a noteworthy improvement over the normal generic Disney buns.
Another great option is the Spice Crusted Mahi Sandwich. The Mahi Mahi was larger than the focaccia roll on which it was served; Sarah grabbed a piece of it with her fork before I started eating (thief) and was audibly impressed. The fish itself was fresh-tasting, flavorful, and perfectly cooked (I was expecting rubby/microwaved). Photos don’t do it justice.
The crusting added nice flavor, too, and wasn’t overpowering. I had gotten a small plate of toppings from the toppings bar that I figured I’d have to add to the sandwich to make it taste decent, but I didn’t end up using them. Not only was the fish excellent, but the focaccia roll was much better than a normal Disney bun and the slaw/mayonnaise dressing added the perfect flavor. The sandwich turned out to be better than some dedicated fish entrees I’ve had in restaurants.
If you’re looking for a guilty-pleasure option, give the Hot Italian Sandwich a try. It’s bursting with flavor and despite being a bit greasy, is fabulous.
One of the better sandwiches at Walt Disney World.
Contempo Cafe is also a Walt Disney World ‘cupcake mecca.’ They don’t have the largest selection of cupcakes, but it does seem to be a testing ground for cupcakes that are later (if well received) rolled out to other locations on property. In fact, Contempo Cafe actually has a cupcake calendar for what will be featured at various times!
Here are a few cupcakes we’ve tried at Contempo Cafe. Given the rotating nature of the cupcakes, don’t expect to find any of these on your visit…
The Root Beer Float Cupcake seemed bizarre in concept but potentially delicious in taste…sorta like a bacon ice cream sundae. It was nothing like that (not just because it lacked bacon).
It turns out root beer flavor and cupcake are not two seemingly contrasting items that actually go together well. It wasn’t awful, but we wouldn’t recommend this cupcake. Kudos for Disney being ambitious and trying something new…I guess?
The Birthday Cake Cupcake was significantly better. This one was definitely less ambitious, as it’s essentially just a piece of quintessential birthday cake put into cupcake form and with a lot of icing. Still, we thought it was really good.
As long as you don’t mind a few cavities after eating it, we highly recommend this cupcake.
In addition to several other cupcakes we’ve tried here, Contempo Cafe is home to our all-time favorite cupcake: the Chocolate Peppermint Cupcake with Candy Cane Sprinkles. I’ve gone on and on about this cupcake in other posts, so I’ll spare you that in this review. Just make sure you order it if available. There’s a good chance you’ll see a new cupcake on your visit to Contempo Cafe, so if you like trying new and often “different” desserts, give whatever they have when you visit a try.
We’ve written this review in a manner that it doesn’t focus just on one visit and that’s so we can come back to it and easily add paragraphs concerning other items as we continue to visit Contempo Cafe. And continue to visit, we will! Contempo Cafe is our new go-to “the Magic Kingdom is way too busy right now, let’s get out of here for a bit” place to eat, and we fully intend to try everything on the menu. It will be tough for me to order anything besides the Mahi Sandwich (I’ll have to order it at least one more time just to see if I got lucky the first time), but I am eager to taste some of the other items, like the Italian Stacked Sandwich and the Hot Smoked Turkey Sandwich.
Overall, there’s not much to say beyond what has already been said. We both now think Contempo Cafe is the best counter service restaurant at Walt Disney World, and it’s only weaknesses to us is that it doesn’t do anything in the way of theme besides “basic food court with awesome stuff overhead” and that it’s a loud place to eat with Chef Mickey’s next door. In terms of food, we’ve been impressed with Contempo Cafe for the last few years, and we’re convinced that it’s the real deal. Thanks to its menu diversity and consistently high quality, it’s our #1 pick (bonus points for it always having cool cupcakes) for counter service at Walt Disney World. In fact, we’d sooner eat at Contempo Cafe than Chef Mickey’s…and we’re betting we won’t have to call 180 days in advance to get Contempo Cafe reservations!
Want more dining tips? Check out our 101 Delicious Walt Disney World Dining Tips. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
If you’ve dined at Contempo Cafe in the last few years, do you agree with us that it’s one of the elite counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World? What menu items here do you like? What do you plan on trying? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts in the comments!
The food here borders between bad and not fit for human consumption. The way Tom feels about the counter service option at Beach Club is how I feel about Contempo Cafe. Every time I order from here, I think, “It’s been bad before, but maybe it’s gotten better.” Every time, I take a bite and I’m reminded of how inedible the food is. I’ve tried the burgers, various flat breads, and salads. All have been terrible. One of the reasons I no longer stay at the Contemporary is because the horrid food at the Contempo Cafe renders it difficult to have a reliable quick food option, which is a necessity for my family.
I just came across this blog, but my aunt and I got the WORST food poisoning from the contempo cafe last visit!!!
We are staying at the Contemporary this week and got food from the Contempo Cafe last night. It was a massive disappointment. I had the chicken caesar salad – the chicken was completely unseasoned and the lettuce was limp. My husband had the smokehouse burger and said it was “fine” but nothing to write home about. My son really wanted buttered noodles, so we ordered the pasta kids meal with butter instead of the marinara sauce. Despite that having worked well at a different Disney restaurant a few days before, this time we got a pile of plain noodles with nothing on them at all. He wouldn’t eat them. Perhaps it’s gone downhill since this review was written, but suffice to say we won’t be eating there again.
The Contempo Cafe no longer has your amazing Peppermint Chocolate Crunch cupcake. They said it was in the past.
I am VERY disappointed in our experience in this restaurant. For some reason our credit card was denied (it may have been the way my husband swiped it in the machine) We then paid in cash. Minutes later our credit card company put an alert out to us that we had been charged. I went to the manager, Mr. Kunush, and he said we were not charged, and he printed out a receipt for our cash payment. NO ONE WILL HELP ME GET OUR REIMBURSEMENT. I therefore would not recommend this restaurant.
I just left this restauarant and sadly it did not measure up to expectations. None of the items mentioned were available, which is a shame because they sounded amazing. The pot roast was delicious but the potatoes and green beans were both extremely undercooked, almost raw. My husband gave their smokehouse burger a “meh, it’s okay”. Our three year old turned his nose up at their sustainable fish sandwich for kids, with fish being one of his absolute favorite foods. It was a very dried out looking piece of salmon.
Overall a disappointment.
I agree with Tom, this is an excellent restaurant with excellent food and management. Please be advised as of July 2016 the menu has changed somewhat and not all the items Tom entions are still available exactly in those forms. This is like a good to very good table service quality restaurant, but with much better prices and speed of service.
Does anyone know if the Contemporary Cafe has gluten free options!
Thank you for the recommendation, it was excellent! My friend and I split a pizza and a cupcake, it was plenty of food and only $20 total. The views were great too, wonderful view of the lake and monorail. Your whole blog was super helpful for planning our trip, and this place was the best recommendation.
We stayed at the Contemporary over Thanksgiving week 2014. The contemporary cafe was a necessary evil on a couple of occasions. The food was fine but OH. MY. GOODNESS! The service was extremely problematic for the price point of the hotel. The first visit I made was Monday evening after a fantastic day at Discovery Cove. I went down to the cafe to grab some food to bring back to the room. There were people everywhere and nobody was getting any food. We all ordered at the self service kiosks and then stood, and stood, and stood and stood waiting for the CMs to call out our number and hand us our food. It was ridiculous. Something like 20-25 minutes with one CM calling numbers and two registers running – so after waiting for the food we then had to wait to pay. I felt so badly for the CMs working but also was shocked that nothing was being addressed. I figured it was an off night or something. The next visit was a day or so later and still the service was off – not as bad but still off. After that I would have done about anything to avoid having to go back. Simply dreadful.
The self service kiosks are gone now. You order at the register, go sit at your table, and your freshly prepared food is delivered to your table in about 10 minutes. The service was superior during my Jul 2016 visit.
We love Contempo Cafe! A quick monorail ride or short walk from Magic Kingdom that gives us time to regroup before we get back to the crazy park crowds. I loved the turkey blt. The red velvet cupcake was a big hit with my family too. We can’t wait to eat there again on our next trip in May! 123 days to go! Thank you so much for your reviews, they are fantastic!!
I agree the food quality at Contempo and Sunshine Seasons are the best counter service options in WDW. I’ve had the Mahi Mahi sandwich many times and agree it is better than many fish entrees I’ve ordered in much pricier restaurants.
As a note- the self-ordering kiosks are now gone, which is sad. Especially since the cashiers at this location are a bit hit or miss in my experience.
I also miss the “Vegetable Bake” they used to have. It was a great vegetarian entree that was just as flavorful as the Mahi Sandwich.
My family stayed at the Contemporary on a vacation in January 2014, and we ate at Contempo Cafe several times during that stay. We loved everything we ate! Since we have young children who were wiped out after a long day at the parks, our routine was to grab a quick dinner at Contempo before heading up to our room each night. We took the dinners to our room, got the kids into their pajamas, and watched Wishes from our balcony while eating. One night I had a turkey sandwich with apples and brie and some kind of balsamic sauce on it. It was so amazing that I have since tried to replicate it at home, but without success. If I ever go again, I am going to order that sandwich and study the ingredients more closely!
Thanks for your wonderful blog. I have enjoyed reading it, especially since we will be making a return trip this winter!