Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chef Mickey's (Breakfast Buffet)

Note:  This restaurant was visited on 29 July 2012.  The review was originally written later that afternoon.


Time once again for a Disney restaurant expedition.  This time, our quest takes us to Chef Mickey's for the breakfast buffet.

Chef Mickey's
My company for today's trip was my mother, Cheryl Butler, my other younger brother, Aaron Butler, and Jared.  This trip had a secondary purpose, specifically it was a bit of a birthday celebration for Aaron (who turned 42) and Jared (who turned 11).

Chef Mickey's is located in the Grand Canyon Concourse in the Contemporary Hotel.  If you've ever ridden on the monorail from the Transport and Ticket Information Center towards the Magic Kingdom, and passed through the Contemporary Hotel, you've seen the Grand Canyon Concourse.  Its the huge, central open area that takes up most of the fourth through eleventh floors of the hotel.  You could easily park the space shuttle inside this space. 
The restaurant itself is on one end, tucked in beneath the monorail track that runs through the hotel.

The Grand Canyon Concourse, from the loading area of the monorail.
Unfortunately, you can't see Chef Mickey's from here.  Its on the other side of the wall with the big mural on it.

A closer view of the big mural.  This piece of artwork is almost seven stories tall.

A view of the little mural.
When we arrived to check in, there was a short line, but within five minutes we were checked in.  There was no waiting to get a table at all.  However, we were told that this immediate access is highly unusual, as Chef Mickey's is the second most popular restaurant on Disney property (after Cinderella's Royal Table, which sits at #1, and just ahead of Le Cellier at #3), and as such is usually packed to the gills.  Make sure you have a reservation when you go.

This is a busy restaurant, and by busy I don't necessarily mean crowded.  There were a lot of people dining there when we went, sure, but it wasn't crowded, despite the numbers.  Or at least it didn't feel crowded.  No, I mean its busy in that there are always people moving around, and Disney
characters showing up all the time, and the background music is a bit loud and intrusive, and there's a lot of noise.  Unlike T-Rex, though, which was similarly noisy and busy, the sound in Chef Mickey's wasn't overwhelming.  I'm guessing its just better acoustics.

The restaurant itself is wide open and brightly lit, with cheerful decorations.  There is no part of this restaurant that doesn't have easy access to the buffet line, and there's no congestion points where people might have a hard time navigating past his fellow diners.
The dining room.  Wide open, doesn't feel crowded, and is tastefully decorated.
Our table was surprisingly small for a party of four, and it was dominated by the napkin dispenser, salt, pepper, sugar/sweeterer cup, and condiment bin.  But it wasn't unworkable.  Our server, a really nice, personable guy named Nabil, was on the ball.  Before we even had sat down he had everyone's orange juice glasses filled and was offering coffee (despite my general dislike for the swill-disguised-as-coffee Disney serves at their restaurant, I had a cup) to those who wanted it.  Aaron specifically had to ask for a soda, as it didn't seem to occur to Nabil that anyone would want anything else to drink, but given the orange juice and the coffee, he barely touched the thing.
The four of us, at our table.  It was small.
That's the buffet line behind us.
The amazing Nabil, waiter supreme.
So far, Nabil has been the most skilled, efficient, and friendly server in the entire tour.
Seriously, when you go, ask if this man is working, and if he is, demand to be seated at one of his tables.

The buffet had a wide variety of breakfast foods to offer.   An impressive variety of foods, if I were to be honest.  There were four or five different kinds of fruit, including bananas, apples, oranges, grapefruit, little tangerine slices, grapes, pineapple, and two different kinds of melon), as well as several in mixed fruit salads.  There was yogurt (blueberry).  Bacon.  Sausage in both link and crumble form.  Scrambled eggs.  Croissants.  Hash with turkey, hash with sausage, and hash with corned beef.  Dilled salmon with capers.  A breakfast pizza.  Biscuits and sausage gravy.  French toast.  Cottage cheese.  Raisin bread.  Sticky buns.  Grits.  Freshly-made waffles (shaped like Mickey Mouse, no less).  Ham.  Freshly-made pancakes.  Hash browns in patty form.  English muffins.  Two different types of quiche.  Hash browns in a creamy cheese sauce.  Blintzes.  Rice crispy treats.  Donut holes.  Cinammon buns.  Oatmeal.  And four different types of cold cereal.

Fruit, fruit, and more fruit.  Plus yogurt, cottage cheese, and salmon.

The rest of the fruit/salad line.

A breakfast pizza, hash brown patties, and french toast.

Croissants and english muffins.

Quiche, more quiche, sausage, more sausage, ham, and bacon.

Yet another quiche, plus sausage and gravy.  Sticky buns to the right.

Blintzes with either blueberry or cherry sauce.

Rice crispy treats, cinammon buns, and raisin bread.

Fresh fruit, rice crispy treats, and donut holes.
I kept looking for an omelette station that wasn't there.  They just didn't have one!  Sure, there was a nice, smiling young woman pumping out fresh pancakes all morning long in the place where an omelette station would be logically located, but no actual omelette station.  This was disappointing.  I mean over at 1900 Park Fare, where I work occasionally, we have an omelette station and its the belle of the ball.  These folks didn't have that, choosing rather to supply an endless supply of fresh pancakes and waffles.  (Mickey waffles!)

See!  Told you!
I've got to be honest and tell you that for all the variety, the quality of the food was pretty basic.  I'm not saying it was bad (at least not overall).  But what I am saying is that there wasn't anything special about it.  If you've been to any Shoney's or Golden Corral for their breakfast buffet, all you have to do is imagine yourself surrounded by Disney decor and characters while you're eating there and you've pretty much arrived at the heart of Chef Mickey's.

There were some high spots, of course.   The Mickey waffles were fresh made right in front of you, as were the pancakes.  Those creamy hash browns with the cheese sauce were just fantastic.  The Italian sausage hash (substituting the sausage for corned beef, and including red pepper, diced potatoes, mushrooms, and sauteed onions) was sublime.  And the blintzes were to die for, I'm telling you.

But overall, it was the same food you'd get at Golden Corral.  The sausage was sausage; tasty, but a bit greasy and overall just sausave.  The eggs were typical buffet scrambled eggs; edible, and somewhat tasty, but not worth writing home about.  And so on.
Both Jared and Aaron received birthday cupcakes, along with candles, as I had notified the restaurant ahead of time that we were having a special occasion.  Luckily, there was no horde of happy-birthday singing servers, which was a good thing.
Aaron's birthday cupcake.
Jared sucked his up like a vacuum cleaner sucks up dust and I had no chance to take a picture of it.
Of course, this is a Disney restaurant, and Disney offers things you just can't get at a Golden Corral.  Specifically, we were visited by the Disney characters.
Jared with Donald Duck.

Aaron and Jared with Goofy.

Aaron and Jared with Mickey Mouse.

Aaron, Jared, and myself with Pluto.
Mom, Aaron, and Jared with Minnie Mouse.
Now for the bad news.

Other than the lack of omelette station, there were two things that really, really disappointed me.  The first was the biscuits and sausage gravy.  The biscuits were a bit mealy, and the gravy was a steadily hardening lump that I couldn't eat more than one bite of.  The other disappointment was the coffee, since it was the usual Disney World swill.  But then, I am a self-admitted coffee snob, and if the coffee isn't Sumatran, Kona, or Jamaican Blue Mountain, then to me its just going to be undrinkable.  This stuff was no different.

Perhaps my standards are a bit high, but I stand by my judgment about the coffee.  Your mileage may vary.

Jared wants me to make sure to mention that they keep the air conditioning way, way up, making the entire restaurant chilly.  I didn't notice, but I did promise I'd mention it.

Anyway, in general we all had fun with our meal.  Despite the fact that the background music was loud and intrusive, it was fun watching the kids dancing around and having fun with the characters.

The bill for me and Jared (Mom and Aaron were paying their own way) was $52 and change.  I'll give Chef Mickey's breakfast buffet three stars.  If you've got kids and are looking for a fun experience with the characters, go for it.  If you don't have kids?  There are probably better (or at least less expensive) places to go for the same food.  Like Golden Corral.

The tour will be coming back to Chef Mickey's at a later date, for the dinner buffet.

Next up:  The Grand Floridian Cafe, at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.