Best of Rate and Review III
Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Senior Editor
This article appeared in the June 15, 2010 Issue #560 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
Usually, we write restaurant reviews to share with you, our AllEars® readers. This week, though, we bring you another in our occasional series: The Best of Rate and Review. This gives you the chance to read what other dedicated Disney-goers like you think. We've dipped into the vast pool of our Rate and Review section, where AllEars® readers like you share their thoughts about their favorite things. Our Rate and Review section not only has a large area for your comments but also asks you to rate each eatery on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best), with two options of either recommending or not recommending the restaurant. In addition, you can summarize the pros and cons. From that, we've compiled another edition of "The Best of Rate and Review" for your reading pleasure this week. We frequently get quizzed on which Character Meals we think are the best on Disney property, and why. Instead of hearing from us this week, we're bringing you excerpts from a random sampling of honest, firsthand critiques from people who have recently attended these special Disney dining experiences.
The highest rated character breakfast may come as a bit of a surprise -- it's NOT the breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table, despite its wild popularity. It is, instead, the Winnie the Pooh and Friends character buffet breakfast at the Magic Kingdom's Crystal Palace. This meal is recommended by 98 percent of our reviewers, and has an average rating of 9.1. Comments on this meal, which features Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet, use a wide range of superlatives, from "fantastic"and "fabulous" to "AWESOME" and "Tiggerific!" These comments weren't just on the outstanding character interaction, but also on service and food quality, which garnered kudos for "fluffy scrambled eggs," and the delicious Pooh's Puffed French Toast, which is apparently "to die for."
Coming in at second is the Best Friends Breakfast at 'Ohana over at the Polynesian Resort. Featuring Lilo and Stitch, this family-style meal has an average rating of 8.7, and is recommended by 94 percent of our reviewers. What do folks love about this meal? Well, there's the food for one thing -- "The pineapple bread was DELICIOUS!" "FANTASTIC!" and "YUM!" are among the most enthusiastic comments made recently about the items served. But there's also the character interaction and other activities they have for kids at this meal that draw raves: "a high energy, fun experience," is how one reviewer described the parade to Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride that involves children and characters marching around the restaurant. Special character moments also rate highly, especially with Stitch. A lot of people also seem to enjoy the fact that food is served at the table, rather than buffet-style. As one reviewer put it, "It was nice to get an all you can eat meal brought to the table...The staff was never in a hurry to have us leave and made sure we had everything we wanted."
Finally, coming it at third, is the famous breakfast in Cinderella Castle, recently renamed "Fairytale Dining." Although this character meal is recommended by 98 percent of our reviewers, it only garners an average rating of 8.5, due mainly to the perceived value of the food quality versus the price. As one reader puts it, "I'm glad we had the opportunity to experience breakfast at the castle, but I would not go back. It's too over-priced and too over-rated." And another says, "I had high hopes for the castle meal and was looking forward to it. I was very disappointed..." And another says, "I think it was the biggest disappointment of the trip..." Still, despite the negative observations about the food, most reviewers felt dining in the castle was worth the price, at least once. One reviewer sums it up like this: "This experience is worth the hefty price tag, especially if you have little girls in your party!"
Rounding out the remaining character breakfasts in descending order of ratings are:
-- Goofy's Beach Party Character Buffet at the Beach Club, which, according to one reviewer, "trumps Chef Mickey's any day!" "This atmosphere was so calm and quiet you would almost not think it was a character buffet," says another, for this meal, recommended by 97 percent of reviewers, with an 8.4 average.
-- 1900 Park Fare Breakfast, deemed "practically perfect in every way", and recommended by 95 percent of reviewers, also with an 8.4 average.
-- Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot -- "a good way to meet the popular princesses without waiting in lines," recommended by 91 percent of reviewers, with an 8.3 average.
-- Donald's Safari Breakfast at Animal Kingdom's Tusker House ("a pleasant surprise... variety was great with a lot of different items for more adventurous eaters, and even picky eaters"), recommended by 90 percent of reviewers and with an average rating of 8.3.
-- Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary Resort, which one reviewer called "not up to par" with the other character breakfasts. Still, Chef Mickey's is recommended by 97 percent of reviewers with an average rating of 8.2, with some calling the breakfast "quite good, with a large selection of fresh fruit and yogurt. There was also some smoked salmon which I quite enjoyed. There was the usual assortment of pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage, cereals, danishes, etc...The challah french toast was especially yummy."
We don't have breakfast and lunch separated for the Play 'n' Dine at Hollywood and Vine character meals at Disney's Hollywood Studios, but the restaurant itself gets an 8.2 rating overall, with 94 percent of reviewers recommending it. And unfortunately we don't have any current reviews for the character breakfast offered a few times a week at the Walt Disney World Swan resort, which features Rafiki and Timon, so we can't give you an accurate snapshot of what our readers think about it. (That's a hint, by the way. If you've tried this character meal recently, please head over to our Rate and Review section to let us all know what you thought! http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showproduct.php?product=204&cat=51 )
As for the other character meals, again the results are a little surprising. In general, the dinner character meals received lower marks than the breakfasts -- perhaps our reviewers are more demanding of their final meals of the day. Many comments centered around the poor quality of the dinner food selections.
While you might think surely dinner at the Castle would rate first, again you'd be wrong. First place in the character dinner category goes to the Garden Grill in Epcot's Land pavilion, which is recommended by 88 percent of reviewers and garners an 8.0 overall rating. While the Garden Grill received high marks for food ("...the strawberry rhubarb crisp was hands down one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth."), other restaurants didn't fare so well. The number two character dinner spot, the Contemporary Resort's Chef Mickey's, is recommended by 86 percent of reviewers but gets only a 7.6 average. Recent comments on the food range from "great variety of food," to "good, nothing truly stands out to me," to "most of the food was not good at all." Yikes!
In the third spot, the 1900 Park Fare Dinner is recommended by 85 percent of reviewers, with a 7.5 rating. While diners seem to really love the characters Lady Tremaine and Cinderella's stepsisters, the comments on the food are mixed -- in fact, there have been some recent complaints that were more than a little troubling. While some find "the food was OK," another accuses, "the food was prepared with so much salt that you could not eat most of the dishes."
At the bottom of the dinner list, at least according to the numbers, is Cinderella's Royal Table's character dinner, recommended by only 77 percent of reviewers, getting a 7.1 average. Again, the chief problem here is not the character interaction or atmosphere, which is dubbed "magical," but the meal itself. "The food was nothing special," said one reviewer, while another said, "Go for the experience and not the food."
If you're looking for a character lunch, your choices are a bit more limited, but still, THIS might be the meal you take at Cinderella's Royal Table. Recommended by 89 percent of reviewers (average rating 8.1), the midday Fairytale Dining experience gets high marks for being less hectic than breakfast with the same special atmosphere and character interaction. Your other option for seeing lots of princesses, at Epcot's Norway pavilion, gets a combined lunch/dinner rating of 7.6 and is recommended by 89 percent of the reviewers. The Akershus Royal Banquet Hall's Princess Storybook lunch and dinner are praised by many for "wonderful" service, "fantastic" atmosphere and "excellent" food, with one reviewer adding "all eight of us gave it a thumbs up."
Finally, the lunch and dinner at Magic Kingdom's Crystal Palace come in with a combined average rating of 7.6, recommended by 85 percent of reviewers. While a number of recent reviewers observe that the quality at CP has slipped since their previous visits, on the whole lunch and dinner received good marks for the food ("fresh and tasty"), service ("nice and efficient") and character interaction ("particularly sweet") -- in fact the overall experience according to one reviewer is "super super awesome."
So... which character meal is the best? Obviously, the answer varies according to a number of variables, including what YOU are looking for -- Princesses or Pooh? Great grub or first-class character interaction? Bountiful buffet or stellar service? Next time you're planning on dining with the characters, be sure to take some time to read over what others think in our Rate and Review section, then evaluate for yourself!
EDITOR'S NOTE: Ratings and recommendations current as of June 14, 2010.
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.