As a longtime Walt Disney World vacationer, and as a father of 3, one of the many questions I get asked is: where can I get a great Disney Character Dining experience? This question can be a bit tricky, as the dining experiences that guests may want to enjoy vary from the atmosphere they want, to the kinds and amounts of food offered, and to the characters they wish to meet during their meal. If the characters involve the quintessential Mickey and gang, there are the usual suspects like Chef Mickey’s and Ohana, but on our most recent trip in May, we came across a forgotten gem for a Disney character breakfast: the Garden Grill Restaurant, located in Epcot’s The Land pavilion.
The Garden Grill gives a unique experience for character dining not found anywhere else in the entire resort. First, the restaurant is a complete circle, which slowly rotates counterclockwise, taking your table from the grand, immense lobby of the main pavilion and past actual parts of the Living with the Land boat ride, including the rainforest, thunderstorm, and sandstorm scenes. The rotation is very slow, but consistent, so you don’t really notice you’re moving. Second, the breakfast menu, while traditional in some sense, contains some items that you will not find in some of other character dining restaurants, such as Chip’s Sticky Bun Bake and a juice blend of orange, passion fruit, and guava. In addition, and THIS is important, you do not experience the chaos of Disney character dining that you will find in the more popular restaurants. You get plenty of time with the Disney characters without feeling rushed and hurried.
The décor is traditional, with murals of plants and trees on the side walls, but it does appear to be outdated. It looked as if the last renovation to the restaurant was done in the 90s. However, despite that setback, the tables and seats were clean and in good condition.
We made reservations for Chip ‘N’ Dale’s Harvest Feast Breakfast, which is NOT a buffet; the food is served “family-style” with many of the items served together or separately on large plates, making it perfect for sharing. Chip’s Sticky Bun Bake is a large cinnamon bun, which was served warm with glaze and icing, in 6 slices, and it went well with the fresh-brewed coffee. The next course is another shareable bowl of seasonal fruit: our bowl had fresh melons, cantaloupe, pineapple, blueberries, and strawberries. All of the fruit tasted fresh and ripe, and even the strawberries had been sliced to make it easy to eat for the kids.
The final offering is the main plate, which is loaded with scrambled eggs, bacon, cooked ham slices, tater tots (the menu calls them “Home-styled Potato Barrels”), and the classic Mickey-shaped Belgian waffles, served with a small syrup pitcher of a warm chocolate hazelnut sauce (think liquid Nutella). Yes, I said liquid Nutella! To make the Belgian waffles even more spectacular, I poured some (OK, just about all!) of that sauce on them. You will want to lick your plate and scoop the rest of the sauce after experiencing those flavors.
I had the orange/passion fruit/guava juice blend to drink, but there are many other options such as regular orange juice, pomegranate lemonade, cranberry juice, coffee, and tea. All non-alcoholic beverages have unlimited refills and are included in the price of the breakfast: around $35.00 per adult and around $15.00 per child at 3+ years old. If you are interested in alcoholic beverages, the Garden Grill offers a Mimosa (orange or raspberry) and a Bloody Mary.
The Disney characters that came to our table were Chip, Dale, Mickey (dressed in farmer attire), and Pluto. For the most part, they interacted with our kids such as listening to them tell a story, watched parts of the ride go by, and took pictures with them. They even tried to get my 2-year-old daughter to eat her food and make her laugh. Again, I emphasize the fact that this character dining experience was much more relaxed. You could tell that the characters did not have a fixed limit of time at our table. They appeared to enjoy just being with our kids and gave the impression that they did not have a set schedule. In fact, Chip came back to our table multiple times.
Our experience here was spectacular in that it was comfortable and relaxed, along with great breakfast food and a couple of interesting flavor twists. So why am I calling this restaurant forgotten? Based on the amount of people in the restaurant, I was surprised that it was not filled, as there were empty tables in quite a few spots. In many of my visits to The Land, many people seem to pass this restaurant, and booking a reservation for it has seemed fairly easy with several options for check-in times. Could it be the name? I admit, the name is not catchy or flashy, so it may not appeal to many young families. However, I say give the Garden Grill a try for your next visit. You may be surprised in how much you want to come back!
Dave is known all too well about his fondness for taking vacations at Walt Disney World with his wife and 3 children! As a prior U.S. Air Force veteran, he is unashamed to also share his Disney experiences with fellow veterans. He and his family currently live near Charlotte, NC.