Disney’s California Grill Brunch is the ultimate experience in Disney dining. Of course, we all know that Disney does many things right, but this brunch is one thing they do really right.
From the smorgasbord buffet that includes charcuterie for days to the musicians playing live music next to bread with a view, this is one meal that any gourmet will not want to miss!
The experience is so fancy it even has its own name, Brunch at the Top!
This review will cover Disney’s California Grill Brunch, usually hosted every Sunday at the restaurant. We’ll touch on the entire experience, including price, food offerings, and atmosphere.
So come along with me to the Contemporary’s California Grill for a delightful brunch at the top.
2022 Update: At this time, the brunch at California Grill is not available. However, the restaurant is offering a special prix fixe menu to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World.
California Grill Brunch Review
If you are interested in Disney signature dining, consider yourself a foodie, or are just looking for the next stellar Instagram post, the California Grill Brunch is probably the right choice.
My review and thoughts are derived from several different experiences over the last few years at this brunch. If you read my California Grill dinner review, you already know this is my favorite restaurant on Disney property.
Additionally, this brunch is my absolute favorite dining experience at Disney. And with that being said, I still don’t find it perfect. However, too many positives allow me to overlook a few of the slight downfalls.
I also want to note that the price of brunch is significantly higher than most dining experiences. So be prepared for the extra expense.
Disney’s California Grill is located on the top floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort. You can get to the resort several ways, depending on where you left.
We are prone to take a bus to the Magic Kingdom and walk over to the Contemporary. The restaurant offers complimentary valet parking for brunch guests if you drive over to the resort.
You can tell the valet upon arrival that you’re dining at California Grill. Then show your brunch receipt when you retrieve your car.
Additionally, guests staying in the Magic Kingdom Resort area might enjoy taking the resort monorail to the Contemporary.
Related: Disney World Monorail Guide
Check-in for brunch is located on the second floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort. A cast member is attending the check-in stand to validate your reservation.
The hostess usually takes your phone number to text you when your table is ready. However, it has been my personal experience that you will almost immediately be seated.
After this, you will be escorted to a special elevator and sent soaring to the top with no stops for any other floors on the way. Sounding over the top already? What else could you expect from brunch at the top?
You will be greeted at an additional check-in stand when you get to the top floor. Here they will print your reservation and any special notations like birthdays, anniversaries, surprise proposals, and food allergies.
After this secondary check-in, someone will escort you to a table with a stop at the mimosa bar. This stop will allow you to pick up a complimentary mimosa or sparkling cranberry juice on your way to the table.
On this particular day, the restaurant was serving strawberry mimosas. They have boba balls and sometimes offer an oversized straw for the juicy, fruity balls. On a previous visit, I enjoyed blueberry mimosas and sometimes just champagne.
The mimosas are bottomless, and the server will continue to refill your drink tableside or bring you fresh ones during your brunch.
California Grill Brunch Menu
You will arrive at your table in a standard fashion and be handed a menu for review. As mentioned before, we have eaten here quite often, and one thing to note is the menu changes frequently.
You can generally review the online menu here on Disney’s site before your visit. However, I wouldn’t expect it to be up to date. (Update – Unfortunately, the menu is not available at this time. I’ll add it back in when the experience resumes.)
The menu items at brunch are very seasonal. The chefs use quality ingredients available in their prime. I respect this ever-changing menu, and it’s one of the reasons we return so often.
When we first sit down and receive the menu, we take this time to order coffee and usually a soda. Additionally, a server will bring water for each person at the table.
All coffee, tea, water, and soda are complimentary with the meal. In addition, there is an upcharge for filtered water and other specialty drink items.
You will receive a unique French-pressed pot of coffee if desired. The coffee is quite delightful. It has a depth and deliciously rich taste.
This specialty coffee is included in the price of the California Grill brunch experience.
After ordering drinks, I peruse the entrée section of the menu. As usual, this menu was different, serving two new items since our last visit.
One of the new items was the Chicken and Toast. The other item was Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes. Per the server, the pancakes had only been on the menu for a few weeks.
Speaking of lemon-ricotta pancakes, I recently had the most delicious order at Primo Piatto at Disney’s Riviera.
Related: Primo Piatto Review
The entrees at the California Grill brunch always seem to be a hit or a miss for me. That’s one of the slight downfalls I mentioned above. I’ve had several excellent offerings and a few that I didn’t care for that much.
However, there’s so much food available at the brunch. I’ve never felt disappointed when I didn’t care for the entree.
At the same time, I can also say I’ve probably had the best omelet I’ve ever tasted here. And it was stuffed full of lobster.
Overall, I think the buffet portion has more substantial offerings than some entree selections. So keep this in mind when you place your entree order.
Here are a few of the items we’ve ordered.
- Blueberry Pancakes–Unfortunately, these are a lot prettier than what they actually taste like.
- Vanilla Bean French Toast–This was a nice selection, but not stellar by any means.
- Lobster Chef’s Omelet–Wow, this was an excellent option.
Overall the lobster omelet has been my favorite entree to date California Grill Brunch. It was full of delicious lobster and had a bechamel-like sauce on top.
Additionally, my son has had the Hangar Steak multiple times. The steak is one of the easier items for those dining with food allergies.
I decided to go with the Chicken Toast–Avocado, House Made Sourdough, Aji Panca Mayo, Yuzu Pickles Cilantro, Parsley for this visit.
It was okay but not as good as the omelet I had previously tried.
The chicken was served very hot and topped with pickles and pickled onions. There was also a spread of avocado underneath the chicken.
My only complaint on this dish was the brioche toast was a little soggy when I finally got toward the middle. However, it is quite a large entree. This piece of chicken was massive.
Several people in my immediate area ordered this entree, and I noticed they had a lot of red-orange sauce drizzled over the dish. It was some sort of aioli, and I am not a fan of most aioli’s. Therefore, I ordered mine without it.
My son ordered the allergy-friendly pancakes with bacon on this visit. It’s one of his go-to orders when dining at California Grill brunch.
You want to allow for a slower-paced meal as far as timing goes. So when you place your order, ask the server to hold off on the entree items to allow enough time to enjoy the buffet.
The experience includes a lot of food, live music, and a unique atmosphere. Remember, you are paying for this, so make the most of your brunch at the top.
California Grill Brunch Buffet
After placing your order and giving directions to the server to hold off for a while on submitting it, you will head to the buffet.
What can I say? You’ll find charcuterie, sushi, smoked salmon, quiche, fruit, yogurt, bagels, and bread.
There are a few other things as well. Let’s take a look because, as I’m sure you know, a picture is worth a thousand calories or more!
The charcuterie section is usually my first stop at the brunch buffet. There is an excellent selection of sausages, hams, and cheese.
These little jars in the picture below need not be overlooked. These jars contain red onions, jams, marmalades, pickles, and more. You will surely be glad you tried them!
Here is a close-up. These are mainly prepared in-house per our server. I specifically enjoy the onions and Kumquat jam.
The California Grill brunch is known for its extraordinary salads selections. There are typically two different salads available.
I would recommend getting a little of both. The apple salad has nuts and goat cheese on the ingredient list.
The bacon and egg salad leans more savory. You could make an entire meal out of these.
Moving on down the brunch buffet, you’ll run into a variety of sushi items. I tried to put one of each item on a plate to give you an idea of the different sushi rolls and sashimi available.
Here’s what they look like on the brunch buffet.
They typically have salmon, tuna, and shrimp prepared sashimi-style. Additionally, there are some roll preparations like California roll and typically one that contains raw ingredients.
Quiche has been on the buffet on my last two visits. My review of the quiche is to make sure to snag some up before it’s gone. I notice they have to replenish it quite often. It’s a lovely option.
There are bagels with standard accompaniments to go with the smoked salmon.
I haven’t tried these because I’m partial to my mom’s deviled eggs. But I have read several other reviews giving good recommendations.
The bread section has quite a nice view. One of these is a gluten-free item and is specified on the label. There are also croissants, guava turnovers, and a cheddar cone.
Besides the bread, you will find this Bourbon Baba station. Typically, a sous chef is on-site preparing the Baba. They have all the ingredients set up surrounding the station.
If you like a little orange or citrus taste in any way, then yes, you want this! It’s a wonderful sweet treat with the warm fluffy bread and smooth ice cream mixture melting over it. It’s a very memorable taste and easy on the palate.
Here is another picture of a few of my selections.
After reviewing the buffet, you might see why I suggest having the server hold off on entrees upfront. Typically, your entrée will come out hot.
The last thing you want is your entree cooling off while you indulge in other treats. Or your buffet plate could get placed to the side. Before you know it, the server has come by and taken it away without you realizing it.
This is why I stress to let the server know you want your meal paced slowly.
As far as food allergies and the buffet goes, the chef will prepare buffet items and bring them to the table to avoid cross-contamination if needed.
In our case, my son usually has charcuterie selections, a specially made salad, and fruit. Sometimes, he has done two entrees in place of the buffet items on past accounts.
Oh, and there’s dessert, in case all of the buffet and entree items were not enough already. What a sweet finish! You’ll be brought a small plate of yummy treats.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo because we had our dessert boxed to-go. Ultimately, I recommend taking the dessert to-go and storing it in your room if you are staying nearby.
The picture below shows the window where entrees are finished before sending them out. If you look close, you’ll notice a side of bacon, a side of plain eggs, and a special order of pancakes. If any of these types of things interest you, ask for a side order with your meal.
The brunch is prepared in an open-style kitchen. There are many people busy in the background while you are dining. It is just part of the ambiance of the entire restaurant.
While the restaurant is not quiet, the background noise turns into a low, subtle buzz that allows privacy at your table.
There are also musicians who play during the brunch service, which is a nice touch.
Below is the view from the California Grill on an overcast day. The other direction faces Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.
I could sit here all day and take in the entire view.
Final Thoughts on Brunch at California Grill
After experiencing brunch here for the first time, I would have to say I was utterly blown away. When you return to the same restaurant, you don’t always feel the same way about it over time.
However, that is not the case with the California Grill Brunch. Instead, it continues to exceed expectations.
In fact, at some point on nearly every single Sunday morning, I have a reflection on brunch. I always wonder when I’ll get to return.
One final thing I forgot to mention–if you save your receipt, you are welcome to come back for fireworks that same evening. They have an incredible observation deck with a nice view of the Magic Kingdom.
A speaker system streams the audio for the nightly fireworks spectacular. Just try to get back to the check-in stand about 20 minutes before showtime.
And don’t forget to show your receipt for free valet parking. Just use the valet to park, tell them where you are headed, and then show your receipt when it’s time to pick up your car.
I hope you have enjoyed this review and found it helpful. Make sure to browse our complete list of Disney restaurant reviews.
And here are a few specific dining reviews that might interest you:
- Tiffins Restaurant Review
- Jiko, The Cooking Place Review
- Toledo – Tapas, Steak, and Seafood
- Sanaa with Bread Service Review
- Review of Disney’s Grand Floridian Cafe
Additionally, for more information on Disney’s Contemporary, all of our articles related to the resort are available here. Or you might enjoy these:
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort Review
- Bay Lake Tower Review
- Restaurants at Disney’s Contemporary
- Breakfast at Steakhouse 71
As for Disney’s California Grill Brunch, I doubt you’ll find a better experience. Leave a comment with your thoughts on having a meal here. Have you tried brunch yet?