When it comes to dining at Disney's Contemporary Resort, there are two venues that immediately come to mind. The first is the California Grill. Located on the top floor of the resort, this restaurant offers stunning views of Bay Lake, the Seven Seas Lagoon, and the Magic Kingdom. As one of Disney's Signature dining locations, the allure of the California Grill is not limited to its location, but also its exquisite gourmet food. Another extremely popular dining location at the Contemporary is Chef Mickey's, possibly the most popular character dining experience in all of Disney World. With its dramatic setting in the Grand Canyon Concourse, with monorails passing overhead, this restaurant delivers great food and fun for the entire family.
When compared with these two dining locations, many guests tend to overlook another of the Contemporary's restaurants. Tucked away at the back of the resort's lobby The Wave of American Flavors is the Contemporary's newest restaurant, having opened in 2008, and while it may not have the name recognition of California Grill or Chef Mickey's it still delivers a high-quality dining experience worthy of the Contemporary Resort.
The year 2008 was a time of great change at the Contemporary Resort. The lobby area was updated and modernized, guestrooms were renovated, and changes were made to the resort's dining offerings. All this was done to help the Contemporary Resort feel more contemporary. Many were disappointed when it was announced that the popular Concourse Steakhouse was being closed to make way for a new quick service dining option (the Contempo Café). To make up for the loss of the Concourse Steakhouse, however, the resort did add a new table service dining option known as The Wave of American Flavors.
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner The Wave offers a menu featuring American cuisine. Since America is a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities, the restaurant's dishes reflect the influence of these different worldwide flavors on American cooking. One of the things that makes The Wave unique is that its menu focuses on food that is locally grown, organic, and sustainable. Whatever time of day you chose to dine here you will find a slew of healthier meal options, with the restaurant placing an emphasis on serving great tasting food and drink that is both satisfying and environmentally friendly.
While I had never been to this dining location before, I have heard many good things about it and the restaurant seems to be growing in popularity since its opening roughly three years ago. For my first experience at The Wave I chose to go for breakfast and was treated to a meal that presents a refreshing change of pace from many of the other breakfast options found across Disney World.
With its sleek, modern feel, The Wave fits perfectly with the theming of the Contemporary Resort. This feel is established as soon as you enter the restaurant, walking through a steel-arched tunnel to the check-in podium. Once inside, the restaurant's décor is very simple with few decorative elements. It is an atmosphere that relies more on colors and shapes, rather than intricate details, to set the mood. Holding true to the restaurant's name, a wave motif is predominant throughout the restaurant. With no windows, the restaurant's lighting and coloring take up an even greater role in establishing the atmosphere and help contribute to a markedly different feel in the bar and dining room sections.
Once you enter the restaurant you a greeted first by a large bar area. The dark blue walls, upholstery, and carpeting of the sitting area combine with the blue ceiling over the bar give this section of the restaurant a constant nighttime feel even in the middle of the day.
Enhancing this is the lighting over the bar which gives the appearance of stars twinkling in the night sky.
The bar and the adjoining seating areas are fairly large, almost the same size as the actual dining room, and I can picture these areas becoming very crowded at night and especially popular among the resort's convention guests looking for a place to relax, socialize, and enjoy a sporting event on the bar's big screen television.
Another interesting feature of the bar area is along its back wall, which is made entirely of glass and showcases The Wave's large wine collection. What makes this wine collection unique is that it is comprised almost entirely of screw-topped bottles (as opposed to corks), which is in keeping with the restaurant's commitment to being environmentally friendly.
In the main dining room, the dark blues of the bar are replaced by earth tones, featuring a color palette of orange, brown, green, yellow, and bronze.
This coloring gives the dining room a very natural feel, but one that is still distinctly modern. It is a décor that is extremely simple and streamlined, featuring a contrasting style between the straight lines found on the curtains and carpet and the wavy lines on the chair backs and ceiling panels.
While the dining room's sleek appearance gives it a more elegant feel, I found the color scheme to actually be a little dull and dreary. With no real decorations to speak of and no windows to look out, there is very little about the restaurant's atmosphere to keep you entertained and engaged during the course of your meal.
The most interesting aspect of the décor would have to be the modern-looking light fixtures and wave-shaped ceiling panels which help tie in the restaurant to the overall contemporary theme of the resort.
While the restaurant's feel is not so upscale as to deter families with small children from eating here, there is really nothing about the restaurant's atmosphere that would make it interesting for children. I was not so surprised that, when dining there at breakfast, I found only groups of adults. It is a restaurant I would recommend more for couples looking for a more romantic meal or guests visiting the resort on a business trip rather than families traveling with children.
The main reason that I wanted to try The Wave for breakfast was because its menu features some intriguing options that cannot be found at other breakfast locations in Disney World. Just as with its menus at lunch and dinner, breakfast at The Wave offers an array of healthier, organic options, making it a very refreshing way to start the day.
While the manu features several traditional breakfast items, they are severed in a more natural, healthy way. For example, The American ($11.99) emphasizes that it is served with two “naturally raised” eggs along with breakfast potatoes and a choice of bacon, pork sausage, or chicken sausage. Other healthier versions of breakfast favorites include a Multigrain Waffle ($9.99) served with fruit compote and a choice of bacon, pork sausage, or chicken sausage and Multigrain French Toast ($10.99) which comes with the same accompaniments.
Among the other choices on the menu are a Ham and Cheese Omelet ($11.49) served with breakfast potatoes and a biscuit, Classic Smoked Salmon ($9.99) with tomato, cucumber, red onion, olives, and dill cheese, Eggs Benedict ($10.99) featuring two “naturally raised” eggs poached and topped with key lime hollandaise, an Egg White Frittata ($10.99) with spinach, onions, mushrooms, potatoes, and cheddar cheese, a Spinach, Tomato, and Onion Omelet ($11.99) served with breakfast potatoes and a biscuit, Sweet Potato Pancakes ($9.99) with a pecan-honey butter, Make Your Own Wave Muesli ($9.99) with seasonal fruit and house-made granola, and Spinach, Tomato, and Feta Cheese Scrambled Eggs ($8.99) served with breakfast potatoes and a biscuit.
The Wave has also recently started offering a breakfast buffet that features a wide assortment of items found on the menu in addition to a selection of pastries, cereals, and fruits. The all-you-care-to-enjoy buffet is $18.50, which also includes your choice of coffee or juice.
I had basically already decided what I was going to order before even setting foot into the restaurant. Upon first ever seeing The Wave's menu I knew that I wanted to try the Sweet Potato Pancakes and they did not disappoint. The pancakes themselves were soft and moist in consistency, much different in texture than a regular pancake. The pancakes were certainly sweet, but I did not find their flavor to be overwhelming or sickening in any way. My server commented that I would not need any syrup to go along with the pancakes and she was definitely right as they were flavorful enough to stand by themselves.
Topping the pancakes was a honey-pecan butter, which added some additional sweetness to the dish. However, I did not find the flavor of the honey to be too strong and it provided just a little extra flavor that paired very well with that of the sweet potato. My only complaint was that I wish there had been more pecans mixed in the butter as their texture proved to be a nice contrast to the softer pancakes and really added some flavor the dish. The pancakes also came served with a choice of bacon, pork sausage, or chicken sausage. I chose the pork sausage and there was really nothing special that made it stand out. If anything, it could have been cooked just a little bit longer as I like my sausage to be slightly on the crispy side.
As a side dish I ordered the Cheddar Cheese Grits ($4.99), which provided a striking contrast to the pancakes. While the pancakes were sweet and light in texture, the grits were a much heavier and heartier option, especially with the stronger flavors of the cheddar cheese and the smoky-saltiness of the bacon bits. I was hoping that the cheese and bacon would come mixed in with the grits, but instead they were served on top; while I was able to mix them in myself, it still was not quite the same. The serving size was very generous, not only in the amount of grits, but also the large portion of bacon bits on top.
The grits were certainly very filling and when combined with the large portion size of the pancakes I was not even able to finish all of them. While the grits may not have been anything to write home about, I would go back to The Wave in a heartbeat just to order the pancakes again.
I found the service at The Wave to be very attentive. It certainly helps that the restaurant was not very crowded and each server only had one or two tables at a time, but the service provided by the waiters and waitresses was very good. I found my server to be very friendly and she took a good amount of time explaining some of the items on the menu and offered her own recommendations. Throughout the meal my server was constantly checking in on me to make sure I was enjoying everything and was continually refilling my drink. Since she was only serving one other table it was almost like having my own private waitress.
What impressed me most about the service at The Wave was actually a conversation that I heard between a server and the couple sitting at another table. After they had finished eating their breakfast, the server went over and asked the couple if they had enjoyed everything and then proceeded to ask if they had questions about anything in Disney World that they wanted to know more about. I was astounded because I had never heard a server ask this before. The server and this couple had a nice conversation about Epcot and what his must-do attractions were.
For me, this is what makes Disney restaurants so special. Not only to the restaurants at Disney World offer unique dining experiences, detailed theming, immersive atmospheres, and great food, but they also feature servers who truly care about the guests that they are serving and seek to make their meal (and their vacations) truly special. This server at The Wave was really going above and beyond with helping this couple and it was something very refreshing to see.
Dining on a Budget:
When it comes to trying to save money, many people will see The Wave's breakfast buffet and immediately think that it is the best option. This is true in some cases. If you are looking for a big breakfast and want to try a lot of different things, then the breakfast buffet is a great value at $18.50 (far cheaper than the prices at other breakfast buffets with character dining). The buffet features many of the items offered on the menu, in addition to an assortment of pastries and fruits, and also includes a drink. However, if you are not a big eater or have your heart set on one specific dish, it would actually be cheaper just to order off the menu. In this way, The Wave's breakfast buffet will be a better value for some than others and it is up to each individual to decide what would be the most economical option. If you are not getting the buffet, the prices on the menu are fairly reasonable (by Disney standards), especially considering the generous portion sizes of the dishes.
The Wave is on the Disney Dining Plan, but I would not want to use one dining plan credit for breakfast as it would not be the best value for your money. For dinner, however, it does become a much better value to use the dining plan. The Wave also features a 10% discount for Annual Passholders for breakfast and lunch, a 10% discount on breakfast and lunch for Disney Vacation Club members, and offers the 20% Tables in Wonderland Discount.
The Overall Experience:
Sometimes breakfast can be the overlooked meal when vacationing in Disney World. With everyone in a rush to get to the theme parks in the morning, most people just grab a quick bite to eat at their resort's food court or bring some snacks with them to have en route. What breakfast dining locations do receive attention are generally the character dining experiences like the Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom or Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary. The reality is that there is actually a variety of different breakfast dining locations across Disney World for those looking for a nice, calm, relaxing way to start the day. These restaurants, like The Wave, tend to get overlooked and are generally easy to get a table at in the morning.
While its atmosphere may not be the most impressive, I thoroughly enjoyed my breakfast at The Wave. It delivered a meal that was not only unique, but also extremely tasty, generous in portion size, and reasonable in price. This is a great option for breakfast if you are staying at the Contemporary Resort or even if you are looking to have a nice sit-down meal before heading into the Magic Kingdom. It may not be the best known restaurant, even at its own resort, but it is certainly worth a visit if you are looking for something a little different, and a little healthier, for breakfast.
See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.
Check out Reader Reviews of The Wave and post your own too!
The previous post in this blog was What's New, What's Next: Epcot - October 27, 2011.
The next post in this blog is A Little Taste of Food & Wine.