Top Five Tuesday: Character Dining

Welcome to Top Five Tuesday. Each week we’ll have a different DisDad give their top 5 on a variety of Disney subjects, ranging from dining, to rides, to Club Cool beverages… Hopefully we’ll be able to learn a little bit more about some of these subjects, but more importantly learn a little bit more about our fellow DisDads. I’ll be kicking it off with my and DW’s Top Five Character Dining Restaurants. Our rules were simple; #1: Only rate restaurants we’ve been to during a Character Dining time, and #2: Rate each on a scale of 1-5 for food selection/quality and 1-5 on Character experience/ambiance. We then ranked our top 5 from lowest total points to most. So here’s our list;

#5 Garden Grove Dinner: 4.5 Dining, 2 Character Experience, Total 6.5. The Garden Grove actually got our highest score on food alone. They have an extensive buffet, with options you wouldn’t normally find in a buffet. Unfortunately, the character experience got our lowest score. They only had 2 characters (Goofy and Pluto), and while they were very accesible, it just didn’t measure up to the others. We also thought we were going to get Timon and Rafiki (D loves the Lion King, so this was going to be great), but found out upon arriving that they were only available 2 nights a week (Peanut Butter & Beverly!). The location (Swan) also wasn’t ideal, and the restaurant had no real Disney theming.

#4 Tusker House Breakfast: 3 D, 4 CE, Total 7. Tusker House is great for a character experience. It has four of the big five Characters (Micky, Donald, Daisy, Goofy) and a fun interactive “parade” the kids can join in on every half an hour or so. The only downside is that they seem to rush the characters from table to table a bit. The food is standard breakfast buffet, plenty of eggs, tater-tots, muffins, etc. but nothing fancy. A great option for younger kids, especially if you need a sit-down break from Animal Kingdom in the AM.

#3 Cinderella’s Royal Table Dinner: 4 D, 3.5 CE, Total 7.5. The dining options are few, but were very well prepared at our last dinner there, and the deserts were terrific. This gets a 3.5 for character experience on the strength of the ambience. Cinderella was the only character available on our visit, and was m.i.a for most of the meal (which was actually preferable for me, as this was before DD was with us!), but eating in the castle in that setting was great.

#2 Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Breakfast: 3.5 D, 4.5 CE, Total 8. DD absolutely loved this one. The setting is great, and they had all of (I think) the princesses available for DD to talk to and take pictures with. The food was standard breakfast fair, and while it was all you can eat, it was served family style by the wait staff as requested, rather than being all out in front of you at a buffet. The food was tasty, but I prefer the buffet option. (Full disclosure, this rates high based on DD’s love of the princesses, anyone with boys who like the pirates may not enjoy as much!)

#1 Chef Mickeys Breakfast/Dinner: 4 D, 5 CE, Total 9. The whole family’s favorite by far. The buffet fair has always been very good at each of our meals, with a lot of options. The dessert choices are great as well. The character experience has always been incredible. All of the big characters (Micky, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto on our trips) and they seem to take extra time to pal around with the kids and make the experience even more memorable. We have more pictures of DD in full on laughing hysterics and smiles at this restaurant than any other, by far. And most importantly, they allow you to take the whole bacon tray back to your table with you, rather than make repeated trips… 😉

So that’s our list. Agree/Disagree/Hate it? Let me know below!

14 thoughts to “Top Five Tuesday: Character Dining”

  1. Our family never really got into the character dining craze when I was growing up. We’ve done character dining at Crystal Palace and Liberty Tree Tavern, but I think that is it. We’ll be taking DS to Chef Mickeys and Tusker House later this year. I’m glad to see your family liked those choices and I look forward to experiencing them myself!

  2. I’d have to put 1900 Park Fare on a list like this. While there are some real shining stars among the food there (Strawberry Soup) the character interaction was the best of any at any meal we had. They didn’t just stop buy for a quick meet, hug and autograph signature they learned our kids names. The wicked step mother stopped by our table several times each time she addressed our children by name and made sure that they were eating their vegetables or behaving properly. We had similar engagement with the step sisters. Ironically we had the least interaction with Cinderella. The characters at PF really made this the most immersive character dining experience for us.

  3. Looks like your list is pretty much spot on! I agree with you leaving off 1900 Park Fare. It was our least favorite character dinner. The food choices were less than stellar, and the way that the dinning room is set up makes it hard to get around. The characters seemed rushed the night we were there, but that is normal I am sure with the amount of guests that they have to visit.

  4. Yup we may have been at different times. I think we had one of the last seatings of the night and so it had started to thin out by the time we were seated. For us that was the only place that we ever had characters stop by our table multiple times and talk.

  5. We actually left 1900 off because we haven’t been there yet! We’ll def. have to try it on one of our next couple trips so that I can cast a tie breaking vote on the above! 😉

  6. Ryan, I have 11:20 breakfast ADR at Chef Mickeys on our first day just for that reason. I’m hoping that it will be more relaxed and we can get some good character interaction for DS!

  7. We dropped Citricos and added 1900 for this coming trip just for the interaction with the characters. Crazy as that might be, especially with no kids in tow. The character interaction was so superb that I cant even remember how the food was. That made this one my choice. It obviously wasnt to bad or I would of remembered it. It was an amazingly fun time and one of our favorite memories of that trip. The sister were hilarious and the wicked step monster was spot on!

  8. We have to agree on Chef Mickey being the top choice. We also loved Tusker House and 1900 PF. We didn’t have a great experience at CRT for breakfast, but we maye have had an off day. We are excited to try Garden Grove and 1900 PF for dinner.

  9. I would say that 1900 PF should be on the list for the character interaction alone. The step sisters were fantastic and spent a great deal of time with our daughters. One of them had brought a Cinderella doll (Barbie like) and Anastasia told her to throw a napkin over her. She even came back a couple of times to make sure the napkin was still there.

  10. By far the best character meal is Mickey’s Backyard BBQ!!!!!! I am also a big fan of Ohana for breakfast. It has Mickey, Pluto, Lilo and Stich and they do a great parade with maracas for the kids. Great Mango/orange juice. I also like Tusker house because it is the only character dining with Daisy and the food has always been very good there. I also have an affinity for Akerhaus because of the number of princesses you meet there. (Snow White, Ariel, Aurora, Jasmine, Cinderella, and Belle.) I like the food but it is not for everyone and not all that kid friendly. I have had a lot of luck walking up without reservations and getting right in. I also have a lot of luck with walk up at the Crystal Palace. I am not a big fan of the atmosphere at Chef Mickey’s if you sit back behind the buffet, but if you are in the main concourse it’s great.

  11. My family really enjoyed the Garden Grill on our last trip. The character interaction was the best we have had so far. We saw all of the characters 2 times and one or two made it around for a 3rd time. With the restaurant rotating through the land pavallion it created a different scene throughout the dinner. We found the food to be really good as well, but not very much in terms of choice as they just bring the food out family style.

    It looks like there are still many for the family to try in future trips.

  12. I have only been to one of the top 5 on your list, and that was Tusker House, and I agree, it is my favorite breakfast Character Dining experience and #2 on my list. Also on my list would be #1, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, #3, Crystal Palace, and #4, Ohana. We did Liberty Tree Tavern back in 2005 when they had character dining and really enjoyed the experience.

  13. Love the concept of the Top 5 Tuesday. Here is our list for Character Dining:

    #5 – CRT – We’ve done breakfast here and the abiance is great, but the food is meh.
    #4 – Tusker House – Great character interactions and good food.
    #3 – 1900 Park Fare – Loved the character interactions and the food was a step above.
    #2 – O’Hanas – We had breakfast here when it wasn’t too busy and the characters went out of their way to spend extra time with each table. Also the food was great.
    #1 – Chef Mickey’s – Can’t beat the classics for characters and the food is decent.

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