June 15, 2024

Review: Disney World’s Newest Character Breakfast Has Us Truly Torn.

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We love character dining experiences at Walt Disney World. At the same time, we're very picky about which breakfasts and dinners we do. Sarah and I also have sometimes conflicting opinions about the types of




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We love character dining experiences at Walt Disney World. At the same time, we’re very picky about which breakfasts and dinners we do. Sarah and I also have sometimes conflicting opinions about the types of meals (buffets vs. a la carte) and characters (fur vs. face, Mickey & Friends vs. royalty, etc) we’d prefer.

It thus wasn’t really any surprise that we went into 1900 Park Fare with different expectations and degrees of hype levels. Admittedly, both of us were excited. 1900 Park Fare would be Baby Bricker’s second and third character meals ever, after breakfast at Chef Mickey’s. We chose to do that first both because it’s iconic and so we wouldn’t be unduly biased in favor of 1900 Park Fare and view it through the rose-colored glasses of sentimentality.

Speaking of which, it’s also worth noting that we aren’t overly nostalgic for the original 1900 Park Fare. This is something that came up in Why Disney’s Changes to 1900 Park Fare Are Controversial Among Fans, as the diehard fan base for this restaurant is (was?) rather passionate and understandably disappointed by the changes to 1900 Park Fare after waiting four long years for it to reopen. Even though we had dined at 1900 Park Fare before and enjoyed the experience, it was never one of our favorites or must-dos.

In other words, we’re basically coming at 1900 Park Fare fresh–cognizant of the controversy but also thinking that it was more like 1990s Park Fare in some ways before and updates were needed. That’s how we’ll approach this review, with goals of determining if the criticisms of the character changes are valid and whether the new interior design breathes needed new life into the restaurant. Oh, and of course whether or not the food is tasty, character interactions are fun and memorable, and whether the overall experience offers commensurate value for money or Disney Dining Plan credits.

Let’s start with the basics for those reading this review cold. 1900 Park Fare is a character meal at Walt Disney World’s flagship hotel, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, which is located near Magic Kingdom. Given that location, it’s like the face character counterpart to Chef Mickey’s at breakfast (also on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop) or, I guess, Story Book Dining at Artist Point at Wilderness Lodge (also within boat distance of Magic Kingdom) or maybe Cinderella’s Royal Table (actually inside Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom).

As intimated above, 1900 Park Fare participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a 1-credit table service meal. Dinner is one of the absolute best options if you’re trying to maximize your value on the Disney Dining Plan, but breakfast is still a very good value–especially if you order a specialty drink. We were paying out of pocket for our breakfast at 1900 Park Fare, so we’ll be judging it on a cash basis.

With that out of the way, let’s dig in and look at how the atmosphere has changed at the new-look 1900 Park Fare. We’ll start with a before photo of the dining room pre-closure…

Previously, the ambiance and themed design were the biggest weakness of 1900 Park Fare. I’ve always wondered whether the restaurant was shoehorned into this space, as it was basically just one large room with high ceilings, minimal sound-dampening, and no windows. It felt like a convention center flex space, right down to the back room that felt like it could be divided off with a sliding wall.

As with the Grand Floridian as a whole, there was a Victorian theme to 1900 Park Fare. Also as with elsewhere at Grand Floridian, the theme of 1900 Park Fare was tired. It felt like an early 1990s take on Victorian, with wallpaper borders, contrasting colored accents, and plenty of other signals of 90s datedness. This look could’ve been pulled straight from the pages of the January 1992 issue of Better Homes & Gardens. 

The one highlight was the amusement park motif that was reinforced with a variety of details. The carousel animals perched atop seating areas were nice touches, as was Big Bertha, an antique organ that has called the Grand Floridian home since 1988. I would’ve been fine retaining all of this stuff, as it did reinforce the restaurant’s actual theme.

Unfortunately, the menagerie of carousel animals is gone. In my view, that is the one downside of the redesigned restaurant interior. Otherwise, it’s all improvements.

Some fans might argue that this is too toned down or muted as compared to the prior design. I disagree. There’s still patterned carpet, wallpaper, and a variety of upholstery that adds to the sense of lavishness. It’s not what I’d call quintessential Victorian interior design, but it’s also not at odds with that.

The key difference is that, before, 1900 Park Fare had a “more is more” sensibility with a variety of patterns all of which were at eye level. There was a lot going on at the lower level and then a ton of dead space higher up. Hence it looking less like immersive Victorian themed design and more like a convention center flex space.

The new design does a better job of looking fresh while also retaining a semblance of theme. Like the new Mary Poppins-inspired rooms, it strikes the right balance of well-appointed modern styling with themed design. Perhaps a tad too contemporary, but I still think it’s a dramatic glow-up from what was here before.

From my perspective, the big plussing with the new-look 1900 Park Fare is the mirrors. There are mirrors between the tables at guest level, which help open up the space and make it feel larger. It’s a very simple thing, but it’s effective.

Better still are the oversized mirrors on upper level across from one another. These help create the illusion of 1900 Park Fare not being a windowless space, and help brighten up the room by reflecting the lights. They also have elegant ornamental frames, which further enhances the interior.

A frame has likewise been added around Big Bertha, a turn-of-the-century organ from France, still on display in the main dining room as its grand centerpiece. Before, she was the only thing up at that level and really stuck out.

It was this odd mix of drawing your eye upwards, but then having only one thing to see there. So really, what Big Bertha achieved before was drawing attention to how barren the upper level was, which guests may not have noticed otherwise if they didn’t make a point of looking up.

Now Big Bertha draws the eye up and she’s complimented by the twin mirrors as well as 12 new characters portraits created exclusively for 1900 Park Fare by Disney artists. This upper level is a dramatic improvement, and one that suggests modern and Victorian style, themed design and Disney characters all at once. It’s a big upgrade.

Each of these character portraits is inspired by the impressionist art style of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and features a different Disney character as they hope, dream and wish upon a star…or a magic lamp…..or a wishing well. Here’s a look at all of the portraits:

Speaking of characters, gone are the fan-favorites from the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast (Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, The Mad Hatter, Tigger, and Winnie the Pooh) and Happily Ever After Dinner (Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drizella). Well, except Cinderella. She’s still here.

In this refreshed character dining experience at 1900 Park Fare, guests are greeted by new royalty: Aladdin in his Prince Ali attire, Cinderella, Mirabel and Tiana in her new costume for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, as they all celebrate the power of a wish.

For those who haven’t followed the 1900 Park Fare saga, this is the controversial part.

I don’t think anyone was really torn about the new-look interior design. Well, I’m sure someone was, as this is Walt Disney World and there are always people with nostalgia and meaningful memories who are reluctant to see certain aspects of the resort change. But I don’t think it was a widespread complaint. The character changes were.

Celebrating the power of a wish is not really a cohesive theme, though. Wishes is one of those generic Disney buzzwords (like dreams, magic, fantasy, or wonder) that is so open-ended it could mean any and everything. And that’s noticeable with these character choices.

Without the explanation provided, no one is going to hear that a meal features Aladdin, Mirabel, Tiana and Cinderella, and say, “ah yeah, makes sense, they’re all big wishers.” To the contrary, you’d think it’s a random grab bag unless you already heard the explanation and, for whatever reason, bought it.

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this were originally meant to debut during Disney100 and revolve around Wish. It would’ve made so much more sense that way, especially since the movie already weaves together 100 years of Disney storytelling. But when Wish wasn’t a smash success, they quickly made some changes and swapped out Asha for Tiana in her new bayou explorer look. Just a guess, though.

As for whether the “celebrating the power of a wish” story conceit works, eh, it’s fine. Walt Disney World has built story around it, asking guests to write their wishes on the character autograph card, having Cast Members highlight the “wish makers” angle of the restaurant, and the characters doing a wishing ceremony–complete with dialogue from Jiminy Cricket.

Honestly, all of this offers sufficient reason to buy into the wishes concept unless you really resist. The characters still don’t make sense together if you’re thinking about them in isolation, but with 1900 Park Fare offering this bit of framework…it kinda works. It’s not the pinnacle of themed character dining experiences, and it’s certainly a contrivance, but it’s at least plausible.

Just as I don’t think anyone would recognize a connection among these characters without hearing more, I don’t think anyone who has heard more (this spiel at the restaurant) would question the characters without bringing in their own priors.

I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I’m basically saying if you approach 1900 Park Fare from a veil of ignorance it actually makes enough sense to work. It’s still a stretch, but I really don’t think the target demographic for character meals (small children) will take the time to deconstruct it. Our daughter did, but she’s a baby-blogger-in-training.

If the power of wishing is going to be the animating idea for 1900 Park Fare, I’d really like to see a few things. First, a rotating selection of characters from the 12 portraits above. Second, Tiana as a princess instead of an explorer.

Finally and most importantly, props. One thing that struck me while looking at the portraits is how many Disney characters use something as a conduit for their wishes. Can you imagine if that kid from the Sword in the Stone was at 1900 Park Fare, swinging around his sword?! Or Ariel with her fork! Rapunzel with a lantern, Belle with a book, Geppetto with a cat (make it a live one to spice things up), and so on.

It’d be just like the Avengers and the Infinity Stones, but instead of super heroes and six elemental crystals each controlling an essential aspect of existence, it’d be cartoon characters and a bunch of random junk (and one live cat) that helps them wish better. I know this sounds jokey, but I’m serious. Props would add to the fun and could be weaved into the story. And if all goes well, maybe this could be part of the next phase of the MCU!

Regardless of the story or shared connections (or lack thereof) among the characters, they were individually fantastic. Each character was convincing and gave our daughter a lot of undivided attention (not unique to us–we saw the same at other tables, as well). Most significantly, they were great at staying in character and maintaining a mostly one-sided conversation with our daughter (necessarily so, as she’s a baby who cannot yet speak).

The characters were also good at weaving us into the interaction without really expecting anything of us. They’re good at what they do, and knew our focus was on seeing and capturing photos of Baby Bricker reacting to them. So that’s what they did, and succeeded incredibly well at it.

All of the characters were perfect with her. Based on what we saw and overheard, this was par for the course at 1900 Park Fare. Royal characters often have open-ended dialogue that prompts back-and-forth with guests who are good with face characters, but stalls for those guests who are not.

The characters at 1900 Park Fare seem much better at carrying conversation, and doing so with kids and adults. That’s a big plus, from our perspective. These wishers may not be as playful or snarky as the Tremaines, but they deliver excellent and on-character performances.

Now let’s take a look at the food on the breakfast buffet:

Of course, the mostly highly-hyped dish at 1900 Park Fare is the Grand Floridian Strawberry Soup.

Everyone loves the Strawberry Soup. It’s thick, creamy, and sweet with a flavor that perfectly toes the line between rich and light. It’s especially nice at breakfast since the buffet doesn’t have any desserts, and this checks the box for both that and a serving of fruit.

I’m a big fan of Eggs Benedict, and had it a couple of times during our breakfast at 1900 Park Fare. Having learned from past mistakes, I always waited until there was a fresh tray of Eggs Benedict. Don’t be the one to take the last serving in the tray–you’ll regret it.

As with all buffets, so much of the taste is dependent upon how long the food you pick has been sitting under the heat lamps.

We both really liked the Cinnamon Pull-apart Bread (above right) and Bread Pudding with Vanilla Crème Anglaise (two photos above on the left).

Sarah also reported that the fruit was fruity, that the oatmeal was oatmealy, and the vegetables were vegetable-y. She actually did like all of these things, calling them fresh and high-quality. Her plates skewed slightly more healthy than mine, and she was satisfied by the breakfast.

Always a crowd-pleaser, the Mickey Waffles were fresh and delicious. Just the right amount of exterior crunch giving way to a warm and pillowy batter inside.

I found that dipping the Mickey Waffle into the Grand Floridian Strawberry soup was a great way to eat both. This is a regional delicacy, enjoyed throughout the Floridas. Ponce de León actually brought the tradition of Mickey waffles dipped in strawberry soup when he discovered the territory.

The made-to-order omelet was good, too.

My favorite items were the Beef and Potato Hash, Croissant Breakfast Pizza, Smoked Salmon, Cheesy Potato Casserole, Carved Hickory-Smoked Ham, Eggs Benedict, and aforementioned Floridian Strawberry Soup. The ham from the carving station was unquestionably the highlight, as it was juicy and flavorful.

I definitely went for more of a rich and decadent breakfast rather than a lighter meal. I was ready for a nap afterwards, but have zero regrets. Well, I have one regret–that Grand Floridian removed the Cheese Blintz, as that was my favorite part of the old buffet!

I also have one quibble, which is that there weren’t enough high-quality entree items like the Eggs Benedict or Carved Ham. While I liked most of what I had, it was mostly fairly pedestrian breakfast food. I can’t say there’s much daylight between the options here and at Chef Mickey’s, which is more of a high-quantity buffet.

The cost for adults is over $50 here, which is on par with other character breakfasts. That’s pretty pricey for breakfast, if you ask me. It’s just really difficult for me to justify any $40-50 breakfast as “worth it” since there are great under $20 options at mid-tier table service restaurants at Walt Disney World.

Having several heaping helpings of ham from the carving station also make the price of breakfast at 1900 Park Fare easier to stomach. Still, I wish there would’ve been a couple more entrees of that caliber.

Maybe this is a “me problem.” I still remember paying $32 each the last time we dined at 1900 Park Fare (in 2018) and thinking that price was expensive. Of course, there’s been a lot of food inflation since then, but $20+ worth? Perhaps Grand Floridian Cafe is more my speed, where my two favorite breakfast items are $21 and $26 and better than anything on the breakfast spread at 1900 Park Fare.

Overall, the price is a big part of why we’re truly torn by the Wish Makers Enchanted Breakfast at 1900 Park Fare. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good meal with great character interactions in a much-improved setting. Every individual component is mostly good-to-great. On paper, it’s arguably the best character breakfast at Walt Disney World.

The problem, for us at least, is that it doesn’t quite coalesce into something that’s great as a whole and worthy of the astronomical price tag. After looking back on this meal, we’re not rushing to revisit it–and that’s usually a feeling we have with our favorite character dining experiences. That might sound like an odd thing to read after a mostly positive review, and it’s admittedly a bit of an odd thing to write.

But when I think back to ‘elevated’ character meals at Story Book Dining at Artist Point and Breakfast à la Art with Mickey & Friends at Topolino’s Terrace or even our breakfast at Chef Mickey’s, those were fantastic and memorable from start to finish. Those are all complete package experiences, with even both of the breakfasts having intangible x-factors to justify the high prices. I just don’t quite feel that way about breakfast at 1900 Park Fare.

I can’t fully articulate why, but I’m not demanding perfection and it’s not simply a matter of the “wish makers” character collection. For lack of a better explanation, it’s more that the whole is less than the sum of its parts–and also that there are superior alternatives we’d prefer to revisit instead. So even with flawless character interactions and pretty good food, there’s just not quite enough here to put this over the top into must-do territory once taking into account cost and variety of the breakfast spread. Dinner is a different story, so stay tuned.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Have you done the Wish Makers Enchanted Breakfast at 1900 Park Fare? What did you think of the food? What about the character interactions? Do you agree or disagree with any of our review? Does this character meal look appealing to you? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!




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