Brunch at the Top is a Sunday offering at California Grill high atop the Disney’s Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World. This review will cover our brunch experience on Father’s Day 2018. Emily decided to book it since Tables in Wonderland is still accepted on Father’s Day. We are not big brunch folks, but we do love the California Grill, plus, Josh (easyWDW) gave this brunch stellar reviews, so we gave it a whirl.
We arrived at the check-in desk, located on the 2nd Floor of the resort just up the stairs from the main lobby, about 20 minutes before our reservation and were escorted up in the dedicated elevator to the 15th floor.
At the top, we were welcomed to California Grill and offered a choice of a Blueberry Mimosa or a non-alcoholic White Cranberry Spritzer. Both of the bottomless offerings were delicious. The mimosa was a Cava Sparkling Wine with Cocktail Caviar or another brand of cocktail enhancing flavor bubbles. Traditional mimosas with cava and orange juice were also available.
The non-alcoholic (mocktail) was a refreshing White Cranberry Spritzer. More often than not, we encounter overly sweet cocktails on the ships and Walt Disney World locations, but this was well balanced and came across more like a sparkling water than anything else. Isabelle actually liked it.
As I mentioned earlier, we were early to our reservation, which was fine because it gave us the opportunity to sit in the lounge area near the musicians while we each enjoyed a number of the complimentary mimosas. During our wait, I toured the self-service offerings and streamed the following on Periscope which includes the lovely background music. Sorry for the vertical video; I wasn’t originally planning to write a review on our brunch, but a few people asked for one.
Brunch at the Top is similar to Palo Brunch where once you are seated you are invited to help yourself to a selection of self-service items and provided a menu for made to order entrees. The main difference at this point is there is no tour of the line, but the server does an excellent job of explaining the different offerings. Below, you will find the California Grill Brunch at the Top menu including the overly allergy-friendly menu.
The self-service offerings are spread around the California Grill. Near the lounge, there is a selection of bread and pastries. There are sticky buns, cheddar biscuits, croissants, turnovers, and even a gluten-free scone. California Grill’s brunch features a Bloody Mary Bar, but this is not included in the base cost. Although listed individually on the display, the price per Bloody Mary is $17.
Guests can select from Absolut Peppar, Ketel One Citroen, or Belvedere Bloody Mary and up to 5 condiments. About 10 different hot sauces were also available to give the Bloody Mary’s an extra kick.
Neither I nor Emily care for Bloody Marys, so we did not order one to go with our brunch. While we had one of the later seatings, I only noticed a few people with the cocktails compared to a steady flow of guests looking over the spread which is taking up a majority of the counter space.
The charcuterie selection included a healthy mix of meats, cheeses, and additional accompaniments. I was a bit surprised by the omission of Parmigiano-Reggiano, but that just gives me a reason to return to Palo.
The gem of the self-service selections was the California Crêpes Suzette, which Jazz was making sure each guest’s crêpe was dripping with the delicious caramelized sauce featuring Grand Mariner and Remy Martin VSOP. We could have just eaten this all brunch.Pro tip — when you see a display of oranges, Grand Mariner, and VSOP, get in line. We will b book brunch again just for these.
California Grill is a popular spot at WDW for sushi, especially for those who are just heading up to the top of the Contemporary Resort for drinks at the bar. During our brunch, we had the choice of a Salmon and Tuna Nigiri, California Rolls with jumbo lump, and Spicy Tuna Tekka Maki rolls. Soy sauce was available in small dishes as an accompaniment. Emily thought the sushi was ‘ok.’
Moving along down the brunch buffet, we encountered few salads. The Soba noodle salad was a favorite at our table. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat, but it is not listed as gluten-free per the allergy menu. The amazu-ginger vinaigrette was delicious. This was a truly delicious dish. The Bacon & Egg salad included quinoa, avocado, with cherry wood bacon lardon and soft boiled eggs finished with a sherry vinaigrette.
I’m head over heels for the Apple Salad & I came really close to taking this untouched bowl to our table after sampling the salad from Isabelle’s plate. Even though the brunch was nearing the end, I figured it would be appropriate, so I just put a healthy dent into the bowl. The combination of thinly sliced granny smith apples, onions, goat cheese, and candied pecans was heavenly. The salad was even garnished with some gold raisins to highlight the raisin vinaigrette. Emily also adored this.
If you don’t want to get a salad to get in the way of your bacon and eggs, deviled eggs topped with crispy bacon are available with a dollop of spiced aioli. Emily tired one (after pulling off the bacon) & said it was delicious.
Near the end of the buffet, you can see the kitchen hard at work preparing entrees when you load your plate up with bagels and lox.
Accoampanments are available to take your bagel to the next level (as if Scotch cured salmon was not already next level).
A greek yogurt parfait is available as a pre-made blueberry version and a build your own vanilla option. Emily & I opted for the blueberry with an extra spoonful of honeycomb.
Brunch at the Top was self-paced, never rushed, downright enjoyable experience, and we are still not even close to the grand finale…
Across the board, the food was great, but the cheddar biscuit stood out for having a robust cheddar flavor.
Remember the other half of the menu — the entrées? Well, as you are grazing from the self-service buffet, take a minute for a sneak peek of the entrées as Chef Jonathan puts the final touches on each dish before they are delivered to your table. The Lobster Omelette includes tomatoes, goat cheese, and a herb Crème Fraiche with roasted potatoes on the side. I couldn’t resist and ignored my shellfish allergy to sample a potato. At this point, Em was pretty stuffed, but opened the omelette and ate all of the lobster.
There are three different pancake entrèes on the brunch menu, two of which are buttermilk. The standard pancake is served with maple syrup and the blueberry option includes as you’d expect blueberries with a vanilla custard and blueberry compote. Isabelle chose the standard buttermilk pancake & brought the leftovers home.
The struggle was real when it came time to order my entrèe. I was torn between the Chicken & Waffles and the Carrot Cake Pancakes because even mediocre carrot cake is incredible (except for the deconstructed version offered at Animator’s Palate that is a hard pass).
Ultimately, I saw the light and selected the indisputable brunch item, Chicken and Waffles. No other entrèe embodies both breakfast and lunch other than waffles and fried chicken. Not entirely sure why this isn’t being offered on the Homecomin’ Rise & Shine Southern Brunch menu, but until it gets added, this will remain the undisputed Walt Disney World Chicken and Waffle champion. The waffle sets California Grill’s version of this dish apart from any other I’ve eaten. I swear the waffle was part cornbread. To make this even more indulgent, there is a generous portion of chicken sausage gravy and a fantastic blood orange syrup drizzled all over.
No matter what time it is, brunch has an uncanny ability to make me sleepy. Thankfully, espresso is included with brunch which provided just enough of a jolt to keep me going.
We were reaching the 2-hour mark of our brunch extravaganza and while we saw the beautifully plated desserts being delivered to other tables, we were at capacity. Our server offered to box the desserts to go and we were happy to forego the pageantry of the dessert platter delivery. I’m exaggerating; the desserts are simply served on a ceramic cake stand, but even in the box, they look delicious. We saved them for our dessert later the next day (& we skipped dinner brunch-day. So stuffed).
California Grill Brunch at the Top is offered every Sunday from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Based on our experience and spot checking availability, I’d recommend making a reservation in advance. The cost of the brunch as of publication is $80 for adults and $48 for kids (3-11). This is not a typo the, the kid’s price goes up to 11, whereas the cutoff elsewhere on Disney property is 9. We really appreciated the wider age range considering Disney is raking families over the coals when it comes to kid’s paying adult prices places like ‘Ohana. As of publication, Tables in Wonderland is accepted and valet parking is included with Brunch at the Top.
For the latest on the California Grill’s brunch and details on the minimum dress code, please visit Disney’s website. I should note, the menu Disney has online is not updated to reflect the menu served on June 17th. This is not uncommon for Disney’s website to have out of date menus, but it is important to keep this in mind when planning trips. Brunch debuted at the California Grill in 2016 and we expect the experience is now a well-oiled machine putting out a consistent product week after week.
Overall, we were impressed by California Grill’s Brunch at the Top. While I may have been negative in the past about Palo dinner and brunch, recent visits have changed my tune, but from my perspective, Brunch at the Top is a better overall experience. Sure, there is a $50 to $80 price difference between the two offerings, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick California Grill over Palo brunch. Obviously, I am taking being on a Disney Cruise out of this comparison and basing this opinion on two standalone restaurants offering brunch.
Have you been to Brunch at the Top, what did you think? Finally, are you interested in seeing more photos and hearing our thoughts on our dining experiences across Walt Disney World? Let us know in the comments.