What do you get when you put 3 Disneyland Correspondents, 3 kids – ranging from toddler to big kid, and a slightly confused boyfriend together? Heck – we didn’t even know – considering it was really our first time out on a date with this newfound relationship we all have. We decided the best way to set our sail was to have a breakfast together – nothing says “get to know me” like a big old Disney Character buffet! We had a week to plan, so I placed a call to Disneyland Dining (714-781-DINE) and made a 9am reservation for a Sunday morning. The day came and off we went…..
That Sunday morning was Chaos and lets just say that Tony and his son got there first (on time), Ian and I arrived at the valet parking for the Grand Californian Hotel 15 minutes late with the girls (after cleaning up the car and buying 2 new shirts at the gift shop), and Wendy and Bill arrived last, after walking the half mile from the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure . We chose the hotel valet for speed and ease – and for the fact that the restaurant validates parking (5 hours for just a tip)!!!!
Now, Storyteller’s Cafe is easy to find – just through the lobby, out the pool courtyard doors and almost to the end of the walkway. Wendy had the hardest time of all of us, besides the fact that she had never visited the hotel before, she was coming from the Downtown Disney Entrance, known as the Blue Moon Gate. We teased her mercilessly about this, of course! In reality – it is kind of tough, when you enter that way, the quickest path is to cross the West Wind Courtyard (under the monorail’s beamway) and go through the doors on the opposite side. This brings you directly into the lobby area. If it’s raining, follow the signs or the trickle of hotel guests into the conference center, up the hallway, up the stairs, and into the lobby. Then, turn left and head out the door toward the pool.
The theming of the restaurant is obvious through the extensive windows, which reveal luxuriously carved woodwork, tiles in cool greens, and fireplaces in the center of each main dining area. Throughout the space, you see items that reflect the hotel’s Arts & Crafts era design – tied in with the theme of Storytelling. The walls surrounding the central buffet area are the first proof of this. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the child sitting above the buffet – legs crossed and book open – a painting on tiles.
The upper borders of this section sport slogans and sayings – a popular style of the time.
The real wow comes when you enter the Left and Right dining areas huge, beautiful paintings greet you. (These are featured in the cover photo.) Each one is based on a famous children’s story that take place in California – 7 in all! If you ask your server, they will bring you an informational sheet that tells you a bit about each story! For it’s size and openness, it feels very intimate and warm. It’s also much quieter than other character restaurants. I don’t know if that’s due to there being more carpet and upholstery, or just a different sort of crowd, but it’s definitely the sort of place I would choose to go if noisy crowded places aren’t your thing.
The girls were super excited when we went in – their favorite characters abound in this place. Chip and Dale were at the front to greet them that day. Lily, my 2 year old, loves them – in fact, she won’t let almost any other character near her. Koda and Kenai – 2 other favorites from Brother Bear were working the room. I’ll get back to them later…..
you want to hear about the food!
Like I said, there were a bunch of us – 8 to be exact. The restaurant gave us a buzzer when we arrived and checked in. Even though we were late, our wait was less than 15 minutes and they let us be seated without all of our party being present. That was nice to know, since some family members always seem to have a hard time getting out of the hotel room in the mornings – I know we do! We were seated just off the waiting area – where one of their 2 large family tables (for 10) are located. If you have a big family, it’s nice to know they have some specific tables you can ask for. We were greeted pretty quickly by our server and the drink orders immediately followed. The lattes were extra, but we got them anyway. They came with real cream and sugar cubes, instead of having to use packets – a nice touch.
Ian and the girls went with the goal of ordering off the menu, but the rest of us couldn’t help ourselves from getting the buffet. After placing our order, our server ran off and later came back with a HUGE plate of freshly made pancakes and Mickey waffles!
The girls (and most of the grownups) dug right into this, while the boys (Tony and Andrew) hung out at the omlet station. You know, I don’t have to extoll for you the glory of a fresh pancake that didn’t sit in a buffet warmer. These came right from the pan to us. The waffles were the right amount of “Mickey crispy”. Syrup is on the table in little packets, but you can ask for warm and fresh.
The buffet greeted us warmly with all sorts of comfort foods. It isn’t the biggest buffet on property, but it has to be the highest food quality. You begin with the fresh fruits – all sorts sliced and prepped (except for the strawberries – you just don’t hull those en masse). Then comes the smoked salmon – 2 KINDS!!! The regular smoked has a gentle flavor and the dill/gravlox style was seasoned really well. All of the usual trimmings were there, along with little bagels. The next area caught Wendy’s eye – the oatmeal and dry cereal station. She had a small bowl and topped it with brown sugar and other fixings. She said it was absolutely tasty!
Then came the hot entrees. The usual cast of characters was there – along with some stylish twists. Eggs were accompanied by egg whites, the bacon – applewood smoked, and then the sausages. We had quite the discussion about them – plump, but smaller than usual – the perfect buffet size. The flavor – not too peppery, not too bland. But the size was still the issue of the day! Tony will never live that down and now all of his dining reviews will have to start off with Sausage Talk!!!
Other items on the buffet were a grilled asparagus, Eggs Benedict, ham with pineapple, a couple other items, and my favorite – Biscuits and Gravy!!!! Now, I’m from a Confederate state originally, so I know my gravy and I really like it here. Just the right amount of sausage drippings combined with the right amount of cream and not too peppery! It has to congeal just right on the plate (you gravy fans know what I mean) and this one does. Biscuits are the right amount of fluffy – not too much to disintegrate when the gravy hits, but just enough to keep it from being too heavy.
Now the last area had breakfast pastries, desserts, and right behind all of that – the omlet station.
This was Tony’s favorite part. I’m not sure if it was the mix of hanging out waiting for his fresh and fluffy omelet, or how much he was befuddled by the whole wheat croissants. That was another contention – who in the world is pretending they are eating a healthy thing by choosing that whole wheat, butter-soaked, piece of bready goodness? Why isn’t the plain good enough? These were questions that could only be answered by someone who actually knew the answer…. which wasn’t any of us!
But, I digress. The omelets were the focus of the Spittell family and they enjoyed them!
Ian’s special order arrived quickly – the banana-stuffed french toast. It’s much like the Tonga Toast from the old Tangaroa Terrace Restaurant at the Walt Disney World Polynesian – not quite the same as the one at the Kona Cafe today, but close. We all remarked that we liked how it was served with a mix of fresh berries – since the only berries on the buffet were of the straw variety. He dug in and thought the taste was good – with just the right amount of banana.
What about the Characters, you ask – I’m getting to it….
So the food and conversation was flowing – we were all getting to know each other and convince Bill we weren’t a bunch of crazy internet freaks that kidnapped his girlfriend, and then they started coming….
Chip and Dale – yep – I already said how much my girls like them…. Then Koda and Kenai. Then Meeko (from Pocahontas – it saddens me that he has slipped into somewhat of a dark hole and I feel I have to actually give a movie reference for him…) and Turk (from Tarzan – same sadness).
One of the things we all felt made this breakfast stand out was how in tune with the kids these characters were. They knew exactly when to come forward, when to hold back, when to use body language to test the waters with a smaller child, and how to interact with an older child who was doing his own thing at the table.
The standout for us was when one of them came by and saw Andrew drawing his own comic book. He picked up the pen and started writing with Andrew – asking him questions about what he was doing and encouraging him to continue and build his skills. It was very cool to watch. They guaged Andrew’s intellect and interest perfectly. In turn, another character read Lily’s body language and stayed just the right distance away from the table, where she could continue to eat and play and not be upset. A mix of sign and body language was used to make Lily feel better about the interaction.
The only pressure to be a part of the activities came in the form of “The Ranger” (duh dun dun dunnnnn). He was popping by tables talking to folks, waving his signal trouts, and seeing if the kids wanted to join in the Follow the Leader game. And there was Bill. Poor defenseless Bill. He didn’t see it coming. Ranger Trout came over and heckled Bill – just a little… Bill caved. Off he went to play Simon Says with all the little kids. He was assimilated… None of the kids were pressured – my girls ran off the minute they saw the parade coming and Andrew continued his diligent work, since he had just been fueled by a bit of fuzzy encouragement. But Bill – he jumped right in with both feet.
Breakfast was a success. We felt that the cost – while expensive – was certainly worth the experience.