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How to Pick the Best Disney Character Buffet

Timmy wants breakfast with Mickey. Susie wants dinner with Donald. You've given up on a "grown-up" dinner with your husband. All Disney vacations must come to an end so you know you want to spend your time, and money, wisely.

Which character meal should you pick to make "everyone happy?"

Which is best, Chef Mickey's or Tusker House?

Honestly, it depends on your family. So let's pit these two restaurants against each other in a showdown!

Round 1: Character

Actually, that's "characters."

Chef Mickey's

Chef Mickey's features, not surprisingly, Chef Mickey but also Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto (all in chef attire). Because these are THE classic group of characters, many families opt for a meal with the characters instead of waiting in line in the parks for photos.

However, each character comes around individually so you won't get a photo with multiple characters like you can get at some in-park locations. This also means it can take a while.

We've always seen the characters at Chef Mickey's in pretty quick succession. That doesn't mean the first will get to your table soon after your arrival, just that the wait isn't excessive once the first comes around.

Our experience has been the seating is well managed which is why you get all the characters one after the other.

We've also waited the longest after our reservation time at this character dining location.

Tusker House

Donald Duck hosts this buffet and the additional characters we saw were Mickey, Goofy, and Daisy. All are in safari attire.

We got in almost exactly at our reservation time. We didn't even sit down and met Mickey (I bet Donald hated that!).

However, this was the longest wait we've had to see all the characters. It doesn't appear seating is managed the same at this location as at some other character meals.

We had to wait to see Daisy for quite a while whereas the two tables nearest us waited the longest to see Donald (so in order, we saw Mickey, Donald, a wait for Goofy, and more wait for Daisy).

That means in our little cluster of three tables, two tables arrived and left about the same time but our table was off a good bit making the rotation less smooth.

They do tell you (coming in) it can take up to 75 minutes to see all four characters. If you have champion buffet eaters, no problem. It was so hot on this trip we weren't that hungry so we were done eating quickly.

Buffet vs. Buffet

Keep in mind, any character dining that is a buffet, it's a pain to time your buffet trips so you don't miss characters. Because the characters at Chef Mickey's come close together, you can just stay at your table until you're done.

At Tusker House, we saw lots of people that missed a character (the character might wait or double back which is likely the reason the full rotation takes so long).

Personally, we like Tusker House since we can see Daisy. With reasonable expectations of how long it'll take, we can totally live with the longer wait to see the full rotation of characters (hey, you get to eat while you wait).

For young kids, it's a pretty even comparison of who they'll meet. If you have a child (or adult) that is crazy for Minnie or Pluto, you'll want to go to Chef Mickey's or an in-park location to meet them.

There are a few other places to meet Daisy including near Spaceship Earth in Epcot and Storybook Circus in Magic Kingdom.

Note that the Visa cardmember photo spot in Epcot often (usually?) features Minnie and Pluto together so that is an option for people with the Disney Visa card if you prefer Tusker House but want to meet Minnie and Pluto.

Round 2: Location

It's possible location will make your decision for you.

Chef Mickey's

Chef Mickey's is in the Contemporary Resort (on the Magic Kingdom resort monorail line). That means you can dine without needing park tickets.

It also means you better figure out your transportation. At peak seasons, parking may not be available, even for dining reservations. You can always take a bus. Usually, you can take the monorail (the monorail may not be running for maintenance or safety reasons, including during heavy rains---which happened to us multiple times on one trip so I speak from experience).

Since Chef Mickey's isn't in a park, you need to make sure you consider transportation (including keeping your timing reasonable). Drive, bus, monorail, or taxi/Uber (or Minnie Van via Lyft). Transportation isn't a problem, it's just a consideration.

Tusker House

Tusker House is in Animal Kingdom so you obviously need to have a ticket to get into the park. If you're planning a Magic Kingdom-only trip, this isn't going to work for you.

However, it's a bit easier to figure out your transportation options. I doubt you're unfamiliar with your choices if you are an annual passholder who might pop into the park just to eat.

Most people will plan to spend time in the park if they are buying a ticket. Plan your transportation for the park but remember you have to get through security and then through the park to the restaurant to make your reservation time.

Choosing between the buffets based on location probably isn't a "choice" so much as one might work and not the other. What's important is to make sure you understand what will affect your arrival/timing.

Round 3: Food

For me, Tusker House is the hands-down winner for the food round. But not everyone is the same.

Chef Mickey's

Chef Mickey's offers classic American fare. It is either breakfast/brunch or dinner. I found brunch underwhelming. It was boring breakfast plus a few uninspired dinner additions.

I had previously enjoyed having breakfast so I don't know if the wider variety of breakfast choices made a difference or if the quality of food was different. I've heard other reviews say the same about the food being underwhelming.

However, if you have picky eaters, Chef Mickey's might be a better choice than Tusker House. There are other character meal options to consider if you need to please picky eaters so don't think these are the only two.
Basic breakfast options
Basic options might be just what you're looking for.

Tusker House

I like Tusker House because it's an African inspired selection. My kids had no problem finding things to eat (they could live off rice and aren't opposed to exotic food, they just don't eat much). Note we had dinner at Tusker house and we've had breakfast/brunch at Chef Mickey's so we can't compare breakfast to breakfast and dinner to dinner.

Given this was a buffet, I enjoyed Tusker House. Don't go expecting a gourmet meal. It's a buffet. But I like it a lot better than Golden Corral!

Breakfast is my favorite meal but in future we will probably go for Tusker House lunch/dinner. There are other breakfast choices and I don't like starting our day with a dining reservation if I can avoid it.

You may have different priorities or preferences and prefer Chef Mickey's. I had always heard Chef Mickey's as a classic pick with little kids.

I hadn't really heard much about Tusker House. It seemed to be another character buffet.

I sorta expected the Tusker House buffet to be African like breakfast at Boma (in Animal Kindgom Lodge). That features American breakfast for 80% of the buffet and 20% is African dishes. I haven't had breakfast at Tusker House or dinner at Boma so I don't know if they really are similar at corresponding meals.

Dinner at Tusker House was essentially 98% African-inspired for the adult food, not counting dessert (the kid stations had more kid-friendly choices but not just chicken nuggets and mac and cheese, it was ideal for my kids but not necessarily for every kid).

Dessert at Chef Mickey's and Tusker House was almost identical.
Dessert isn't a deciding factor in the Disney character buffet showdown.
Dessert isn't a deciding factor.

Who Won?

So who won the showdown?

For us, Tusker House.

For you?

  • Do you have to see the fab five?
  • Is African food a turn-off? 
  • Would you rather wait longer to be seated or wait longer at your table for characters?
  • Do you need a non-park location or would you rather stop by between rides?
basic American fare your cup of tea?maybe you prefer something a bit more exotic??

Your winner doesn't have to be the same as mine.

Bonus Round: Reservations

One final item that doesn't fit into my three rounds. A reservation at Chef Mickey's is harder to snag. I've consistently seen reservations available for Tusker House.

That being said, we changed our Chef Mickey's reservation last moment this year. As in by the time we walked from our room in Bay Lake Tower to Chef Mickey's (next door), it hadn't even downloaded to the computer.

There's a good chance you'll be able to get a Tusker House reservation if you want one. If a Chef Mickey's reservation isn't available, keep checking back via My Disney Experience. That really applies for any restaurant.

There's no universal winner for any restaurant showdown. Be aware of what's a deal breaker for your travel party. If that's doesn't give you an answer, you can decide which combination of characters, location, and food work best for you.

What's your favorite character buffet and why? Leave a comment!
Disney Dining Character Buffet Showdown

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