Sometimes circumstances manage to block your every path until the only one remaining is the one you wouldn’t have taken. Take Contempo Cafe at the Contemporary Resort (Walt Disney World, FL), the one food option not on our list of possible destinations while staying at the Contemporary. But then, our go-to, can’t go wrong, always a fallback, just pop in for a drink and a small bite—The Wave—let us down: the menu had narrowed, the lounge was less romantically lit (or so Amy maintained), and the $21 cheeseburger off the bar menu would have tasted a lot better in the park at $9.95, or even from the room-service menu at $16.99.
This was a game-changer.
How we got there:
The instant we opened the door to our Magic Kingdom-facing room on the 10 floor of the Contemporary Resort, we knew we weren’t going to let that view go to waste. After all, it was a dream come true! And a plan quickly materialized: maximize the dining resources at our own hotel so that we can minimize the monorail rush hour while still enjoying drinks and bites in a romantic atmosphere. The Contemporary has two sit-down service options: The Wave and California Grill.
After The Wave went flat on us, it was over to California Grill. They’ve let us down before, but in light of new developments we were forgiving past sins and holding on to how nice the lounge experience is in comparison to their dining rooms. But our open hearts went unrewarded as we were informed (kindly and empathetically) that the restaurant was completely full due to the 8:00 fireworks show everyone wanted a view of.
All right, all right, enough with the backstory already!
So we’d pretty much run out of options for our only night without dinner reservations, thinking we wouldn’t need much more than a small bite or two with cocktails after what we knew would be a large lunch at Skipper Canteen. But we wanted something, and maybe more than we thought despite the good-sized lunch. Contempo Cafe was our only remaining option that didn’t involve transportation (not counting escalators). They’d come through for us for breakfast in years past when we just wanted three eggs, bacon or sausage, and no biscuit, waffle, pancake, and potato. We praised Contempo for not forcing us to get more of what we didn’t want and less of what we really did.
We perused the illuminated lunch/dinner menu displaying attractive pictures alongside their descriptions. Everything looked unexpectedly good—and it wasn’t because we were starving! The pastas (there was more than one) looked good. The lobster sandwich looked good (and meaty!). The grilled salmon looked good. And the cheeseburger looked as good as what we had at The Wave, but for $12.99 (See?). The fresh cookies and cupcakes also looked good (and were!).
Little by little we were abandoning our original “small bites with a cocktail” plan in favor of something a bit more… resourceful.
Looking around at the food court setting Contempo Cafe commands, it wasn’t hard to conclude there was no “little romantic table in the corner.” Even the lounge around the little bar was too reminiscent of an airport to find that option even remotely appealing.
No, what would really be great would be getting back to our room, throwing on our nicer loungewear, and enjoying our magnificent view.
Yes, we could’ve just gone back to the room and awaited a pricey delivery of something we weren’t really in the mood for while dressed in guest-friendly attire. Room service always sounds romantic, but rarely lives up unless it’s very late and you’re very drunk (or two twelve-year-olds with a room to yourself and trusting parents).
Instead, we brought our made-to-order take-out from Contempo Cafe back to the room—along with a bottle of Simply Fresh Grapefruit Juice from the refrigerated beverage section to use as a mixer. Mark had half a roasted chicken with rice and green beans and Any had the turkey BLT. Both were surprisingly good! The chicken was moist and tender and nicely flavored, Mark attested; and Amy’s turkey sandwich was day-after-Thanksgiving fresh-roasted and yummy. What a relief after The Wave had so disappointed us.
We’d brought together the outdoor table and the room’s ottoman, which were conveniently the exact same size, and essentially created a perfect coffee table that accommadated our two plates, the greyhound cocktails made with the pink grapefruit juice and the Tito’s vodka we’d brought from home, and our sublime view of the Magic Kingdom just as the lightning show ended and the fireworks began.
The not-so-objective summary
Every Disney hotel has its quickie counter service option for hot foods, baked goods, sandwiches and salads, beverages hot and cold, and snacks (now with more fruit!); and as you’d expect, some are better than others. Sometimes surprisingly so. Contempo Cafe is one of those smiles of surprise for the value, variety and quality. You may have to think a bit creatively to achieve a romantic context, but sometimes, romance is in the simplicity, not the setting.