Restaurant Review: The Wave… of American Flavors
During our most recent trip to Walt Disney World, my traveling party had to think outside the box.
Some of our favorite restaurants faced capacity issues that led to early sellouts. Others weren’t even open.
So, my group ate at some places we’ve either skipped in the past or never especially liked.
In doing so, we stumbled across a couple of pleasant surprises.
Here’s my review of The Wave… of American Flavors, a restaurant I’d always found overrated…until now. TL:DR – I’m wrong, and everyone else is right.
About The Wave
You’ll never have a problem finding The Wave. All you need to do is hop on the Resort Monorail line at Magic Kingdom.
Then, take the first stop at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. You’ll exit your tram on the fifth floor then take an escalator down to the fourth floor.
Right around the corner is a series of elevators. Hit the down button and ride to the first floor. Then, turn left as you exit and walk straight.
Like magic, you’re at The Wave!
Actually, that description is a bit roundabout for those who know where the Contemporary is.
In that case, all you need to do is walk into the hotel lobby at the Contemporary. Walk past the front desk, and you’ll reach the restaurant.
You really can’t miss the place due to its eclectic brown front and neon blue sign.
Once you enter the walkway, you’ll feel like you’re walking through an aquarium, too. Disney even built a blue room to the right of check-in.
The Check-In Process and Getting Seated
Historically, The Wave has had ample availability due to its perception, location, and large seating area.
However, the restaurant has circled back to mild popularity thanks to its reputation with Disney fanatics.
Many, maybe even most, Disney influencers have shared their love of the cuisine at The Wave, which they agree provides better value than California Grill.
Since we spent a week at the Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower, we enjoyed a rare opportunity to eat at all the restaurants there.
Well, we couldn’t do our favorite, Chef Mickey’s, because it booked too quickly. And that tells the story right there.
Disney fans favor Chef Mickey’s more than The Wave or California Grill, allowing guests to get Advanced Dining Reservations more easily at those places.
We booked both and planned to compare the two. In terms of cuisine, I don’t think you can go wrong, but I’ll cut to the chase here.
From a meal experience perspective, The Wave delivered to an epic degree.
Everything started at check-in. Disney has implemented a service that allows guests to signal that they’re ready for a table on the app.
However, the first member of our party who arrived didn’t know this. So, she informed a staggeringly impressive woman named Meghan.
How good is Meghan at her job? We bumped into her more than two hours later, and she still remembered our party’s name.
Yes, she seated dozens of guests in the interim, but she displayed that much skill at her job. I left her a compliment at the front desk and on a survey.
The Dining Experience
The Wave currently hosts three different meals, which is something of a rarity at Walt Disney World during the pandemic. We ate dinner there.
Our traveling party included three women and me, the one with the lousy palate.
We arrived at our table less than five minutes after checking in, and our waiter had drinks on our table almost immediately afterward.
This gentleman, whose name I won’t mention, had experienced issues with a different table throughout our meal.
To his credit, he never once allowed his understandable level of frustration to impact our interactions.
Instead, he used us as his happy table when he needed a break from more demanding customers.
We also hadn’t seen our friends since the month before the pandemic started. So, our meal lasted more than 90 minutes.
We skipped appetizers for a change, but The Wave serves bread to its customers. We snacked on it while evaluating the menu.
I’d known what I was ordering since the day we’d booked the reservation.
The Wave serves a variation of California Grill’s Pork Tenderloin, a magical concoction. The vegetable options did little for me, though.
Our server kindly offered to replace them with some unusual choices. I wound up with mashed potatoes and grapes.
Technically, my sides came from the children’s menu, but I prefer them to cheddar grits and broccolini.
My wife, a vegetarian, chose Tikka Masala, and one of our friends joined her. Our youngest party member, who has an incredible palate, ordered Seared Gnocchi.
The dishes arrived promptly, giving us plenty of time to make conversation without feeling rushed.
One of the quirks of Disney’s QR code-based system involves meal ordering speed.
When you’d like to slow down and enjoy some company, your order may come too soon.
Our server accounted for this, ensuring that we never felt rushed. The place claimed enough of a crowd that he could have turned the table over quickly.
Again, he chose guest satisfaction over all else, and we tipped him exceptionally well to indicate our gratitude.
As for the dishes, the Pork Tenderloin exemplifies Disney’s culinary greatness. It’s a hearty dish brimming with a depth of flavor.
My wife and our friend tore through their Tikka Masala, as I was the last of the three with food remaining on my plate.
They agreed that it’s one of the best overall entrees at Walt Disney World.
Still, the biggest hit was the Seared Gnocchi, which our future chef devoured rapidly. I was a bit scared of her predatory nature in tearing through her entrée.
With our plates empty and our bellies full, we should have skipped dessert. It’s absolutely what we would have done at a normal dinner…but we were at Disney!
So, we loosened our belts, broke out the stretchy pants, and dove in with some Crème Brûlée.
We ordered two of them for the table, as I lost the popular vote for a Chocolate Flight.
Everyone else was willing to eat dessert, just not cake and brownies. Jerks.
Anyway, the Crème Brûlée at The Wave borders on legendary, which explains why the restaurant only serves two desserts. And both of them include Crème Brûlée.
Folks, I’ve been to graduation parties, weddings, birthday vacations, and even a few velvet rope gatherings.
I’m still dubious I’ve ever seen a group of people happier than these women were while dining on Crème Brûlée.
At this point, I realized something. I’ve never had great luck at The Wave because I’ve ordered the Beef Tenderloin, an ordinary dish that fills me up.
That choice has prevented me from enjoying dessert, especially since I tend to fill up on bread.
Since I didn’t make that mistake this time, I evaluated The Wave in an entirely different light, partially through the eyes of my friends.
We adored this meal, and the cast members on duty somehow made it even better.
In fact, the chef came out and asked us what he could have done better!
That sort of attention to detail and striving for excellence differentiates The Wave of today from the place I’ve always found a bit blah.
I now understand why others rave about The Wave and will do so myself from now on. You owe it to yourself to eat here! And tell Meghan we said hi!
Feature Image Rights: Disney