Fairfax Fare Macaroni & Cheese Hot Dog Review, State of Fantasmic, Hollywood Studios Walkabout 9/2/11

by josh on September 2, 2011

Your cultured food critic visited the Hollywood Studios this evening to take another stab at Fairfax Fare’s “Gourmet Hot Dogs” and to check on Fantasmic crowds, among other things.  Up until this week, we’ve had Fantasmic scheduled twice every night since the end of June.  Even when Fantasmic was only scheduled on a limited number of nights during the week, we almost always had two Fantasmic shows scheduled on nights that it was available.  If you were intent on seeing Fantasmic, the second show was always substantially less crowded than the first.  We continue to have Fantasmic scheduled most nights through the end of 2011.  However, crowds are much lower than the summer and Disney has decided that one Fantasmic each night is enough to meet demand.  The only current exception is nights that Hollywood Studios is hosting evening Extra Magic Hours.  Because those days are busier, two Fantasmic shows are scheduled.


Here we are arriving at 7:20pm.  Not a lot of people around.  Note the single 8:30pm Fantasmic and 8:30pm close.

A few people on Hollywood Boulevard.  We’re headed into Mickey’s of Hollywood to see if there’s any Halloween merchandise worth reporting.


A 3D Placemat type thing for $4.95.

A votive candle set – $24.95 I think.

Cute little lanterns – also $24.95 as I recall.

A Mickey head thing full of Candy Corn.  Sort of creepy – $12.95.

These tins are full of shortbread cookies or a variety of popcorn flavors.  The popcorn is $12.95 and the cookies are a whopping $18.95.

Looking good.  Hollywood Studios was a recommended Park.

This is a live telecast of the American Idol finale show that’s going on inside the theater.  It’s a fun way to catch a few minutes of the show, especially if you want to grab a treat and chill out for a minute.  There are a bunch of picnic tables within viewing distance.

Not a lot of people outside Star Tours.  There was actually a Jedi Training Academy show scheduled for about ten minutes from now.  Star Tours officially had a 10 minute wait.  The “actual wait” was basically the time it took to walk the queue and line up in front of the simulator.





Not a lot of people on this side of the Studios, but there is “literally” nothing going on over here.  Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show is long over, Backlot Tour stopped operating at 7pm, Studio Catering Company stopped serving at 5:30pm., Phineas and Ferb are off at 7pm.


Speaking of Studio Catering Company, it can be a hassle to find a quick service that’s open for dinner at Hollywood Studios during the “off season.”  Starring Rolls closed at 4pm, Backlot Express closed at 5:30pm, Studio Catering Company closed at 5:30pm, Toy Story Pizza Planet closed at 7:00pm, ABC Commissary stopped serving at 8:00pm.  Even Mama Melrose took its last reservations at 7:30pm.  And the Studios is open until 8:30pm tonight with Fantasmic running until 9pm.



For one reason or another, Disney is intent on keeping Toy Story Mania’s posted wait time above 60 minutes.  The actual wait time here is 26 minutes and I doubt it was 60 minutes at any point in the last couple of hours.

Typical.

Here we are at Animation Courtyard.  Voyage of the Little Mermaid is closed for refurbishment through tomorrow.  There’s basically nothing to do in this section of the Studios either.  Disney Jr. Live on Stage had its last show at 5:50pm.  Winnie the Pooh leaves at 6pm, the Incredibles stop appearing at 6:30pm, and Mickey goes backstage at 7:30pm.  The Animation Tour is the only thing running.

Whoa!!!! Did someone announce free Mickey Ice Cream bars at Min and Bill’s or something?  Actually, this is the crowd leaving the American Idol Experience finale.  If you see them coming – move.  Or race to wherever you’re headed in the opposite direction.


Marching up Sunset Boulevard just past 7:45pm.

Headed up the walkway with everyone else at 7:50pm.  It’s a pretty good distance from Sunset Boulevard up to Hollywood Hills Theater – at least a few minutes.  Stroller parking is at the very top.

Disabled seating along the top.

This is Fantasmic Dining Package seating off to the right.  Plenty of room in the corner, but the slightly better seats closer to the center are mostly full.

The center sections are all full, but there are still ample seats on the far side of the theater.



This is the Fantasmic Dining Package entrance, which is close to Tower of Terror’s gift shop in the hotel courtyard.  Technically, you can also use the regular walkway too.  The actual checkpoint is at the top of the walkway on the right side.

I probably couldn’t have timed this meal much worse.  Virtually all of the quick services are closed at this point.  Only Sunset Ranch Market is offering food of substance.  Fairfax Fare isn’t a particularly efficient quick service.  They also ran out of their Jumbo Turkey Legs at 7:50pm.  I thought a riot might erupt.


You may recall my last meal at Fairfax Fare, where I had two major complaints before the meal even began.  Disney has since rectified both – we have a new menu up at each window indicating the hot dogs come with chips rather than coleslaw or baked beans and the smaller menus with pictures/explanations of the hot dogs are back.



This is the Macaroni & Cheese with Truffle Oil Gourmet Hot Dog.  I’m not sure where the truffle oil comes into play.  My understanding of it is that most truffle oils are made with artificial ingredients anyway.  The truffle oil certainly didn’t make a discernible difference in the overall flavor as far as I could tell.  Otherwise, it’s about what you would expect.  It’s your basic Disney hot dog topped with macaroni & cheese from the kids’ menu along with a sprinkle of bacon bits.  It certainly wasn’t bad.  My biggest complaint with Disney quick service is that the food is very rarely hot.  This hot dog wasn’t any different.  Granted, I fiddle around with my camera for a moment before digging in, but it doesn’t take me any longer to do that than it would take an average parent to get their child seated and taken care of.  The macaroni and cheese basically gives the same flavor as the hot cheese sauce at Casey’s Corner.  The dogs here also come on different buns than Casey’s Corner, Cosmic Ray’s, etc. unless they’ve changed buns there in the last week too.  It’s possible.  Overall, this isn’t a compelling value.  It’s a relatively small portion and there isn’t a whole lot to it.  That said, it was miles better than the Burrito Dog and not a bad choice all things considered.


This is the Fantasmic seating section with about 15 minutes to the start of the show.  There are a few seats to the far side, but it’s packed solid in the center sections.  As unfortunate as it is, you really need to arrive 60+ minutes early to get prime seats.

While I’m sure Disney would disagree, it’s nice to see the Studios so empty.  You could have walked right into the preshow areas at Tower of Terror or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster after 7:30pm.  Even Toy Story Mania had actual waits of less than 30 minutes.  While Fantasmic remains popular, you could have at least gotten seats had you arrived just ten minutes in front of the start of the show.  I’ll keep an eye on it moving forward.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

PEACHES September 2, 2011 at 10:44 pm

That combination of hotdog with mac and cheese just seems like something a person with the munchies would put together after a 7-11 run. I appreciate the the pictures of the seating for Fantasmic, another thing I have yet to see.

Elizabeth September 2, 2011 at 11:53 pm

yay! good work, I love your blogs :)

Anonymous September 3, 2011 at 6:07 am

Do you think the Fantasmic dinner package is necessary? We will be there on 9/18 and have a reservation. I would prefer to go to 50s PT over Mama Melrose. I think my kids would like it better.

Trueblue63 September 3, 2011 at 6:33 am

Perhaps the truffle oil is used to season the Mac and Cheese.

Do they really assemble the BBQ Dog with the Q on the bottom? That’s a big no amongst serious hot dog fans. You dress the dog, not the bun. But at least that one sounds good.

josh September 3, 2011 at 6:43 am

You never need the Fantasmic Dining Package, strictly speaking. It’s just a matter of when you want to arrive for the show and how good you want the seats to be. At 40 minutes out, the available seats are already pretty far out to the left. If you wanted prime center section seats, you would need to arrive 60 – 90 minutes early. Now, the Fantasmic Dining Package seats are off to the other side and aren’t the best seats in the house either. But they’re better than what’s available to the general population. To answer your question, you don’t need the Fantasmic Dining Package if you’re willing to wait 60+ minutes for good seats or 40+ minutes for decent seats. If you want to wait 20 or 30 minutes and still have decent seats then the Fantasmic Dining Package may be a good idea.

Amy September 3, 2011 at 7:26 am

Until your blog showing these items, I’d NEVER heard of these types of hot dogs out in the ‘real’ world. So bizarre! I would never order any of them.

I think it’s kind of funny that they basically fixed the exact things you mentioned before! Ha!

RebeccaMcK September 3, 2011 at 7:54 am

Yeah, the new look of the menus makes a big difference in helping you know what’s in everything. Maybe someone there is reading your blog. That mac’n'cheese dog in your photos actually looks pretty good. If I had qualms about eating it all together like that, I could just use a fork and eat the mac’n'cheese separately and then eat the hot dog. But speaking of hot dogs, I’ve heard that there is a snack stand of sorts inside the Fantasmic stadium? With hot dogs, pretzels, cheese sauce, and Heineken (and probably the usual soft drinks)? We have a lunch show package with Brown Derby for the Sunday we’re there (Oct 9th) that’s at 2:25 pm (for 8 pm F!). So we figure that will be a big lunch in the middle of the afternoon, and our dinner can be lighter, even if we just get snacks (but Mom will need something substantial since she’s diabetic and has to eat at least every four hours). Since we want to get good seats and get into the stadium the earliest they’ll let us (with that meal pkg the CM told me on the phone we won’t wait in any line – we just go up to the proper entrance. I don’t want to sit on the edge of the bleachers so more towards the center is what we’ll shoot for), I think we’ll plan on getting dinner from that stadium place. Is it easy to find, and have you tried the hot dog and/or pretzel before? I figure they must be like the regular hot dogs and pretzels in all the Disney parks. Also, since they have food in the stadium (unless they don’t – please tell us if that’s the case), is outside food allowed to be brought in – like stuff purchased at the minimal counter service places outside the stadium?

RebeccaMcK September 3, 2011 at 8:07 am

TrueBlue, I agree about dressing the dog and not the bun. But I think the reason the bbq pork is under the dog instead of atop it is to keep it somewhat separate from the coleslaw that’s on top of the dog (in the menu photo). Personally, I’d rather they kept both those items on the side of the plate and not on the dog at all (and I’d dump the coleslaw or else see if they’d not give it to me). Josh, if there’s something you don’t want on these specialty dogs can you tell them “no jalapenos” or whatever it is you don’t want? Hubby gets everything with no lettuce (whenever lettuce is on something).

Dawn September 3, 2011 at 8:41 am

Great review Josh…so cool ..what you do!

RoonieRoo September 3, 2011 at 10:19 am

Great article. I suspect we’ll see the same pattern for Fantasmic for our early December trip.

Ginette September 3, 2011 at 10:47 am

Josh, I think you had mentioned in a previous blog (but can’t seem to find it) before Fantasmic there is a character meet and greet (not well known) in Animation Studios? maybe? and I think you said there are always surprise characters there you never know who you may see. Just wondering where this is and what time…if it exists??!! thank you…hot dog look gross!!! But I don’t eat hot dogs so I am a real bad critic!

Ann September 3, 2011 at 11:01 am

I think that mac-n-cheese dog looks pretty good. I’d eat it. We have gotten a chili dog from Fair fax before and it was good. It’s gone from the menu so maybe we try the mac-n-cheese dog next time.

josh September 3, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Rebecca – there are a couple of food places up at the top of the Fantasmic seating area with the usual suspects, including hot dogs and pretzels. You can bring up any food you like from elsewhere in the Park. Just keep in mind that it’s a bit of an uphill walk with a lot of people around and it can be pretty precarious trying to walk up a tray of fountain beverages. You might want to order food from one of the quick service locations and buy the beverages inside the Theater. The prices are the same everywhere.

Ginette – Here’s more information about the characters before Fantasmic – http://www.easywdw.com/uncategorized/tune-in-lounge-characterpalooza-itzakadoozie-hollywood-studios-walkabout-august-16/

Ginette September 3, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Awesome Josh, thanks!!!

Anna September 4, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Josh, I swear I saw you there! Were you wearing a black shirt and plaid shorts, carrying a backpack? This was about 7:30pm, around the bus stop area like you were walking in from the parking lot. I was getting into my car right there in the handicap parking. I said to DH, “That looks just like Josh from easywdw.com! I’ll check his blog when we get back home to see!”

josh September 4, 2011 at 6:16 pm

I don’t think so…I’m almost always in a navy polyester polo and either green or khaki solid color shorts.

Anna September 4, 2011 at 8:49 pm

It could have been a navy polo, and I could be wrong about the “color” of the shorts. But oh well, turns out you *were* there that night after all though. How funny!!! :-)

josh September 4, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Yeah, if it was a kid with a camera in his left hand and a black backpack off of the right shoulder then it very well could have been me, especially if it was a strikingly attractive person.

Ginette September 5, 2011 at 3:25 pm

you are so funny!

sherry September 12, 2011 at 1:25 pm

thanks so much for the useful info. I keep skipping Fantasmic not wanting to deal with crowds and having to sit there an hour before hand but just might make the trek on my upcoming trip

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