We return to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to check out what we can expect to find on the fast food front.
Earlier this month, we took a look at the table service restaurants at the Studios, which included new reviews of Sci-Fi Dine-In and 50’s Prime Time Cafe.
I’ll briefly touch base with ABC Commissary, but I ran a separate review of what that quick service offers in this post. Some of the offerings there, including this Teriyaki Shrimp Bowl, might surprise.
We begin on Sunset Boulevard with Sunset Ranch Market, the open-air food court where you’ll find the widest variety of items if you’re willing to wait in five or six different lines.
Historically, there’s been plenty of picnic tables in the shared seating area to satisfy demand, but things have gotten considerably busier since PizzeRizzo closed for “seasonal operation” earlier this year. While PizzeRizzo was not particularly popular, hundreds of people a day still ate there. And now that they need to find somewhere else to go, the other quick services have become that much busier. I think Sunset Ranch Market has felt the brunt of it, in part because it’s the only location to get quick service pizza in the Park and its location is convenient to two of the big name rides.
Anaheim Produce is the first of the various kiosks/stands that you’ll run into on the left as you head down Sunset Boulevard towards Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
Anaheim Produce opens at 10am, which is 60 to 90 minutes earlier than most other quick services, kiosks, and carts, which can lead to some long lines early in the morning as guests cram in for an opportunity to order Breakfast Churros and Hard Ciders. “Featured” is a relative term, I suppose, as we look down the list of “Craft Beers.” With BaseLine Tap House now open in Grand Avenue, there isn’t much of a reason to look elsewhere for beer, particularly when you consider that all of these are served in cans for a minimum of nine dollars.
The Frozen Golden Margarita and Seasonal Frozen Beverage don’t pack much of a punch these days, but they’re among my favorite frozen alcoholic beverages as they’re typically served with that perfect Icee consistency and tend to “feel” less sugary than other options.
Plus the Margarita still comes with a salted rim and a lime wedge. What a life. The Mango is my favorite of the seasonal flavors – nice and refreshing as temperatures heat up – assuming that they ever cool down, of course. Today’s high is 85 degrees. It’s the first week of January.
For years, Fairfax Fare was the most popular of the four major outlets that comprise Sunset Ranch Market, serving similar barbecue to what Cosmic Ray’s offered back in its chicken and ribs heyday.
For a little more than two years now, the menu has taken a Latin turn:
It looked like ABC Commissary was going to be the go-to for barbecue in the Park, but that quick service quickly did away with the chicken in favor of more fried food during Toy Story Pizza Planet’s conversion over to PizzeRizzo.
Here’s an aerial of entrees one through three on the menu.
The $11.79 “Mojo Pulled Pork Sandwich – Latin-inspired Pulled Pork topped with Peppers and Onions served with Fire-roasted Corn Medley and Sweet Plantains” is what I recommend. The pork is legitimately good quality, lean, and tender tossed with a spicy blend of peppers, onions, cumin, and vinegar, among other ingredients.
The $10 “Fairfax Salad – Pulled Pork, Wedge Salad, Bacon, Fire-roasted Corn Medley, Crispy Tortilla Strips and Cheddar served with a Jalapeño Ranch Dressing” is a sleeper hit that I always recommend. It’s also available without the pork for two dollars less. The tang of the pork works surprisingly well against the mildly spicy, creamy ranch dressing and the crunch of the tortilla chips. It’s surprisingly filling too.
The various $11.29 Rice Bowls are a lot of food that look the part, but the flavor has been bland in my experience and there’s no fixin’s bar like at Pecos Bill to help liven things up. Still, this is a nice departure from your standard burger and nugget fare and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Speaking of nugg life, we’ll run into those just a few steps away at Rosie’s All-American Cafe.
The Fried Green Tomato Sandwich is another entree worth keying in on, whether you’re a vegetarian or not. There’s quite a bit of spiciness from the Pepper Jack Cheese and Jalapeno Ranch, which is offset by the crunchy, juicy fried tomatoes and the crisp quality of the arugula served on a fresh roll that provides plenty of cushion for the fillings without being too thick.
This carton of “Onion Petals” is an off-menu item that’s available via mobile order on the My Disney Experience app or if you ask at the register. I think the batter is too thick to work by themselves, but you may have better luck.
The drink lineup is fairly standard with the addition of some of the Frozen Holiday Fun items available for a few more days.
Next door, you’ll find Catalina Eddie’s, serving up Disney’s standard reheated pizzas.
I think that I remain the only person amused by the fact that Eddie does not stock pizza sauce at his pizzeria and the breadsticks are instead served alongside a tub of Ken’s Caesar Salad Dressing.
Rounding out your Sunset Ranch selections, we have Hollywood Scoops, with a menu in the vicinity of Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, perhaps with less charm.
This picture of the $6.79 Brownie Sundae comes with one of my favorite stories about my early blogging career.
Occasionally, I carry this Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II lens with me. The minimum focusing distance is about six feet, which means the camera has to be that far away from whatever it is that I’m taking a picture of for it to be in focus. So I’m standing there in the middle of the seating area for Sunset Ranch Market, looking as creepy as ever as I struggle to wield this monstrosity in order to take a picture of a six dollar fast food sundae 6+ feet away.
The quality, though. That’s why you pay the big bucks.
If you’re looking for a beer or cocktail, pay special attention to the placards in front of the registers. Fairfax Fare typically offers the two cocktails on the left, along with a 16-ounce can of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
Catalina Eddie’s brings slightly different choices.
If you’re not quite sure if you want a hot dog at Fairfax Fare, but might just 15 steps later, then “KRNR The Rock Station” might be for you in the form of the trailer that you’ll see just about parallel to the exit from Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. For those of us just after a drink without the pretense, you’ll also find a simple Jack and Coke along with some frozen beverages with or without rum, whiskey, or vodka. There’s also soft serve ice cream, sold separately.
“For those about to rock. FIRE! We have a $10.25 Jack and Coke for yooouuu.” Maybe that won’t be my next single.
Speaking of ice cream, here’s what you’re looking at on the novelty front along with some bananas and draft beer selections.
Here’s the menu at the cart outside the exit of what was once Great Movie Ride. The Studios was once the last bastion of the theme park Stuffed Pretzel with Cream Cheese, but they have recently returned to Magic Kingdom, usually at Cheshire Cafe. It’s still a bit odd to see Safari Amber advertised here, particularly since it’s just Budweiser’s generic red ale that a number of restaurants, theme parks, etc. re-brand under their own name. Disney’s You Should Have Bailed Ale has a ring to it here at the Studios.
Here’s another cart in the area in front of the Grauman Chinese Theater, this time with Glazed Almonds.
Another menu with some holiday items featured. The refillable Popcorn Buckets remain a thing with the $10 price and $2 refills.
We move west..or east…or whatever direction Echo Lake is located based on the angle of the sun to stop by what is now known as “just” Dockside Diner. You might remember that it used to be sponsored by Min & Bill.
It’s more Hot Dogs and Pulled Pork Nachos, just like James Cagney used to eat on the set of The Public Enemy.
The $11 “Loaded Chili-Cheese Nachos served with Guacamole, Pico de Gallo and Sour Cream” are a shareable snack or sizable meal.
Here’s what’s going on drink-wise.
There’s another opportunity to order a simple Jack & Coke, along with a Blue Island Iced Tea that is virtually undrinkable. The Kahlua and Baileys Milk Shake is tasty, but doesn’t pack much of a punch for $13.25 plus tax. If you’re after a cocktail, I’d head to one of the popup bars, where cast members are typically more likely to tip the wrist towards a heavy pour in exchange for a better tip.
Only the S’mores Brownie will likely continue being offered after the holiday season.
Dinosaur Gertie perches herself on the same water.
This would be a fun location for some limited time ice cream treats, but you’ll just find ice cream novelties and soft serve at the moment. Still, there’s no better place to grab a Cone or a Cup.
Oasis Canteen, to the right of the entrance to Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, has offered a variety of very different menus over the last few years.
But it’s been back to Funnel Cakes for a while now with the two premium $8.49 options still good for a snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan. Those are among the best values both in economic terms and pure sugar calories for your money.
While I just recommended avoiding the assorted cocktails at the various quick services and kiosks, I have a soft spot (NO PUN INTENDED) for the $12.75 Dreamsicle. The tart orange juice contrasts really nicely with the sweet vanilla soft serve along with about an ounce of vodka that is easily lost in the creaminess of the melting ice cream and bright citrus flavor of the juice. It makes for a refreshing experience.
Backlot Express is one of exactly two operating quick services that offer indoor seating and the Studios’ only quick service where the fountain drinks are refillable yourself. A couple minor Star Wars “touches” have survived the original menu makeover, largely just in name.
Originally, the Royal Guard Burger was served on this dark “Pumpernickel Bun” that I deemed too bread-y, too dry, and somehow at the same time unable to stay together under the moisture from the hamburger slime, oozing beef glop, and pickles. It was not very good.
These days, this is what the $14 “Royal Guard Burger – 1/3 lb. Angus Beef Burger topped with Barbecued Brisket, Pepper Jack Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato and Pickles served with Carrot Sticks or French Fries” looks like. It’s not worth specifically seeking out, but the tangy barbecue sauce and four strips of bacon help improve the flavor of your standard Disney hamburger brick along with a little extra spice from the pepper jack cheese.
This generic chicken sandwich picture, which I think I could use for any quick service chicken sandwich, is actually of the $11.49 “California Chicken Club” Grilled Chicken topped with Bacon, Guacamole, Pepper Jack Cheese, Cilantro Aïoli, Pickled Red Onions and Lettuce on a Brioche Bun served with Carrot Sticks or French Fries.”
This is a relatively new addition, but is instantly forgettable as the chicken is dry and the various sauces and toppings don’t do much to add flavor. “It’s a meal,” but that’s about the best thing that can be said about it.
The $10 “Vegetarian Caprese Sandwich – Marinated fresh Mozzarella, Vine-ripe Tomatoes, Herb-cheese Pesto, and Arugula on Ciabatta Bread served with Carrot Sticks or French Fries” is a better choice, though what they’re calling “Herb-cheese Pesto” has been a little heavy-handed in my experience with a lingering garlicky aftertaste.
For a while, Disney’s online menu for Backlot promised a Cuban Sandwich and Fried Chicken Biscuits, but neither entree ever actually appeared on the menu, It may be a sign of what’s to come.
BaseLine Tap House is my second favorite theme park spot to grab a beer with Nomad Lounge still topping that list.
The California-centric beer list is a surprisingly solid one, though I was a little disappointed that they didn’t offer more holiday beers for the season. It’s possible that Winter Wonderlands and Jubelales wouldn’t sell well given 80+ degree highs.
I did give the one beer that they’ve added in the last few months a try in the North Coast Red Seal Ale, which is a sweet, hoppy beer up front with a floral, spicy, mildly bitter aftertaste. It’s not a personal favorite, but it’s worth a try in a flight.
Most surprising about Baseline is the high quality of the food items served.
Erin and I recently returned to the $10 “California Cheese and Charcuterie Plate – Toma Farmstead Cheese, Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese, Laura Chenel’s Sonoma Goat Cheese, Chorizo and Calabrese Salami, Cornichons, Grapes and Toasted Baguettes,” which I think remains a fantastic value for the money with its attractive plating and nice assortment of quality meats and cheeses. It pairs really nicely with a beer flight, pictured in back.
You can pull up my full BaseLine review, with pictures and reviews of everything on the menu, in this post.
PizzeRizzo remains closed. It didn’t reopen for the busy Christmas season, which means we’re unlikely to enjoy its Rat Pizza until Galaxy’s Edge opens sometime much later this year.
I reviewed just about everything on the menu at ABC Commissary in this recent post, so I won’t repeat everything here. But I would reiterate that some of the dinner entrees may surprise you.
Trolley Car Cafe on Hollywood Boulevard is the Park’s Starbucks location.
Drinks may even be less expensive than your local store. With the cost of a Regular Diet Coke now up to $3.99, some of these beverages become even more attractive. I think I’d take a 24-ounce Strawberry Acai Refresher for a dollar more, though the wait to order and receive your beverage makes a stop a little more inconvenient.
Of course, you can make a solid living simply reviewing the various cupcakes and baked treats that regularly spring up here.
Lines for the various Joffrey’s stands are typically shorter, though you’ll find fewer size options.
There’s a stand across from the Tower of Terror.
And one over there, past Walt Disney Presents and across from the entrance to Toy Story Land, that should soon see more traffic with the opening of Metroville in the old Pixar Place space on January 18th, in addition to the snack stand that’s now out from behind walls on the left.
Here’s the rest of the standard Joffrey’s menu. The “Alcohol Beverages” are actually some of the better choices in the Park with the ability to “make it a double” for two dollars more. That’s more booze than you’re going to get for twelve bucks than just about anywhere else, save for the occasional temporary bar setup.
I reviewed everything on the breakfast menu at Woody’s Lunch Box in this recent review.
Here’s a reminder of what that menu looks like. While Woody is much less busy during breakfast, I don’t think the quality or the prices of the items make this a “must do,” particularly when you consider that wait times are only rising at the attractions during the first 90 minutes of operation.
The lunch/dinner menu is a solid one, but with so few tables that are all outdoors, it’s not a place that I like to find myself.
That covers the highs and lows of Hollywood Studios quick service. If anything, a visit to the Park may be a good excuse to order up a quintessential part of the theme park experience in the theme park hamburger. On the other hand, there are five or six entrees that I would put near the top of the quick service options resort-wide. And if you’re stopping by the Studios for just a few hours, you could get away with visiting BaseLine Tap House to share a Charcuterie Platter and Steak Puff and do pretty well for yourself before stopping elsewhere for a heavier meal.
We’ll get over to see what’s on the menu at Animal Kingdom next.