Hollywood Studios Projects Update with ABC Commissary and Fairfax Fare Reviews – 3/11/18

It hasn’t been all that long since our last visit to Hollywood Studios, but with so much emphasis on Magic Kingdom over the last week and the Flower and Garden Festival over at Epcot, I thought it would be a good opportunity to post the same exact pictures as last month along with the exact same commentary. This post goes over touring strategy if you’re planning on visiting the Park before Toy Story Land officially opens on June 30th. Part 2 follows here. If you’re planning on eating at the Studios, you might also find my recent Brown Derby lunch review of interest, particularly with several new entrees available under $25.

Wider: Here.

Here’s a look at gondola station construction as of the 11th of March. The system should be operational in 15-18 months. No word on how much it will cost to park your gondola passenger cabin should you bring your own from home and try to hook it onto the system. But I’m thinking the price will depend on whether or not you’ve seen All-Star Sports with your own eyes or not.

Literally the most interesting thing about this update is the fact that this pretzel cart faces a different direction.

The Studios is the last bastion of the “Stuffed Pretzel with Cream Cheese.” You might remember that The Lunching Pad dropped them in favor of the caramel pretzel.

In other food news, the popular Carrot Cake Cookie is available at the Trolley Car Starbucks.

Sweet Spells is supposedly shuttering in favor of an expanded retail store offering everything Toy Story. It wouldn’t surprise me if we all have to start walking around with plastic Hamm the Piggy Banks on our shoulders and if we’re not spending enough money, we’ll have to press our MagicBands to the touchpoint he’ll have on his side and Disney will deduct the appropriate amount from our accounts. The Avatar banshees were just to get us comfortable.

It’s apparently newsworthy that these intercoms and MagicBand readers have been installed outside the entrances to two of the four suspected Club 33 locations. This one is located near the Hollywood Brown Derby bathrooms and should take you up to the old Catwalk Bar area when the lounges are ready. Make sure you’ve got your $50,000 buy-in ready.

Toy Story Mania waits are still incredibly high as the ride operates with just two of its three tracks. Beginning April 9th, capacity is expected to be cut to just one track and the ride will operate as “standby only.” That should continue through the middle of May, but it could be longer.

If you’re planning on using FastPass+ over the next couple of weeks, budget 25-40 minutes.

I got in line with FastPass+ at 3:17pm with a 140-minute standby wait. Said standby line does not start on this side of the street.

That’s it over there. Two and a half hours in line.

Almost all of the queue is outdoors while Disney rearranges the inside of the building so that the entrance appears on the other side inside what will be Toy Story Land.

Please fill in all available space.

Our total experience time was 32 minutes, which is about 10 minutes longer than what it was with all three tracks operating.

It will be interesting to see how big the new Land “feels.” Here’s what current construction looks like from above.

I’m not sure if you guys are going to laugh or cry when you hear the duration of the Slinky Dog Coaster, the official name of which I’m going to have to learn.

Otherwise, that’s still it.

Disney did confirm there will be meet and greet opportunities inside the new land.

Virtually no part of Star Wars Land is visible from inside the Park. Here and here are two recent looks from above.

Chip and Dale were greeting outside what will become the very narrow entrance to Galaxy’s Edge, as they usually do these days. Goofy is closer to Star Tours.

You might have seen me practicing my climbing skills on the pyramid in Mexico over at Epcot or on the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom. I will be the first person inside Star Wars Land.

Crowds have picked up now that we’re legitimately in the midst of spring break. The queue for Star Tours spills outside with all six simulators operating.

But even with all of those people in standby and a 60-minute posted wait, our total experience time with FastPass+ was 17 minutes, which is three minutes below average.

It might take just as long to wade your way towards Star Wars Launch Bay.

Work (probably) continues inside the Chinese Theater on Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Speaking of how bad A Wrinkle in Time was, I wonder if I’m the only person that remembers Mignon Fogarty’s appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss compound possessions and whether it should be “Oprah and Gayle’s Big Adventure” or “Oprah’s and Gayle’s Big Adventure?” I am? Just checking.

It will certainly be interesting to see what the Hollywood Studios hierarchy of attractions looks like after Runaway Railway, Toy Story Land, and Galaxy’s Edge open.

It’s mind-boggling enough to imagine Hollywood Studios with more than five things to do, let alone Tower of Terror dropping to the the seventh or eighth highest priority at the Park.

It’s hard to imagine what operations at Slinky Dog are going to look like as an outdoor roller coaster basically opening over July 4th. Sure the summer ain’t what it used to be crowd-wise, but with two to three hours of weather-related downtime daily, on top of certain mechanical trouble, it’s hard to imagine things running smoothly.

Fairfax Fare, part of Sunset Ranch Market, went “Latin-inspired” about 15 months ago. The first three entrees debuted at that time.

The El Pastor Pulled Pork Sandwich is my favorite of those items. You can pull up my full review here.

The 7-Layer Rice Bowls debuted about ten months later in October 2017.

First up is the $11.29 “7-Layer Rice Bowl with Pulled Pork – Pulled Pork served over Cilantro Rice, Black Beans, Roasted Corn Medley, Pico de Gallo and Sour Cream topped with Cheddar served with warm Tortillas.” I’m not sure how evident it is, but this was a whopping portion of food that actually “felt” heavy compared to a lot of other entrees we’ve handled. And we’ve handled them all.

There’s a nice layer of spicy pulled pork mixed in with all of the other fresh ingredients. With that said, it’s pretty similar to the other offerings with the same cilantro rice, black beans, corn medley, pico de gallo, sour cream, and pulled pork as you’ll find in some of the other dishes. But this does arrive with cheese and nixes most of the peppers and onions that are a big part of the Fajitas Combo Platter. Overall, each of the components were good on their own, but I thought it was a little bland for my liking and you don’t have the Fixin’s Bar like you do at Pecos Bill to add salsa, hot sauce, more cheese, etc. But considering the Studios’ quick service landscape isn’t great, it’s certainly a nice change of pace from frozen pizzas and overcooked hamburgers.

It’s not advertised on the menu at the quick service itself, but online or via the My Disney Experience app, you’ll see that a “7-Layer Rice Bowl with Vegan Chili served over Cilantro Rice, Black Beans, Roasted Corn Medley, Pico de Gallo and Sour Cream topped with Cheddar served with warm Tortillas” is available for the same $11.29. While the chili is vegan, the whole thing is obviously not so long as it’s served with sour cream and cheese. But it is certainly a unique vegetarian option as it stands. The Vegan Chili had a distinct spiciness to it, but it was too heavy on the onions and peppers for my taste – they were greasy, soft, and overwhelmed every bite. But after scraping about half of that gunk to the side, I appreciated the boldness of the spice in the chili and it may have been better than the pulled pork version, where the meat didn’t add much to the dish other than protein. You can ask for the vegan version which omits the cheese and sour cream, in addition to rice prepared separately.

There’s also a Grilled Chicken version that tastes similar to the Pulled Pork.

They’re served with a couple of tortillas, which add some heft whether you eat them by themselves or roll up a couple of tacos. Some tortilla chips might have worked better as the toppings are more nacho-esque than anything. You can also add a 2-ounce Wholly Guacamole for a buck, which is actually a pretty good deal.

Overall, Fairfax Fare is an out-of-the-ordinary option that’s worth a look based on that fact. I don’t think anything is going to wow you, but you might be in the mood to be disappointed with Latin food rather than pizza or burgers. And it’s really not that bad – I think Disney has found that bland gets returned a lot less often than bold. You can always carry around your hot sauce and other condiments in a holster around your waist.

Elsewhere, it looked like ABC Commissary is moving to electronic menus as we would ordinarily see the static signs overhead.

You might remember that dinner is quite different than lunch with the likes of Lemon Pepper Salmon and a Chimichurri Flat-iron Steak. My full review of the dinner experience is available here.

Lunch is less interesting.

Desserts and such.

They’re also doing “Surf and Turf” in the form of a $16 Fried Plate. I reviewed the Happy Daze Cocktail along with the Kids’ Power Pack in this post and the Chicken and Ribs Combo Platter here. Those posts are from the last three-or-so-months, so they should contain some other relevant information. At least so long as you care that the Happy Daze was fruity and the Combo Platter provided a surprising amount of good food.

This time around, I went with the $9.49 “Chicken Breast Strips served with your choice of fresh Green Beans, Apple Slices or French Fries.”

They were exactly what you would expect from defrosted and baked Tyson Chicken Tenders. I was mildly disappointed that they weren’t crunchier or had some amount of flavor to them outside of a little bit of pepper. The Commissary also doesn’t offer to toss them in any sauces, so you’re left with your standard assortment. It’s food, but not much more can be said. They would be vastly improved if you could get them tossed in buffalo, sweet-chili, teriyaki, or some other kind of sauce.

The $11 “Chicken Club – Marinated Grilled Chicken Breast served on a Kaiser Roll topped with Bacon and Provolone Cheese served with Coleslaw and choice of Green Beans, Apple Slices or French Fries” may have been more disappointing, in as much as expectations were higher.

But it was incredibly bland – there’s no sauce on it and you know that Disney isn’t back there using some kind of carefully produced, flavorful marinade. But the chicken at least wasn’t pounded into the vicinity of a circle and wasn’t “literally” a defrosted patty, so there’s that. But there was no crispiness or flavor to the bacon, the cheese was low quality and not-at-all melted, and the vegetables were just kind of there. A tasty aioli would go a long way, but you’re otherwise pouring some honey mustard or barbecue sauce or something on it to salvage the situation.

But I don’t think anybody goes to ABC Commissary expecting a quality meal.

The Mango Colada is back at Anaheim Produce, which you’ll also find on the left on the walk to Tower of Terror.

I don’t know if it’s trashy, but a lot of Studios outlets are offering relatively inexpensive Jack or Bacardi with Coke. You’d think they could try a little harder, but a two ingredient mix is certainly easy to keep up with and you can leave it to this website to complain about what should be 1.5 ounces of Jack Daniel’s for about $5 more than a regular fountain beverage.

Here’s a look at the Seasonal Joffrey’s Beverages, again with the option to add booze prominently featured. You want to make it a double for $2 more.

Catalina Eddie’s, also part of Sunset Ranch Market, was finally open again. Even PizzeRizzo will be open until 7:30pm during the week leading up to Easter. I’m not even sure they did that around Christmas.

Long waits abound. 75 minutes at Tower of Terror at 4pm.

90 at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at the same time.

Here at the Studios, it’s still the calm before the storm with Toy Story Land scheduled to open in just about ten weeks. Certainly soft-open fervor will ramp up as we move through June, but it certainly looks like they’re still a ways away from finishing the roofs on the buildings, let along the first cast members in there to train.

I’m sure we’ll get over to the Studios for this same exact update before then.


  1. Mike says

    How’s the seven layer rice bowl compare, to say, Chipotle? Baring the spice, of course, just because I want to know!

  2. Beth says

    I very clearly remember the “Oprah’s and Gayle’s” versus “Oprah and Gayle’s” debate. I didn’t think I’d never see the day that you’d reference the greatest daytime talk show of all time. Also, why did they bring that poor lady on just to embarrass her regarding her punctuation skills?

  3. Dorliss Chambers says

    If you’re determined to be the first person in Star Wars land you should probably start the queue now.

    • joel says

      When Avatar opened on Memorial Day last year, They started soft openings around the 10th-15th of May if I remember right and we had DVC previews from 17th-24th. So I would guess soft opening based on that to begin around June 15th-20th.

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