Since I don’t value my mental health or the number that I see when I log in to my bank account, we’re off to ABC Commissary at Disney’s Hollywood Studios…with a dinner reservation.
ABC Commissary reopened back on June 2nd, after undergoing a refurbishment that lasted a little over a month. The chairs, tables, and carpet were replaced, along with what I’m guessing was their best attempt at removing 20+ years of tourist/blogger grime. You could probably make a quip about putting lipstick on a pig, but that seems offensive to the pig. Fortunately, the Commissary now “feels” less rundown than it would have as recently as April of this year. I don’t think they’re on the verge of selling prime beef, but the cafeteria vibe is lessened a bit with the introduction of the darker greens, blues, and blacks and we have a little more of an upscale feel. The faux marble look on the bottom right of the image, around the beverage station, is a nice touch.
Here’s Disney’s own image of what the space previously looked like. If you were to call 1989 and ask for it to throw up on your middle school lunch room, I think this is just about what you’d get. You’ll notice that the lamps, palm trees, and plants haven’t changed since the quick service opened.
As has been the case for a few years now, ABC Commissary offers two different menus with two slightly different versions of service depending on when you visit. Before 4pm, you’ll experience the usual counter service…service, where you’ll simply walk up to the register, pay, pick up your food, and then decide if you want to consume it. Mobile order is also an option if you feel like either you or the cast member taking your order will be embarrassed by the fact that either of you are currently present at ABC Commissary. Beginning at 4pm, a “fast-casual” experience takes over.
Disney was very excited about this, going so far as to call it “exciting:”
Keep in mind that ABC Commissary has offered a “fast-casual dinner” for over three years now; I first wrote about it in 2016, concluding that “I’m not sure it’s going to be debatable that ABC now serves the best quick service dinner at Hollywood Studios – both in terms of quality and service.” I followed that up two years later, concluding in 2018 that, “you can do pretty well for yourself at ABC Commissary.” So I may need to stop writing this review as if we were 1989.
During lunch, the menu is straightforward, largely offering Disney’s standard array of burgers, chicken sandwiches, and fried food, along with a single vegan entree and an interesting take on the salad. A rib platter also finds its place on the menu as the most expensive quick service entree outside of Galaxy’s Edge.
For full reviews of all of these items, see this review.
I described the Barbecue Ribs Platter as a “stupid amount of food,” given the three-story tall tower of very fatty, very saucy, very meaty ribs. It’s quite a bit of food that’s better at dinner when metal cutlery replaces the plastic at lunch. I’d consider it on the Dining Plan, but I’m not sure the value is there out of pocket compared to spending about $19 on a table service entree at either Sci-Fi Dine-In or 50’s Prime Time. I compare and contrast both of those dinner experiences here.
The Chicken Strips and Chicken Club Sandwich are incredibly bland and probably best skipped, while the Mediterranean Salad actually offers an interesting assortment of ingredients.
You can pull up my review of the Power Pack, which is a good option on the go, in addition to the Desserts and Happy Daze Specialty Drink, as part of this review.
Now focusing on the “fast-casual” dinner experience, I approached the makeshift reservation desk at 5:15pm with a 5:15pm reservation. Most of the path inside is now roped off, so you’re funneled into a conversation with the greeter. If you’re planning on eating dinner at ABC Commissary, even if you don’t make the decision until a couple of hours before, then I’d go ahead and make a reservation online, here. Day-of reservations are plentiful and it’s likely that you won’t need one at all, but they can’t turn you away with a reservation confirmation number, so you might as well guarantee your presence. Without a reservation, they can always say that they can’t accommodate you, even if a million tables are available. It took only long enough for the both of us to laugh at the preposterousness of having a reservation for one person at ABC Commissary to get checked in, which was about ten seconds. During much busier times of day, a short line may develop.
During dinner service, you’ll order at the register just like you would at virtually every other quick service.
Unlike Woody’s Lunch Box, which is going to operate with two registers whether there’s one person in line or one hundred thousand, the Commissary can scale up their operation as necessary. When I ordered, two registers were in use. When I exited, they were rocking three.
I’m not real sure where “fast” comes into play. I was standing there, waiting to order my “food,” when I counted at least eight trays waiting to be delivered to tables. The big difference between lunch and dinner is that a cast member will ideally deliver the food to you wherever you’re sitting.
After placing your order, you’ll be given the same table tracker as every other night since November of 2016.
One potentially positive change to ABC since April of this year is the addition of the fountain drink station, where you can refill your own beverage.
Iced Tea, Coffee, and Hot Chocolate are also available.
In a step backwards, you’ll be responsible for picking up your own silverware and napkins.
Before this “new,” “exciting” offering took over in June, silverware wrapped neatly in a napkin was delivered to the table along with the food. Obviously, having to grab your own knives and forks isn’t a deal breaker, but it did help differentiate the service from virtually every other fast food meal available at the Parks.
Several of the entrees are upgraded after 4pm, both in the number of ingredients and the price. During lunch, the average entree would set you back $12.91. At dinner, the average is $14.42. The Land and Sea, Barbecue Ribs, Mediterranean Salad, and Vegan Burger all reappear, while the Southwest Barbecue Burger, Shrimp Teriyaki Bowl/Vegan Teriyaki Bowl, and Pot Roast are new additions.
The kids also add the Uncrustables and Macaroni and Cheese, in addition to the Barbecue Pork Quesadilla. Southwestern Steak Fries and Mediterranean Hummus are also added to the mix, and the desserts get switched up.
Our Happy Daze is still available, at least.
The $16.49 “Pot Roast – Slow-cooked Pot Roast served with Root-Vegetable Mashed Potatoes, Brown Gravy and garnished with Crispy Onion Straws” is the only brand-new item added with the refurbishment. Somewhat shockingly, it was actually quite good. There was a sizable hunk of tender, hearty Pot Roast laid on top of a considerable amount of creamy mashed potatoes. I appreciated the firmness of the beef – it wasn’t stringy at all, but it also didn’t immediately disintegrate in the mouth, which is sometimes the case. There may be something to say for “melt in your mouth pot roast,” but I like to have a little something to chew. A fork was all you needed to cut it. The creamy Mashed Potatoes provided a sturdy platform for the beef, adding parsnips and carrots for a lighter, more fibrous bite. The Brown Gravy was a little on the salty side – a little more red wine would have gone a long way, but the juices only enhanced the meaty flavor of the beef. It might be my favorite quick service entree outside of Galaxy’s Edge, and certainly the best beef entree. It will be all the more comforting as temperatures cool a bit this fall.
The dinner-exclusive Shrimp Teriyaki might also surprise you as a potentially lighter, filling option.
Vegans should be impressed by their Cashew version as well.
Apparently, cast members will clean up after you finish. I ended up busing my own table, which might have been a mistake as it was a little gross to set my bowl down with all of the others still covered in some amount of gunk.
ABC Commissary’s dinner service was re-announced back on March 28th, when Disney still expected Galaxy’s Edge to fill the Parks on both coasts. Offering reservations gave potential guests a guaranteed eatery to “enjoy” dinner, when other locations might have been overrun. Of course, those crowds have still not materialized, and offering reservations for a quick service with as much capacity as ABC Commissary is a little silly. Moving forward, if you’re looking for a quick service dinner spot, then ABC isn’t a bad choice. Several of the entrees, including the Rice Bowls, Pot Roast, BBQ Burger, and Mediterranean Salad are unique options that are satisfying, typically for a couple more dollars than you’d pay at the likes of Backlot Express, where the average entree is more than three dollars less. On the Disney Dining Plan, you can’t do much better than ABC’s Ribs or Pot Roast, and at around $15 for other entrees, there’s also some “value” there.
Atmospherically, it’s basically the same ABC Commissary that you’ve always known, now with a lot more cast members walking around searching for people to deliver food to after 4pm. I’d prefer to simply place my order and then pick it up myself. Seeing 20+ entrees sitting there, waiting for a cast member to pick them up and walk them over, wasn’t the best introduction to the experience. Offering or requiring reservations probably only confuses people. On the other hand, cancelling reservations that people have already made would also confuse them. Like FastPass+, a reservation does make people “feel” like they’re locked into whatever they’ve booked in advance. If you think ABC might be in the cards, book a reservation on the day of. If you change your mind, stop by the quick service and they can take you off the list without a no-show fee.
Overall, the fast-casual dinner setup comes with the potential for a couple of positives. It’s a little more relaxing to be able to sit back while someone else is in charge of delivering the food. Of course, this relies on someone doing so quickly, and being able to find you at your table via the tracker. The “real” silverware beats plastic. If there’s a problem with your order, you should be able to flag down one of the many roving cast members to fix it without having to go all the way back to the counter. ABC Commissary is also air-conditioned and typically has plenty of room to sit, particularly closer to 4pm and during the last hour that it’s open.
Note that the Commissary typically posts truncated operating hours, closing one to two hours before the rest of the Park, depending on the closing time. If the Studios is closing at 10pm, then the Commissary should close at either 8pm or 9pm, while Backlot Express is open until 9:30pm, and the quick services that make up Sunset Ranch Market, like Fairfax Fare, Catalina Eddie’s, and Rosie’s All-American Cafe operate through Park close.
ABC Commissary is far removed from the dud that it would have been considered 5+ years ago, but there are more interesting options available at somewhat similar price points. If you don’t want to pay the tip and would prefer to be on your way sooner, then the Commissary does make sense, particularly with a quick service Dining Plan meal to spare.