We return to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to check out some recent additions to Backlot Express. We’ll take note of a handful of other changes along the way. We recently took a pretty good look at the Studios’ culinary landscape in a variety of posts:
- We started with a table service restaurant update, which included fresh reviews that pit 50’s Prime Time and Sci-Fi Dine-In against each each.
- We visited ABC Commissary, where there might be a surprising amount of variety, including Teriyaki Shrimp Bowls and Beef Empanadas.
- The Woody’s Lunch Box review in Toy Story Land includes a look at everything offered during breakfast.
- I also have an overarching Studios quick service update. Just about everything in that post is still accurate, with the exception of Backlot Express and Fairfax Fare, which we’ll take a look at here.
Backlot Express is one of a few major quick service operations at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and one that offers plentiful indoor and outdoor seating.
When choosing a quick service destination, I think comfort goes a long way, which is why you’ll rarely find me at Woody’s Lunch Box. With this many outdoor tables, and even more out of frame, there’s typically plenty of room to enjoy the covered outdoor seating at Backlot. With the number of people holding tables before they’ve even ordered from one of the two registers at Woody’s Lunch Box, I’ve never been able to sit and enjoy my food during lunch or dinner.
Indoor seating is typically available, though it may be a little difficult to find a table during peak lunch time on busier days.
Backlot Express currently operates from 11am through 7pm, which means it closes an hour before the rest of the Park. Keep that in mind and double check the Times Guide if you’re planning on eating dinner here.
One other advantage – Backlot Express is the only quick service at the Studios where you can refill your own fountain beverage.
A couple of years ago, Disney introduced a menu loosely themed to Star Wars, given the fact that the quick service is situated just outside Jedi Training Academy and Star Tours. Despite its location, the theming never made a tremendous amount of sense given the fact that Backlot Express isn’t themed to the space opera in any way whatsoever.
Only a couple of the items ever carried Star Wars designations, like the “Dark Side Chicken and Waffles,” pictured here with a Darth Vader indentation.
These “Corellian Spice Fries – Parmesan, Garlic, and Parsley-seasoned Fries Tossed-to-Order” were available for a short while.
You could have gotten in on this “Galactic” salad, which doesn’t look particularly appetizing. I might want to punt this into space where it belongs.
Last month, the last remnants of the Star Wars menu were removed, which means the salad arrives closer to Arizona than Tatooine. What was the Royal Guard Burger is now “just” the Backlot Burger, though the toppings and cost are the same. We also gain the “Chicken Breast Strips and Biscuit” and “Chicken Breast Strips” in favor of the Dark Side Chicken and Waffles. The Cuban Sandwich replaces the Hot Dog. We also have a couple of new desserts. This all sounds positive.
Here’s the Cuban Sandwich and Chicken and Biscuits along with the two new desserts.
First up, we have what is known online as the $11.49 “Chicken and Biscuits – Homestyle Buttermilk Biscuits smothered in Country Gravy finished with a Spicy Strawberry Glaze and Bacon Crumbles.”
These are your standard issue Disney chicken tenders covered in what they describe as a “Spicy Strawberry Glaze.” The tenders themselves are pretty good – there’s a thin layer of crispy coating around what is typically juicy chicken that doesn’t “feel” overly processed. The Glaze is an interesting choice, combining the natural sweetness of the berry with a surprisingly peppery kick. It’s a bold flavor profile that is a little outside what most people are probably expecting with Chicken and Biscuits. The Country Gravy adds a creamy, salty component that helps ease some of the spice from the Glaze and the Bacon Crumbles on top add even more of a familiar, meaty quality. There’s one buttery biscuit cut up and placed underneath the three tenders and another whole biscuit placed off to the side. Both did an admirable job of holding up to the chicken, though this is probably a fork and knife affair for the most part. Overall, this is a nice change of pace and a very filling meal that doesn’t “feel” nearly as bad for you as it probably is. The Strawberry Glaze adds a nice, fresh quality to the proceedings and the Country Gravy is on the lighter side. I would happily order this dish again and it’s a good value for the money. Note that unlike the other sandwiches, it doesn’t come with a side of fries. The biscuits are it.
Your other new-ish sandwich option is this $12 “Cuban Sandwich – Classically-pressed Roasted Pulled Pork, Sliced Ham, Swiss, Pickles and Mustard served with French Fries.”
This was another substantial portion – there’s two of these halves sandwiched (GET IT) into the carton along with a pile of crispy fries. Back in the day, also known as 2016, I was a big fan of the sandwiches at Studio Catering Co., which closed along with most of the Backlot and Streets of America areas to make way for Star Wars and Toy Story. Surprisingly, this sandwich was on point as well. The bread was nice and thin with a light, crispy quality. There’s plenty of flavorful Sliced Ham to line the bottom of each half with the roasty Pulled Pork spilling out of the sandwich on top. Underneath the top piece of bread is a thick layer of crunchy, briny pickles and what may be an overwhelming amount of tangy mustard. I like putting “too much” mustard on my sandwiches and even I was like, “This is a lot of mustard.” Overall, I was impressed by the offering. It’s a terrific alternative to a burger and “feels” like a lot more effort is put into it than your basic deli sandwich. It’s another dish that I would order again and sizable enough that you could probably share it, particularly considering all of the snacks and treats available around the Park.
The $11 “Southwest Salad with Chicken – Mixed Greens topped with Grilled Chicken Breast, Crisp Wonton, Black Bean Relish and Avocado served with Vinaigrette Dressing” is also available without the chicken for two dollars less.
I’ve had some bad luck with Backlot Express salads over the years. I bestowed the “worst salad of all time” award to the Cucumber and Cantaloupe Salad from a few years ago and said that the Galactic Salad would have held that honor if the previous salad had never existed.
This was very much not that. All of the ingredients were remarkably fresh with plenty of crisp lettuce providing a nice bed for the seasoned chicken.
If I was going to lodge a complaint, and I will since this is still easywdw.com, it would be that the avocado was “too cold” and probably at one point frozen. If it wasn’t frozen, then it’s kept cold enough to retain its bright green color. However cold it might have been, the flavor was still rich with the appropriate, creamy texture. The “Crisp Wonton” was more like tortilla strips, providing a nice hearty crunch to the crispy lettuce. The Black Bean Relish with Onions and Tomatoes added even more flavor. The weakest component might have been the chicken. The five strips were obviously defrosted and probably microwaved, limp and flavorless on top of the rest of the salad. Of note is the amount of garlic flavor in the salad dressing. You’ll want a piece of gum or a breath mint. I don’t think anybody was appreciating my presence on Star Tours after I finished this one. Overall, it was another impressive dish – a large portion of fresh ingredients intelligently put together. I’d recommend it with or without the Chicken.
The $4.49 “Peanut Butter Brownie – Peanut Butter Brownie topped with Chocolate Candies” is one of two new desserts.
While the words “Peanut Butter” comprise the first two words of the name and appear again to start the description, the peanut butter flavor is solely found in the Reece’s Pieces on top of the chocolate brownie. That was a little disappointing – we were expecting a layer of peanut butter inside the dense, rich brownie. On the plus side, it’s another sizable, shareable dessert for under five dollars. There’s more interesting desserts around, but if you’re looking for something heavy on the chocolate with peanut butter candy on top, this would definitely fill that void.
The $5 “Key Lime Verrine – Layers of Key Lime Custard and Graham Cracker finished with Whipped Cream and a White Chocolate Garnish served in a Verrine Cup” was our single disappointment from the new menu. The graham cracker, which is probably supposed to represent the pie crust, was ground down to an incredibly fine dust and the Key Lime Custard was thin with only a faint, tart lime flavor. The punch of vanilla in the Whipped Cream was the most prominent flavor and while the White Chocolate crunch thing on top added a needed textural contrast, there wasn’t nearly enough of it to go around.
It wasn’t necessarily “bad,” and you may prefer the fine texture of the crust against the light flavors of the cream more than we did. It remains a small cup for the $5 ask.
Backlot offers an assortment of alcoholic beverages.
I typically recommend going with beer at quick service outlets. Otherwise, you’re typically in for a sugar bomb that’s light on the alcohol, like we have here with the $10.25 Vodka Lemonade with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Guava, and Odwalla Lemonade.
Your typical lineup of sodas, juices, etc. are also available at these current prices.
Overall, the new additions to Backlot Express are mostly winners, offering unique flavors and filling meals that aren’t necessarily “heavy.” Disney could have phoned in the Chicken and Biscuits, but they went the extra mile with the Strawberry Gastrique. Likewise, they could have added a basic cold turkey club or something, but instead went with a nice hot sandwich using ingredients that hadn’t previously been offered here.
While it’s not new, 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 worth a look. The Herb-cheese pesto is again heavy on the garlic, but it’s a ton of fresh cheese, thick-cut juicy tomatoes, and arugula in between two thick pieces of chewy ciabatta.
Here’s what is now the $14 “Backlot Burger – 1/3 lb Angus Beef Burger topped with Barbecued Pork, Pepper Jack Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato and Pickles served with Carrot Sticks or French Fries.” It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but the four strips of bacon help mask the flavors of your usual dry Disney burger and the Barbecued Pork adds some tang along with some much-needed moisture. It’s not worth going out of your way to try, but I think it’s worth the extra $2 over the regular burger unless you’re particularly adverse to pork.
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” is incredibly dry and flavorless, in my experience. It would be the last entree that I would order here.
While Hollywood Studios may get a bad rap on the quick service front, I think Backlot is now a bit of a hidden gem.
Sunset Ranch Market is the name of the outdoor food court located on the left side of Sunset Boulevard as you head towards Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
Rosie’s All-American Cafe is the outlet you’ll find in the back left of the area.
If you’re looking for that Chili-Cheese Foot-long All-Beef Hot Dog that we lost at Backlot, then you’ll find it here. My thoughts on the other menu items can be found here. That Fried Green Tomato Sandwich is actually pretty good.
Backlot’s Key Lime Verrine is also available here.
Verrine life continues next door at Catalina Eddie’s, where a Lemon Cheesecake version is available. This is also exactly the same pizza as what was previously served at PizzeRizzo.
Eddie’s remains a pizzeria that doesn’t stock pizza sauce, so you’re going to have to dunk those Breadsticks in Ken’s Caesar.
We skipped Pretzel Palooza, which is the snack cart located across from Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. They offer the popular Cream Cheese Stuffed Pretzel along with the rest of this menu.
What was once Sunshine Day Cafe is now Sunshine Day…Bar.
It’s a classier setup than all of those temporary bars set up around the Park.
A few canned beer selections are available. Bud Light and a Goose Island are also on draft.
Fairfax Fare is a major part of Sunset Ranch Market, though it’s decidedly less popular with its Latin-inspired menu than it was back in its barbecue days.
The Pork Tamale is a recent addition and we have yet another Verrine, which again refers to a “small, thick-walled glass container with no base, whose purpose is to hold a solid or liquid dish rather than a drink.”
As I mentioned during our afternoon arrival touring strategy session, that also includes a look at what you can expect if you’re trying to ride all three Toy Story Land attractions at the end of the night, the $11.49 Pork Tamale – served with Ranchero Sauce, fresh Mexican Cheese, Cilantro Sour Cream, Cilantro Rice and Black Beans” is an overwhelming portion. There’s two full tamales that stretch underneath the pile of rice full of what ends up being pretty bland pork. Fortunately, the Ranchero Sauce brings a little spice and the creamy Queso Fresco adds a bit of tang. I ended up adding a couple packets of the provided Texas Pete’s Hot Sauce, but this should be plenty of food for two people to share as a pretty significant meal. I would have liked some bolder flavors, but bland is less likely to be returned, and that’s probably where we’re at with most Disney quick service meals.
There’s been some nice additions to the quick service options available at Disney’s Hollywood Studios over the last month or so. Everyone that I’ve talked to has enjoyed the new offerings at Backlot Express and Verrine-lovers are in luck Park-wide.
While we started discussing Magic Kingdom snacks a week or two ago, it came to my attention that we’d be seeing a lot of changes this weekend, so I held off on continuing that series. We’ll pick it back up next.