Hmmmmmm…time apparently flies. I was about to start this review by saying that we had visited just last month to review some new baked potato options at what is the most popular piece of Sunset Ranch Market on Sunset Boulevard. But that post was apparently written back in August. But with the recent opening and review of PizzeRizzo, in addition to some major changes covered in the review of the fast casual dinner service at ABC Commissary, I thought it would be prudent to cover some other changes to Studios dining. This all supposes you stay long enough to get hungry, of course. We’ll also return to Mama Melrose Ristorante Italiano and check in for a review of Minnie’s Seasonal Dine at Hollywood & Vine in the near future.
As recently as the beginning of November, Fairfax Fare served predominantly “smoked specialties.” Here’s the menu that had been offered prior to the middle of last month with the items no longer available lightly crossed off:
That leaves just three entrees intact with both desserts eliminated, in addition to the removal of the “small Southwest Salad” that was served with the potatoes.
The $9.49 Loaded Baked Potato Topped with Sour Cream, Cheddar, Bacon Bits, and a choice of Corn, Baked Beans, or Coleslaw survives the cut, while the “one Pound” version with “Beef Tri-tip” did not. At almost ten bucks, the cost is a bit difficult to stomach, but it’s a giant potato that will fill you up with pretty decent coverage on the toppings. Disney doesn’t offer a lot of entrees under this price point.
For my potato fix, I’m probably headed to Sleepy Hollow Refreshments where they’ll serve you a smaller potato with butter, cheese, and sour cream for about $3.50. On the other hand, what they serve at Fairfax is going to be at least three times as much food, which perhaps makes it a better deal than I give it credit for.
Disney foot-long hot dogs are largely ubiquitous across property, but this is actually Fairfax Fare’s version of the $11.49 Chili-Cheese Foot Long Hot Dog served with Chips. I personally prefer fries to the bag of original Lay’s, so I usually stick to Casey’s Corner, Restaurantosaurus, or the like, but the hot dogs may be large enough to share and should satisfy anyone looking for a mixed pork/chicken/beef creation. The chili perhaps leaves something to be desired – it’s on the bland side and there isn’t a ton of it scooped into the middle.
While it might not be particularly photogenic, I mention that the $8.49 Fairfax Salad – Barbecued Pulled Pork, Wedge Salad, Bacon, Roasted Corn, and Tomato Salsa, Crispy Tortilla Strips, and Cheddar served with a Jalapeño Ranch Dressing is a hidden gem and one of the best values in quick service almost every time it comes up. The pork makes it a really filling entree even if you are not typically a “salad person,” and everything is reliably fresh and flavorful. The Jalapeno Ranch is so much better than the usual Ken’s Caesar or oily vinaigrettes that permeate most quick service outlets.
But enough of the old. Let’s check out what’s new:
This is quite the change in direction.
But with the Chicken and Ribs both moving to ABC Commissary, we are basically just losing what may or may not have been the beef adorning the top of the potato. And we pick up the 16-ounce can of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in the process.
Disney seems to be adding many south-of-the-border style items to its quick services. Pecos Bill Tall Tale Cafe’s move to burritos, fajitas, and nachos was a major change, even if the outlet had offered Taco Salads in the past. Disney didn’t want to add a burger there, but ended up relenting a couple of months after the initial menu release. But even then, they added one burger topped with taco meat and another with guacamole and pepper jack. Out of all the burger combinations possible at ABC Commissary, they decided on a similar Southwest Burger over there as well. Even the pulled pork sandwich here at Fairfax is “Latin-inspired.”
The $12.49 Empanadas Platter – Beef Empanadas served with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans, Roasted Corn Salsa and Sour Cream is not exactly a new item and like a couple of other entrees that were originally offered at the short-lived Echo Lake Eats, moves over here to a “permanent” location.
With the popularity of the Beef Empanada from the Patagonia booth at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, it seems like it would make sense to just serve two of those along with some sides here at Fairfax. But while these are similar, they are not nearly as good. The layer of filling is pretty thin and the exterior lacks the crispiness that you would hope for from a freshly fried beef container. They’re topped with more of a thin sour cream based sauce than a traditional, thicker sour cream, but the sour, creamy flavor contrasted nicely with the mildly spicy beef. The small cup of black beans was a nice accompaniment that added some additional heft to the plate. I think they’re really close with this one, but they might as well substitute out the empanadas or add some cheese to create a bit of nuance in the flavor profile. They weren’t stellar, but they are a nice change of pace from most other options.
The $11.49 El Pastor Pulled Pork Sandwich – Latin inspired Pulled Pork topped with Peppers and Onions served with Roasted Corn Medley and Sweet Plantains.
I’m not a big proponent of Disney’s usual BBQ Pork Sandwich – the quality always “feels” the same as one of the lower end tubs of pork you can pick up at the grocery store for around $5 for 16 ounces. But the El Pastor version here is legitimately good quality, lean, tender pulled pork tossed with a spicy blend of peppers, onions, cumin, and vinegar, among other ingredients. The peppers and onions, which there’s an abundance of, help enhance that flavor and add some crunch in between the soft, buttery smooth bun. The sandwich was a 9.5/10 for Disney World quick service and something quite different than other options.
I’m not personally a proponent of the Roasted Corn Medley. When executed properly, the buttery, salty, slightly crispy corn is an excellent side, but I don’t think Disney can offer the freshness required to make a dish like this work. It just ends up being a bland mush that tastes faintly of corn.
I can’t remember seeing sweet plantains on a theme park menu in recent memory – these have some chew to them with a soft texture and a sweet brown sugar flavor backed up by butter and cinnamon. I thought the flavors contrasted really nicely with the spicy pork. Overall, this is one of the best quick service entrees available for those looking to get away from the standard burger/chicken nuggets/frozen pizza. Quite good, though the competition is a lot closer to the Cleveland Browns than the New England Patriots.
The Fajita Combo Platter – Pulled Pork, Grilled Chicken and Flour Tortillas served with Black Beans, Cilantro Rice, Peppers, Onions, Sour Cream and Tomato Corn Salsa.
This is a slightly different take on most of the elements that we’ve already seen in previous dishes. The Latin-inspired Pulled Pork returns along with the onions and peppers on top and a larger portion of the roasted corn medley along with the same cilantro rice as the empanadas. I would have preferred a Spanish rice, though that might be harder to pull off. I like cilantro okay, but a lot of people don’t, and the flavor is pretty bland. Some lime juice would go a long way, but the rice does pick up some of the flavors from the rest of the dish. The chicken was relatively plentiful and while it suffered from that “recently reheated” texture, the southwest spices livened up the flavor profile.
We ate here shortly after the new menu debuted, so I am not sure if they have made improvements since then. But the fajitas were served with just two small tortillas and the cast member looked like we had just told her that Bob Iger is headed to the White House when we asked for another package of two before reluctantly handing it over.
If you’re looking to eat fajitas for one meal on your trip, the offerings at Pecos Bill are superior mostly due to the toppings bar. There, you can load up on as much guacamole, shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc. as you want. At Fairfax Fare, they literally have no toppings unless you think your empanadas could use some ketchup or mayonnaise. While the fajitas are advertised as including sour cream, they didn’t, and when asked, cast behind the counter couldn’t provide any. They did have Ken’s Caesar Salad Dressing though. It goes with everything.
But for $13 at Hollywood Studios, the Fajitas Combo Platter is an above average entree at a fair price with a lot of reasonably fresh, flavorful food. I liked the Pork Sandwich more, but the fajitas offer an opportunity to try the same pork just in a different setting.
Overall, I think Fairfax Fare’s new menu is an upgrade. And if you don’t, you can always try ABC Commissary, though they just offer the one $17.19 combo rather than splitting up the chicken and ribs separately. You can always ask if an accommodation can be made. If you’re looking at two quick service meals at the Studios, Sunset Ranch Market should be on your short list. Catalina Eddie’s serves the exact same pizzas as PizzeRizzo and Rosie’s All-American Cafe does burgers and a tasty Fried Green Tomato Sandwich, in addition to chicken nuggets. So there’s a lot of variety in what basically amounts to an outdoor food court.
We may bounce around a bit with the next update.