Ultimate Foodie’s Guide to Hollywood Studios
I jokingly say to friends that their best option for a meal at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is to take the boat to Epcot’s World Showcase. Sure, it delays your food by an hour, but you get much better dining options. Generally, I believe this statement; however, several exceptions exist, including my favorite place to eat on the planet. Here’s the foodie’s guide to Hollywood Studios.
Before this year, I would have suggested that you’d best look elsewhere for Quick Service. I’ve previously ranked the top five counter service options at Hollywood Studios and found them lacking overall. During 2018, Disney introduced a new place that fundamentally changed my opinion. Let’s take a look at your best options.
I previously named this place the Best Quick Service option at the park. I’ve since recanted due to the opening of the last entry here. Still, I quite like ABC Commissary and ate there during my most recent trip to Walt Disney World. It has a deep menu for a Quick Service establishment.
You can order entrees as diverse as BBQ ribs or a chicken club. Salads, fish, and burgers are also on the menu. Plus, the setting is enjoyable for those of who grew up hearing about the golden age of television.
This place is eerily similar to ABC Commissary, only not as vibrant with menu options. You can still get a chicken club, burger, or chicken strips here. The Cuban Sandwich is also unexpectedly authentic and tasty. But the best thing available is a southern classic, Chicken and Biscuits. The Buttermilk Biscuits here aren’t on a par with Art Smith’s Homecomin’. They’re plenty good enough, though.
I loooove the place. The food isn’t what makes me happy, though. Dockside Diner features a brilliant setting of a cruise ship counter service restaurant. It’s kind of a trick, though. The seating is all on a patio, not the boat. And the food is elementary. It’s primarily hot dogs, nachos, and a pork sandwich.
Across the various foodie guides, I’ve left out most walk-up establishments with simple menus. I’m including this one because the boat will draw your attention since it’s relatively close to the park entrance, albeit after turning off of the main throughway.
This place is where you should visit if you prefer southwestern flavors. It’s got empanadas and fajitas and several other dishes that will thrill your taste buds. A lot of people perceive it as the best counter service place at the park.
I disagree for a couple of reasons. One is that the menu changes too frequently to get attached to anything. In fact, a dish I previously stated was my favorite one at Fairfax Fare is no longer available. The other reason is that you can hop the boat straight to Epcot and eat at the Mexico Pavilion, where the restaurants are substantially better. Fairfax Fare works in a pinch; people who plan better will choose to eat elsewhere, though.
I’m not even sure whether I should include this one. The former Pizza Planet closed and reimagined its previous Toy Story theme into a Muppets one. They did this a year and a few months before opening Toy Story Land, which was odd.
The new restaurant promptly bombed, and Disney has already changed it to seasonal operation. You’ll only want to eat here if A) you love the Muppets or B) really, really, REALLY want a slice of pizza. And I should warn foodies. The pizza ain’t that great.
Woody’s Lunch Box
Do you love comfort food? Does the thought of a grilled cheese sandwich warm your heart? How do you feel about tater tots? Would some tomato soup cheer you up during a rough day? Finally, what do you think of the idea of adding bacon bits to a Pop-Tart?
Let’s be honest. You answered yes to more than one of these questions, thereby explaining why Woody’s Lunch Box is THE go-to place for counter service food. When you want to eat a quick meal, this place absolutely destroys the competition at Hollywood Studios.
Just go here and order a Grilled Three-Cheese Sandwich, Potato Barrels (aka Tater Tots), and a Raspberry Lunch Box Tart. It’ll be the simplest, most delicious meal you’ve had in ages.
Table Service and Signature Dining
The sit-down restaurant options at Hollywood Studios are hit-or-miss, too. I’m excluding Baseline Tap House and Tune-In Lounge for now, as Places to Grab a Drink will be a different guide. I should point out that Tune-In Lounge DOES have a robust menu, as you’ll see in just a moment.
50’s Prime Time Café
You’ll step back in time when you visit here. The theme involves your favorite black-and-white television programs from the 1950s. You’ll feel as like part of the family when you eat here. Specifically, you’ll feel like a part of Ozzie and Harriet’s Nelson family, and that’s by design. It’s a vintage restaurant that serves heavy dishes, the kind that the Donna Reeds of the world made to satisfy their demanding, ungrateful families.
Look, I loved Marion Cunningham just as much as the next kid, which is why I adore eating here. I should warn you that 50’s Prime Time Café isn’t for everyone, though. The cast members WILL berate you. It’s part of the act. You’ll run into disapproving aunts and uncles who think you should keep your elbows off the table and eat your vegetables.
Also, the food is extremely heavy for a theme park. Dishes like meatloaf, lasagna, and pot roast are exquisite. They’re not, however, ideal for a busy theme park day. Keep this in mind when you dine here.
Pro tip: you can order off the same menu when you visit the Tune-In Lounge. It’s a great idea when you want a huge meal but didn’t get an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) for 50’s Prime Time Café.
Hollywood & Vine
Foodies frequently turn their nose up at Hollywood & Vine. The flavors here are mundane and unimpressive. Honestly, the kindest thing I can say about the food is that it’s unobtrusive. When you eat here, you’re not a foodie searching for the most exceptional flavors that your palate will ever know.
Instead, you’re a Disney lover that adores the idea of hanging out with Minnie Mouse at an exclusive party that also features friends like Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, and (of course) Mickey Mouse. The character interactions here are dynamic, and the cast members change costumes every few months to reflect the changing seasons. It’s a wonderful experience, as long as you won’t get upset about mediocre food.
The Hollywood Brown Derby
This restaurant is everything that Hollywood & Vine isn’t. The Signature Dining experience has no character interactions or spectacular theming. The conceit is that you’re a Hollywood bigwig dining at the legendary Brown Derby, an upscale restaurant chain where movie bosses famously brokered power deals.
The menu here is as high-brow as anything you’ll find at Walt Disney World. Disney even sells the original Cobb Salad recipe made famous at the Brown Derby. The Char-grilled Filet of Beef here is legendary, as is the Duck Breast. You can even find Vegetarian Pho on the menu. While it’s not my favorite place to eat, it’s unquestionably the foodie’s ultimate at Hollywood Studios.
PS: Disney lovers who are also foodies have a unique option here. You can Dine with an Imagineer on certain Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. These events sell out quickly, so you should plan ahead and book an ADR.
Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano
I’m trying not to be cynical about Hollywood Studios, I swear. It’s just that when I think of the best parts of dining at Walt Disney World, only three restaurants here spring to mind. We’ve already discussed two of them, Woody’s Lunch Box and 50’s Prime Time Café. Let me be clear that Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano is NOT the other one.
Generally, people wind up here for one of two reasons. They either want Italian food, or they want to book the Fantasmic! dining package. I want to state emphatically that if you like Italian food, this is NOT the place. You can take that aforementioned boat ride to Epcot and dine at the Italy Pavilion. Alternately, you can depart one stop earlier at the BoardWalk and feast at Trattoria al Forno. Or, head to Disney Springs, where you’ll have your pick of Italian joints like Terralina Crafted Italian and Mario & Enzo’s Ristorante.
Should you want a Fantasmic! package, Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano is the worst options. It lags far behind Hollywood & Vine and Hollywood Brown Derby as a choice. I think it’s clear that I’m not a fan of Mama Melrose’s, which has provided me with a couple of my worst dining experiences at Walt Disney World. Your mileage may vary. Please consider yourself warned if you’re thinking about trying it.
The conceit of Sci-Fi Dine-In is that you’re on a date back in the days when drive-in movie theaters were all the rage. You’ll eat inside a “convertible,” a four-seater table that looks like a hollowed out car. Your table will face a gigantic projection screen, which will play classic cartoons and movie trailers from the glory days of science-fiction. Whether you prefer The Horror of Party Beach, The Amazing Colossal Man, or Cat-Women of the Moon, you’ll get to watch all your favorite goofy clips here.
The food is up for debate, as a lot of people complain about it. Personally, I think it’s the best meal at Hollywood Studios. The Sci-Fi Appetizer Sampler is one of my favorite starters at Walt Disney World, I’m addicted to the cheeseburgers here, and the House-made Sci-Fi Candy Bar is decadent.
Actually, all of the desserts at the restaurant are glorious. For me, a classic movie lover with a sweet tooth, Sci-Fi Dine-In isn’t just my favorite restaurant at Walt Disney World. It’s my favorite one on the planet. I highly recommend that you eat here at least once for the experience. Presuming that you’re like me and adore the cuisine, it’ll become a staple of your Disney visits.