Restaurant Review: Hollywood Studios’ Backlot Express
Over the past few years, Disney has prioritized the improvement of menus at their Quick Service restaurants.
The burger-and-fries joints still sell basic entrees, but the menus have expanded to feature higher-end fare, some of which is vegan-friendly.
One of the most noteworthy evolutions has taken place at Backlot Express, an opening day restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that’s better than ever.
Here’s a review of two recent trips to Backlot Express, both of which shocked me with their quality.
About Backlot Express
You’ve had more than 30 years to find Backlot Express. So, if you don’t know where it is by now, you must not have visited Hollywood Studios much.
When you enter the park, you turn left toward Echo Lake. Then, you keep walking past Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!, which hasn’t reopened yet.
If you reach Star Tours or BaseLine Tap House, you’ve gone too far.
Disney tucked Backlot Express into a corner past the Indiana Jones show, the oldest attraction at the park.
Yes, this one-two punch has existed for more than 30 years, meaning that many people have caught the show and then grabbed a bite to eat at Backlot Express.
Legitimately some of my earliest memories of Hollywood Studios involve this, and I’m not the only one.
Coke actually sponsors Backlot Express, which speaks volumes about its lingering popularity.
Check-In Process and Getting Seated
Obviously, things have changed at Backlot Express during the pandemic.
This restaurant features indoor and outdoor seating, which has proven vital over the past year.
During the earliest days of Walt Disney World’s reopening, guests flocked to the outdoor, socially distanced tables.
We have eaten here twice over the past few months and chose indoors both times, although one was by default.
In my experience, the outdoor tables fill up quickly, which bums me out a little. Some of my fondest memories here happened outside.
The interior dining option doesn’t share the same magic for me. Still, you take what you can get these days, even though things are going back to normal now.
The other factor I should mention about Backlot Express involves the operating hours.
Disney has reduced them significantly, opening the restaurant at 11 a.m. and closing it at 5 p.m. on most dates.
I suspect that this decision stems from Indiana Jones shows not running. The spillover crowds likely propped up the restaurant’s traffic.
Still, when I’ve eaten at Backlot Express, it’s been a mob each visit. The familiarity of this place provides some reassurance during trying times.
To wit, when we’ve checked in here, we’ve faced an armada of cast members. They won’t even consider allowing people inside without a Mobile Order.
You must prove that you’ve not only selected a meal here but that your My Disney Experience ordering page shows that your food is ready.
On the app, you’ll have all three bars filled in when your meal is available for pick-up. It’ll only have two bars filled once you order but before your food is ready.
Cast members are sticklers about this point, but they’re on the side of the angels here. They ensure that you’ll have a table for your meal.
The Dining Experience/Entrees
Our most recent two trips to Backlot Express involved a party of two and a party of four.
The rules have already changed since the last time we were there. At the time, cast members poured drink refills, which was a bit maddening.
You can take care of them yourself now. It’s more convenient and, if you’re like me, makes you feel less guilty.
I felt like I was imposing on a Disney employee when I needed another drink. It caused me to take smaller sips to avoid the anxiety.
We barely claimed a seat during the first visit, even with the cast member protections in place. The restaurant had reached its current capacity.
We waited for two tables to clear up before we could sit down. Even then, one cast member wiped down a table for us, only for another to tell us we couldn’t sit there.
Eventually, they cleared up the confusion, and we had a nice view of a nearby children’s birthday party meal.
As for the food, I went basic both times, ordering a cheeseburger once and Chicken Strips the next meal.
The Backlot Burger is nothing special, but I really like the Chicken Strips here. Also, the fries are among my favorites at Walt Disney World.
However, someone else at the table won the meal by ordering the Cuban Sandwich, a hidden gem at Hollywood Studios. It’s exquisite.
My wife also treasured her entrée both times, as the vegan dish here is superlative. Order the Tatooine Two Suns Hummus ANY time you can.
I’m dubious that it’ll remain a permanent entrée at Backlot Express, as it’s temporarily relocated from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It’s spectacular, though!
Overall, we were five for six on great entrees. Only the burger disappointed.
We loooove the desserts at Backlot Express. You may have low expectations for an older Quick Service park restaurant, but this place will surprise you.
Backlot Express serves a Wookie Cookie that reminds me of a Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie, only five times as big.
Seriously, I cannot eat the whole thing, and I’m kind of a moron to try. I did, though. Twice. I cannot get enough of that thing.
Remarkably, Backlot Express sells an even better dessert, the Paint Can Cake.
This tall stack of cake looks like a paint can. However, as we learned during the pandemic, everything is cake.
The top of the paint can looks to be overflowing, but it’s really icing. Once you cut inside, you discover a confetti cake that is pure joy.
I cannot get enough of this dish. Technically, I didn’t even order it, shamelessly stealing someone else’s dessert. I did let them nosh on my cookie, though.
Overall, Backlot Express proved to be the perfect dining experience during both of our recent pandemic visits.
In a perfect world, I would have eaten at Sci-Fi Dine-In instead. Alas, reservations there have proven nearly impossible lately.
Honestly, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the food as much, either.
An order of Chicken Strips and Fries sounds like conventional theme park food, but it’s an elevated dining experience at Backlot Express.
That’s before I factor in the hummus, Cuban Sandwich, or decadent desserts, either.
Like any reliable old friend, Backlot Express was there for us during a trying time. For that, I’m incredibly grateful.
Feature Image: Mealtrip.com