Time to head to one of my favorite counter service spots in Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Backlot Express! And there’s a brand new menu in place! We’ve have more for you on that in just a few paragraphs. But first, let’s take a look around…
From the name alone, you can quickly deduce that this counter service mainstay is, in fact, located in the Backlot area of the theme park. (I know. What would you do without me?)
To locate it, head straight back and to the left as you enter the park. You’ll know you’re getting close when you pass the Sounds Dangerous and Star Tours attractions.
The premise here is that you’ve wandered into a functioning part of the Disney’s Hollywood Studios backlot, where they store all of the props, paint all the sets, fashion all of the haywire stunt gear, and fix all of the machinery needed to put on the show. It’s a glorified warehouse…but that “glorified” part is where Disney’s imagineers shine.
As you head in to order you’ll walk past the outdoor seating area, which is nicely shaded. You begin to feel the vibe of the place even here, with mismatched patio chairs and interesting outdoor props, like giant plaster statues, and classic automobiles.
It’s completely fascinating to wander around and through this huge spot. Imagineers have created the theme to feel as if you’re about to run into someone who’s working on a film while you’re there. There are all kinds of props everywhere, even hanging above you.
You’ll also see lots of tool chests scattered throughout. Chain link partitions and open duct work below the soaring ceilings really lend to the atmosphere of a machine shop where props and backdrops are created.
And keep a look out for painting stations, where studio artists were just painting scenery and murals before they had to step away.
Paint splatters and storage cabinets lend to the feel. There is just so much detail to see and take in everywhere you look — and that’s really why I love to visit this spot. Lose yourself in the vision of the Imagineers and really look at it. You’ll be simply amazed at the detail.
There’s a whole area for stunt men and women. And what else would you find in the space but a fully stocked medicine cabinet? Bandages and pain relievers stand at the ready. (No, unfortunately these aren’t for use for headaches due to toddler tantrums or backaches based on the 120 minute line at Toy Story Mania!)
As you wrap up your pre-meal wandering, it’s time to head to the counter to order. The ordering area is pretty standard; no bells, whistles, or electronic kiosks here…yet.
And wait until you see what we tried for you today! Read on…
So, here’s the deal on the Backlot Express menu these days: since it’s the “season of new menus,” many counter service locations are trying out new menu items to see how they sell. Here at Backlot, a few new menu items are popping up on weekends. I’m thinking the new items will stick around, but don’t be disappointed if they don’t.
In the meantime, our awesome researcher Steve C. headed into DHS twice this week to try to catch a break and sample the new Buffalo Nuggets on the updated menu. On his second try, he scored! And he got us a pic of the updated menu as well…
To compare, here’s the old menu board, which was still in use on some days this week.
As you can see, NEW or OLD menu, one interesting option to note is the presence of a “gourmet” hamburger here. And while the Angus Onion Straw Bacon Cheeseburger certainly sounded right up my alley, it’s actually not what I ordered this visit.
Desserts and Kids’ Picks are pretty standard, although you may want to note the option of a different pasta here for kiddos who are tired of chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese.
Beverage options are standard as well…
…Although the tool cabinet that “houses” the fountain drink selection is a really fun way to add extra themeing to the area.
Some slightly more interesting dipping sauce options are available for you at the condiment bar, in addition to prepackaged items.
But in addition to the items I enjoyed (coming up in just a minute), I promised you the low-down on those Buffalo Nuggets! Here’s a great review of the brand new menu item from DFB researcher Steve C.!:
“The new Backlot Express Buffalo Chicken Breast Nuggets (8 pieces, with fries) is number 3 on the new menu. Be aware that this item is currently featured on the menu inside the restaurant, but the menus on the outside have not been updated to reflect this offering.
“The nuggets are served on the standard red and white Disney Parks paper plate with the nuggets arranged on one side and the fries on the other. They’re chunk breast meat chicken, not ‘formed’ chicken pieces; and I was surprised to find the sauce to be actually fairly spicy and flavorful. (The cast member warned me that these are ‘hot’ when I ordered them to make sure I knew what I was getting.)
“The buffalo sauce is similar in taste, color, and consistency to Frank’s Red Hot brand sauce. The plate I was served had a fair amount of the buffalo sauce, enough to ‘dip’ the nuggets in the remainder that pools on the bottom of the plate.
“The breading the nuggets are coated with isn’t too thick and has a nice light flavor to it.
“Ken’s Steak House Buttermilk Ranch Dressing is available for dipping at the restaurant’s condiment bar, however no bleu cheese option was available.
“As a big fan of anything ‘Buffalo,’ I really liked these. As there are so few ‘spicy’ food items in the parks, this was a welcome addition and I intend to enjoy them again soon.”
Sounds like a homerun!
As for the items I tried, I finally got around to sampling the Grilled Vegetable Sandwich. Long a DFB fan favorite, this sandwich has a passionate following — but I had never taken the plunge. Honestly, I’m just not so much a “veggie sandwich” kinda girl (are you surprised? no?). On any given day, you can bet I’ll order that burger instead! But I was so intrigued because of the long history of “wows!” here. It was high time to give it a try.
The sandwich is served warm and pressed, panini-style. You can choose from a side of carrots or french fries to complete the meal.
The ingredient list is long: basil-asiago artisan bread (in itself pretty interesting), with roasted mushrooms, red peppers, and zucchini, and topped with cheese, tomatoes, watercress, and a sun-dried tomato pesto. There’s no mention of type of cheese used, but it was white and nicely melty.
This is – are you ready? – very good! Either the pesto, the bread, or the cheese — or some combo of the three — make this a flavorful sandwich. I agree with every opinion that the veggie sandwich is a compelling menu item and an awesome find for a lighter alternative, or for the vegetarian looking for tasty counter service options.
My dining companions also ordered the plain Hot Dog for their little girl while we were there. While it had some nice color indicating that it had been cooked on the flat top and not just boiled or steamed, there was nothing else to scream “wow” about it. There is a Chili Dog on the Backlot menu that might offer a bit more oomph.
Backlot Express continues to be one of my favorite restaurants in Hollywood Studios, largely due to the atmosphere…but now that there are “Buff Nuggets,” I’m 100% in!!!
Imagineers have done a fantastic job bringing this space to life as a “working” prop shop for the studio backlot, and I could wander around for hours. Really, it’s an attraction beyond the food. The level of detail is on par with another of my favorite spots, Restaurantosaurus in Animal Kingdom.
It’s so fun to be here and look around that I almost don’t care what’s on the menu. Almost. (Did I mention the Buffalo Nuggets?)
Do you visit Backlot Express for the atmosphere, the eats – or both? Let us know your favorite thing about this Studios hotspot!