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Review: Backlot Express at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Now with New Menu AND Buffalo Nuggets!)

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…

Atmosphere

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.

Outside View

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.

Shaded Seating Area

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.

Dragon Prop - You Never Know What You Might Find Here!

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.

More Seating

And keep a look out for painting stations, where studio artists were just painting scenery and murals before they had to step away.

Seating and Painshop

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.

Plenty of Room for a Large Group

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!)

First Aid Station for the "Backlot Crew"

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.

Ordering Area

And wait until you see what we tried for you today! Read on…

Eats

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…

Backlot Express NEW Menu Board -- click for larger image

To compare, here’s the old menu board, which was still in use on some days this week.

Outside Menu Board - Click to Enlarge (Not updated to reflect new menu offerings)

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.

OLD Menu - Click to Enlarge (Not updated to reflect new menu offerings

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.

Desserts and Kids Picks Menu - Click to Enlarge

Desserts and Kid Picks - Click to Enlarge

Beverage options are standard as well…

Beverage Menu - Click to Enlarge

…Although the tool cabinet that “houses” the fountain drink selection is a really fun way to add extra themeing to the area.

Drink Station

Some slightly more interesting dipping sauce options are available for you at the condiment bar, in addition to prepackaged items.

Condiment Bar

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.)

Buffalo Chicken Nugget Platter

“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.

Buffalo Chicken Nugget Cross Section

“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.

Vegetable Sandwich

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.

Vegetable Sandwich - Cross Section

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.

Hot Dog

Overall

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!

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19 Comments

  1. SharonC says:

    The last time we ate at Backlot Express was in December 2007. The food was sub-par, the service was lousy, and we haven’t been back since. Now I have a reason to try this place again- the veggie sandwich sounds fabulous! And I am very happy to see Sprite Zero. Thanks for the info!

  2. Andrew G. says:

    My family almost always goes to the Backlot Express when we visit Disney World, and I always get the grilled turkey and cheese sandwich. It has cheese, veggies, and turkey all warm and pressed between two halves of crispy multi-grain bread. Plus, you get a wonderful buttery flavor where they grilled it (though it’s more pressed than grilled). Overall, I like the place.

  3. Deb Cote says:

    We always seem to end up having lunch here when we visit… and based on the new options, will most likely continue the tradition :) I may even have to try that veggie sandwich!

  4. Galloping Gourmand says:

    I’m the opposite of Deb in that I’ve never even set foot in here. We always seem to be at the other end of the park when lunch rolls around. These two additions aren’t enough to make me walk back over, either. Nothing against the place, but that’s just not how we tour.

  5. Wow – Those Buff Nuggs look awesome.. I hope they become a permanent future – perfect with a Bud Light!

  6. Safari Mike says:

    I have to be honest, I have found CS options at DHS to be, well, stinky. I think it is easily the worst park for that. Having said that these nuggets might not be bad.

  7. AJ says:

    SharonC — I hope you have a great visit!! :-)

    Andrew G. — I gotta try that Turkey Sandwich!

    Deb Cote — Ha ha! Let me know what you think on your next visit.

    GG — But it’s so fun in there! Ya gotta at least stroll around and look at the cool props. ;-)

    Lucy — I know, right? And I just love the term “Buff Nuggets.” I think that’s probably a good nickname for myself.

    Safari Mike — They’re definitely improving a lot of their counter service options here, I think.

  8. I have never visited Backlot Express, either. In our previous trips we’ve been to Pizza Planet, the Commissary, and 50s.

    Although the Buff Nuggets (smile) wouldn’t draw me in (I have an aversion to anything spicy even pepper.) that veggie sandwich looks like it would be something I would like to try. I think the theme looks interesting, as well.

    TFS!

  9. Sandra says:

    We’ve eaten at most of the CS places at DHS, and this is our favorite for lunch. Lots of good seating, refillable drinks, fun and interesting theming, and then there’s that wonderful veggie sandwich! If you pick the right seat, you can also watch the Jedi School right next door while you eat. I’m happy to see them tweaking the menu a bit as such a great spot deserves better than just burgers and fries.

  10. Karen says:

    Hi AJ –

    Is it possible to get a review of the Cantaloupe and Cucumber Salad? Sometimes after eating a lot of meats and not enough veggies, my body rebels and I have to take time out to do the right thing by eating a good salad. That salad sounds like it might be a refreshing change, but since there are two different salads I would really like to hear your take on them and get a comparison. Thanks!

  11. Lisa J. says:

    That cucumber cantaloupe salad looks nice and refreshing and a good vegan option. I would eat it and I’m not a vegan or vegetarian.

  12. AJ says:

    Jayne — The veggie sandwich is definitely worth a try!

  13. AJ says:

    Karen — I’m headed back to WDW in late September, so I’ll get it on my list!

  14. Mike says:

    Never really been to this place. I always forget it exists. It’s totally hidden compared to the other counter service places in DHS. Also, I’ve always felt like it is too close in theme to the Studio Catering Company. I have dreamed that one day this location will be torn down and replaced with a full-service Mos Eisley Cantina restaurant. The fact that this does not already exist confuses me to this day. It seems so obvious, and would be a massive hit.

  15. Erin says:

    The new menu show a “power pack” for kids. Looks like stuff my son might actually eat. Is this a new trend, to just put all the random kid’s sides together for a meal?

  16. Jared D. says:

    Those Buffalo nuggets look shockingly good. In my experience, Buffalo-style for Disney means some sort of mildly spicy mayo spread on a sandwich. This actually looks like Buffalo chicken.

  17. Amy says:

    I agree with the “seating for large groups” caption. We ate here back in October 2008 with a group of at least 8 (I may be forgetting a few) and had no trouble finding room for all of us. My grandmother was in a motorized scooter and did not have trouble getting around, which was nice. At the time, I had no idea that the veggie sandwich was legendary, but I ordered it and was EXTREMELY pleased. From the sound of this review (and photo), it is as good as ever.

    @ Erin–how much do I love the addition of the kids’ power pack? I agree, my daughter would definitely love this, especially if we’ve eaten a full breakfast back at the hotel and she doesn’t necessarily need/want a full-blown entree and sides at lunch.

  18. Amber says:

    Is that a grilled vegetable sandwich on the kid’s menu now!? I am so excited if it is! My kids eat vegetarian, but too much dairy makes them sick, and they’re not a fan of the smucker’s uncrustables available at WDW. I hope this is a trend to have more plant-based options for kids too!!!

  19. Richard says:

    I had the cantaloupe and cucumber salad a few days ago. It was a bit unusual for me (I’m normally a big protein kind of guy) but it sounded good at the time. . . . .

    It was amazing!!! The cantaloupe was sweet the green peas popped with flavor and the cucumber wasn’t bitter at all. The dressing was fabulous. Plus, it was huge! Easily enough for a full meal. Cool and refreshing. All of the other items my family ordered (including the vegetable sandwich) were very good – much higher quality than I expected for a fast food place.

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