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Review: Hollywood and Vine Lunch at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

It’s time to head back over to Hollywood and Vine! No, not the famous Tinseltown intersection. We’re talking about a cool character dining experience at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios!

A while back, I reviewed the character breakfast at Hollywood and Vine, and was pleasantly surprised to find pretty good food with some interesting flavor options.

This go around, we decided to sleep in a bit and stop by for lunch. I was interested to see if the trend of good food quality and fun character interaction would continue.

Settle in — this is gonna be a long one! :-)

Atmosphere

Hollywood and Vine is located near Echo Lake; hang a left off of Hollywood Boulevard from the park’s entrance, and you’re there!

Hollywood and Vine Sign

When we arrived for our advanced dining reservation, there was already a crowd at the podium to check in!

Entrance to Hollywood and Vine

A placard near the check-in area gives a few details about the Play ‘n Dine experience, in case you’re attempting to score a “walk-up” table.

Information Outside for Play 'n Dine

Once inside, you see which Disney Junior characters you might meet, courtesy of this triptych, which looks like a giant picture book.

This is a good time to explain a few things about this character dining experience. The characters here are primarily from Disney Junior shows. Don’t book this spot if you’re looking for Pooh Bear and Friends or Mickey and the Gang. (I know. He’s on the board. But we haven’t heard of him making an appearance here.)

As such, this one is geared more toward the preschool set who watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Little Einsteins, Agent Oso, and Handy Manny, to name a few. But of course, fans of all ages are welcome. :-)

Play 'n Dine Setup Inside

The themeing here is “Cafeteria to the Stars.” The feeling is vintage, as though you’ve wandered back to the early mid-20th century, and it’s the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Aluminum chairs and vinyl banquettes offer a mixed approach to seating, and the formica tables carry the vintage vibe throughout.

Seating

Art Deco murals line the walls, and I encourage you to take a close look at these works of art; they’re really beautiful and detailed.

Disney fans who have been following the recent renovations at Disney California Adventure will recognize the Carthay Circle Theatre. This Mission Revival-style movie theatre numbered among the most famous in Hollywood and has a firm place in Disney lore. It was also the spot where many of Disney’s films premiered, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Additional Seating and the Carthay Circle Mural

While the atmosphere may not wow you, that’s not really why you’re here, anyway. Let’s talk characters.

Disney Junior Characters

About every 30 minutes or so, the characters, along with other Disney Junior performers, present a high-energy show, and kids are encouraged to join in.

Little Einsteins' June and a Play Disney Cast Member

This is great for a couple of different reasons: kids are expected to join in and dance, which they really love; and Mom and Dad can actually eat and enjoy their food!

Disney Junior Characters

On the day that we had lunch, we were treated to appearances by June from Little Einsteins, Agent Oso, Handy Manny (my favorite!), and relative newcomer Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

Agent Oso

Handy Manny, on whom I happen to have a teensy tiny inappropriate crush

June From Little Einsteins

Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates

Here’s a tip: if you happen to head to a character meal solo like I did, you may end up with a fellow diner…

Jake joining me for lunch

Gone from the last time we were here were the characters from JoJo’s Circus, as well as Little Einsteins’ Leo.

This is also a good time to point out that if you’re interested in Play ‘n Dine at Hollywood and Vine, be sure to book your meal for breakfast or lunch. Characters are not offered at the dinner seating.

Eats

Once you’re finished movin’ and groovin’ with the Disney Junior stars — or between sets — it’s time to head to the buffet. The themeing here continues with vintage cafeteria. In other words, there is no themeing — genius!

The setup is sleek stainless steel, and will remind you of a lunch counter from childhood with Art Deco touches — like the “quilting” on the base of the buffets.

The Buffet

Since there is a ton of food to see, I’ve broken it up into categories for you: Breads, Soups, and Salads; Create Your Own Pasta; Meats and Main Dishes; Sides; and Desserts. Here we go!!

Breads, Salads, and Soups

Bread offerings for this meal are very basic: some Rolls, as well as Baguettes cut in pieces, are what you’ll find.

Assorted Breads

If you like a little embellishment, there is Butter as well as Apple Butter.

Butter and Apple Butter

If you’d like to start with a salad, there are some traditional options, like Mixed Seasonal Greens. The Caesar Salad is already tossed together for you.

Mixed Seasonal Greens and Caesar Salad

Next, there are some customary salad bar fixings. To these, they’ve added a Tomato Onion Salad and Marinated Mushrooms.

Tomato Onion Salad, Marinated Mushrooms, and Other Salad Toppings

Salad Dressing options include Low Fat Italian or Balsamic Vinaigrette, as well as a creamy Ranch Dressing.

Low Fat Italian Vinaigrette, Balsamic Vinaigrette, and Ranch Dressing

A little further down, you’ll encounter some other pre-made salads and cold dishes. The Roasted Beet, Apple, and Goat Cheese Salad looked interesting. (Well. Except for the melon that someone had dropped into it. #WatermelonPhotoBomb)

Roasted Beet, Apple, and Goat Cheese Salad

Guests can also choose from some dishes with international flair, like the Roasted Corn and Udon Noodle Salads. The Broccoli Slaw with Craisins and Soy Nuts was an interesting take on a familiar favorite, and Tuna Salad was available as well.

Broccoli Slaw with Craisins and Soy Nuts, Roasted Corn Salad, Tuna Salad, and Udon Noodle Salad

The Seasonal Fruit, comprised of mostly melon, proved to be quite popular.

Seasonal Fruit

The Crispy Asian Chicken Salad looked a lot like a traditional stir fry, but was served cold. It seemed a little odd to me.

Crispy Asian Chicken Salad

The Italian Sub Salad was really interesting, though! It was like someone took an antipasti platter and dumped it all together. Full of meats, cheeses, pepperoncini, olives, and croutons, I would imagine this would be a big hit for some (and maybe for me if I can pick the olives out).

Italian Sub Salad

Soup selection changes on a daily basis. I was so excited to see one of my very favorites here: Tomato Florentine Soup! Creamy and savory, this is always such a comforting starter to a meal, and I get it every chance I get.

Tomato Florentine Soup

Hearty Mushroom Beef and Barley Soup, a reader favorite, was also available.

Mushroom Beef and Barley Soup

But next, we have something really cool to show you…

Create Your Own Pasta Station

You know how much we love the Create Your Own Pasta station at Art of Animation’s Landscape of Flavors? Well, they have a similar setup here, too!

Create Your Own Pasta Station

You build your selection from the ground up. Choose what Veggies, Sauce, and Meat will go into your creation.

Choice of Ingredients for Create Your Own Pasta Station

And then decide which pasta variety you prefer — Campanelle (love!) or Rotini. I could be wrong, but the rotini also looks like a whole wheat option.

Pasta Options for Create Your Own Pasta Bar

The cast member goes right to work sautéing the vegetables and meat. In this case, I chose Chicken. And I even added spinach (cause I’m oh-so-healthy) and peas! You’re so proud of me.

Create Your Own Pasta Bar -- Sautéing My Chosen Ingredients

Next, she scoops a generous helping of pasta and adds it to the pan. Then you get a show, as the chef makes the flames leap! Very fancy!

Create Your Own Pasta Bar -- Adding the Campanelle Pasta

And voila! My finished pasta — complete with Marinara and a good pinch of Parmesan!

Create Your Own Pasta -- The Finished Product!

Although I had found my perfect meal at this point, there’s still plenty more to show you.

Meats and Main Dishes

Just like we found at breakfast, many dishes at Hollywood and Vine seem to have a Latin flair. We found several really interesting choices, and a few of them reminded me of the Cuban dishes that I experienced at Bongo’s Cuban Cafe in Downtown Disney.

A perfect example is this Garlic and Herb Slow Roasted Pork. With the onions smothering the top, it reminded me of a mojo dish, and the red peppers gave it a nice pop of color.

Garlic and Herb Slow Roasted Pork

I thought the Seared Beef looked really delicious, too, and the Roasted Fennel Salad made for a unique combination.

Seared Beef with Roasted Fennel Salad

There is always a fish of the day option on the menu as well, and this day, it was the Maple Mustard Glazed Salmon.

Maple Mustard Glazed Salmon

Chicken lovers, you’ll be happy to know that there are lots of different ways for you to enjoy your favorite meat. Of course, there’s Baked Chicken for the purists out there.

Baked Chicken

But I’m leaning toward this sweet and saucy Chipotle Citrus Barbecue Chicken myself!

Chipotle Citrus Barbecue Chicken

If you prefer a creamy, rich option, there is also Chicken Breast with Asiago and a Creamy Ranch. This was the star of the show for me.

Chicken Breast Asiago with Creamy Ranch

And of course, there are a couple of options prepared just for younger guests. There are Chicken Nuggets and Macaroni and Cheese, of course!

Chicken Nuggets and Macaroni and Cheese

The veggie team is also well represented here. We’ll get to more of those in just a sec, but in the meantime, this lovely Broccoli is featured alongside more Baked Chicken on the kids’ buffet.

Baked Chicken and Steamed Broccoli

Condiment options are pretty basic for the kiddos.

Barbecue Sauce, Honey Mustard, and Ketchup

If you prefer a baked pasta over the Create Your Own Pasta option, there are a couple of those to choose from as well. We’ve heard good things about the rich Lobster and Shrimp Mac and Cheese.

Lobster and Shrimp Mac and Cheese

And those favoring a multigrain option can indulge in the Multigrain Penne with Meat Sauce.

Multigrain Penne with Meat Sauce

And now, we’ll take a look at the wide variety of side dishes available.

Sides

There are some great comfort food options here, some well-prepared veggies, and a few interesting options for guests looking for a little exotic flavors.

Of course, no buffet would be complete without a heaping helping of Garlic Smashed Potatoes. Yum.

Garlic Smashed Potatoes

The Bean Cassoulet didn’t look like any slow-cooked French dish that I had ever seen. It appeared to be more of a bean and pea medley. But assuming that it’s not made with pork to flavor it or chicken stock (and really — you should not assume — ask a chef), this might be a good vegetarian option.

Bean Cassoulet

The Brown Rice and Quinoa Pilaf brings together two very hot and better-for-you grains that we’re seeing on more restaurant menus at Disney these days.

Brown Rice and Quinoa Pilaf

You’ll likely find at least one vegetable that picky eaters will eat, like Buttered Corn.

Buttered Corn

For those who like a little dessert in their side dishes, there’s Cream Corn Spoon Bread.

Cream Corn Spoon Bread

Sauteed Green Beans are available as well.

Sauteed Green Beans

I also thought that the Sweet Plantains were an interesting and unique option.

Sweet Plantains with Corn Relish

Getting full yet? Be sure to save room for dessert!

Desserts

Hollywood and Vine takes a unique approach to their lunchtime dessert offering. There are some small pastries like we’ve seen at other venues, but beyond that, there are a few main dessert stations. Let’s take a look at your different options.

As you can see, the centerpiece to the dessert station is an enormous Chocolate Fountain. More about that in a minute.

Dessert Station

The afternoon we dined, there were three main cake desserts. Here you see display of whole cakes.

Display Cakes and Chocolate Fountain

For the buffet, however, there were convenient individual servings of each. First, the Carrot Cake. This was more like a bundt cake than what I consider a traditional carrot cake, which must have loads of cream cheese frosting IMO.

Individual Servings of Carrot Cake

If you’re watching your sugar intake, you might enjoy the No Sugar Added Cheesecake, portioned in these handy little paper bowls and topped with blueberries.

Individual Servings of No Sugar Added Cheesecake with Blueberries

The individual Red Velvet Cakes get my vote for the best option, with their cute pink and yellow white chocolate shavings. And finally — some cream cheese frosting!

Individual Servings of Red Velvet Cake

There is a small selection of mini pastries as well. Pictured here is a platter of Key Lime Tarts.

Key Lime Pie Tarts

The sweet crust and tart baked filling were a terrific combination. I enjoyed this, but I’m always weirded out when food at Disney gets “sparkly.” Am I really supposed to be eating sparkly things?

Key Lime Tart -- Up Close

Coconut Macaroons and Banana Cream Puffs are other options, and offer nice variety.

Coconut Macaroons and Banana Cream Puffs

The Coconut Pecan Bars proved to be tempting as well. They reminded me of the Magic Cookie Bar from Roaring Fork (and Port Orleans Riverside!).

.

Coconut Pecan Bar

And again…for the picky eater — or if you fancy an ice cream sandwich! — there’s a selection of Oatmeal Cookies.

Oatmeal Cookies

But the real showstopper is that Chocolate Fountain! Just look at that gorgeousness!

Chocolate Fountain -- Up Close

Unfortunately…they didn’t let me near it. Before you (or your kids) have dreams of sticking your mouth under there, let me bring you back to reality: the fountain is behind the counter, and the chefs do the dipping. (Thank goodness…hello sanitary issues.)

There’s a good selection of dipped fruits, like Dried Mango, Pineapple Chunks, and Apple Wedges.

Chocolate Dipped Dried Mango

Chocolate Dipped Pineapple and Apple Wedges

And of course, there are Chocolate Covered Strawberries, too.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

But in addition to fruit, there are some other fun dippers, like “Strawberry Shortcake.”

Strawberry Shortcake

Bite-size Brownies share platter space with Chocolate Dipped and besprinkled Marshmallows.

Marshmallows and Brownies

But in addition to all of that, there’s also a Soft Serve Ice Cream machine, so you can enjoy a cone or make your treat a la mode.

Soft Serve Ice Cream Machine

And don’t forget the sauce!

Ice Cream Toppings

And with that, we were ready to head out into the sunshine and walk off all of that dessert!!

Overall

I’ve said it before, and my opinion still stands: you come to Hollywood and Vine mostly for the Play ‘n Dine option. Seeing the delight on your kids’ faces as their favorite characters come to life enormously before them is pretty special.

But the cool thing here is that you don’t have to take one for the team in the eats department. There are some really and truly tasty meal options, and there is a dizzying array of variety. In fact, this is one of my favorite character buffets when it comes to the food! You find very basic dishes for less adventurous palates, as well as some higher end flavors. And this spot is unique for the characters that it offers.

With a good to great menu, I definitely recommend that you give it a try if there’s some little person in your life who would enjoy these characters.

Are you considering a trip to Hollywood and Vine? Let us know in the comments below!

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26 Comments

  1. Georgeanne says:

    We ate here for breakfast last summer, mostly because my son loves Jake, Oso, and Handy Manny. (Okay- the whole family loves Handy Manny

  2. Georgeanne says:

    Looks like my comment was cut off:(. We were pleasantly surprised by the food. We agree that the character interaction was great. Based on this review, I’d love to try it for lunch next time!

  3. LizC says:

    Great review! My kids love Disney Junior. Although, they are also big fans of Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins, hopefully they will start to make appearances in WDW.

    I was planning on doing Hollywood & Vine for breakfast but your review has convinced me to go lunch, that pasta bar looks amazing!

  4. Alan says:

    I tend not to eat at buffets as you wind up over eating so-so food or food that has been sitting too long. And while these character meals are great for those with kids, they tend to be a little frenetic for the leisurely dining experience I prefer. However, maybe it’s AJ’s photos, but this is some of the most interesting food I’ve seen on a buffet. I would love to sample a small taste of many of those entrees, which a buffet is makes very do-able.

  5. Janna says:

    We are eating here next week and it’s been a long while since our last meal at H&V. Man – they have really kicked the menu up a few notches! Can’t wait!

  6. Sam says:

    Is this an ongoing thing? Will is still be available in the fall? My kid LOVES a bunch of those Disney Jr shows.

  7. Marc says:

    This place gets a bum rap, in my view. The chipotle and citrus chicken is a real highlight and my kids loved the dessert bar as well as the multitude of interesting stuff on the buffet. We did dinner (no characters) and would return again. It was that impressive. We didn’t have to obereat to feel we got value, either. Like this place — and we liked it even more ythan we thought we would. Go in with low expectations and you’ll be pleasantly surprised, I think.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    The asiago chicken with creamy ranch is OUTSTANDING. So unbelievably good and I’m still kicking myself for forgetting to ask for the recipe. Husband and 3 year old loved the lobster mac n cheese. I’m really wanting that chicken right now…

  9. Marci says:

    Holy food batman! This buffet looks amazing and with so many great options. My two year old would love dining with Agent Oso too! We might have to try this. It looks WAY better than the crystal palace lunch buffet we tried last year (which I was disappointed with). Thanks!

  10. Janel says:

    wow…. Im surprised by this review, some many people say Hollywood and vine is no good. Even jokingly calling it “Hollywood & Vile”… Not 100% sure if Id give it ago but I wont ever say never!

  11. AJ says:

    Georgeanne — I’m so glad you enjoyed Hollywood and Vine! We’re usually pleasantly surprised, too.

    LizC — Thanks! Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins WILL be coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios! Check the Disney Junior Live on Stage line-up.

    Alan — Agreed. This place tends to have a cut above when it comes to buffet food.

    Janna — YAY! Looking forward to your review.

    Sam — Yep; it’s been happening for years. :-) The characters change from time to time, but your kid will likely know them all.

    Marc — Agreed 100%. While the decor is lacking, the food is actually pretty good. Thanks for your review.

    Elizabeth — Ha ha! So glad you enjoyed!

    Marci — I do think this buffet is better food-wise than Crystal Palace in my experience. Enjoy!

    Janel — I think Hollywood and Vine has gotten a very bad rep, and I’m not sure why. I’ve eaten here twice in the past couple of years and it’s been great both times. Above expectations definitely.

  12. Ryan says:

    We’ve gone to Hollywood and Vine twice and both times for breakfast…BECAUSE…you can get early-entrance into the studios with an early reservation. The breakfast buffet is amazing and afforded our kids a little more interaction because the restaurant wasn’t nearly as busy as usual. Kate (our youngest, 2) clung to June the whole time…but it was OK with everyone because there were so few people.

    Tip: If you are going to do the Jedi Training Academy, then the Hollywood & Vine breakfast makes it a virtual LOCK that you can get in and get signed-up ahead of everyone else! You just have to sign-up before going to breakfast.

  13. BringingUpDisney says:

    If Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins make it to Hollywood & Vine it will be a MUST do for us! My DD already loves Jake, throw in the other two and she will be giddy!

  14. Georgeanne says:

    Ryan- great tip! Thanks:)

    Also, it would not surprise me at all to see Doc McStuffins and Sofia added to this meal. That being said, I’m glad we got to enjoy it with Oso and Manny because it seems like so much at Disney is geared towards girls, it was nice to have this. I have already taken my son to CRT and he loved all the attention of the princesses. However, I don’t think he’ll ever be interested in taking me to tea at the Grand Floridian:/

  15. Scott says:

    Hi AJ,

    What would you say is an appropriate age for this? My son is 7.

    Thanks,

    Scott

  16. Nellibell says:

    We ate here for dinner…. I was sorry that we never tried it before. We had some of the most delicious food on any of the buffets in the park. The variety was what caught our attention. By far it also had the best offering for dessert. The pasta station was really good and options on the buffet had me wanting to try everything. I highly recommend it for dinner. It was worth it and we will be going back!

  17. danam says:

    No clue how this place gets a bad rap. We have enjoyed the meal and entertainment every trip
    my kids have been to Disney. They are now 11 and 8. This is one of the few meal they request. Great reveiw! Hopefully people who are hesitant will give it a try.

  18. AJ says:

    Scott — Does your son like Disney Junior shows? If he doesn’t know the characters, he might prefer a different character meal with characters he knows.

  19. Melissa says:

    We did Hollywood & Vine on our last trip (Nov. ’11) and it was OK experience but I wouldn’t put it in my top 10. By any chance, have you heard whether they will be adding Princess Sofia in the upcoming year? She is wildly popular (at our house at least!) and so we booked Hollywood & Vine for our next trip (Oct. ’13) in the off chance that she’ll be added to the roster between now and then (if she’s not, we’ll probably cancel the res closer to our trip)…. Has anyone heard anything about her?

  20. Mark D. says:

    I couldn’t disagree more. This was the worst food I have had in Disney……..both times I went there.

  21. Pardonmyfrench says:

    AJ,

    I love your reviews but this one I disagree with. We ate there 2 years ago. The food looks similar to the pics you showed and we all agreed – kids and adults that the food was gross. In fact without seeing this review prior to our recent trip from last week, we commented how bad the food was when we walked by it.

    Still love your reviews AJ – but this one was off for us .

  22. LaceyLiz says:

    Is the food good enough for two adults who don’t’ have kids? Be honest, will two adults enjoy this place? my husband and I have breakfast reservations at the various parks before rope drop every morning and since this is the only breakfast place at HS we were wondering if we should even book it since it is disney junior.

  23. Marisa says:

    Planning our first trip in May ’14 for our 3 year olds birthday. He loves Jake, Fia (Sophia), and likes Doc. How far in advance do you think they’ll publicize changes to the lineup of characters, if you think they will?? And, how long do these character dinings usually take/last? I’ve seen so many reviews and such, but no length of time attached. Great info, by the way!! Thanks!

  24. Jo Ann says:

    My adult daughter wanted to try this restaurant for dinner. We had reservations and we were seated right away.
    The decor reminded me of my high school cafeteria. The food was not the best but I had low expectations. The highlight of the meal was the tomato Florentine soup and the slow roasted pork. I even skipped the deserts because nothing looked good to me.
    This was the first time and will be the last time eating there. There are so many better restaurants to choose. We were on the dinning plan otherwise I would never pay to eat there.

  25. Emily says:

    I wonder if they will ever add any Octonauts characters to this meal? My kids would flip out if they got to meet Captain Barnacles!

  26. Holly says:

    The chocolate fountain looks great. Are those nuts on the dipped items? (We have a nut allergy)

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