It’s official! We have visited the newly-opened Planet Hollywood Observatory!
Planet Hollywood Observatory
We came. We saw. We conquered…And We Were Thoroughly Underwhelmed. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
A major overhaul to the inside, outside, and menu seemed like the perfect excuse to head on back to Planet Hollywood. So armed with a hearty appetite and a couple of friends, I set out for what was a big, faded blue orb, and is now Disney Springs’ newest “old, repurposed” building (Disney Springs is said to be based on a town in the 1920s that grew up around a natural spring — and many of the buildings have been repurposed into shopping and dining venues…so they all look vaguely industrial).
We don’t want give away the last line in this saga, so let’s start from the beginning. (Hint. It wasn’t all bad.) By the way, this is going to be a LONG review, so settle in, my friends!
Have you been to Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney? Then you know exactly where to find Planet Hollywood Observatory. It hasn’t moved. (Oh, and we’re calling it PHO from here on out, K?)
We walked around the building while the light was still good, just so you could get a sense of how much things have — and haven’t — changed. As you can see, most of the neon, and all of the blue, are gone. Also gone is the sign at the top of the sign. Unfortunately, nothing has replaced it, so the whole thing looks a bit — okay, a LOT — unfinished.
Still, the silver overlay of the “Planet/Observatory” and the brick surround does suggest the new “old” story. If you’re not familiar, lemme explain. Planet Hollywood has acquired a backstory as a result of its attempt to fit into its newly antiquated surroundings in Disney Springs. It is now the former observatory of this quaint old town, but these days, it’s been repurposed as a restaurant. See how that works?
The new bricked area is handy for more than just transforming the building’s looks. Around the base of the globe, you’ll now find additions, like store carrying branded merchandise.
On the other side, Stargazers Bar occupies the open air area around the base of the restaurant and to the left. Stargazers holds an exclusive distinction. More about that in just a sec.
Above Stargazers, you can see the patio of the upstairs bar as well. There are lovely views that we’ll share a little later on.
From this angle, additional outdoor seating added with the renovation is visible.
Back at Stargazers, there is seating available at high top tables. Space heaters keep the area toasty during chilly Florida nights.
One of the most striking changes to the structure is visible from the front. Previously, the steps into the globe-shaped building were covered in a red plastic awning. That’s all gone now, and this dignified brick entrance has taken its place.
Step inside, and you find a more refined feel. We loved the ethereal glow of this light feature just inside the main entrance.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, you aren’t really here to see heavenly bodies. Not in the sense that you might think. Nope, the “stars” here remain the Hollywood kind. So it’s fitting that there’s a red carpet-worthy photo op as you enter. Pose for the paparazzi (well, just the one camera, actually) and your claim ticket will be delivered to your table.
Steps up to the main floor, which is really the second floor, are surrounded by this cool bead curtain. (I totally wrote that for my friend, who was all “Ooooh! Look at the pretty beads!”)
At the top of the steps, you’re in this sort of gallery-like area. Walk toward the light and visit the podium to the left. These folks will figure out where you’re going to be sitting.
Inside the main dining room — the globe, as it were — things are definitely way more subdued than they used to be.
One side of the room is taken up with a large projected screen area that shows music videos (from movies), and also seems to be peering into space. Interspersed with popular music from different genres, we were also treated to lots of Disney favorites, like “Let It Go” and songs from Moana. We were told that once there’s a DJ in place, this screen area will offer unique entertainment. But on our visit, it was pretty much just a big screen saver.
Planet Hollywood has always been known for its display of movie memorabilia, and that still holds true. Display cases line the walls, and any trip here should include a quick tour to spy your favorites.
Bold carpet with spacey sprockets and cogs and stuff grabs your attention as you head to your table. The warm colors are a nice counterpoint to all of the blue lighting.
Remember that upstairs bar that you saw earlier? Here it is!
And while the bar is nice and all, I think the views are my favorite aspect of it. Gazing on the springs never seems to get old. They really did do a fantastic job with theming.
This shot gives you an idea of the redo as well as the layout. Here, you can see that the second floor is the main seating area, but there’s also seating on the first floor.
We were actually seated on the second floor overlooking the first. This isn’t our table — we needed a LOT more space — but you get the idea of the set up.
And now it’s time to EAT!!!
Whew! We finally make it to the foooood! But not before a few menu photos just for good measure.
The menu here is very big, so I didn’t take shots of every page. I did want to highlight a few interesting things, though.
So, here’s a headscratcher: if you want a Local Florida Craft Beer, you’d better head to Stargazers Bar. According to the bartenders that we talked to, that’s the only place in Planet Hollywood that you can enjoy this selection.
We also wanted to share photos from the menu of a couple of the items we didn’t get to sample.
We really wanted to try the Rocket Fuel, with its mixture of Stoli Citros Vodka, Cointreau, Chambord, Cranberry Juice, and Sprite finished with dry ice. But they were out of dry ice. Apparently during the “friends and family preview” of the restaurant the bartenders didn’t control their inventory and kept making free drinks with the dry ice…so there wasn’t any dry ice left for when the restaurant actually opened.
So…here’s a picture of it from the menu.
The Space Monkey is an intriguing combo of Cruzan Coconut Rum, Banana Liqueur, Pureed Coconut, and Chocolate sounded pretty great. AND — it’s served in a swell souvenir glass.
Now, let’s get into the eats — with a first look at some of the menu items created by celebrity chef Guy Fieri!
We tried a couple of burgers, but we couldn’t get them all. So I’m happy to share pics of a few additional ones, like The Original Ringer — Angus Beef, Crispy Rojo Onion Ring, Guy’s Signature Bourbon-Brown Sugar BBQ Sauce, SMC, Cheddar, LTOP, and Donkey Sauce on Brioche.
What’s that? You don’t know what SMC, LTOP, and Donkey Sauce are? You need a lesson in “Guy-isms”. Here you go.
The Straight Up With Cheese is Guy’s answer to a Cheeseburger, with Angus Beef, Cheddar, SMC, and Donkey Sauce.
Bird is the Word sounds pretty awesome as well, with Fried Chicken Breast, Ranch Dressing, Pickles, Cheddar, Slaw, and Hot Sauce.
Finally, there’s Championship Pulled Pork, with Pulled Pork, Bourbon-Brown Sugar BBQ Sauce, Onion Straws, and Donkey Sauce.
Now that you’ve seen a little of what we didn’t get, let’s explore what we actually did try.
After I moved on from the disappointment of no Rocket Fuel, I decided to try the Proxima B Mojito. The drink, with its combo of Bacardi Superior Rum, Lemon and Lime Juices, and Ginger Ale was garnished with Fresh Blueberries and Mint. It was decent, and we appreciated the zip that the Ginger Ale brought to the mix. But then we noticed the rim.
These jars, it seems, get a lot of use as vessels for Drinks, Milkshakes, and even Desserts. While we quickly identified the brown smudges on the rim of the glass as Chocolate, it was a pretty off-putting discovery that the glasses weren’t thoroughly washed prior to being used again. And this pic below was AFTER we’d wiped most of the chocolate off. This wasn’t just a speck here and there.
We decided to skip the rest of the drink.
We thought you might like to see one of PHO’s larger than life Planet Bowl drinks as well. Ultimately, we went with the Solar Eclipse, a mix of Jose Cuervo Especial Gold Tequila, Cointreau, Citrus Juices with a Grand Marnier Floater.
Yep. It’s a giant Margarita. It was fine, and relatively strong. But nothing too special. If you like margaritas, and you enjoy sharing drinks with people, then go for it.
Your reward for ordering it is to take the 45-ounce souvenir glass home.
After a bit, the food started to arrive. To begin, we chose the Nachos Grande.
They’re a pretty standard version of the popular dish, with Corn Tortilla Chips covered in Chipotle Chicken, Plastic Cheese, Pureed Black Beans, Salsa Verde, Pico de Gallo, Queso Fresco, and Sour Cream.
We especially liked the two different kinds of cheese here, and the Plastic Cheese had a nice kick to it. We found the Chicken to be bland, however. Still, if you want Nachos, these are acceptable.
We also took the plunge and ordered the High Roller. This Ferris Wheel of Snacks serves four, according to the menu. (Sadly, the ferris wheel does not spin. We were disappointed, but I imagine that if it DID spin, it would be a serious hazard to the servers!) ;-D
Corn Chips and Pita Chips accompanied the sampler, and served as dippers for the Five Cheese Dip.
Speaking of, the Five Cheese Dip consisted of Swiss, Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, and Asiago cheeses with Spinach, Artichoke Hearts and Roasted Tomato. The dip turned in a solid performance, with good flavor and an easily dippable consistency. It was fairly light on veggies, but let’s be honest: you aren’t eating this to get your Daily Five. Approved!
Next came the Peri-Peri Shrimp. The breaded Shrimp are tossed in a spicy Chile Sauce. A VERY spicy Chile Sauce. This one wowed me. I would definitely have ordered a full app of these and been happy. While I gave these some of the highest marks of the night, my friends remarked that the shrimp were a little spicier than they expected.
A plate of four Twice Cooked Buffalo Wings — baked, and then fried — came with the standard sides of Carrots, Celery, and Blue Cheese Dressing. These were very standard and carried a slightly sweet buffalo sauce. Meh.
Next up was our other favorite passenger on the wheel o’ food, the Texas Tostados. My friends favored this combo of Crispy Gyoza Skins (Wonton Wrappers) topped with BBQ Chicken, Sautéed Onions, Cheddar and Monterey Jack Cheeses, Pico de Gallo and drizzled with Sour Cream and BBQ Sauce. One of my friends said that she could have happily made a meal out of the sweet and slightly spicy combo.
Finally, we came to the wheel’s most famous dish — World Famous Chicken Crunch. Apparently, this is a bit of a signature dish for Planet Hollywood. Chicken Tenders are breaded with a Sweet Crumb Coating. Friends tell me that the secret ingredient here is breakfast cereal, like Captain Crunch. That’s not specially stated on the menu, but I can believe it. The creamy Creole Mustard Sauce came on the side for dipping.
They were fine and good, but I personally prefer the standard Disney Chicken Tenders to these guys. Still, your kids might like ‘em.
FYI — here’s how they come if you order them as an entree:
After a healthy go at the appetizers, it was time to kick into high gear with main dishes. We started with a few Guy Fieri Signature Sandwiches — two Big Bite Burgers and one Knuckle Sandwich. What does that even mean? Well, just wait and see.
We couldn’t pass up the one we’d heard so much about, the Bacon Mac-n-Cheese. The sandwiches all come standard with a side of Triple Fries (we’ll take a closer look at those in just a minute.)
There’s a ton going on here, with a combo of Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Six Cheese Mac-n-Cheese, Cheddar, LTOP, Onion Straws, and Donkey Sauce.
And do you like the branding on the top of the bun? It’s not easy to make out from the pic, but that’s a little skull burned into the top.
Inside, we found a good combo of all of the expected ingredients. We didn’t get a lot of flavor from the Mac and Cheese, though. Mostly this tasted like a pretty good Cheeseburger. The patty was nicely thin and smashed, and it came cooked to our medium-rare specifications.
We also sampled the Prime Time American Kobe.
American-style Kobe Beef (google it — you’ll get a lot of different takes on what this means; bottom line: fattier, more flavorful beef), Smoked Gouda, Cheddar, Caramelized Onion Jam, LTOP, and Donkey Sauce.
The patty on this burger was noticeably thicker, and was also cooked perfectly. In terms of flavor and consistency, the American Kobe Burger won out. I think we preferred its slightly simpler list of toppings, too. This one scored high points with one of my friends.
But then, we come to one of our favorites of the night — the Pimento Grilled Cheese.
The menu says it all when it boasts that this is a “Triple Stacked Grilled Cheese like you’ve never seen before.” Six Cheese Mac-n-Cheese, SMC, and Pimento Cheese are stacked between crunchy slices of Garlic-Buttered Sourdough.
This, in the immortal words of Mr. Fieri, is, in fact, Flavortown. While many of the dishes we ordered were full of rich ingredients, they lacked any real staying power or flavor in my opinion. The Pimento Cheese Sammie was delicious and crunchy and gooey and I couldn’t stop eating it. (Well, I did. But it was really hard.)
And oh, hey — it’s vegetarian. Which means it’s toooooootally healthy. Right?
We also took note of a few other touches that brought in the Guy Fieri branding, like specialty sandwich pics and ornate paper with a skull motif reminiscent of Dia de los Muertos artwork.
Plates also bear a whimsical-ish skull wearing a chef’s toque.
So, about those Triple Fries. They came as standard sides with all three Sandwiches as well as the Ribs you’ll see in just a minute.
The “triple” comes from the fact that there are three different shapes. These are clearly seasoned fries, right out of a freezer bag, but we liked the sweet and salty seasoning mix, and they had good crunch on the outside.
Next, we dug into a healthy helping of BBQ Ribs, which are served, adorably, on a tiny picnic table. We don’t really know why, but they were cute.
The garden variety ribs have most likely been cooked low and slow in the oven, then grilled and basted with a sweet BBQ sauce. There were quite meaty, but I felt like they were overdone. While they’re perfectly fine, I don’t think they’re going to impress any of our hard-core BBQ fans out there.
With all this talk of Mac and Cheese, we had to give the actual dish a try. So next up was the Six Cheese Chicken Macaroni and Cheese.
The huge portion came to the table in what looked like a serving dish. In it, we found Sliced Chicken Breast, Cavatappi Pasta, Six Cheese Sauce, and spoonfuls of Ricotta Cheese. The dish was lightly dusted with Seasoned Bread Crumbs. There were also apparently Mushrooms and Spinach in the mix. But once more, we found the veggies to be applied with a light touch.
This was actually quite good and very decadent. I would have loved it as a side, but a whole entree is a bit much…even for me! The multiple cheeses were fantastic. The chicken was forgettable.
For another dose of pure decadence, we dove into the L.A. Lasagna.
This is one that made it back on the menu after the refurb. As if Lasagna weren’t rich enough, in all of its Bolognese and Bechamel-y glory, this one is also Deep Fried. It won out as the favorite of another friend, although we all agreed that the trip into the fryer rendered the pasta a bit more chewy than we liked.
The sauces brought a ton of flavor to this dish.
But wait! There’s more! Because no way could we pass up a real live view of the Supernova Shakes we’ve been hearing about for months. These crazy over the top Shakes seem to be a trending at the moment, as we told you previously, and were similar to (but not as high quality as) Shakes we encountered at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium at Universal Studios.
One of my first questions was, how in the world do you tackle a shake that’s meant to be eaten as well as drunk? The answer: with a straw-spoon combo, of course.
Let’s take them one at a time. The Strawberry Supernova Shake comes topped with an entire slice of Cake and a Swirly Lollipop.
The Sprinkles are stuck to the glass by virtue of Icing. We took a little taste and there’s no doubt that the icing came straight from a can.
My friend had high hopes for the cake, but we found it to be stale, dry, and utterly lacking in any kind of flavor besides SWEET. Womp, womp.
The shake itself was a standard strawberry shake, though it had a very icy texture versus a creamy one.
Our impressions of the Chocolate Shake weren’t much better, although the Pirouline Cookie is kind of nice. Keepin’ it classy, Supernova Chocolate.
Again — a super icy texture. More like frozen chocolate milk than a creamy milkshake.
Finally, we come to the Cotton Candy Supernova Shake. Once again, there’s no discernible flavor here. Just a whooooooole lot of sweet.
Of the three, I think the sprinkles were smushed onto this glass in the most artful manner. So. Style Points.
My friend couldn’t get past the fact that the Cotton Candy had obviously been “handled”, though. I tried to explain that it was necessary so it would all stick together. But she wasn’t impressed.
Still, I get that these things are a childhood fantasy come true. And if you’re looking for dessert with some dessert topped with more dessert, and you aren’t too picky about things like “flavor” and “texture”, then hey — go for it.
Slightly better were the three actual dessert options we tried. The Planet Meltdown gets show points.
A Chocolate Sphere is melted tableside by Hot Caramel Sauce.
Wait for it…
There! Inside, you’ll find Double Chocolate Fudge Cake (a TINY slice of it), Fresh Strawberries, and Whipped Cream.
While we’re not talking top-of-the-line chocolate here, this one brought a smile to our faces, and I think it’s a fitting sweet ending to a vacay meal.
Next, we couldn’t pass up the Key Lime Pie Star Jar. This is your standard Key Lime Pie, but it’s layered, parfait style, in a — yep — jar.
This was…epic. Honestly, I’m a huge key lime pie fan, and I was worried about this one seeing as how the rest of the meal had gone. But it was so creamy, so delicious. And they didn’t skimp on the graham cracker “crust” layers at all! This is probably the only thing I would actually go back to Planet Hollywood to order. But I would, indeed, go back to order this. Worth it!
On our server’s recommendation, we also tried the Brownie Cheesecake Star Jar. We expected to find layers of Brownie and Cheesecake. Instead, this seemed to be a parfait mix mostly of Whipped Cream and Chocolate Pudding.
We did dig around and found a bit of brownie eventually, but not nearly as much as we expected to see in a dish headlined with the word “brownie”. This is a pass for us.
And by the way — Restaurant People? Jars are not easy to eat out of. Just FYI.
So, here’s the deal. If you’re desperate to see the inside of the new Planet Hollywood Observatory, then book it. But seriously, there’s nothing here that makes me recommend it as a first choice dining destination.
There are dishes that we enjoyed. I would definitely have the Peri Peri Shrimp again, and both of my friends gave good marks to the Tostados. The Kobe Beef Burger was a winner, and the Pimento Cheese and Mac and Cheese Sandwich (I know. I know. But — VACATION) was hard to put down. We also thought the L.A. Lasagna was pretty good, although extremely heavy. And the Key Lime Pie hit all the right notes.
So yes — you can find things to eat here that are decent. But bottom line — we just weren’t impressed.
Service was uneven. The dirty glass we encountered was off-putting. There were several items we tried to order that were missing ingredients, so we couldn’t get the dish. And I think my friend put it best when she said that the decor looked…dated. And even though the restaurant had JUST re-opened after a long refurb…the “dated” comment made sense. And it made me sad that, after all of this time and effort, they didn’t make this transformation something awesome.
I expect that Planet Hollywood Observatory will be busy based solely upon its prime location at the bottom of the Orange Garage escalators. But take my advice. Plan ahead, and keep walking.
But now I’m super interested to hear what y’all think. Will you be visiting the old-but-new Planet Hollywood Observatory? Leave a comment with your thoughts!