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! 🙂
Hollywood and Vine is located near Echo Lake; hang a left off of Hollywood Boulevard from the park’s entrance, and you’re there!
When we arrived for our advanced dining reservation, there was already a crowd at the podium to check in!
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
If you like a little embellishment, there is Butter as well as 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.
Next, there are some customary salad bar fixings. To these, they’ve added a Tomato Onion Salad and Marinated Mushrooms.
Salad Dressing options include Low Fat Italian or Balsamic Vinaigrette, as well as a creamy 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)
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.
The Seasonal Fruit, comprised of mostly melon, proved to be quite popular.
The Crispy Asian Chicken Salad looked a lot like a traditional stir fry, but was served cold. It seemed a little odd to me.
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).
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.
Hearty Mushroom Beef and Barley Soup, a reader favorite, was also available.
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!
You build your selection from the ground up. Choose what Veggies, Sauce, and Meat will go into your creation.
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.
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.
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!
And voila! My finished pasta — complete with Marinara and a good pinch of Parmesan!
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.
I thought the Seared Beef looked really delicious, too, and the Roasted Fennel Salad made for a unique combination.
There is always a fish of the day option on the menu as well, and this day, it was the 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.
But I’m leaning toward this sweet and saucy Chipotle Citrus Barbecue Chicken myself!
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.
And of course, there are a couple of options prepared just for younger guests. There are Chicken Nuggets and Macaroni and Cheese, of course!
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.
Condiment options are pretty basic for the kiddos.
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.
And those favoring a multigrain option can indulge in the Multigrain Penne with Meat Sauce.
And now, we’ll take a look at the wide variety of side dishes available.
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.
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.
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.
You’ll likely find at least one vegetable that picky eaters will eat, like Buttered Corn.
For those who like a little dessert in their side dishes, there’s Cream Corn Spoon Bread.
Sauteed Green Beans are available as well.
I also thought that the Sweet Plantains were an interesting and unique option.
Getting full yet? Be sure to save room for dessert!
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.
The afternoon we dined, there were three main cake desserts. Here you see display of whole cakes.
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.
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.
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!
There is a small selection of mini pastries as well. Pictured here is a platter of Key Lime 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?
Coconut Macaroons and Banana Cream Puffs are other options, and offer nice variety.
And again…for the picky eater — or if you fancy an ice cream sandwich! — there’s a selection of Oatmeal Cookies.
But the real showstopper is that Chocolate Fountain! Just look at that gorgeousness!
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.
And of course, there are Chocolate Covered Strawberries, too.
But in addition to fruit, there are some other fun dippers, like “Strawberry Shortcake.”
Bite-size Brownies share platter space with Chocolate Dipped and besprinkled Marshmallows.
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.
And don’t forget the sauce!
And with that, we were ready to head out into the sunshine and walk off all of that dessert!!
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!