July 21, 2024

Counter Service Comeback at Hollywood Studios!

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This links ranks quick service restaurants in Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World from worst to first, with a look at our favorite and least favorite places to eat. For a small park, DHS actually

This links ranks quick service restaurants in Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World from worst to first, with a look at our favorite and least favorite places to eat. For a small park, DHS actually has a lot of counter service options–with a few of the best dining options in all of WDW.

For much of the last decade-plus, Disney’s Hollywood Studios was a park with notoriously bad counter service options. In fact, we’ve entirely redone this list for 2023 because the changes that have happened since Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge have been huge. It’s truly a night and day difference.

Previously, this was less of a “best of” list and more of a rundown of the “least worst” options. For years, DHS didn’t have a single restaurant on our Top 10 Counter Service Walt Disney World Dining list–the only park not represented. It now has two entries, and is arguably deserving of a third. Suffice to say, the counter service scene at Disney’s Hollywood Studios has seen a renaissance in the last few years with several delicious, fun, and unique options…

Before getting to that, we’ll start with our standard recommendation of doing at least one table service meal at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Even with its ‘counter service comeback,’ there are a couple of reasons why table service restaurants should be prioritized. First, the ride roster at DHS is limited, so if you want to do a full day in the park (and you should!), that means either a lot of stage shows or a table service meal midday. Perhaps both.

Second, Disney’s Hollywood Studios excels at themed dining, with two of the Best Themed Restaurants at Walt Disney World in 50’s Prime Time Cafe or Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. Other fun options include the Oga’s Cantina Star Wars bar, the Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant in Toy Story Land, and the Minnie’s Seasonal Dine character dining experience for Halloween/Christmas/etc. Oh, and don’t forget BaseLine Tap House, which is a laid-back lounge and somewhere between counter and table service restaurant.

There are a half-dozen different sit-down restaurants that are worthwhile at Disney’s Hollywood Studios–more than any other park. We would do most of those before any of these counter service options if we were first-timers or infrequent Walt Disney World visitors. This list of counter service restaurants is geared towards those with less time, money, or who would simply prefer a faster meal.

Note that these rankings focus only on the major counter service spots at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so not every outdoor vending cart and little location makes the list. We’ve dined at all of these spots, but have yet to review most of them…largely because there’s little to say. All told, there are technically almost 20 different counter service spots at DHS, but only around half of those actually qualify as unique or fully-fledged restaurants.

Anyway, let’s get started with the Disney’s Hollywood Studios counter service rankings. Rankings are based upon a restaurant’s overall appeal, with factors such as cuisine quality, theme, uniqueness, and menu variety taken into account…

8. PizzeRizzo – Among Walt Disney World fans, PizzeRizzo is incredibly polarizing. It’s often either the favorite or least favorite counter service restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s my least favorite. (I’m also convinced that many are fans in an ironic sense, or out of respect to the Muppets. I can definitely understand the latter perspective.)

PizzeRizzo replaced Pizza Planet prior to the opening of Toy Story Land, but aside from some cosmetic changes and a few Easter Eggs, it’s basically the same thing. PizzeRizzo mostly phones it in with a very utilitarian look and only scant decorations to hint at its Muppets connection. This alone is a real disappointment, as it could be a really fun and hilarious dining venue.

The other big disappointment is the food, which is generic pizza plus an equally generic meatball sub. It comes as no surprise that this is a pizza restaurant, but the problem is that there’s absolutely no ambition. It’s all greasy, over-processed “Almost Pizza.” On the plus side, portions are large. It’s a decent guilty pleasure, I suppose, but PizzeRizzo leaves a lot to be desired and has a ton of unrealized potential.

7. Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner – The menu constantly changes at Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner, and they’re usually lateral changes from one boring and bland lineup to another. Nevertheless, there’s something to be said from eating out of a boat near the front of the park and you can usually find a few comfort food staples, and those are safe–but uninspired–choices.

Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner also usually has one interesting option–right now, that’s the California BLTA Dog. Otherwise, it’s mostly a good option when you’re wanting something nearby, convenient, and efficient.

6. Backlot Express – This counter service restaurant scores points for a few reasons. Backlot Express has the most involved theme of any of these restaurants, with a bunch of props, set prep work, and unique dining rooms. It’s one of the last vestiges of the “working studio” theme at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which has otherwise become “Disney’s Movie Magic” or franchise dumping grounds theme park.

Backlot Express also has the largest seating area of any restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with plenty of tables inside and outside. This may not seem significant, but DHS is a park notorious for undersized restaurants. It also is one of the few restaurants where you can refill your drinks, and the only place with such a drink station at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (What can I say, it’s a low bar.)

Sadly, the menu is not one of the selling points of Backlot Express. There are a few boring burgers, salads, and chicken stuff. The most interesting item is the Cuban Sandwich, which is pretty good–but not enough to elevate the restaurant into a higher slot.

5. Sunset Ranch Market – This is the outdoor food court on Sunset Boulevard near Tower of Terror and Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster. Fairfax Fare is the main restaurant here, with Rosie’s All American Cafe and Catalina Eddie’s being the secondary options. Each of these are distinct locations and have their own menus, but they’re more like separate ordering bays in the same big food court–which is why we’re lumping them together.

For those who want standard theme park fare, Rosie’s serves up burgers and hot dogs, while Catalina Eddie’s offers more of the “Almost Pizza” that Walt Disney World guests seem to love. That leaves Fairfax Fare as the highlight, with its menu currently consisting of mashed potato waffle bowls topped with brisket, pork belly, or chicken.

These bowls are super weird, using the same sweet waffle cones that you’d find in an ice cream sundae, filling that with addictively-good mashed potatoes, and then topping that off with meat. And yet, the brisket and pork belly options are somehow, against all odds, shockingly delicious. We highly recommend both of those…and absolutely nothing else at Sunset Ranch Market.

4. Ronto Roasters – Whether this walk-up window in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge should be categorized as a snack spot or counter service restaurant is debatable. It basically serves variations of one item–the Ronto Wrap–and usually isn’t even open for dinner.

However, we included Casey’s Corner in our Magic Kingdom Counter Service Restaurant Rankings. Ronto Roasters is the same idea as that Main Street fan-favorite, and Ronto Wraps surpass regular hot dogs in almost every way. (They are less filling, though.) We love both the Ronto Morning Wrap and the regular Ronto Wrap and recommend trying them both. Just be warned that you’ll probably leave hungry!

3. Woody’s Lunch Box – We absolutely love Woody’s Lunch Box. It’s a fun spot with a stacked menu of crowd-pleasing comfort foods and indulgences. The cuisine checks the right boxes, with the perfect mix of inventiveness and deliciousness while being completely approachable to everyone. (Given that it’s not in the #1 slot, you might sense that there’s a caveat coming…)

But it can be a nightmare to try eating at Woody’s Lunch Box during the lunch or dinner rushes on an even moderately busy day. The seating area is undersized (even after expansion) and there aren’t enough cash registers–the “restaurant” should be at least double, if not triple, its size given the popularity of Toy Story Land.

As a result, we seldom dine at Woody’s Lunch Box. About the only exceptions are an early lunch or late dinner–before the crowds arrive or after they dine down. If you opt to do that or brave the lunch and dinner rushes, we highly recommend the BBQ Brisket Melt, Totchos, and Grilled Cheese. Oh, and don’t sleep on the Lunch Box Tarts, which are fancied Pop Tarts (they’re better than that sounds or looks).

2. ABC Commissary – On the previous incarnation of this list, ABC Commissary took the #1 slot because it offered air-conditioning and televisions. Literally. It won by default due to a lack of better options and a somewhat upscale dinner menu.

Fast-forward to today, and ABC Commissary has improved considerably but falls to #2. Without question, our favorite option at ABC Commissary is the Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich–this is my go-to quick lunch on long ‘research days’ at DHS. In addition to that, there’s the refreshingly good Mediterranean Salad. There are several other options that are tasty and ambitious, which is more than can be said about many in-park counter service restaurants right now.

1. Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo – One of Walt Disney World’s newest counter service restaurants is also its best. While Ronto Roasters packs a powerful punch, this is the only place to get a full meal in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Thankfully, it’s also a large restaurant that typically has a sufficient amount of space–indoors and outside–to accommodate the crowds.

Docking Bay 7 truly fires on all cylinders. Its themed design is engaging and fun, its menu is diverse and delicious, and it offers some of the best desserts at Walt Disney World. In terms of the menu, there’s something for everyone. Vegetarians–and really, anyone–will love the Felucian Garden Spread, while meat-eating enthusiasts might just prefer the Smoked Kaadu Ribs to those at Flame Tree BBQ. That’s just two things on this stacked menu!

Ultimately, the key takeaway from this is that there’s been a considerable counter service comeback at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The top trio at DHS are unrivaled–the best lead-off lineup of any park at Walt Disney World for quick-service options. That’s rounded out with Ronto Roasters batting cleanup, making for a solid starting four.

There are actually parallels to the table service dining scene here, which Disney’s Hollywood Studios also does shockingly well but is similarly overlooked. Not many Walt Disney World fans would rank DHS as the #1 park for food–and it probably isn’t–but it’s seldom even in the conversation. EPCOT gets the accolades for its international cuisine and festivals, Animal Kingdom for unique and interesting options, and Magic Kingdom for family fun.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is either overlooked entirely, rated poorly based on long-outdated perceptions, or dragged down by an overemphasis on its worst options. To be sure, there’s plenty of underwhelming cuisine at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If you’re one of the people who thinks PizzeRizzo is the pinnacle of DHS dining, you likely don’t hold its culinary scene in high regard. By contrast, if you look beyond the bad and focus on the good, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has some stellar standouts. That’s especially true when it comes to fun food and unique environments, which DHS does surprisingly well.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

Your Thoughts

Which Disney’s Hollywood Studios counter service restaurant is your favorite? Have you dined at any of these restaurants? Which did you like and dislike? Do you agree or disagree with our DHS quick-service restaurant rankings? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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