*DIS Contributors review meals, resort stays, and entertainment that they have paid for during their own vacations. They only utilize discounts and offers if they are available to the general public, such as annual passholder discounts, Tables in Wonderland, or DVC membership discounts. They receive no additional compensation for dining experiences or events, so that they may give their honest opinions about price and value.
This is a review of six different character meals done over an eight night, nine day vacation at Walt Disney World during August 2019. For the full seven days we were there, our party of six, including myself, my wife, our six and one year old daughters, and our four year old son, along with my mother, braved a collection of buffets to see as many characters as we could. These reviews were done with the Disney Dining Plan, and the only out of pocket expenses were the tips.
The scores given in these reviews will be in context of each other, and not comparing them to other restaurants on property. The scores are out of 10, and anything less than a 5 will signal that there was a negative experience.
So, why so many character meals? First, it’s a fantastic way to maximize the value of the Disney Dining Plan. Second, it gets you and your family out of the heat and into some air conditioning. Third, after seeing all the different characters at the meals, you don’t need to wait in line to see them in the parks. When you’re shepherding around three small kids, these meals are great at keeping them occupied at the table while allowing you to relax for a bit before getting back to touring the park.
Location: Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Characters: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto
Cost: $59.99 per adult, $34.99 per child
Total Cost: $249.95 | Disney Dining Plan Cost per day: $282.43
The Location and Theming
Hollywood and Vine is located near Echo Lake immediately after you turn off of Hollywood Boulevard. It shares a building (and a bathroom) with another table service restaurant called 50’s Prime Time Cafe. The building doesn’t stand out, but it does give you a porch where you can sit and wait comfortably while parking your stroller nearby. The location is centralized to the park so you’re never too far away if you are running late.
The theming of the restaurant isn’t very impressive. It’s themed as a typical diner that you may find elsewhere with some Hollywood-ish murals and pictures on the wall. It’s all very generic, and the setting doesn’t mesh with the swimsuit/summer wear costumes the characters are dressed up in. The building itself is open wide, where everyone is in one giant room that’s split in half by the buffet area similar to the design as the one found at The Crystal Palace. It’s specifically designed to feed you quickly, let you meet the characters, and get you out.
The main difference between this restaurant and The Crystal Palace is that The Crystal Palace has some pretty architecture and design inside.
Score: 5 / 10
If you’re an avid listener to the DIS Unplugged podcast, you may have heard a rant or two from Pete Werner about the quality of the food at this restaurant. If you’re wondering if things have changed, they haven’t. The kids are served the typical serving of chicken nuggets and mac-and-cheese, but the rest of the food is uninspired and drab. The only saving grace for the meal is that the carving stations have freshly cooked meat that you can sample. Otherwise, you’re stuck with generic breads and saucy green bean dishes or pork and chicken platters with gravy and/or rice included.
As a note: this is the only character buffet I ate at where I actually put the mac-and-cheese on my own plate.
The food is typically heavy and filling while offering very little flavor. You most likely will not find yourself going back up for more. The food is fresh, and it doesn’t appear that it sits out for very long. The cooks are present and making sure the food is as good as it could be. Hollywood Studios is not the park you want to be coming to for a nice meal unless The Hollywood Brown Derby is on your radar.
Score: 5 / 10
You get the Fab 5 at this restaurant, and it’s a great place to meet Mickey and Minnie while you’re at Hollywood Studios. As with all of the other reviews I’ve done, the characters are hard to fault. The cast members do an excellent job of engaging the kids and giving you ample time to take pictures and video.
Donald (or another character) is waiting for you at the front of the restaurant near the door. You’ll get a pass once you pay to go wait to get professional pictures with him as part of your photopass. His interaction was funny and the cast members were having fun with our kids while taking pictures.
Score 7 / 10
Service was great, and our server was helpful and engaged throughout the process. Never once did he rush us through the meal, and even was more than happy to extend our stay when another round of beers was ordered.
The cast member at the front that was registering reservations was incredibly helpful. We had a 4:50pm reservation and I could not find a better reservation time for a month leading up to the trip. We were hoping to eat at 6:30pm, and, when I walked up to ask prior to our first reservation, the cast member was incredibly helpful and told us to come back at any time we liked that night. We came back at 6:30pm, and were sat within fifteen minutes. Very helpful!
Score 7 / 10
Value for Your Money
If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan and are hard up for a character meal in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it might not been worth using your sit down credit for this restaurant. I’m hard pressed to recommend coming to Hollywood and Vine. The food is mediocre and the atmosphere is dull and uninspired. This is my second visit here and I’m probably not going back again. This may be a park where you use two quick service credits for food and save your unused table service credit for breakfast somewhere or a signature dining restaurant on another night.
I would give this restaurant a hard pass if you’re paying out of pocket for it. Save your money and spend it elsewhere. If the character interaction became limited in some way, and the price remained the same, then I would almost likely feel cheated by eating at this restaurant.
Score 5 / 10
5 / 10 The Location and Theming
5 / 10 The Food
7 / 10 The Characters
7 / 10 Service
5 / 10 Value for Your Money