Character Meals: Vol 8 – Hollywood and Vine

by 21 Comments

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

I had always considered the Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine character meal at Hollywood & Vine in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (yikes, lots of words there) to be second rate character dining. What I mean is that it is attended by zero of the big characters. While that is true, there is still a certain charm in dining with lesser known figures, so we decided to take the leap and play ‘n dine for breakfast.

Atmosphere

It was very tough for me to accurately judge the atmosphere at Hollywood & Vine. It is meant to resemble a diner with linoleum flooring and lots of shiny metal, but I feel like the theme falls well short. The room is way to big and open to look like a real diner, and there are many chain restaurants that go for the same look. It comes across more as a chain than a diner (welcome to Bob’s Big Boy!…wait, is that still a thing?).

The other factor that made it tough for me to judge the theme was the overwhelming lack of customers. Our reservation was for 9:20am (so we could grab our Toy Story FASTPASS tickets prior to eating), and I expected the restaurant to be partially full. What I found was a nearly empty eatery, with approximately 11 tables of customers when we arrived. By the time we left at about 10:30am we were one of five tables. It was weird and made for a very subdued atmosphere.

 

Characters

The characters you find at Hollywood & Vine are most certainly not for everyone. If you do not have a child between the ages of 2 and 8, you have probably never heard of Jake (from Jake and the Neverland Pirates), June (from Little Einsteins), Special Agent Oso, and Handy Manny. As a father who has had many experiences with all of these shows, I can comfortably say that you are not missing much.

I'm pretty sure this picture captures everyone in the restaurant.

Children’s show quality not withstanding, the characters are fantastic, exactly as I expected. They looked great, acted wonderfully, and interacted with the kids perfectly. I can say those things confidently becuase we saw each character about 456,751 times (I may be exaggerating, but not by much). In all honesty, I lost count when June came to see us for the seventh time. Due to the low number of people in the restaurant, the characters got bored. They therefore decided to seek out whomever was around…which was us.

This is in no way a complaint because I would rather see the characters too much than not at all, but even my three year old rolled her eyes the last few times she got up to hug Handy Manny. I tried to get Jake to sit with us for a while, but that is probably against protocol. One thing that is done regularly is a dance routine to one of the popular songs from the represented shows. These are led by a very excitable cast member along with the characters. They try to get as many children as possible to come up and dance with them. As you can imagine, when there are only about 7 children in the building, they do not have great luck.

My daughter was the one and only child in this dance "party."

Overall I have no problems with any of the characters or handlers at Hollywood & Vine, but I did feel bad for them. They were clearly bored, and even the kids could only get excited a handful of times to see the same people.

Food

Blah. Okay, okay, I will elaborate. The food was blah. Fine, I’ll explain what I mean. Since it was breakfast, we had eggs, sausage, bacon, Mickey waffles…all the same stuff you will find at every character breakfast buffet on property. It was fine, but clearly heatlamped (yes, I’m reduced to making up adjectives). The food would not keep me away, but I would certainly not go there for the food, either.

If you would like to judge for yourself you can click these links for the breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus (dinner is non-character).

Odds, Ends, and Details

All meals served at Hollywood & Vine are buffets, although only the breakfast and lunch are accompanied by characters. The breakfast costs $25 ($14 for 10 and under), lunch is $29 ($16 for 10 and under), and dinner is $33 ($16 for 10 and under) with prices increasing during certain peak seasons.

This is Special Agent Oso who is a...panda? cat? lemming? vermicious knid?

Final Thoughts

I feel like I have been tough on the Play ‘n Dine, but it was not a bad experience. The restaurant being empty was actually a funny bonus, and we certainly did not suffer from lack of character interaction. As I mentioned the food was of no consequence, neither a draw nor a deterrant.

If you have a kid who is a fan of one or more of the characters, this is a great way to meet them and, in the case of June or Oso, the only way. Otherwise, I recommend skipping this one since there is no particular draw for someone not interested in meeting one of those characters.

Have any of you been recently? Was there anyone else there, or was my visit an abberation?

Thanks for reading!

Other Character Meal Volumes:

 

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
Posted on May 8, 2012

21 Responses to “Character Meals: Vol 8 – Hollywood and Vine”

  • We have a couple of boys that fall directly into the wheelhouse of these type characters and have been to Hollywood and Vine several times.

    We’ve been there when it was crowded, but you are correct in that it is typically not very full. This is nice when you have smaller kids, because we all know buffets are not the most kid-friendly setups. Here you don’t have to spend a lot of time in line. The food is exactly what you get at any of the other breakfast buffets. Good enough, but nothing spectacular. We all eat well.

    The character interaction is great here. First, you get these characters you do not get to see anywhere else. Second, you get as much time with them as you want. We’ve had no problem getting them to stay at our table for close 5 minutes at a time, letting the kids really have a great time with them. Our boys are Jake and the Neverland Pirates fanatics so they LOVED seeing Jake.

    All said, I think your review was a bit harsh. It is a good experience, with typical, safe food, and great interaction with characters you don’t get to see often (or at all) outside.

  • As a parent who endures Special Agent Oso on a daily basis,the vermicious knid comment….. ROTFL

  • by Meredith McCutcheon on May 8, 2012, at 9:53 am EDT

    We went to the Play N Dine at Hollywood and Vine in September 2011 for lunch. I agree that the food was blah (my husband liked it, but he likes all food–and I mean ALL FOOD). However, when we went for lunch, the place was PACKED. We had an ADR, but we still had to wait for 30 minutes. Once we got in, though, it was really an awesome experience. Like you said, the characters were fantastic. Even though it was super busy, they still gave us lots of attention. The dance party was awesome, too. It was probably more fun for us because there were tons of kids. I really think that this dance party was the highlight of my 3-year-old’s vacation. I will never forget watching her dance to her favorite Disney Junior songs with June and Oso. Would I go there for the food? Absolutely not. Would I recommend going there if you have little ones who love Disney Junior? 100%. It was an experience we will always remember.

    • We went with a 3 year old for lunch in 2012. It was fairly busy, and as mentioned, food was neither here nor there. But my little one LOVED the character interaction, dancing, conga line (of sorts) and was overtly happy and well fed when we left. Due to the new Character line-up (adding Doc McStuffins and Sofia the First), we’ll be going back again this year!

  • I have two sons – 4 and 9 – no daughters. We’ve been to WDW 6 times, and have eaten at Cinderella’s every time. Even though it seems like the best place to take little girls, I find that the princesses pay extra attention to the ‘princes’. My 9 year old loves it that Jasmine always gives him a kiss on his cheek and calls him handsome. One time my niece was with us and got a little jealous that the boys seemed to get more attention than she did! If you have boys, don’t let it stop you from dining with the princesses! I don’t care who you are, there’s something magical about eating in the castle!

    • I’m sorry – that previous post was to comment on the Cinderella’s Castle dining experience! My 4 yr old is very much looking forward to seeing Jake at Hollywood & Vine on our next trip! A great place if you have little ones that enjoy Playhouse Disney. Otherwise, it’s one to skip!

  • We ate at the Hollywood and Vine for lunch in Jan 2012. It is not a fancy place I will give you that but I don’t expect elegance or too fancy of decor when going to character buffets. I would rather have tons of room to maneuver around kids, characters and photo taking parents. There were not a lot of dinners for lunch the day we went and we saw the characters at least 3 times. But the interaction was better than the places which are overly crowded and they breeze right past. My kids are all very shy and it takes time for them to warm up to the characters so it is a bonus to us that they came so many times. I do have to mention that my kids are all huge fans of the shows (maybe not so much Oso) and enjoyed this interaction very much. As a mom of all boys I think Disney is a little biased on the princess dining 2 of the best character buffets the royal table and Akershus are geared only for girls. My boys(7,5,5) would rather starve than eat there. The food was nothing special but not bad either again it is a buffet. Maybe Disney should move a princess meal there and do a buffet geared to boys only at one of the better character meal restaurants. Just so us parents on all boys can experience these places too.

  • We do a ton of character meals and this one has some of the best character interaction in all of WDW. The kids get to literally dance with the characters, the food is not the best on proprty. If your kids are into these characters then this meal is a great time.

  • by Keith LeLievre on May 8, 2012, at 10:42 am EDT

    As a couple of DINKs(Dual-Income-No-Kids) I’m sure this place isn’t for us, but I have to comment on your Vermicious Knid reference. Well Played sir. Well played.

  • Last year you could meet June and the other Little Einsteins in the Animation Court Yard by the Playhouse Disney show. Are they no longer there? I agree that the food at Hollywood and Vine is only okay, but if this is the only place to see any of the Little Einsteins I may need to make a reservation.

    • As of right now that you can only meet Jake and Handy Manny at those spots. I’m sure it will change as show popularities adjust, but I’m not sure if it will go back to Little Einsteins. They already removed Leo from this character meal for Jake.

  • You seem to be upset the restaurant wasn’t more full. I think the age niche here dictates it doesn’t appeal to the broader audience other character meals do but that isn’t a problem. If your kid loves these characters, it’s fantastic. And when I walk in and see it half full, I’m happy because on a personal level I know my kid will get more time with characters and I’ll have less competition at the buffet line. It’s win-win.

    As for the food, I’ve found the selection superior to some places (Have you been to Crystal palace lately? Really small selection) and the cheesy potato hashbrowns were amazing.

    Hollywood and Vine is a real gem and easy to get an ADR for. Definitely worth it

    • 1. I was in no way upset and hopefully it doesn’t come across too much like that. Shock was more what I would say I felt upon seeing the sparsely populated restaurant. If I could have every restaurant (and ride, and park) to myself that would be super duper.

      2. The food I won’t argue with. It was fine, but I would not go there simply for the food as it was not that good (and I feel the same about Crystal Palace, Cape May, and Chef Mickey’s). You are correct about the cheesy potatoes, they are good.

      3. I am shocked (shocked I tell you) that Matt Hochberg, proprietor of Studios Central, is a supporter of the Studios only character meal (still shocked). :)

      • What can I say, I’m a surprising guy :)

        I don’t disagree with your blog post, I just think it’s definitely on par, if not better than, the typical WDW character meal experience. I do agree that the characters can be a turn off if you dont have kids who care about it.

        I do think it’s an underrated character meal/buffet. Glad you got a chance to check it out. Keep up the great posts!

  • We’ve eaten there a couple of times and it is pretty average. My son had fun the first year when he turned 8 getting up and doing the songs, but the last time we went he was pretty bored. I would really love to see them change it into a Phineas and Ferb Character meal. I think that would be a great addition to Hollywood Studios!! On a side note, it is a great breakfast to go to if you want to get into Hollywood Studios before it opens. Especially if you want to grab a FastPass for Toy Story Mania. :)

  • Pretty funny! All the things you considered sorta negative are the exact reason my kids love it! They are HUGE fans of Jake, Little Einsteins, and Agent Oso. They like the familiar food that is totally predictable, they know what to expect. And the lack of crowds works well, as two of the four kids are a bit shy and easily overwhelmed. At some of the more popular character spots, those two have had disappointments: the first time they see the characters they tend to freeze and won’t go near them. So, if they don’t get a second chance they know they missed out on a great interaction. At Hollywood & Vine, when the characters come around several times, they have a chance to warm up to them!

  • Oh Brian! Oso is clearly a unique stuffed bear! His show is a gritty social commentary on how busy and inattentive the modern parent is… Just kidding ;)

    We actually quite enjoyed the meal even before we had a clue who the characters were. The food is just about right in quality to fuel an evening’s marathon session down Sunset Boulevard, and very reasonable, compared to many other restaurants.

    I honestly can’t wait to take our son there for the first time.

  • by magicalmouseinsider on May 8, 2012, at 6:53 pm EDT

    I recently dined here with my family and had a wonderful time. I like you have been trying out all the different character meals with my family for the past 3 years. My girls 3 and 6 especially liked June and Oso! We tried Hollywood and Vine this time because of the different characters. Mickey and his gang and the Princesses are available at several locations. My family’s experience was different because we went during a school break. This made for a very busy character experience. The characters were wonderful as always and the singing and dancing made for a great distraction while we waited for our table visits from each character. A bonus for Hollywood and Vine is it’s the only character breakfast at Hollywood Studios. I choose this place specifically for an 8:00am reservation so we could enter the park 1 hour early. This allows us time to take family photos in the park with no crowds and to be first in line for Toy Story Mania fastpasses.

  • We had just the opposite experience a little over a week ago — it was all positive. We went for lunch and it was very crowded. (I can understand it not being busy for breakfast — most people want to get an early start on their touring and might prefer a mid-day break — especially when the weather is hot).

    Fortunately, we had an early lunch time, so our wait was not too long. But when we came out, there was a very large crowd of people waiting to get in. The place was packed — and noisy. We were there with our son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. It’s true that we only knew one of these “minor” characters (Handy Manny), but our grandson knew them all — and that’s all that mattered. They were wonderful with the kids – spending lots of time at each table — and interacting perfectly — even with our one-year-old granddaughter who had no idea what was going on. It was so much fun to see.

    We went to 4 character meals during our stay and I feel that this was the best of them all. (The others were the Crystal Palace and Chef Mickey’s for dinner, and Cinderella’s Royal Table for breakfast). I have to honestly say the food at Hollywood & Vine was also the best of the four. And the characters were the most interactive there as well. (At Cinderella’s Royal Table and Chef Mickey’s, they were very rushed and didn’t spend as much time at each table).

    The decor didn’t bother us — afterall, we were there for the characters and the food and were not disappointed with either. I HIGHLY recommend this to others who have children who are fans of these characters. (You may not want to go for breakfast though if you want more of a crowd).

  • Thanks for this review! I took my 4, 4, and 2 year olds to a character lunch here in 2009 and they really, really loved it. Interactive, attentive … Standard buffet fare. I was just trying to book a lunch reservation online for my now 7, 7, 4, and 2 year olds and it says characters only at breakfast – not lunch. Do you know what’s up with that?

  • I understand the characters have changed to include Sophia the First and Doc McStuffins instead of Oso and little einsteins.