Dining at the Disney-MGM Studio

Feature Article

This article appeared in the August 29, 2000, Issue #46 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

When one thinks of dining at the Disney-MGM Studios the Brown Derby immediately comes to mind. "In Hollywood, everyone who is anyone knows the Original Brown Derby is not just another restaurant - it is the place for find food, good times and glamorous company." Or so the Disney Brown Derby menu tells us....

But there are 2 other places in the Studios you should consider next time you are looking for a place to have a sit-down breakfast or lunch. Read on.

ALL EARS® welcomes back DC Deb Koma (her wonderful review of Narcoossee's at the Grand Floridian can be found in the Archives) who dined last week at Hollywood and Vine.

ALL EARS® also welcomes Eureka (aka Czarina) Freeman. The Czarina is a huge Disney fan and Disney Vacation Club member who lives in New York. Her column, The Czarina's Royal Table, will feature restaurant and dining reviews. Her first column, Summer Refreshers, debuts in the current News From Around the World; http://allears.net/news/hnews.htm. The Czarina recently had lunch at Mama Melrose.

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Hollywood and Vine by DC Deb Koma

Just where *is* Hollywood & Vine? my friends visiting WDW from the UK asked me. I had to hesitate before answering, since it's the one restaurant at the Disney-MGM Studios that I'd never dined in, and, I have to admit, I wasn't quite sure. That settled it for me -- I knew I had to give it a try on my next trip.

Turns out that Hollywood & Vine is situated inconspicuously next to the popular '50s Prime Time Cafe across from Echo Lake.

A full-service restaurant that offers character meals at breakfast and lunch, Hollywood & Vine, formerly a cafeteria-style place, now serves its food ala buffet, in a setting that recalls the Hollywood of the 1940s. Chrome and art nouveau decor are featured, and an open kitchen allows you to watch the food being prepared.

Our recent experience at the restaurant was a late breakfast, which worked in our favor. Many character breakfasts can be a loud, nerve-jangling affair, but at this hour Hollywood & Vine was only half-full, creating a low-key, relaxed atmosphere that gave us plenty of time with the gregarious characters.

A glamorous Minnie Mouse, dressed in formal gown and feather boa, greeted us upon entering the restaurant. Circulating among the diners were her pals Pluto, Chip and Dale, and a very suave and debonair Goofy, in hat and tails.

Our server brought fresh-squeezed orange juice and coffee, as well as other breakfast beverages of choice, and we perused the goodies on the buffet.

Priced at $14.95/adults, $7.95/children 3-11, the breakfast buffet features the following hot and cold items:

At the children's breakfast bar: Mickey waffles, buttermilk pancakes and a delicious scrambled eggy kids' breakfast pizza.

At the adult buffet: the normal, reliably good, Disney breakfast buffet fare: various frittatas, fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, ham, grits (plain and cheese), buttermilk pancakes, bacon, sausage, biscuits and sausage gravy, danish, muffins and breakfast breads, smoked salmon, bagels, toast, cold cereals, fresh fruit and a not-to-be-missed rare treat -- *chocolate* French toast. Mmmmm, good!

All in all, Hollywood & Vine offers a great alternative to character dining in a convenient location -- particularly if you're a fan of Minnie and the golden age of Hollywood.

(As with all restaurants located in the theme parks, park admission is required and priority seating is recommended.)

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The Czarina's Royal Table

(EXPLANATION OF SORTS: The Czarina is a Real Person who eats -- a lot - at Disney World. She takes sole responsibility for all opinions stated below, de gustibus non disputandum and chacun a son gout. Do let us know what you think about this column at eureka@eurekajim.org.)

MAMA MELROSE

Dear, Beloved Public, did you know that the hidden-away back part of MGM boasts a terrific restaurant? Not just a thinly-disguised, over-themed fast food joint, but an eatery where someone is Actually Thinking In The Kitchen?

Oh, you did know that? Then you must have dined at Mama Melrose.

If you long, as the Czar and I do, for the old days of red-sauce, red-tablecloth Italian places with posters of Sinatra on the wall and hanging clusters of plastic grapes - and thin-crust pizza -, you owe it to yourself to come here for lunch or dinner. Preferably with six or eight of your closest friends/family.

But first, the great question: How the heck do you find the place? Here is the simple answer: Head for MuppetVision 3D, and turn left at the Miss Piggy Fountain. You can't miss it.

Mama Melrose does not have a big splashy canopy outside like the Brown Derby, but inside, it is much bigger than you would think. Still, it's got a cozy feel, not at all barnlike, being subdivided by half-walls and booths.

It is a good place to go for a romantic (but not dressy) dinner with your main squeeze, and an even better place for that big family lunch. In other words, the vibe is great.

And so are the servers. Most of them seem to have worked here for a long time, and they love the place. As evidenced by our server Debbie, when a group of us went there for lunch on Aug. 21, 2000. Like most Mama's servers, she was eager to tell us how fine the food was, and anxious that more guests don1t know about it.

We were all very thirsty, and Debbie brought us iced tea. And more iced tea. Every time I turned around, that girl was silently placing a new glass of iced tea before me. I liked her.

For lunch, you can have wood-fired pizza (individual size), various starters, and main courses. "Starters" (definitely bigger portions than "appetizers") include a very thick Minestrone, salads, fried calamari or steamed mussels and grilled portobello mushrooms with polenta (m1mmm!)

On the main-course menu there are a couple of pastas, a large Caesar salad with grilled chicken, and some meat and fish options. Portions are hearty and if you are not terribly hungry, sharing a main course or even a couple of appetizers is a perfectly good option.

The Czarina chose the Grilled Chicken Pizza with Pesto, Spinach, Bacon and Asiago Cheese ($12.25). I asked for it "extra crispy" - I always do this, especially with thin-crust pizza - and it arrived slightly blistered and charred on a couple of edges, which I think is fabulous. The balance of juicy chicken and sauce, and crispy bacon and crust, was just about perfect.

Dotti opted for the Grilled Atlantic Salmon with Pencil Asparagus, Portobella Mushroom and Citrus Juices ($14.95) and dubbed it "the best lunch I1ve ever had at WDW". High praise! Dotti has eaten a lot of lunches in Lake Buena Vista. Peter, an adventurous 13-year-old, snarfed down a Starter plate of crisply fried Calamari with Two Aolis, Citrus and Spicy Tomato ($5.95) and said it was "one of the best I've ever tasted." It turned out he was saving room for dessert, which for him was Worms and Dirt - Oreo cookie crumbs, gummi worms, vanilla/orange swirl ice cream with a cone.

Pete said it was "awesome" and gave it two thumbs and one forefinger up. Yeah, he liked it.

Most of the rest of us managed to avoid dessert, being already stuffed on the bellissimo Italian food, but the menu offers several delectable choices including a signature tiramisu and a daily selection of fresh gelatos.

Coffee comes with rock sugar on a stick to swirl in your cup. Or Debbie will bring you another glass of iced tea.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Beloved Public, a good, uncrowded, comfy Italian place in the middle of MGM - what's not to love? It's a beautiful thing. Try it.

CZARINA'S TOP TIP: The only time this place is ever crowded is before Fantasmic. Beware of trying to dine early without a Priority Seating. You can often just walk in at lunch time, though.

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You can find over 300 menus from virtually every restaurant at WDW by visiting: http://allears.net/menu/menus.htm


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.