Backlot Express Restaurant

Jack Spence Masthead

I was recently at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with some friends when lunchtime approached. Since we didn’t have reservations for any of the table-service restaurants, and we really didn’t want to spend that much money anyway, we opted for a counter-service eatery. After a little discussion, we settled on the Backlot Express Restaurant. The Backlot Express Restaurant is sandwiched between the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and Star Tours.

Backlot Express Restaurant

Backlot Express Restaurant

The Backlot Express Restaurant is housed in a warehouse/factory. The backstory is that this is the location on the studio lot where movie props are created and stored. Because of this, the atmosphere here is rather chaotic and cluttered.

You enter the restaurant through the primary factory entrance. If you look up when walking through the main doors, you’ll notice signs indicating various departments of the shop.

Shop Signs

Shop Signs

Shop Signs

Through these doors you’ll find the largest dining room of this facility. Although there is a roof over most of this area, there are few walls, allowing for cooling breezes to flow through the shop. This is a wonderful spot to have an alfresco meal when the weather is nice.

Outdoor Seating

Outdoor Seating

Outdoor Seating

As always, there are plenty of details if you take the time to look. One of the largest is the police paddy-wagon used by the weasels in the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”.

Paddy Wagon

Paddy Wagon

This area is one of two spots in the building used by the paint department – that’s why it’s an open-air facility. The paint fumes need a way to escape. Scattered around a work table are a number of projects currently under development. For instance, you can see how a small piece of wood has been transformed to look like the spines of several old books.

Paint Department

Paint Department

Paint Department

Also in the paint department is a forklift, carrying two barrels of pigment. If you study the containers closely, you’ll notice the colors are very appropriate for a counter-service restaurant.


Barrels of Paint

Take a look at the ground. In this next picture you can see three different styles of pavement the prop department can recreate.

Pavement Styles

If you pay attention to the tables and chairs you’ll notice that they are a mismatched collection. This is because this is a warehouse. They are only being stored here until needed for a future film.




An old furnace and boiler sit nearby. These were once used to power much of the factory.

Furnace and Boiler

In another section of this shop you’ll find a plastic mold and the capital of a column that it created. This display helps demonstrate that in the movies, what we see is mostly fake and inexpensively produced.

Plastic Mold

Column Capital

Past the paint department you’ll find the entrance into the food ordering area of the Backlot Express Restaurant. To see the entire menu for this eatery, click here.

Restaurant Entrance

Ordering Counter

There are inside dining rooms to both sides of the ordering counter. To the left we find the Automotive and Stunt section of the warehouse. Since many stunts involve automobiles, it is logical to house these two departments of film making together.

In one section of the shop you’ll discover a number of auto parts and tools scattered around the room. You’ll also find the time clock where workers punch in and out at the beginning and end of their shifts.

Automotive Section

Automotive Section

Time Clock

Another prop from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” can be found in this section of the warehouse. This small vehicle was driven by actor Bob Hoskins (Eddie Valiant) when he was driving Benny the Cab. Pictures above the vehicle depict what Bob looked like in real life and then how he looked after Benny was animated around him.

Benny the Cab

Benny the Cab

Benny the Cab

In one corner of the room, the Stunt Office can be found. This is where the stunt coordinator will meticulously plan and choreograph the film’s feats of daring-do.

Stunt Office

Stunt Office

On the other side of the room, a large chalkboard is used to teach the stunts to the stuntmen and women.

Stunt Chalkboard

My friend Rob D. pointed out that above the Stunt Office is a prop from the old Horizons attraction. This contraption was the hovercraft seen in the Mesa Verde farming scene.

Horizons Prop

Mesa Verde

Scattered around the room and hanging from the ceiling are a number of vehicles used in various action-packed feats of danger. Attached to the wall is a bulletin board with photographs of past stunts.




Bulletin Board

The beverage and condiment station in this area is designed into automotive tool chests.

Beverage and Condiment Station

To the right of the ordering counter is a large mural painted on canvas. Scenes like these are often used on movie sets to represent the background in a shot.

City Mural

On the opposite side of this completed mural is another mural in progress. You can see the artist has finished most of the painting but still has some work to do. You will also notice a smaller, similar painting the artist is using as a template.

Country Mural

Country Mural

Mural Template

As you have probably figured out, this area is part of the Paint Department. In the corner of the room is the Paint Department Office. Inside, the busy coordinator has surrounded himself with paint chips, diagrams, and schedules. Next to the office is a sink for the washing of brushes and paint trays.

Paint Office

Paint Office

Paint Office

Paint Sink

On the wall are samples of surfaces that can be recreated in paint, a significantly cheaper way of creating textures. Although these samples look unconvincing here, with the proper lighting and through the eye of the camera, they will look quite real.

Paint Samples

Paint Samples

The beverage and condiment station in this section of the restaurant is located in the paint mixing area. Splatters and drips of color can be seen on many of the surfaces.

Beverage and Condiment Station

The last dining room is found among the many plaster castings that are used in the movies. Similar to using paint to recreate flat surfaces, plaster is an inexpensive way of duplicating three dimensional objects.

Plaster Props

Plaster Props

Just like the Automotive and Stunt sections of the warehouse are housed together, there is also a reason the Paint and Plaster departments are located adjacent to one another. Paint can turn a boring white structure into a work of art. Take a look at this ship’s masthead and the elaborate Chinese column.

Painted Plaster Props

Painted Plaster Props

I have to be honest; the Backlot Express Restaurant has never been one of my favorite counter-service eateries. Not because I don’t like the food, but because I really don’t want to eat in a warehouse. However, my opinion has changed somewhat since I took the time to study this location in detail. I have eaten here twice recently with a new eye. Instead of concentrating on the fact that this is a large storage facility, I’m paying attention to the movie magic that is created in places like these at real film and TV studios around the world. There are a lot of details to be discovered here. And it doesn’t take an expert to figure out the story the Imagineers are trying to tell. Anyone who is willing to take the time can find a lot of interesting particulars in the nooks and crannies.

As for the food”¦ On my first “return” visit I had the Grilled Turkey & Cheese – (multigrain ciabatta with arugula and red peppers served with French fries or carrot sticks $8.99). I was very pleased and would definitely recommend this choice to others. On my second “return” visit, I had the Southwest Salad with Chicken (mixed greens, crisp corn tortilla, black bean relish, avocado, and cilantro vinaigrette $8.29). I was extremely happy with this selection and impressed with how much chicken I was given. There was meat in every bite. The dressing was tasty, but didn’t overpower the ample avocado provided. I plan on having this salad again soon.

The Backlot Express Restaurant currently opens daily at 11:30am. Closing time is dictated by the park’s hours. If you want an earlier lunch than the Backlot Express offers, check out the ABC Commissary which often opens at 11am.

When the Walt Disney Studios Paris first opened, it hosted a restaurant by the same name and with similar theming. However, I have been informed by one of my readers that in June 2009 it was renamed and retooled and is now called “Disney Blockbuster Café.”

Backlot Express Paris

Backlot Express Paris

Be sure to visit the Rate and Review area so you can read what others experienced and post your own reviews too!

Well that’s it for today’s blog. And it shows, details can make the difference. Because I paid attention to the story the Imagineers were trying to tell at the Backlot Express Restaurant, I have come around and will not hesitate to eat here in the future.

Remember, slow down and smell the roses.

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33 Replies to “Backlot Express Restaurant”

  1. I’ve been to the Studios 100’s of times and I have never seen the Backlot. I’ll be eating there in a few weeks, thanks to Jack.

  2. They definitely have played the TV Theme songs in this location – or they have every time I’ve been. I hope they still do. That was part of the fun of going there to identify the show – and to go “oh yeah – I loved that show”, etc.
    This is a pretty good restaurant and it is so big that you can usually find a spot to be seated. Definitely worth giving a shot if you haven’t.

  3. Thanks for the great info. This is my favorite CS llocation in DHS and I didn’t even realize all of the detail you provided. Makes me want to go back even more. The Southwestern Salad is excellent especially on a warm day.

    For me and my family, it’s in the perfect location for where we always end up @ lunchtime.

  4. Hi Jack!

    I can only guess that most people won’t be commenting on this blog entry with tears in their eyes, but this was one of myself and my late sisters (who was my best friend as well as WDW travel buddy) favorite restaurants in WDW. We loved all the fun props, and would seek out the grungiest (looking) spots to eat our meal. When I saw the paint spattered sink along with the lockers thats when I lost it. I was hoping to see the grungy coveralls as well:-) We loved the food, and always found new props we hadn’t seen before, during each visit…so many memories.

    Love your blog!

  5. What a great detailed post! This is my favorite place to eat at DHS, perhaps even for most of WDW. I actually crave that turkey sandwich all the time and wish I could find it at other locations throughout the park…am I missing somewhere else? This restaurant is what Disney is all about with their detailed theming. And you can’t go wrong with the unlimited fountain drinks. Great write-up!

  6. Dear Jack,

    You see, this is why I love reading your blogs. You highlight an area and really show us something we didn’t notice before. I thought I had been here before yet I didn’t recall seeing any of these things in your pictures and I thought I couldn’t have been that unobservant until I read one of the comments and realizing that like that person I thought you were talking about the eatery next to Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground which I don’t like. Haha the joke’s on me. Now I have to find this place and check it out. To think an area in Disney World I’ve never been to. Thanks for blogging!


  7. Hi Jack!
    I remember eating at the Backlot Express wayyyy back when Disney didn’t know what a salad was! It seemed like burgers were 80% of every menu! The Backlot also had fix-in stations with lettuce and onions etc, but they went away when the menu’s changed.
    Thank you for the blog – it made me feel like I was having lunch there today!! ( I wish )

  8. Hi Jack!

    Backlot has been our #1 favorite spot to eat at The Studios since 1998. We’ve always been pleased with the food there.
    I would have to say the best part of the experience/ambience is all the old-time TV show theme music. It’s so fun trying to identify which show the music is from; and it brings back really good memories.

    Thanks again for a really great blog. ~ Johnny

  9. We just returned from Disney this week and I am sorry I didn’t read this review before we left! All these years, I always assumed the counter service by the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground was called Backlot Express. Will definitely need to check this place out on our next trip!!

    Jack’s Comment:

    The food facility next to the playground is called Studio Catering Co. I can assure you, there isn’t much to hold your attention here when it comes to décor.

  10. We eat there every trip, as my kids and I all lvoe the food there. I wasn’t aware that the items around were actual props from movies.

    It’s also an amazing place to watch the Star Wars parade during Star Wars weekends.

  11. Ahhh! You’ve given away our secret! Our family usually hits this place up each time we are in MGM, oops I mean DHS… usually trying for the “off hours” so it’s not that crowded. I’ve tried a few things on the new menu and have been pleased, as have the rest of the family, with the salads and the grilled veggie sandwich, as well as the panini. So nice that there’s more selection everywhere on property now instead of just burgers and chicken tenders! Backlot Express is also a good place to see a parade start as well- the side doors and windows look out to the little “driveway” between the Jedi Training platform and the restaurant and we’ve been able to watch a few of the more recent parades while enjoying lunch in air conditioned comfort!

  12. We’ve eaten there several times — you took great pics and noticed several things that we never even thought of! Next time I’m going to pay more attention to the details. It’s so interesting!

  13. Hey Jack,
    The Backlot Express rocks! Sometimes I love just walking through to see the sights. I noticed on my last visit that the Guard Shack/booth is missing from out front. I hope it returns soon. Also for the Horizons fans out there, that triangular thing with the three large holes that is resting above the Stunt office is one of the striped down models of the hovercraft/flying car from the old Horizons attraction at EPCOT. Keep um coming Jack!! Thanks!!

  14. Thank You Jack!

    We have been in the Backlot Express Restaurant twice to eat. It was so busy we had a hard time finding a place to sit. We were trying so hard to look around but it was impossible. This gave us a up close look at the space. Will have to try and stop in again when we are their in Nov. Loved the pictures and info. Again thank you. Your work is excellent!

    Jack’s Comment:

    One thing to keep in mind, Backlot Express becomes extremely busy every time the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular show ends. You need to time your arrival accordingly.

  15. I’ve been frequenting this quick-service stop since the Studios first opened and it is one of my favorites.

    For many years, this location used to play instrumental theme songs from many popular television shows. My family and I would always sit near the unfinished mural during lunch and try to guess which shows the songs came from. When I was here last year, the music was gone. Jack – did you happen to notice this on your trip? I’m not sure if it was a fluke during my last trip or if the recent name change of the studios and the merger with ABC prevented them from using some of those songs.

    On a side note – it seems that when the Studios opened, there were many prominent references to Roger Rabbit throughout the park (most notably the dip mobile crashing through a wall). Now, it seems like many of these references have been removed. Even the famous silhouette of Roger in the upstairs window blinds no longer looks like him. It seems like Disney had plans early on to make Roger Rabbit a more prominent park theme and something fell through along the way.

    Jack’s Answer:

    I’m not aware of the TV themes ever being played at the Blacklot Express — but I could be wrong. However, the recording you’re thinking about is played on Commissary Lane. There are many tables and chairs along this thoroughfare and you can still sit and guess the tunes of yesteryear.

  16. We always eat here for counter service in the Studios, as the soft drink machines are self serve and are located with the condiments, and so we can refill our drinks during our meal….great during the hot summer months!

  17. Thanks, Jack. We seem to eat here often and always sit in the plaster section. I was never really impressed with the atmosphere, but you helped bring a whole new level of detail to it! I think if we dine here again, I will have a new level of enjoyment!

  18. I have never stopped at the Backlot Express, but now I will have to. During the summer months, I usually seek out the respite of air-conditioning, but come this fall, with have to take my cameras over and check it all out. Thanks for the “heads up.” I never would have predicted such a back story.

  19. Thanks Jack,

    I’ve never noticed this eatery before. Next time in DHS, I’ll have to stop in for a visit.

  20. In many ways the Backlot Express is similar to Restaurantosaurus at the Animal Kingdom in that it seems like it’s filled with a confusing mass of unrelated objects at first, but then when you look closer it begins to make sense (although I do prefer the food in the Backlot Express). Last time I was there I discovered that the “story” being told in Restaurantosaurs continues in the Boneyard playground, this is where the students who are lodging in Restaurantosaurs are engaged in an archelogical dig for the summer. I really love this kind of attention detail that Disney does so well.

  21. My family and I have been eating in the Backlot Express since it opened. When we dont want a table service reservation and some freedom on when we eat this is the place.
    I love all ‘work in progress’ details in the decor and think the warehouse idea is a really good one. Although it probably fit in even more when there were productions at the Studios in the early days.
    The food is always hot and fresh, and time your arrival off peak and its very chilled out!
    Thanks for posting about this great counter service spot in our favourite park. I hope a lot more people give it a try now!

  22. Hi Jack,

    Great as always. The little details Disney does and the way you point them out is superb. I noticed you said you and a few friends were there for lunch. I’m surprised you didn’t add a little something of what you all ordered and how it was.

    Jack’s Comment:

    When I ate there with my friends, I had no intention of writing a blog about the place. It wasn’t until a few days later that the idea occurred to me. I remember that they liked what they had ordered, but by then, the “moment” had passed and I decided not to mention their entrées.

  23. Hi Jack,

    Thanks for another great entry. We love this place both for the atmosphere and the food. I highly recommend it. But you’re right, because of the warehouse look, I’m sure people don’t consider it as much as some other places.

  24. Hi Jack,
    I have never tried this interesting restaurant but I’ll check it out on my next visit. I think my husband would like to see that mural.

  25. We ate here a few years ago. It was quiet and wonderful for eating outside! And we ejoyed th food too! I would go back again.

  26. WOW! I had no idea there was so much to see. My last visit all I noticed was the delicious Southwest Salad with Chicken I was eating. Can’t wait to go back with open eyes!

  27. Hi jack the detailing is the reason we eat counter service here our 9 year old twins love it and yes the turkey sandwich is my wifes favourite.

  28. I’m glad you finally changed your opinion about the Backlot Express. There is so much detail in there and I learned so much about all that goes into making movie magic just by walking around this restaurant. This is one of the last remaining areas that theme back to the original concept for the Studios. Probably won’t be there too much longer.

  29. Hi Jack,

    What a wonderful blog…we have eaten here many times but only outside and I’ve haven’t noticed even half the details you have covered. I obviously need to slow down and smell the roses. I can’t wait to go back in January to check everything out.


  30. I wasn’t sure before but after reading this, I am 100% certain I have never even set foot in this place. Just goes to show that no matter how many times you go to Disney World, there is always something new to discover.

    Though I have to wonder how many people see the paint splattering and “open” paint cans and think “wow, this is really careless and unlike Disney!” Hehe. 😉

  31. hey Jack
    I have never been to the backlot express resturant before because are family always ate at table-service resturants. Now after reading this blog and looking at the menu as well as the atmosphere I can’t wait to give it a try. There are so many little details that go unnoticed and I now hope to show my family what I learned. can’t wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.

  32. we eat at backlotit was great for a party of 10,food was good we sat next to where the indiana jones back stage and some us watch them reload the stage for the next show, we were looking thur a gate, 1 stage hand wave to us