REVIEW: Planet Hollywood Observatory Opens at Disney Springs, I Don’t Even Know Where to Begin…
I have reviewed the opening of a lot of restaurants in my almost ten years here at WDWNT.com, but I’ve never had quite the mix of thoughts and emotions that I felt last night at the opening of Planet Hollywood Observatory at Disney Springs.
First off, the opening of this restaurant has been delayed a lot. It was first scheduled for Fall 2016, then late-2016, then last week, and then it was pushed to last night, which almost didn’t happen. Upon booking the reservation for last night, I was told that the restaurant may not open. When I called the night before to check, they said they honestly had no idea and it depended on a inspection of the restaurant in the morning. Luckily, Planet Hollywood Observatory did open for dinner service last night and we got to go (if you couldn’t tell by the existence of this review).
Upon showing up, we walked through the lobby and started to go up the stairs, but were then told we had to check in first. I asked the man where we were supposed to check-in, and he looked around for 10-15 seconds before the woman with the iPad was found to check us in. This woman then informed us that she had checked us in and we just had to go up the stairs to the right. We went up the stairs to the right and were stopped by another iPad-wielding woman who said she couldn’t find us in her system. Another hostess then informed her that we had a yellow ticket and we could just be sent straight to the hostess stand. We then went to the hostess stand where the ticket was scanned and we were then taken to our table after a few minutes of mass confusion.
Ummmm, its not finished… but it’s not good either. There are a few themes seemingly fighting each other in this restaurant. Is it an observatory? Is it modern? Is it steampunk? Is it a movie theater? It can’t really seem to figure that out.
That being said, many movie props are not installed yet, the third floor isn’t even open yet, and the ceiling projection which should envelope the entire roof is not functioning yet. This restaurant closed in April and set a Fall 2016 opening date. What have they been doing? I don’t see what in here has taken so long to complete. It’s not the ugliest theme park restaurant, but it’s not the most pleasant either.
I don’t know what else there is to say about the exterior that hasn’t been said already. It’s really ugly. The ventilation units sticking out of the big silver pool cover are awful, the nighttime lighting in some places looks horrendous, and it turned out very different from the concept art, (which is being sold on merchandise here, by the way).
Planet Hollywood Observatory (and the Stargazers Bar) have a pretty stellar specialty drink menu, so we attacked that pretty hard.
Many of the drinks include a souvenir glass, but then offer cheaper refills. The $12.00 signature drinks do not and will be smaller in size compared to the others. The Comet Glass category are all $16.00 and include the glass, and the Planet-Bowl class includes a 45oz souvenir glass (that’s the one looming in the background over all of the other glasses).
The Moonwalk ($16.00)
SKYY Infusions blood orange vodka, SKYY Infusions pineapple vodka, orange and pineapple juices, Sprite and grenadine. Includes your own take-home 21 oz. souvenir glass.
I enjoyed this, even if I did only order it because everyone else had claimed every other drink that included a souvenir glass. It was a little heavy on the sprite and light on the alcohol, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
Cosmic Colada ($16.00)
Malibu coconut rum, Jim Bean Kentucky Fire and coconut purée. Includes your own take-home 21 oz. souvenir glass
This was my favorite of all of the drinks we had, but I am a bit of a Pina Colada fanatic. The Jim Beam Kentucky Fire have it a nice unique flavor from almost all of the colada style drinks at Walt Disney World. I’ll be back for this one for sure.
The Observatory ($12.00)
Stoli Vodka, Limoncino Bottega, Monin Peach Tea and Candoni Prosecco
Named after the restaurant, The Observatory is a sweet and peachy drink that I’m sure will please many a guest. While it didn’t come across as exciting as many of the other drinks we ordered, it was still tasty, albeit much smaller than all of the others.
Space Monkey ($16.00)
Cruzan coconut rum, banana liqueur, coconut purée and chocolate milk. Includes your own take-home 21 oz. souvenir glass
I was most excited for this one, but it turned out to be a bit of a letdown. It was almost flavorless. I’d love to write more here, but there simply wasn’t enough taste to even make much of a thought about it.
Planetary Punch ($16.00)
New Amsterdam vodka, Cruzan aged light rum, Beefeater gin, DeKuyper triple sec, Kahlúa, and fresh lemon and lime juices splashed with cranberry juice and topped with Bud Light. Includes your own take-home 21 oz. souvenir glass
This was a favorite among our table. I enjoy just about everything with Kahlua in it, but everyone doesn’t always share my enthusiasm for such beverages. If you are not a colada person, this would be my drink recommendation for Planet Hollywood Observatory.
Proxima B Mojito ($12.00)
Bacardi Superior rum, fresh lemon, lime juices, and ginger ale with fresh blueberries and mint
Pretty much a mojito with blueberries. I don’t know what else to say. The presentation was pretty adorable though.
Halley’s Comet ($27.00)
Cruzan aged light rum, SKYY vodka, Beefeater gin, Jose Cuervo Especial Gold tequila, DeKuper blue curacao, fresh lemon, lime juice, and Sprite. Includes your own take-home 45 oz. souvenir glass
This was exactly what you think it might be, fairly standard. Nothing unique about it, if you’ve had one drink this shade of blue, then you’ve probably had them all. It was mostly Sprite and not very heavy on the alcohol. Not a bad value with the large bowl though, and it makes for a great souvenir.
Next up are the appetizers…
Nine dishes and two large samplers make up the appetizer menu. We ordered three separate appetizers and the larger sampler to best cover most of what is offered.
Potato Wedge Dippers ($11.99)
Build-your-own potato wedges with our special four cheese sauce, crispy bacon bits, buttermilk ranch dressing, pico de gallo, and sour cream
Seven (yeah, seven) potato wedges and some toppings for $11.99… At least they weren’t bad I guess. It’s just potato wedges and cheese, bacon, tomato, and such. Why not just make potato skins? At least then I wouldn’t have to do the work.
Nachos Grande ($14.99)
Corn tortilla chips piled high with chipotle chicken, blend of cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, black bean sauce, cruda salsa verde pico de gallo, queso fresco, and sour cream
Yikes… this nacho dish was one of the more flavorless that I have ever encountered, and that includes those I have ordered from Taco Bell. I also had a hard time finding all of the supposed ingredients.
Chinese BBQ Pork Bao ($13.99)
Soft, steamed buns filled with Chinese BBQ pork, slaw, and sriracha mayonnaise
These were horrifyingly bad. The buns were solid and crunchy, like tacos, which is not what these are supposed to be. The flavor inside wasn’t awful, but the buns alone ruined them. They should probably just leave this to Morimoto Asia.
High Roller Sampler ($34.99)
Our famous Chicken Crunch, Texas Tostados, Buffalo Wings, Five Cheese Dip, and Peri-Peri Shrimp
The high roller sampler comes with 5 different appetizers from the menu, so we decided that would be a good route to go to cover most of the appetizer menu. Also, it comes on a ferris wheel, so I had to have it. Sadly, the ferris wheel doesn’t move, but it’s still a pretty neat idea.
Crispy gyoza skins topped with BBQ chicken, sautéed onions, blend of cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, pico de gallo and drizzled with sour cream and BBQ Sauce
I enjoyed these a lot, but I could make these at home, and I can barely cook french toast (I’m starting to downplay my french toast cooking abilities as someone keeps pestering me to make it for them).
All-natural chicken tenders hand-breaded with a crunchy sweet coating, served with our signature Creole mustard sauce
A carry-over from the old menu, these chicken tenders still deliver. Brilliant in their simplicity, this might still be the main reason to visit (provided you really like chicken tenders).
A flavorful, gooey dip made of Swiss, mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan, and Asiago cheeses with spinach, artichoke hearts and roasted tomato, served with corn tortilla chips and toasted herb flatbread
The five cheese dip is pretty solid, nothing crazy, but enjoyable. That seems to be the case with a lot of their appetizers as they remind me of T.G.I Friday’s, which is where I would go if I want a decent meal at a chain restaurant. Why you would want such things on vacation in a place with fabulous restaurants at similar pricing, I have no idea. This portion comes with the chips and flatbread pictured below.
Six large shrimp fried and tossed in a spicy sauce of chilies, garlic, herbs, and spices served on cabbage slaw
The Peri-Peri Shrimp is my favorite of the appetizers, packing a really spicy punch and good flavor. I would come back and order these alone as an appetizer, but I enjoy a good spicy dish, as you all know.
Chicken wings baked and then fried to perfection and tossed in buffalo sauce, served with celery, carrots, and blue cheese dressing
These are your average, run of the mill chicken wings. There is absolutely nothing special or unique about them. Just normal chicken wings in barbecue sauce.
The sizable entree menu can be a bit much, but luckily, it is broken down into sections.
The Original Ringer ($18.99)
Crispy rojo onion ring, Guy’s signature bourbon-brown sugar BBQ sauce, SMC, cheddar, LTOP, and donkey sauce on a garlic-buttered brioche bun
While the burger itself was fine, there was way too much lettuce and the onion ring had no crunch to it. The triple fries are nice, but the regular cut fries were not my favorite. I would ask if I could just get waffle fries next time.
L.A. Lasagna ($19.99)
Fresh pasta tubes filled with ricotta and Bolognese meat sauce fried to golden brown, served with roasted garlic cream and tomato basil sauces
I expected this to be terrible, but it was actually not too bad. I would probably just go to Portobello if I wanted (American) Italian food at Disney Springs, but this isn’t a bad option if you end up here.
Bacon Mac and Cheese ($18.99)
Guy’s award-winning burger – Winner of NYC Wine and Food Festival Burger Bash! Applewood-smoked bacon, six cheese mac-n-cheese cheddar, LTOP, crispy onion straws and donkey sauce on a garlic-buttered brioche bun
This was a huge disappointment. I have had a lot of mac and cheese hamburgers i my time, and this was the most bland. The macaroni and cheese was practically flavorless, the bun and the burger were solid though. Again, just way too much lettuce here and it is overpowering.
The Mayor of Flavortown ($18.99)
Grilled pastrami, Swiss, caraway slaw, pickles, Dijon mustard and donkey sauce on a garlic-buttered pretzel bun
This was the real winner, for as much of a joke as the name has been throughout the internet since it was announced. Everything in here blended perfectly together and the pastrami was surprisingly good. I actually could see myself dropping in here for one of these, a Cosmic Colada, and maybe some chicken tenders or shrimp as an appetizer. You can piece together a good meal here, it just isn’t very easy…
Championship Pulled Pork ($17.99)
Crisped pulled pork with bourbon-brown sugar BBQ sauce, garlic-buttered brioche bun
The pulled pork was very good as well, I just feel like ti was ruined by the slaw and the over-cooking of the bun. If this pulled pork was presented in any other form, I would probably come back time and time again to get it, but the bun just didn’t taste as good here as it did on the burger above and the slaw was way too much.
Filet Mignon ($29.99)
6 oz. USDA choice filet mignon topped with classic herb butter, served with hand-cut steak fries and green bean blend
On a dare (kind of), Josh ordered the Filet Mignon. Surprisingly, it was good. It was cooked perfectly, the sides were fine, and it was far from the worst steak any of us had ever had in their lives. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but a steak at Planet Hollywood isn’t a bad option.
You can certainly have a shake at any time, but we decided to save them for dessert.
There is also a selection of single serving desserts, but then also some shareable options…
Chocolate Comet ($14.00)
A classic chocolate milkshake with a lot of frills, it was really enjoyable. Is it worth $14.00? Probably not. Is it better than the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen? Yeah, without a doubt. Toothsome’s shakes are good, but they are almost like drinking a flavored milk, but the Planet Hollywood versions are like real milkshakes. Also, the M&M’s on the sides are not chewed, it’s just a byproduct of the freezing process.
Strawberry Big Bang ($14.00)
This may be worth closer to $14.00 since an entire piece of cake is on the top of it. Standard strawberry as far as milkshakes go, but really good if that is what you are in the market for.
There is a store located at the exit of the restaurant on the ground level. The merchandise selection is mostly steampunk-themed, even though on the carpet inside the restaurant looks anything like what some would consider steampunk.
The Stargazers Bar turned out pretty lame honestly, it just feels like a small corridor on the outside off the restaurant and is only at the bottom level. It features a sizable menu, including the specialty drinks you can purchase inside.
Planet Hollywood Observatory is not the worst restaurant at Walt Disney World, but it has to be somewhere in the bottom 15-20 percent. That being said, there are some good items you can order here and have an enjoyable meal, so that’s not to say you should never go here. The larger problem is that for a similar price, there are so many better options at Disney Springs. I would recommend the Boathouse, Morimoto Asia, Homecoming, Blaze Pizza, and D-Luxe Burger over Planet Hollywood, maybe even T-Rex and Rainforest Cafe as they more consistently have good dishes and use a few misses. The theme here is also bland and forgettable, which is sad when you go to eat at something so grandiose at Disney World. If everything else is busy and you have no other options at Disney Springs, and I mean no other options, you can make Planet Hollywood Observatory work for a meal, but otherwise, I would take out your telescope and look for something else to eat.