Eating Around The World

My Walt Disney World Dining Project

Stranded at the Drive In: Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre (lunch) October 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — scarlettashley1 @ 10:17 pm

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For my mom’s last day of her visit, we decided to go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  We were only going to spend a half day there since we had to get up early the next day to get my mom to the airport, so we were only going to need a lunch ADR.  Most people in the Disney community know that the food situation here is a bit…iffy.  Their counter service choices leave a lot to be desired and would be considered generic at best, but are often called much worse things.  There are a few sit down restaurants…I’d already been to Hollywood & Vine, and I’m saving Brown Derby for when I do a Fantasmic Dinner Package.  So, I was aiming for a reservation at either 50’s Prime Time or Mama Melrose.  The only place I absolutely did NOT want to eat was at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre.

Why didn’t I want to eat there?  Well, even more so than Coral Reef, Sci-Fi is very much maligned in the Disney community.  I don’t think I have ever heard one good thing about the food at this restaurant.  Sure, some people say the atmosphere is neat, but that you should only go for dessert and never actually eat the food there.  It’s talked about so much that I actually kind of developed a fear about it.

So, would you like to guess the one restaurant with lunch availability?  Of course…Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre (although you probably could have guessed from the title of this post).  I tried for several days to find a different ADR.  I tried adjusting times and party size…I looked online, I called…for days.  I thought about trying for a walk up some place, but didn’t want to risk being subjected to the awful counter service.  There was nothing else to do…we were going to have to eat there.  I knew I was going to have to go there eventually in my mission to eat at all of the Disney World restaurants, so it might as well be now.  I was hoping that the atmosphere would be as cool as people said and my mom wouldn’t be too disappointed with a horrible meal.

That morning, we got to DHS for rope drop to do the big Toy Story Mania dash (standby and then got a FastPass for later), went to Muppetvision 3D, and then it was time for lunch.

This time, I decided to warn my mom about Sci-Fi’s reputation.  I wanted her to be prepared for a bad meal.  Plus, at this point she knew all about my blog and was all for supporting it, even if it meant bad food…mom’s are good like that.  We were both looking forward to seeing the restaurant though, since we both thought the concept sounded really awesome.

We checked in with the hostess about 10 minutes before the reservation time and were told we would be in one of the car tables…awesome!  It would be pretty lame to have bad food and a boring old normal table…I wanted the full experience!  I told them we needed a high chair and they said it would just go on the end of our seat.  We were seated almost immediately.

Now, for people who haven’t been to Sci-Fi…it’s set up like a Drive-In theatre (hence the name).  Almost all of the tables are designed to look like cars with all of the seats being bench seats facing a big movie screen.  The cars all have 3 rows of bench seats which hold two people (or maybe 3 if some are small children).

Okay, I thought these tables, while cool, had lots of practical issues.  First of all, as a mother who often travels alone with two young children…I’m not too sure how seating would work.  Do I let my two kids sit in their own row and I sit behind them? I’m sure other parents of young kids realize how terrifying that concept seems.  So, do I let one of the kids sit alone? Do we all try to squeeze into one seat?  It’s just not practical.

Next problem, there wasn’t really a way for the tables to accommodate a high chair.  Yes, we put the high chair next to the table, but Malcolm couldn’t actually reach the table, so it wasn’t really convenient for him to eat as he couldn’t reach his food.  We decided that since my mom and I were sitting side by side, we could put Malcolm in a booster seat between us and since we would be kind of tight, Malcolm wouldn’t be able to climb out of the booster and it would work out.  However, the service here was terrible (more on that later) and they didn’t bring the booster til after our food came, so Malcolm actually spent most of the meal alternating between sitting and standing on the seat between us.

I do have to say, I think this is one of the best themed restaurants I’ve ever been to.  It was all dark like night time and there were stars twinkling on the walls.  There were old sci-fi movie clips and classic drive-in commercials showing on the screen, there were old movie posters up on the wooden fence around the perimeter of the dining room…it was fabulous.  And then, when you exited the dining room to go to the lobby or restroom, the backs of the walls were obviously facades like it was a film set to fit in with the whole Hollywood Studios theme.  The decor and theme definitely got an A.

The service however, did not.  Our waitress was super nice and very helpful and informative.  The problem was she was soooooo slooooooow.  Everything we asked for seemed to take forever…like the booster seat that didn’t arrive until after our food.  Our drinks took forever, then it took forever for her to come take our food order, it took forever to get the check…you get the idea.  It was lunch time and the meal took about 2 hours.  That’s pretty unacceptable.  I tried to scope out the floor to see if she had too many tables, but that didn’t seem to be the problem.  Who knows.

While I loved the atmosphere, it wasn’t very conducive to dining.  It was really difficult to see the menu, especially for my mom who doesn’t have the best eye sight anyway.  There was a strip of light right over the table, but you had to hold the menu just right, and there wasn’t a lot of space to maneuver.  It wasn’t an impossible situation, just irritating.

One thing I was happy about was that they had flavored sodas on the menu.  I’m a big fan of vanilla coke, and you can’t get it everywhere…so I was pretty stoked about that.  The menu was pretty unexciting: sandwiches, salads, burger, pasta…nothing special.  My mom got the Angus Chuck Burger, which came with onions, mushrooms, and bacon.  I got the Smoked Turkey Sandwich with avocado mayonnaise.  The turkey usually comes on multigrain bread, but I asked for plain old white bread instead.  Both also came with fries.  Malcolm was not going to get his own meal but share with us. Note: Due to the terrible lighting, I didn’t take any pictures of our food…but really it was just a sandwich and a burger and fries…nothing fancy.

While we waited for our food we watched the movie screen.  It was really entertaining…very kitschy.  However, it wasn’t a very long reel.  I think we saw it twice all the way through, and then some.  I think they either need to make a longer reel, or provide faster service…or preferably both.

Our food (finally) arrived, and we discovered more issues.  This is another time when I had issues with the lighting.  I’m one of those people who likes to see my food.  I don’t know what it is…but I seriously have problems eating in the dark, I don’t like it.  Even if I know exactly what I’m having and that there isn’t anything foreign in it…I still want to be able to see it.  At Sci-Fi, don’t expect to be able to see what you are eating.  At this point, we were also really grateful we hadn’t ordered Malcolm his own meal, solely because there would not have been enough room on the table for it.  The tables are so small, we barely had enough room for our own meals and drinks, plus ketchup, salt, pepper, and all the other stuff that goes on restaurant tables.  By the way, eating with a toddler at a table where everything is within his reach is not fun.  We spent a lot of time trying to keep condiments and silverware out of Malcolm’s hands.  He also seemed really determined that one of us should have our plate dumped in our lap.  Luckily, despite his efforts throughout lunch, he was not successful.

Then it was time to actually eat the food.  I tentatively picked up my sandwich and took a bite.  Now, there were several things I had considered might happen.  I might spit it out, or gag, or throw up on the table.  There was one thing I wasn’t expecting…and that was to like it.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t an amazing sandwich, it wasn’t life changing or anything…but it was good.  I actually really liked the avocado mayo.  I asked my mom about her burger, and she said the same thing…not earth shattering…but good.  When discussing this with someone later, they mentioned that maybe the reason my sandwich wasn’t as horrible as what other people had reported was because of my special order.  Possibly they usually pull something from under a heat lamp, but mine had to be special made, so it was better.  Not sure if this is the case or not, but it would also partially explain why it took so long.

We discussed ordering dessert, but after sitting there for so long Malcolm was getting restless, and quite honestly, we were too, so we decided against it.  Plus, we were freezing.  Seriously, they are not joking with the air conditioning in there.  And while it’s nice when you first walk in (being that it was August), after 2 hours I was covered in goose bumps and shivering.  The family sitting in front of us kept taking turns to run outside for a few minutes to warm up.

All in all, the experience was just okay.  If there is no where else to eat at DHS, or I’m with people who want to go, I’ll return to Sci-Fi.  But, I won’t go back there on my own.  If you’ve never been there…try it once.  And I seriously think kids would really enjoy it…I’m sure when Malcolm is older we will return pretty frequently.  However, go in knowing that the food will be just okay, and that there may be some other irritants (service, a/c, lighting).

Tune in next time when I venture to one of Disney World’s newest restaurants Via Napoli!  Til then, let me know about your experience at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre.  Leave a comment here, or you can tweet me @scarlettashley1, friend me on FaceBook under the name Scarlett Ashley, or email me at scarlettashley1@yahoo.com

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23 Responses to “Stranded at the Drive In: Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre (lunch)”

  1. Susan Says:

    Thanks for all the great info on this place! I really enjoy reading about Malcolm’s adventures, too :b)

  2. You hit the nail on the head Scarlett. Mediocre food and bad service don’t make up for the great atmosphere. And the seating and lighting issues always bug me too. It makes it impossible to have a conversation since you’re all facing one direction and with groups larger than 4, forget about it!

    • Shane Says:

      Matt, do you remember when the cast members used to interact/react to the film? They don’t do that anymore, which is a real shame.

    • Exactly! I really think it’s such a shame because the themeing is so fantastic! I could even deal with the tables if the food was great. But, all of the bad elements put together just make is so not worth it. Thanks for the RT!

  3. David Belyeu Says:

    We had ADRs at SciFi once, back before I knew about its reputation, but our plans changed and we canceled; looks like we dodged a bullet. From everything I’ve heard and read, it’s basically counter-service food at table-service prices. Nice review!

    • Thank you! That’s totally it, “counter-service food at table-service prices.” Definitely a dodged bullet…although, if you haven’t ever seen the inside, you really should at least peek in next time you’re at the Studios, it’s pretty neat.

  4. Blackjack Joe Says:

    I haven’t eaten there in many years, the last time being in 2005, but it wasn’t as bad as your report. We certainly had a lot better service back then. While the food was nothing special, it was decent at that time.

    It’s sad to hear that it’s gone so far downhill now, especially the service.

    • The food was totally decent…I might even say good, but definitely not special. And, I may have just gotten unlucky with the service. That’s one of those things that can easily vary day by day. However, based on others reports, I think it has actually gone downhill.

  5. mkcbell Says:

    DD4 and I Wound up eating here on our last trip (which was, sadly, back in May09). We veered off plan and it was the only TS available for dinner. The cold ac and darkness was actually a relief after a day in the glaring sun and the theming is awesome. Our food was just okay. DD4 had pasta with butter and cheese – can’t mess that up. I have food allergies and when the chef came out to discuss with me he was very short and condescending about it. Our service was also very slow. My pasta dish was good, but not great. I’m glad we went once, but would only go back if it was the only option. It’s such a neat theme – it’s a shame that so many folks have negative experiences there.

    • That’s too bad that the chef was condescending…that’s not very magical! I agree that I’m glad I went once, and I would go back if it was the only option. I also agree that it’s totally a shame. Such a great theme seems to be completely wasted.

  6. Amy Says:

    I have to say that I find a lot of people on the Internet to be extremely harsh and critical when it comes to WDW dining. We were there 2 weeks ago and ate at the Coral Reef, and it was the BEST food we had all vacation. I find that when I read a bunch of negative comments, I should just go there because the food will obviously be good, and people just want to keep it all to themselves :P
    We didnt get to go to Sci-Fi this trip, but I’ve never had any complaints, and its just fun to be in there anyway! :)

    • I also loved my food at Coral Reef (Mmmm…Mahi Mahi…). I usually agree with you about people being overly harsh, and there are a lot of restaurants that have bad reputations that I really enjoy. However, in this case, I really did have a bad experience. It is a really fun place to be, and I predict that when my boys are older I will frequent Sci-Fi for sure…and as long as the food is edible, I won’t be too worried about it.

  7. [...] Around WDW shares a review of Sci-Fi Dine-in at Disney’s Hollywood [...]

  8. Amber Says:

    We have eaten at Sci-Fi the past two summers for dinner. I was nervous due to the reviews but the atmosphere made us really want to give them a try. We loved it!! Both visits we had great waiters!! The food also tasted amazing. Our niece & nephew who we took with us this year loved it. They said it was their favorite place we ate. I love their steak with the potatoes and DH loves the ribs.
    Sorry to read you had such bad service!! And I do agree – the tables in the car are very small – not a lot of room.

    • Hmmm…maybe I was just there on an off day service wise? Or maybe because I went for lunch instead of dinner? Who knows! I’m probably at some point going to go there for dinner, just to try it, and I’ll remember you liked the steak and ribs.

  9. Angela Says:

    I’ve been here a few times (the latest was just a few months ago) and I really liked it both times. The first was for dinner and my friend and I just REALLY wanted a burger, fries and a milkshake (it just seemed to go with the theme) but the dinner menu doesn’t have the burger. We asked and was told it was no problem at all… and we both really liked it! It wasn’t earth shattering, but it was a GOOD burger and the atmosphere was great.

    The second time was a lunch and my bf and his mom thought it was one of the top 3 meals we had on our trip! They raved about their burgers for days after! The service WAS a little slow though this past trip which was unfortunate. He was perfectly nice, there was just a loooong time inbetween when we saw him.

  10. Mandy Says:

    This place sounds totally NOT up my alley. Sounds great for some people, but after reading about it, I doubt I will ever waste a meal here when there are so many good places to eat at WDW. Hey, if I have to I’ll boat over to Epcot just for lunch! Thanks!

  11. Jenn Says:

    It’s too bad that with such a great concept, Disney couldn’t hit a home run here. I would love to go here just for the theme but hate the thought of wasting a meal. Maybe just for a shake or something in the afternoon. We usually head out of the studios for dinner, anyway.

  12. Keith Says:

    When is the next blog entry coming?!

  13. Trish Says:

    Hi!! I stumbled on your blog and lo and behold, I was so intrigued and drawn in that I spent several hours reading ALL of them! =) I wanted to tell you that your descriptions are so detailed that it has influenced several of my considerations for dining in our trip net year! I look forward to seeing your future experiences!! I have 4 kids, so I know life can take a dramatic turn when you go from one to two! I really enjoyed reading the experiences through your son though! He is a hoot and so cute! I think it is definitely important to include their reactions, as that will also help drive whether or not you go somewhere. I would never even consider Victoria and Alberts with my kids, but Ohana’s is just up our alley.

    Thanks so much for your effort! It really has helped!

  14. Megan Says:

    I wish you’d come back and post some more!!!


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