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 firstname.lastname@example.org