At the end of Commissary Lane, nestled in an unassuming soundstage-like building, is one of the most unique restaurants at Walt Disney World — Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater.
This restaurant will get you out of the hot Florida sunshine (or downpours if you’re here this week!), take you back in time, and provide a restful setting. Stepping inside, 1950s cars and kitsch will invite you to dine in an Imagineered drive-in at night time.
After being seated in your convertible car, the welcoming car hop will take your order while you watch classic clips from silly 1950’s horror flicks, cartoons, and news reels. Check out the snack bar commercials beckoning you to visit long-ago concessions stands for a truly vintage experience!
After glimpsing the new menu that was just unveiled last week (which features a burger + hot dog in one), we had to change up our trip reservations to stop by this restaurant in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Wouldn’t you?
After checking in with your reservation, you’ll start to get the idea of what this place is about. 1950’s movie references are all around you — even tucked into the nooks and crannies of the soundstage set around you!
After a (usually long, in my experience) wait, you’ll be taken “down the highway” into the main dining area and your table.
When you first walk into this incredible room, you’ll be bowled over. At least I always am! I just want to stare for a while at the realistic looking Drive-In theater environment…the sparkly shining convertible cars, the picnic tables in the back, the stars twinkling in the night sky…
Many guests will be seated in the convertible cars lining the floor. Here’s what your “table” might look like!
And here’s an example of one of the fun concessions stand commercials.
Some guests will also be seated in the back of the theater at circular picnic tables, so be sure to request your choice when you check in!
The movie reel is about 30-40 minutes long, so you’ll likely get stuck watching at least some of it twice. That’s one of my least favorite parts about this restaurant, but it’s good to plan ahead.
As I mentioned in the first section, the Sci-Fi menu recently changed, and many of the items from our previous review of this restaurant have been removed (ribs, dipping trio, etc.). So, of course we had to re-visit and try all-new menu items!
I started with the Lunar Landing, which might be the only non-new item we sampled on our visit. This yummy (and pretty, as far as I could tell) drink is made with Amaretto, Peach Schnapps, and Orange Juice ($10.50)…and it’s HUGE! Plus, you’ve got that all-important re-usable light-up ice cube! Woo! (I’m sorry, I just always get excited when I get one of those. I know it’s not “sophisticated” or anything, but I just love those things.)
Anyway, this drink was delightful. I ended up drinking it through my whole meal! Other fun drinks here at Sci-Fi (one of the few spots where you’ll find drinks that are unique to the restaurant where they’re being served) include the Comet (rum, vodka, gin, tequila, sweet-and-sour, and cranberry juice), Marsha’s Martian (chocolate and vanilla shakes mixed with Bailys Irish Cream and Kahlua), and the Space Monkey (chocolate shake, coconut rum, and banana liqueur). The drink menu also includes limited offerings of wine and beer.
We quickly ordered two of the brand new appetizers: the Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins with Blue Cheese topping and Celery Sticks ($9.99) and the Chicken Wings with honey-chipotle barbecue sauce, blue cheese dressing, and celery sticks ($11.49).
The Buffalo Chicken potato skins were very flavorful. The blue cheese sauce was baked right onto the skins, but still very creamy; and the large chunks of chicken were spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. There was still flavor in the heat.
Our major complaint with the potato skins was actually the texture of the potato “innards.” They were mushy and crumbly instead of creamy, making the overall feel of the dish somewhat dry. That said, we liked the dish and would order it again.
The honey-chipotle barbecue chicken wings were a very pleasant surprise! VERY large chicken wings were doused in a spicy-sweet barbecue sauce. I was not at all expecting that little kick of heat from the chipotle, but it was there, and I was grateful for it! It gave another dimension to the taste and made these wings into winners! And we liked that they were served in a “cone,” as it made more room for other dishes on our tiny little “table” area.
The big problem on these was the price. The appetizer costs almost as much as an entree, but doesn’t feel like one.
Now, here comes the real reason why we went to Sci-Fi in the first place — the All-American Picnic Burger. (UPDATE: Please note that the Picnic Burger is not currently being served at Sci-Fi-Dine-In Restaurant, but they often feature a specialty burger on the menu in addition to the Build-Your-Own Burger.) A flame-broiled Angus burger patty topped with grilled hot dog, sauerkraut, sauteed onions, mustard, and ketchup; served with fries or cucumber salad ($15.99).
This dish was…well…it was awesome. I know you guys have been joking over on our facebook page about this being a heart attack on a plate, and I wanted it to be just bad enough that I could recommend that you skip it unless you really want it. But, unfortunately, that’s just not the way it turned out. I loved this thing.
I loved it so much that I actually kept eating it long after I knew I should stop. It’s dangerous that way. The delicious grilled burger taste mixes with the salty, crispy hot dog, and…it’s all over. (Speaking of hot dogs, we had TWO on our version…not sure if that’s standard.) I’d throw cheese on this puppy and it would be just about perfect.
I’m sorry. I tried. But I love it.
However, we saved face a bit on the next entree by ordering the Chicken sandwich with watercress, vine-ripened tomatoes, mayonnaise, and balsamic vinegar on a caraway-salted bun ($14.99). AND, I ordered it without the mayo! How much healthier can you get?!
This dish was recommended by our server when we asked her if we should order the rib-eye or the sandwich, so we were pleased when we enjoyed it. The flavors blended nicely, but there wasn’t too much vinegar (which could be a pro or a con depending on whether you like balsamic vinegar — personally, I didn’t taste it all that much on the sandwich).
For dessert, we jumped all over the red velvet cheesecake with raspberry sauce and whipped cream ($5.99) and the Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake with creamy peanut butter center, served a la mode ($7.99).
The red velvet cheesecake was basically stripes of red velvet cake alternating with stripes of cheesecake. While it was delicious (both cakes were moist and tasty), there was no cream cheese frosting to be found, and I just can’t stand for that. We liked the dessert, but it need more flair. It fell a bit flat for us.
The Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake started out poorly — the cake itself was hard and dry — but the peanut butter lava inside was incredible! I wanted a big ol’ soup bowl full of that stuff. So, if you’re a peanut butter chocolate fan, just get this and understand that you’re going to have to pay your dues with the outside cake to get to the inner goodness. 😉
There are pros and cons when it comes to Sci-Fi. You’ll probably have to sit in the same car with people you don’t know, and you might be looking at the back of a stranger’s head when you eat. It’s very dark, so you can barely see your food. The tables are small, so it’s hard to maneuver if you have a lot of dishes (like we do). And the movie reel starts repeating much earlier than you probably want it to.
That said, it’s cool and dark, the food is decent and priced appropriately (for Disney World), it’s an experience like none other — and one of my favorite “Imagineered” restaurants on property, the whole family will likely have fun here.
Moving on to the food, the new menu is really fun. While they’ve lost some true favorites (the Beef and Blue Salad), they’ve added some imaginative and delicious items as well. I wouldn’t say that the menu is better than it was, but it is different — and different is good!
What do you think about the new menu? Let us know your feedback in the comments section below!