The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant Review - It's out of this world

by Roan Poulter, contributing writer
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Tucked discreetly in a back corner of Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a masterpiece of immersive dining, The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant, hereafter to be called the Sci-Fi.


The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant offers in-car dining while you watch the silver screen. Photo by Roan Poulter.

Located on the corner between Commissary Lane and the Streets of America, it’s difficult to get much of a feel for the theming from the outside. Just inside the doors, a friendly cast member will check you in and give you a pager if there’s a wait for your table.

Once your name is called, you are whisked into an indoor outdoor drive-in movie theater plucked from the hottest part of the 1950s, where Chevy fenders were longer than the poodle skirt. Even if it’s midday Florida blazing sunshine outside, it’s cool and dark inside, with scattered stars on the horizon.


Small details abound at the Sci-Fi, like this Disney motorcar. Photo by Roan Poulter.

No need to worry that you didn’t bring your convertible to this place; Sci-Fi management has already filled the lot with vintage rides capable of accommodating up to six (6) full-sized guests in a custom-painted convertible straight out of the 1950s. Each guest has a forward-facing seat and a great view of the screen. A carhop wait staff will take your order and leave you to relax and unwind while the horrors of aliens/50-foot women/flying saucers/moon men/moon bears/etc. preview themselves before your eyes.


A friendly cast member waits patiently while I snap a photo of him in the dark before serving our meal. Photo by Roan Poulter.

Meal prices vary significantly between breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with entrees priced between $13.99 for a lunch turkey sandwich to $31.99 for a lunch or dinner New York strip. This is a 1-credit restaurant on the Disney Dining Plan.


Dashboard lights allow you to see your meal while keeping the rest of the illusion of an evening drive-in intact. Photo by Roan Poulter.

The food is good and doesn’t leave you thinking they trucked it in from across the park. The menu has a variety that should please most diners. The Sci-Fi also hosts a large selection of mixed drinks, wine and beer, currently serving over 25 unique intoxicating beverages. Kids aren’t left out, with several fun drink concoctions and delicious milkshake selections (my 14-year old son kept searching the menu for a free refill Oreo shake). If that hasn’t filled your tank, the Sci-Fi has some truly monstrous desserts, from the house-made Sci-Fi Candy Bar to the Out-of-This-World Turtle Cheesecake.

My wife and I split the Chicken Pasta (campanelle), tossed in a garlic-basil cream and topped with fresh tomatoes and Parmesan, which was a perfect portion for the two of us. The garlic was strong, and along with the Parmesan, ensured no one wanted a kiss for the remainder of the day. However the acidity of the fresh tomatoes cut the pungent cheese sauce nicely and made this a balanced dish. My only complaint would be that the pasta was a little undercooked or thicker, and thus tougher than my usual preference.

My daughter had the Build-Your-Own Angus Chuck Burger, which she ordered with about every possible topping, which left them with a small salad of refugee toppings jettisoned during the feeding. The burger is cooked to order, and came out medium, as she had asked for. The onion rings were fantastic; several were handed over in a tense negotiation between generations that included a milkshake credit.

My son had the Sci-Fi Angus Burger, similar to the Build-Your-Own, but with pulled pork topping, Sriracha barbecue sauce, and pickled apple slaw. This was the clear winner of the three entrees we ordered. The juicy pork and the medium burger, all cut by the slight tartness of the apple slaw and delayed kick of Sriracha make this the best burger we have had in Walt Disney World.


The Sci-Fi Angus Burger, cooked to medium. Photo by Roan Poulter.

The Oreo milkshake was excellent, or at least I assume it was from the contented grunting and recordbreaking ice cream headache my son endured. It was thick and made from hand-scooped ice cream served in a nostalgic glass.

The second-place item from our lunch there, however, had to be the Out-of-This-World Turtle Cheesecake, which contained Heath Bar bits, pecans, chocolate chips, caramel sauce, and topped with whipped cream. So good, it’s still making me fat to this day, I’m sure. Sometimes I call it at home and hang up, I just want to remember the good times. Decadent and absolutely necessary to the continuation of humanity.


Walt Disney with Garco the robot appear on the silver screen. Photo by Roan Poulter.

And what can diners expect to view on the silver screen while they nibble those tasty bits? Only the very best of the worst sci-fi entertainment ever to slither, creep, or be belched out of Hollywood. You won’t believe that any of the movies previewed were actually made; they’re just that bad (or good).

My entire family loves this restaurant, 14 to 40, where the highlight of the meal might just be a chance to escape the punishing Florida heat on a long summer day.


A woman is being held captive by Moon Bears on screen. Photo by Roan Poulter.

We have not tried breakfast at the Sci-Fi, but with such encouraging entries as Sci-Fi Crab and Eggs, Brioche French Toast, and Shrimp and Grits, a visit might just make its way onto our radar.

Disney aficionados might note the lack of Disney tie-in; the only exception being a few seconds of Walt introducing GARCO the robot. However if the beating heart of Disney is a complete immersion into an environment, then the Sci-Fi meets that in spades. I nearly forgot I was at a Disney park. So I rolled up my Altoids in my T-shirt pocket, pulled my best girl tight, and hoped those Moon Bears wouldn’t team up with the Thing from the Black Lagoon. It was boss, man.

The Poulter Family Rating System

I polled our family on a five-point scale to see what everyone thought about Sci-Fi:

  • Dad (40) – 4 out of 5: Love the campy movies to keep everyone entertained, but dislike the speakers right next to the car, as this can be too loud. Would order the Sci-Fi Burger on next trip.
  • Mom (40) – 3.5 out of 5: Enjoyed the theming, thought the food was alright. Liked getting out of the sun and away from the crowds for a while.
  • Daughter (16) – 4 out of 5: Would have preferred a vegetarian option other than Shepherd’s Pie; happy to return for a seasonal shake.
  • Son (14) – 4.5 out of 5: A hamburger with meat as a topping, this is heaven for the boy. Throw in the milkshake and he’s already bugging us to return.

Reservations are easily made within the MyDisneyExperience smartphone application, online, or by calling (407) 939-1947, and are often available same day. If reservations are not available, there is one table kept on the side for walk-ins, but the wait can be very long, especially if the people in front of you are lingering to enjoy the show.

 

Comments

  1. By MattyN

    Great review, Roan. I've read lots of reviews of Sci-Fi Dine-In, some flattering, some discouraging, but it's always been one of my family's favorite places to enjoy a meal. We make it a point to eat there every time we visit Hollywood Studios. We all like the food, but it's the theming that brings us back time and time again. My kids (9 and 12) like the clips, my wife loves the atmosphere (she compares it to the Mexico pavilion at Epcot where it feels like you're truly outside at night), and I dig the nostalgia. When I was a kid, my dad owned two drive-in theaters, and eating at Sci-Fi takes me back to those summer nights with the big screen filling my field of vision and the soundtrack echoing from the speakers. Of course, our concessions weren't nearly as good, and we didn't have car-hops, but it's still enough to transport me back to being a little kid again.

  2. By xezat

    Probably hands down one of my favorite places to eat at WDW and probably my favorite in MGM/Hollywood Studios/Star Wars land or whatever they call themselves nowdays. I know people with more...distinct? palates will probably gripe about the food quality and offerings, but as a young under-30 something, I find it perfectly fine. Only gripe really is the cost (though that's generally true of anything in WDW), as much of what they serve could probably be priced less, but again, you're paying for the atmosphere...again (considering you are at WDW).

    Haven't been there in a few years, but I've always felt they could run a few more cartoons or something; sure it's cool seeing all the cheesy ads and movie promos for 50s era, but aside from the Tom and Jerry cartoon, really nothing else that lasts more than a few seconds. If they'd throw in a few more, or even maybe some short 15min movie or something, I think that would be a nice break as the continual loop of the content means you'll just start tuning it out sooner than later. Or surely they have some old Disneyland episodes devoted to Tomorrowland or other sci-fi-esq stuff they can run from their own archives? Not expecting full length movies as that'd be too much of a time killer, but something a bit more than just continual ads for the most part.

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