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Review: Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater’s New Menu

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?

Atmosphere

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!

Movie Posters in Entrance Area

Movie Posters in Entrance Area

B-Movie Props

B-Movie Props

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…

Cars and movie

Car and Movie Reel -- Walt Disney is Featured

Cars and Kitchen

Many guests will be seated in the convertible cars lining the floor. Here’s what your “table” might look like!

Sci Fi Atmosphere

And here’s an example of one of the fun concessions stand commercials.

On the movie reel

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!

Other Table Option

Other Table Option

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.

Eats

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!

Menu -- click image for larger version

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.

Lunar Landing

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.

Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins

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.

Honey Barbecue Chicken Wings

Now, here comes the real reason why we went to Sci-Fi in the first place — the All-American Picnic 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.

Picnic Burger

Picnic Burger

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).

Chicken Sandwich

Chicken Sandwich - close-up

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.

Red Velvet Cheesecake

Red Velvet Cheesecake - close-up

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. ;-)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Lava Cake

Peanut Butter chocolate Lava Cake - close-up

Overall

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!

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41 Comments

  1. Sara says:

    I love that you tried to hate the Picnic Burger…it really does sound bizarre, but I won’t be shocked if my boyfriend gives it a try. He loves weird…I mean, specialty…burgers hahaha.

  2. Greg Pabst says:

    Thanks for the review AJ! Sci-fi Dine-in will be our first ADR this Friday (9/30/2011). We haven’t been for several years. I know the kids will love it.

  3. As always, great job on the review AJ!

  4. Jenny says:

    I am really looking forward to trying all the yummy goodness next month. Thank you for your review, and the guts to try the picnic burger.
    :)

  5. NT3 says:

    Please tell me there were more than THREE wings in that $11 cone!

  6. Gomer says:

    Like NT3, please tell me there were more than THREE potato skins for $10. Or give me a size reference, i.e. each was as large as a deck of cards. And why three? If they’re halves, wouldn’t there be a fourth? Now, I’m thinking too much about this.

  7. AJ says:

    Sara — It was truly awesome!

    Greg — You’re welcome! Hope to meet you this weekend! If you take any good pics of the Booth food lemme know! ;-)

    Matt — Thank you! When are you getting over there to try that monster? I almost made you come with me!

    Jenny — You’re welcome! It’s a tough job, but… ;-)

    NT3 — Yes! More than three wings. I can’t remember exactly how many, because we didn’t eat them all!

    Gomer — Come to think of it, there WERE only three potato skins! Now you’ve got me wondering where the fourth one was!

  8. Jen says:

    I am so glad you reviewed this!! We are going in Dec and I wanted to try the Buffalo Chicken Potato Skin and the Picnic Burger :-) Looks good!!

  9. Shayne says:

    Of course! Our first trip in forever when we don’t have an ADR here and they go and do something different! Thanks for taking one for the team and trying the picnic burger. It sounds yummy (sans sauerkraut), but my coronary arteries just might object too much for me to give it a go. :)

  10. Melissa says:

    We’ve been there a few times and have never been disappointed!
    Definitely looking forward to the Picnic Burger… sounds like an amped up variation of a bacon cheeseburger. Would it be made better with BBQ sauce instead of ketchup and mustard?

    Sidenote about those glow cubes: We’ve rinsed the cubes thoroughly, and then put them into our kids sippy cups full of ice water when touring the parks. They love drinking their “Fairy Water,” and its a great way to encourage them to stay hydrated in the hot Florida heat

  11. Emma G says:

    So interesting to read continual opposing views on this place! I’m looking forward to seeing the environment for the first time and trying the food, but didn’t realise you’d be sitting THAT close to someone whilst eating!!

  12. Kelley says:

    Emma G., it depends on the size of your party, I think. My family of five had our own car. Three of us (two children) sat at one table and the other two sat behind us.

    Because of so-so reviews on the food, we opted for an afternoon reservation and ordered milkshakes. A great way to cool down, have a snack, and enjoy the fun atmosphere of the restaurant.

  13. Kristin says:

    So glad to see the new menu! I really liked the atmosphere when I tried it a few years ago, but the vegetarian options didn’t make it a must-return-to spot. Can’t wait to try it next time! Thanks!

  14. Alan says:

    I think the chicken sandwich could be improved with a slice of fresh mozzarella on it. It would be a sort of caprese sandwich. I have my doubts about the menu but AJ’s pictures made everything look good. The red velvet cake slice looks small.

  15. Greg says:

    That picnic burger looks like something I have to try!

    Also looks like they fixed the peanut butter chocolate cake. I always wondered why the filling wasn’t gooey.

  16. Jenny says:

    was this menu just for lunch, for dinner or is it a combined menu?

  17. Rose says:

    Great review! My son is gonna love that picnic burger! The only problem I have with the Sci Fi is the size of the cars. I wish they were real car size (back then!) We always have 3 people. Either me, hubby and son or now me, son and his wife. Someone has to sit in the back seat. Alone! Maybe we will wait for the tables in the back next time!

  18. marcellina says:

    I am a big fan of Sci Fi but I’ve never had a signature adult beverage there and now I think I’m gonna have to! The Marsha’s Martian sounds perfect! Thanks for trying that picnic burger.. even after your glowing review I just don’t think I could bring myself to order it though honestly.. maybe I”ll talk someone I’m travelling with into ordering it and ask for a bite ;) awesome review!

    Jenny… I might be wrong but I think that the Sci Fi now has one menu for lunch and dinner. Hopefully AJ will correct me if I”m wrong! :)

  19. Eeyore says:

    “How much healthier can you get?!” – you could have ordered the cucumber salad side dish instead of fries for BOTH entrees. Plus it’d have given us a peek at what to expect if we wanted to order it.

  20. AJ says:

    Jen — Let us know what you think when you try them! :-)

    Shayne — I know! I felt the same way!

    Melissa — Love the “fairy water” idea! So cute! I liked the picnic burger with ketchup and mustard, personally — which is interesting since I don’t really like mustard.

    Emma G — Yep; you’re pretty close to your neighbor here! ;-) This is definitely a place you’ve gotta try at least once.

    Kelley — Great point that larger parties do get their own car. And great idea on the milkshakes!

    Kristin — Let us know how you like it when you go!

    Alan — Agreed on the cheese. I’d add it to the picnic burger, too (cheddar, probably). The red velvet cake slice wasn’t small, but it was a bit boring.

    Greg — The PB chocolate cake was a winner on the inside!

    Jenny — It’s a combined menu right now.

    Rose — Ah! Tables of three — what a bummer! Good point!

    Marcellina — You could always order the picnic burger and split it! :-)

    Eeyore — You are SO right! We’re trying to get better about things like that here on the blog. Neither of us likes cucumber, but we could have at least ordered one so that you could see it! :-) Apologies!

  21. Greg M says:

    I had the new Chicken sandwich and the bun was as hard as a rock! I ate is sans the buns. It could have used some more vinegar on it as you mentioned. I opted for the cucumber salad and it was great!

  22. Bex says:

    DF is a veggie and really used to love the tofu dish! I hope that veggie burger lives up to the same standard! That velvet cheesecake looks scrummy!

  23. Richard says:

    I have to admit: I really have a hate-on for this place. I love, love, love the atmosphere… it truly is one of the most unique dining spots in the World. But the food is subpar at best and always has been. Sadly, your review didn’t do much to change my mind in that regard. If you’re serving me a desert that is cake, I don’t wanna have to suffer through the cake part to get to the yummy center! LOL. As for the clips, I’ve never understood why they don’t extend the reel so that folks don’t have to sit through repeated footage. It ain’t like there’s a lack of B-movie trailers out there!

  24. Heather says:

    We just ate there for the first time on Tuesday. I had the chicken sandwich and thought it was really good! My friend had the red velvet cheesecake & it didnt look anything like that picture. It wasn’t a slice & it had a white chocolate shell around it. I can post a pic later if you want to see?

  25. Melanie says:

    My family of 4 just ate here on September 25th, the kids loved the atmosphere & so did we. My hubby got the shrimp pasta dish and a shake, which I tried, it was delicious! I got the veggie burger with sweet potato fries, very tasty. The kids each got hamburgers which they loved. I got the peanut butter chocolate cake for dessert, yum! We will definitely come here again.

  26. Jessica says:

    Wow the Picnic Burger seems massive I think I’d be able to share it with someone. The wings look good too. I tried to get a reservation here for next week but no luck for our large party of 12 I booked at the hollywood brown derby.

  27. Nikki Holland says:

    Just dined there this past week. My hubby had the double bacon burger, and it was phenomenal. I went with the ribeye and found it had no seasoning whatsoever, and it was swimming in a pool of gravy. Definitely not the tastiest addition to the menu, but all was made up with the peanut butter chocolate cake… The tastiest dessert I had all week!

  28. Theresa Dayton says:

    I’m considering eating the new chicken wings as an entree with a dessert. Approximately how many wings did you get in that cone?

  29. AJ says:

    Theresa — You get about 5 or 6 wings I believe.

  30. Isaiah says:

    I just ate here this past Wednesday and had to give the Picnic Burger a try. Much like AJ I wasn’t expecting it to be that great, but it was actually pretty tasty.

    The best part of the meal though was when the family in front of us added our meals to their dining plan. They were leaving on a flight in two hours and didn’t want their excess points to go to waste! Just wanna say thanks again if they happen to be reading. :)

  31. AJ says:

    Isaiah — Woo!!! Picnic Burger FTW! ;-) And free? It doesn’t get any better than that. Thanks for sharing your comment.

  32. Jean Dodrill says:

    We were there last week and had an enjoyable time. All you said was true. I am looking for a recipe for the shrimp pasta which was delicious. Could not believe how many whole shrimps were in my serving!

  33. Joy Serio says:

    I know this is an old post, but getting excited for all of our ADR’s coming up! It is sad that the Beef & Blue salad is gone as we loved splitting that and an order of onion rings there.

    That said, chicken on Weck anyone? No way it can beat Beef on Weck! Hey, there are reviews on wings and Buffalo skins on here too! ;-) <3

  34. RONNIE says:

    this is cool i am 54 years old and went to the real drive in movies this was great good food also going down again soon i hope my wife just got laid off her company wont deal with obama care doctors are jumping ship i hope she finds work soon we have to have fun.

  35. Karen D says:

    “Has really gone downhill, service poor, felt sick after eating there”

    My family has gone to the Sci-Fi diner at Hollywood studios the last 5 years on our annual Disney trip. This year it was the worst meal we had while at Disney. The server took forever just to come greet us and get our drink order. When my daughter’s salad came drenched with ranch dressing, I asked her if we could have another with the dressing on the side. Her response was “that is how they come.” When I asked if she could check with a manager, I was huffed at, but did get it with dressing on the side a few minutes later. Food took forever to come. I had the overpriced $12.99 reuben and began feeling sick shortly after eating. I spent the next two hours in and out of the bathroom until my stomach calmed down. The atmosphere is still enjoyed, but I will not be taking my family there again. Poorest service and poorest food quality at Disney.

  36. ryan1 says:

    My wife and I ate there on April 30 and thought it was great. Loved the atmosphere, the food was good (she got a rueben and I got a hamburger) and we split an oreo milkshake (it was better than the Beaches and Cream milkshake we got the day before). The waitress was very helpful and attentive, we even got a cupcake for free since we were celebrating our anniversary!

    We sat in a car and enjoyed ourselves a lot. We needed a highchair and it was easy to eat and feed our 11month old in the car.

    We would definitely go back again.

  37. Lucy says:

    We have not eaten here. Had ADRs once, but gave them up when confronted with a different dining opportunity or sick kid or something. The main reason we haven’t made it more of a priority is that my 9 year-old daughter is in a wheelchair and we would be relegated to sitting at one of the outside tables because the cars are not accessible. I think this is really a shame because it seems that sitting in the car would really make the experience. I hope they would consider adapting some of the seating to be more universally usable.

  38. AJ says:

    Lucy — They do actually have convertibles that are just big tables with the front and the back of the car on either end. These are there for large parties, but they would accommodate a wheelchair. It’s definitely something you could ask about on your next visit!

  39. Lucy says:

    AJ – thanks for the info. That was definitely not mentioned to us as an option when we made reservations before. I will have to ask specifically next time we are planning a trip. :)
    -Lucy

  40. Alex says:

    I’ve eaten here multiple times, including the last time I went to WDW last August. It was our first ADR, and it did not start off well for our Disney Dining experience. My boyfriend and I split the chicken wings to start, but I could barely eat more than one–I thought they were chewy and weird, not crispy like good wings. I remember enjoying the flavor well enough, but couldn’t get past the weird texture. I also decided to try something out of the box and ordered the veggie burger. That was my first veggie burger and I thought it was awful. I’ve tried others since that I’ve really enjoyed, but that one almost turned me off forever. It tasted “off”–almost chemically.

    Everyone else seemed to generally enjoy their food, but it wasn’t a good experience for me. It’s a fun place, of course, and I don’t know if we just caught them on a bad day, but it’s definitely not on the top of the list for me next time.

  41. Marlene says:

    Visited sept 2013 and I was excited to take my 10yr old grandson who loves old cars the food was terrible and the famous milkshakes were mediocre. I liked the deep fried dill pickles but not the almost $10 price. The waiter was nice enough but very pushy about his tip. I would not waste time on this place

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