Man, I love Sci-Fi Dine-In Restaurant in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I hardly ever go, because it’s next to impossible to review the place since it’s SOOOO dark (you guys would laugh if you knew what I did to get good lighting for these shots); but I really do enjoy it. And I couldn’t wait to head over to try out the new menu on my trip to Disney World last week!
And this review experience comes just in time for the super busy Star Wars Weekend time of the year — as well as the newly announced Star Wars-themed character meals that will be available for a limited time at Sci-Fi and Hollywood & Vine. It will be breakfast here — but at least you’ll get a feel for the place. AND — they’re changing up the film reels in a super fun way for the occasion!
If you haven’t had the chance to take in dinner and a movie here, allow me to show you around a bit. I’m pretty sure you’ll be booking a table — er, car — on your next Disney World visit.
You’ll find Sci-Fi Dine-In at the corner of Commissary Lane and the Streets of America. It’s just a stone’s throw from the counter service spot, ABC Commissary, and next door to Writer’s Stop (of Carrot Cake Cookie fame)!
Enter and head to the totally tubular — sorry, but it’s completely 80s at the entrance — check-in desk, and give them your name.
Because we were a very small party, my wait time here was minimal. (It’s usually been a wait for me in the past, though. Keep that in mind if you decide to book an advance dining reservation here. And the waiting area is teensy, so there’s rarely anyplace to sit and relax before your buzzer buzzes.)
Beyond the hostess stand, take some time to look at the cool retro posters, which definitely give you a better sense of the 50s feel they’re going for.
While the main dining room looks like an open-air drive in theater, the waiting area and the walkway to the dining room feels like you’re behind the scenes on a soundstage. Is it a movie, or real life?
You never know what crazy “props” you might spy here.
This rocket pack would be perfect for a quick getaway during the Indiana Jones show, don’t you think?
I just love the bowl of eyeballs. I can never resist snapping a pic.
Beware of the flashing light. You might wreck the scene! (No pressure or anything.)
After your short walk from the waiting area, you enter this room. And it’s a little, you know, spectacular.
Because it really does look like every drive-in movie theater you’ve ever seen (even if you’ve only seen them in the movies).
So, yes, most of you will sit in the cars as you see. But if you’d rather, you can also request one of about six picnic tables in the back! This is handicap accessible, and perfect for those with little guys in high chairs, car seats, and the like.
But as completely awesome as the atmosphere is, there are a couple of drawbacks — like the very low lighting that imitates the night sky. It can be a little tough to see your food, actually. See what I mean about taking food pictures in here?
Another common complaint is the short length of the film loop. You’ll enjoy clips of old, campy horror movies and concession commercials. Walt Disney even makes an appearance!
But the film is only around 40 minutes long, so you’ll probably see at least part of it more than once.
Your check will even be part of the fun!
The menu at Sci-Fi isn’t huge, but it’s pretty interesting. I was glad to see that the surprisingly DELICKCIOUS All American Picnic Burger made it through the most recent menu update. (UPDATE May 2014: 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. )
Be sure to check out the fun beverage menu as well, which includes some interesting cocktails, as well as a new set of craft beers. Note that some of the more fun light-up drinks have vanished from the menu (RIP Lunar Landing and Space Monkey), but the manager told me that if you order them, they’ll make them. (Subject to change as always.)
I began with a Coke, but you have the fun option to add Cherry or Vanilla Syrup here. I love this! Just like an old soda fountain. You can’t tell well in the pic, but there’s even a maraschino cherry in there.
But we also couldn’t pass up the Orbiting Oreos. This Grown-Up Milkshake comes spiked with Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, and it’s topped with a souvenir glow cube (which actually comes in handy for reading the menu 😀 ).
(You can also get the Oreo Shake without the booze and light show for about half the price.)
We started off with an appetizer that I’ve been hearing raves about — the Fried Dill Pickles. The salty-sour snack comes with a Spicy Ranch Dipping Sauce.
They were a little different than the fried pickles that I’m accustomed to seeing at home, which are usually just thin slices. These come with slices as well as spears. If you’re a pickle lover, the deep-fried and battered version probably make you very happy.
I’m not a huge pickle fan, but I really enjoyed the light batter-type breading on the slices here!
Next though, I couldn’t wait to try the Spicy Buffalo Popcorn Chicken. You guys DO know that wherever I can have buffalo chicken anything I’m going to order it, right? OK, just so we’re clear.
They’re served with Celery Sticks and a side of Blue Cheese Dressing. And the serving size isn’t enormous, so no worries about this ruining your meal. In fact, I really could have used a few more bites for the price.
But the flavors were exactly right! The perfect way to start the meal.
We also decided to give the fan favorite Reuben a try. The classic sandwich comes with your choice of Cucumber Salad or French Fries on the side (we got the cucumber salad). There was nothing particularly special about the sandwich, but it was well made and the ingredients were plentiful. I liked the toasty, buttery bread as well!
But the real winner of the night was the Flame Broiled New York Strip Steak. Served with crunchy, steamed Seasonal Veggies and creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes, that would have been enough. But you also get a knob of Blue Cheese Butter and a garnish of those thick cut, nicely battered Onion Rings. Those little additions made this even more awesome.
When I ordered the steak, the server asked if I wanted the blue cheese butter or not. I’m guessing this means that many a guest requests that it be left off the steak. I’m always a fan of blue cheese butter, though, so I left it on. It did have a strong flavor, but it complimented the steak well!
We weren’t finished, though! It was time to take a look at the Dessert Menu next. A couple of the new options jumped out at us right away.
Since we’d already had one dessert drink, we decided to save that Chocolate Martini for next time.
We opted for a couple of sweets with the intention of sharing. First up was the House-made Sci-Fi Candy Bar. Have you noticed that “candy bar” desserts are all the rage at Disney right now? I’d been hearing about this one left and right, and knew I had to try it!
The presentation was nice, and I appreciated the color from the fresh Strawberries on the plate.
Cut into it, and you can see the layers of White and Dark Chocolate Mousse on a base of Sponge Cake. The whole thing is then covered with Ganache and topped with Chocolate Pearls — another Disney dining darling of the moment.
This dish fell flat for me, folks. Not a whole lot of flavor, and I’m not a fan of sponge cake. So, while it was fine, I wouldn’t order it again.
But the Out-Of-This-World Turtle Cheesecake made up for everything the Candy Bar wasn’t! Built to resemble a lunar module, this thing was incredible!
The pyramid of creamy Cheesecake is coated with Heath Bar crumbles, Pecans, and Chocolate Chips, before it’s doused in Caramel Sauce. Seriously! It pools at the bottom. Finally, a dessert with enough sauce!
But that’s not all the fun. The crust is — wait for it — a Chocolate Rice Krispie Treat! Yowza! See? Why can’t all desserts be fun and delicious like this?
Normally, I’m not bowled over by Disney desserts. But I think this one exceptionally good!
What can you say about Sci-Fi Dine-In? People love it, people hate it. Some never miss a chance to dine here, while others think that the food is mundane and overpriced.
For my part, I am so in love with the gorgeous setting that I think the atmosphere alone makes Sci-Fi a Disney icon, and a restaurant that every Disney fan should experience at least once.
But honestly, I was pretty impressed with my meal this time out. Sure, there could have been a few more pieces of chicken in that paper cone. But everything we ordered tasted good to great. And I really love that there’s good variety here. You can get a sandwich or a burger of course, but guests who want something a little more upscale can get a fairly decent steak at a price that’s pretty reasonable by Disney standards.
For my part, I’ll keep on coming back to Sci-Fi to take in a meal in a car while watching fun old movies. It’s an opportunity to experience a bit of Americana that has largely vanished in a fun setting — complete with air conditioning.
Is Sci-Fi Dine-In a favorite Disney dining experience for you? Leave a comment and tell us about it below!