You are likely well aware that BIG CHANGES are underway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
After all, the addition of two whole new lands — Star Wars and Toy Story — is no small undertaking. And the construction has already resulted in the closure of several eateries (including my beloved Writer’s Stop and Starring Rolls) around the park.
But a few classic spots have remained, thankfully, untouched for now. And when it comes to Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant, this spot’s dedicated fans — and there are many — sure hope that “for now” extends to “for always.”
And I can’t argue with that. There’s something so fun (and completely immersive) about sitting in a booth shaped like a vintage car, watching a reel of old movie clips on the big screen under a faux night sky.
But while Sci-Fi wins loads of points for ambiance, some diners find the food to be a little hit or miss. So on this visit, we checked out a mix of some ol’ standbys along with items from the recently revamped menu.
So, let’s drive in, shall we?
Sci-Fi Dine-In is essentially a massive room (make that, soundstage) with high, dark ceilings made to resemble the starry nighttime sky, and row upon row upon row of vintage-style convertibles. That’s the drive-in part of the Dine In, and it’s just about one of the most fun dining settings in Disney World.
You basically sit in the front seat or the back seat, and you have a fairly shallow counter in front of you. That’s your table. Not exactly conversation friendly, but that’s A-OK, because there’s other entertainment to take in.
THIS is the Sci-Fi part of things. The big screen in front features clip reels from old sci-fi and horror flicks, where zombies, aliens, and The Blob star in some some seriously fun old clips. And don’t fret over the horror bits — they’re far more kitschy than scary. And occasionally Uncle Walt shows up to lighten the mood even more!
If you’re not in the mood to eat in a totally sweet ride, there are a few tables (and picnic tables) available as well. These retro-style tables offer a little more elbow room to those who might prefer some. And this is also much easier for high chairs and wheelchairs. (Though note that there are a couple of “car” tables that will accommodate high chairs as well.)
They’re tucked in back of the theater, near the Concession Stand. But those aren’t the only concessions they’re serving up at Sci-Fi Dine-In…
Sci-Fi Dine-In features all-American grub; much of it with a quirky twist befitting the unique setting. Specialty sips are part of the game, so we perused the Drink Menu first.
There’s a decent variety here, including several Craft Beers. If you’re a glow cube collector, order the Magical Star Cocktail or the Orbiting Oreos (which are especially fun here in the nighttime-no-matter-what-time setting).
Additional Specialty Beverages are presented on a smaller menu, which you’ll definitely want to check out.
Now, I honestly feel like it’s not a visit to Sci-Fi without a milkshake. Maybe it’s just something in the 1950’s-esque setting, or the scent of onion rings wafting in the air that makes me crave a sweet accompaniment, but I can never resist. This time, the Oreo Milkshake was calling my name.
A bit heavy to start a meal? Maybe. Totally worth it? Yep. You can’t go wrong with Chocolate or Vanilla, either, but Oreo in particular is especially indulgent and delicious, with lots of little Oreo bits mixed in throughout. (FYI — if you’d like to kick it up, this one can be ordered with Godiva chocolate liqueur. It’s called Orbiting Oreos on the menu.)
Of course, we had to spend some time reviewing the recently revamped menu. The latest incarnation has plenty of tempting options, which you’ll be able to read a little better by clicking the image below to enlarge. (I have a love-hate relationship with Sci-Fi, by the way. I love visiting this restaurant, but I kind of hate snapping pics in the uber dark room. It ain’t easy, folks.)
Here’s a look at the Kids’ Menu as well. On it you’ll find typical kid-friendly dishes like Popcorn Chicken and a Cheeseburger, but the Mickey Check Meals (aka Disney’s healthier options for kids) included Grilled Salmon, which is a nice addition.
And like all table service locations in the Parks, if you’ve got allergies or food sensitivities, there’s a menu for that (and you can always request to speak to a chef for a one-on-one consultation).
I promise that I’ll be getting to the new items soon, but there is one appetizer I have to get every time: Crispy Onion Rings. They come stacked in this groovy arrangement, with Sweet Chili and Horseradish dipping sauces. Cool flavors that are definitely a step above ketchup (though you can get that, too).
To see the mechanism behind this tower of onion rings, we pulled them off and took a closer look. We think it fits in with the retro theme, like a little metal rocket! Shazam!!
Well, we also pulled them off to eat them all. The name doesn’t lie — the breading on the onion rings here is always crisped to a perfect golden brown offering a delicious, savory crunch against the soft, buttery onions. They never disappoint.
Besides our Crispy Onion Rings, we ordered the Sci-Fi Appetizer Sampler. It comes with three crowd-pleasing appetizers: Boneless Buffalo Wings, Spinach-Artichoke Dip, and Fried Dill Pickles.
Ranch and Blue Cheese dipping sauces and a basket of Tortilla Chips complete the dish.
The Boneless Buffalo Wings are pretty straightforward; tasty without being revolutionary. I will say, there were quite a few of them, so plenty to go around.
Similarly, the Spinach-Artichoke Dip was fine — but not mind-blowing. Still, if you like this dish at any of the chain restaurants in the real world, you’ll enjoy this one.
The Fried Dill Pickles, on the other hand, are the most unique item in the Sampler and the most enjoyable, too — not only because they’re more atypical. There’s lots of dill packed into the layer of thick batter, so the flavor really explodes.
And the juicy pickles are a decent size. We liked the texture contrast between the crunchy coating and the softer inside.
Remember, these can be ordered as an appetizer on their own. Ditto for the wings and the dip, but I recommend going for the pickles.
The entree list is fairly large by Disney standards, and features lots of familiar eats, like Reuben and Caprese Sandwiches and an All-American Burger. Vegetarians will want to know that a Falafel Burger is up for grabs, too.
We decided to dig into the Sci-Fi Drive-In BBQ Burger. It’s served with thick-cut fries.
But it wasn’t even the appeal of “BBQ” in the name that got our attention; it was the description.
Because the toppings under that pretty brioche bun include crispy Fried Jalapenos. We were all over that! The other toppers are Cheddar Cheese, BBQ Sauce, and Fried Onions. So, a pretty common combo otherwise. But the Fried Jalapenos are a clever addition.
I won’t say they added a ton of heat, but I loved the doubling up of crunchy bits, and did get some of that signature jalapeno flavor. Of course, the other toppings — like lots of crispy bacon — fought for some attention, too.
But check out this cross-section, with the Sci-Fi signature blend of beef which makes up the burger. This is NOT, thankfully, your typical well-done-to-the-point-of-dry Disney burger. Nope. And here’s WHY: The current chef at Sci-Fi recently came over from D-Luxe Burger in Disney Springs! So the Sci-Fi burger uses the same proprietary blend of beef that’s used at D-Luxe…which is amazingly delicious. And they KNOW not to cook burgers to within an inch of their lives. So YAY for burger rejuvenation here!
It was moist, tender, juicy, and tasty. OH, and keep your eye on the signature burgers here. They switch out the specialty, seasonal burger regularly, and the Chef said they might be bringing back that one with the Boursin cheese that everyone loved! (Or at least something like it.)
Another item that features a little twist on the traditional is the Blackened Chicken Pasta. Aside from a decent Four-Cheese Sauce and the Blackened Chicken itself, this dish also has Red Bell Peppers, Asparagus, and Fried Okra. That last one threw us for a little loop, but we’re feeling the New Orleans vibe on this.
The dish will definitely stick to your ribs, which may or may not work for you as you tour a theme park in broiling central Florida. But it tastes good, and it shows a little creativity. That said, it’s not a WOW! dish, and I’d highly recommend the burgers or ribs over this one.
And in the name of research, we asked to try the Four-Cheese Mac and Cheese that is typically served with the Flame-Broiled New York Strip Steak.
It’s good, y’all. Creamy and decadent. And there’s actual flavor to it, which some mac and cheeses simply don’t have. I’m sure it would pair great with that steak.
Dessert? Yes, please!!
Since I’ve already had the House-made Sci-Fi Candy Bar (blergh.) as well as the Out-Of-This-World Turtle Cheesecake (good!), I thought I should get something I hadn’t tried previously (even though I would totally go for the Turtle Cheesecake again!).
So this time, it was the Warm Glazed Doughnut for me. This whole ice-cream-on-a-doughnut thing is pretty much everywhere at the moment. You might recall the Donut Sundae at the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor. Or the Cronut a la Mode at Epcot’s Refreshment Port. Or the Beignet Gelato Sundae you can get at Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory (beignets are fancy doughnuts, right?). You get it. And we got it!
This one bears a resemblance to the Donut Sundae at the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor in that apples come into play here, too, but Sci-Fi’s version features sliced Cinnamon Apples (as opposed to a compote) along with caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream topping the warm doughnut. The cinnamon apples, in my opinion, are a much better accompaniment than the compote. It makes the dish more akin to a comfort food cobbler, only with a donut instead of a crust or crumble. My top nod still goes to the Turtle Cheesecake, but this really is enjoyable.
Nosh or Not?
Sci-Fi Dine-In is for you if:
- You want to dine in a quintessentially DISNEY spot. This place is imagineered to perfection. We love the themeing here.
- You’re looking for comfort food. These are burgers, sandwiches, mac and cheese, popcorn chicken…nothing too fancy here.
- You have kids. Seriously — they will LOVE this joint.
You might skip Sci-Fi Dine-In if:
- You’re looking for romantic or high-end dining. This ain’t that.
- You’re looking for seriously *excellent* food. This is good, but it’s not winning awards for innovation or taste…yet. This place is all about the atmosphere.
- Your kids might be scared of the 1950s horror flick clips. It happens!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: everyone should try Sci-Fi Dine-In at least once. But it really is the kind of place that weasels its way into the hearts of Disney fans by serving up familiar foods in a super fun retro setting. It’s 100% pure charm.
I’m happy to say, though, that this particular meal stood out to me as one of the best I’ve had here, and the food was on par with the good feelings that come along with this sentimental favorite. So it’s really good to know that not everything in Hollywood Studios is changing. Some things have remained — very happily — the same.
Which Disney restaurants are your sentimental favorites? Let us know in the comments!