50’s Prime Time Cafe is a table service restaurant in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World that specializes in American comfort food the way mom would have made it in the 1950s. The menu isn’t the only part of the restaurant themed to the 1950s–the restaurant itself looks like a 1950s home, and “mom” and your other relatives are actually on hand to serve your meal to you. The kitschy ambiance of the restaurant and the “show” put on by the Cast Members at 50’s Prime Time Cafe are truly the stars here, and they make 50s Prime Time Cafe one of Walt Disney World’s best unique dining experiences.
When you walk into the restaurant, you find yourself transported to a 1950s living room. Right down to the black & white television, “wood” paneling, and gaudy animal knick-knacks. You go through Mom’s Kitchen to get to the seating areas, which look like time capsules from kitchens of the 1950s.
Although I wasn’t alive in the 1950s, for decades my great grandma’s kitchen was also a time capsule of a 1950s kitchen, so I know the look. The level of theming in 50’s Prime Time Cafe is very impressive, and this nostalgia trip alone would make for great ambiance even without Mom around to make you mind your manners (don’t rest those elbows on the table or leave food on your plate!).
50’s Prime Time Cafe has always been a special place for me. Growing up, 50’s Prime Time Cafe was my parents’ favorite restaurant (my mom dealt antiques so she appreciated the decor and design) and we visited the place every year on our annual trip.
Once I finally understood that the Cast Members were putting on an act and I didn’t really have long lost relatives in Florida, I loved our annual visits there, too. It became my mission during each of these meals to eat everything on my plate so I could join the “Clean Plate Club” and receive a sticker for my accomplishment. It was always a highlight of our trips for me, so my view of this restaurant is undoubtedly a bit biased.
Let’s take a look at what makes this such a fun place…
When Sarah and I started going to Walt Disney World together, we went to 50’s Prime Time Cafe on our very first trip. Unfortunately, the food was disappointing and the whole experience left something to be desired. We have made periodic stops at the Tune-In Lounge for milkshakes and Dad’s drinks since then, but didn’t head back to the restaurant until 2013. We are both incredibly glad that we did, as it was one of our best experiences at Walt Disney World on the trip.
Drinks at 50’s Prime Time Cafe might be the star of the show, and by drinks, I mean milkshakes. The mixed drinks are okay, but they’re pricey and the ones we’ve tried are glorified sugar water with alcohol splashed in. You’re mostly paying for “Dad’s Experimental Electric Ice Cube,” which is cool looking, and has proven a great gimmick to convince guests to buy drinks. I know I have ordered these drinks on more than one occasion because I have seen one illuminating another table. Perhaps I’m part raccoon, but the shiny drink is too much of a temptation for me to resist. If you are not part raccoon, I recommend resisting, as the mixed drinks are nothing special.
However, the milkshakes are the stuff of legends, with the chocolate being my favorite prior to our most recent visit. Although the milkshakes can be ordered at the Tune-In Lounge, in our experience it takes a long time to get one at the bar (which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as the Tune-In Lounge is in the same building as the restaurant and they clearly share a kitchen–maybe we’ve just had bad luck). When we discovered the PB&J milkshake, I knew I had to have one, and figured a return to the restaurant would be a good plan.
When I ordered the PB&J milkshake, our server asked if I wanted a Chocolate PB&J milkshake, which she described as tasting like a Reese’s cup. This seemed like a silly question to me–sort of liking asking if you’d like a free $100 bill or a free robot dinosaur. Uh…OF COURSE I’D LIKE CHOCOLATE ADDED. Who wouldn’t?! Perhaps a communist who doesn’t like awesome things, but I can’t imagine our server mistaking me for a communist. I don’t have that look or odor.
In any case, the Chocolate PB&J milkshake was as awesome as she described it, and definitely tasted like a Reese’s cup (but with jelly). The best milkshake I’ve ever had. Even Sarah, who thought the idea of a PB&J milkshake sounded disgusting, loved it. Although I tried to get Sarah to order her own, I was “reminded” by Mom about the importance of sharing, so I let Sarah have my blender cup full of extra shake. I would strongly discourage anyone else from making this mistake. That milkshake is so good that everyone should order their own. No joke.
For appetizers, we started out with Uncle Gary’s Blue Crab Salad and Fried Herb and Garlic Cheese. Sarah really liked the Blue Crab Salad, although I thought it was a little sparse (it did taste good). At around half the price of an average entree, it didn’t offer a whole lot of value for money.
I far preferred my appetizer, which was also a bit expensive in comparison to the entree menu, but was a unique combination of flavors and more typical of the “comfort food” style of the restaurant. The fried cheese tasted amazing, and the raspberry sauce was a surprisingly good compliment. The bread also made it a more substantial appetizer than the Blue Crab Salad. If you’re going to order an appetizer, this should probably be it. It was really good. 50’s Prime Time Cafe could be an inexpensive meal if you skip the appetizers, and with the milkshakes, you don’t really need appetizers, anyway.
Sarah ordered the 50’s Prime Time Cafe Blue Plate Special, which was Mahi Mahi. Billed as a “healthy seasonal alternative,” it wasn’t what you’d expect from 50’s. Sarah was very pleasantly surprised by this entree. I don’t think her expectations were too high since fish clearly is not this restaurant’s specialty, but the Mahi Mahi was excellent. Flavorful, tender, and cooked to perfection. I was impressed with it, too. Her entree was definitely the surprise hit of the meal.
I stuck with a more traditional entree: Aunt Liz’s Golden Fried Chicken. 50’s Prime Time Cafe is “renowned” amongst Disney fans for its fried chicken, and although mine was definitely good, I still don’t think it beats The Plaza Inn fried chicken at Disneyland. It was still pretty good, though.
The chicken is served with mashed potatoes and greens with bacon. I’m a fiend for mashed potatoes, but these didn’t do a whole lot for me. I think that’s pretty typical of their mashed potatoes. Since I didn’t want to be admonished my Mom (and who doesn’t want to be in the Clean Plate Club?!), I ate everything on my plate.
Sarah was not so successful in her quest to finish all of her food. So Mom came over to help her out. The interactions with the Cast Members and the general environment of the restaurant, with the televisions on and little touches (like ViewMasters!) all around are truly what make 50’s Prime Time Cafe a winner for us. However, this is not for everyone. Our sets of “cousins” (the people seated at the tables on either side of us) were stark contrasts. On one side was a couple of older locals who got in on the fun, asking us how their cousins were, and telling us that they come to the restaurant once a month.
It was easy to see that they “got it” and loved the restaurant. On the other side was a family of 4 on (I’m guessing) their first visit to 50’s Prime Time Cafe. At first they seemed puzzled by why their waitress was their aunt and why we were their cousins. When it finally did click, they seemed to ignore the schtick, and always got down to brass tacks with ordering. Nothing against them, my point is that 50’s Prime Time Cafe clearly is not for everyone.
If that part of the experience of the restaurant is not for you, it’s probably a much better idea to just drop in the Tune-In Lounge at some point for milkshakes and forgo the restaurant itself. While we had an excellent meal at 50’s Prime Time Cafe, it still is mostly just comfort food, and there are plenty of places with much better menus at Walt Disney World if all you care about is food. If reviewed from only the perspective of the menu, it’s a decidedly average restaurant. Of course, that should only be done if you’re introverted or feel you won’t enjoy the experience of the restaurant. For everyone else, reducing 50’s Prime Time Cafe to only the menu makes absolutely no sense, as whole package is heavily enhanced by the ambiance and experience, both of which I’d say are arguably more important to the experience than the food.
Overall, 50’s Prime Time Cafe is incredible fun, and one of the most enjoyable dining experiences most guests will have at Walt Disney World. Themed dining is where Disney excels, and there are few better options than 50’s Prime Time Cafe (the only restaurant I’d rank above it in this regard is Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater). The milkshakes are incredible, and the menu has some pretty good comfort food, too. 50’s Prime Time Cafe can become very crowded in the lobby during prime dining times, so we recommend an early lunch for the least waiting and best experience.
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What do you think of 50’s Prime Time Cafe? Which dishes are your favorites? Planning on going? Share your thoughts in the comments!