50’s Prime Time Cafe Review
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!
Good review aside from the childish nonsense about communism! What exactly does a communist smell like? I think I smell pretty normal thanks!
Another COVID trip ADR for us as we love the atmosphere. I’m ready for a PB&J milkshake but won’t share! Sorry, but my partner can’t eat peanuts. Sadly, “mom” won’t be able to help us clean our plates because, well, it’s a pandemic out there!
My only experience dining at 50’s Prime Time was back in May 2017. I there with my parents for a college graduation trip. I was so excited to dine here and interact with the staff. Our waitress left something to be desired. Other than getting mad at us for little manner mistakes, she didn’t interact with us a whole lot. When I ordered my PB&J milkshake she wouldn’t let me add chocolate *tear. The waiter serving the table next to us was full-on in character and completely hilarious. That made up for it a little. He conducted the entire room in singing Happy Birthday to our cousin from California.
I would definitely go back, I would just communicate with the hostess we want an all-out fun wait staff.
We went there last week with a party of 14. They were very accommodating . Couldn’t give us one table but did put us next to each other. Robie, the manager was excellent. Our server, Jordan, was beyond excellent. He made the whole experience perfect. You just have to know, that’s all part of the environment. My 5 yr old granddaughter wanted to know if we were in someone’s kitchen.
Will definitely go back and wait until we could be seated at one of Jordan’s tables. 5 stars to this place
I had the worst experience ever . The waiter thought he is being funny but we are extremely rude and arrogant and made derogatory comments about me and my food allergies. When I told him about him , his service was just horrible.
I will never come back to this place
Loved Uncle Gary at this restaurant! He really made the experience great fun! We had dinner there on Monday and had a great time with great food!
Just booked here for Thanksgiving. Figured since we were skipping out on family and cooking this year, this would be next best thing. Looking forward to the sampler and the PBJ shake.
Nine of us went to the 50s Prime Time Cafe for lunch on New Year’s Eve day and had a fabulous time. The waitress made it as much fun as a Disney ride. Mary Jane served us and treated us like our parents would have in the 50s. She was great and truly seemed to love her job. She was perfect for our day.
Great article, thanks, Tom. Also, I was happy to read Daniel’s comment re having fun @50s.
Reason being: last 3 times there (within last 7 years), the CM didn’t do the fun & joking part at all. So disappointed, that this trip we went back to SciFi instead (which is the littles’ fave anyways).
I was hoping that next time we go to 50s, I can tell the host/hostess that we want to be included in the fun. I’m hoping that will work. As you said, Tom, that’s so much part of the joy of this restaurant.
We always have gone here on every Disney trip. We were so thoroughly disappointed this time around. We were starving when we got there I ordered the meatloaf plate and my husband ordered the Fried Chicken. We were both so hungry still after eating her.. the portions are so ridiculously small. I made a comment to the waitress and she said a lot of people complain about that. So now you just have to order dessert. No I want to get full on dessert I want to get full on
food. What a disappointment will never go back.
On our only visit to WDW, one of our dinner stops was the Prime Time Cafe. The food was great, but what I REALLY loved was the snide attitude of our waiter, Vinny (all an act). My daughter ordered a salad and water to drink, and he rolled his eyes and made such a hilarious fuss that we still tease her about it almost every time the family goes to a restaurant. We were seated behind some folding wooden shutter blinds, and every so often, one would open and Vinny would shoot paper wads at us through a straw. I convinced the waitress to give us about a dozen straws, and the next time he opened the blinds, we were ready for him, and hit him with a full-on barrage of paper wads of our own. We were in hysterics, and better yet, the people sitting in our section didn’t get it–and gave us stony, silent looks for the remainder of our visit. For that experience ALONE I’d go back to WDW.
The milkshakes are amazing. I’ve been telling everyone to go just for them.
We also had a couple next to us last time I went, who didn’t seem amused by the whole play along and have fun of the place. Or they just didn’t get it.
My fiancé and I went to ’50s Prime Time Cafe a couple of years ago. It was his first experience at the restaurant (48 years old) and I was really looking forward to his reaction to the characters (we’re both a couple of big kids at heart). I was very disappointed that our server didn’t get into the whole shtick the way I had hoped for. I feel that when the table is for 2 older adults with no kids they don’t put as much effort into the act. And when at Disney, I’m booking restaurants for the experience rather than just for the food (Garden Grill, Crystal Palace, Chef Mickey’s, 1900 Park Fare, Sci Fi Dine In), so twice as disappointing when you don’t even get the experience.
Sandii… we had the same exact experience. I felt that the waiter saw our table as a chance to “take a break” even though we paid the same prices that others did. We agree that the “experience” is a large part of the meal.
We had the waitress shown in the photo! She was phenomenal and truly made the experience. We are going back in October and I hope to see her again. And the food was Wonderful. Our entire table of 10 was pleased with our choices.
We are also going with a big party. Did you read table get a tv like the smaller tables? We want the ful experience lol.