Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant is an American-cuisine restaurant in Disney World’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios park. This review features food photos along with thoughts on the ambiance and cuisine at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. First, some basic background info: Sci-Fi participates in the Disney Dining Plan and also accepts the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount. We recommend paying out of pocket when dining here if you can, as this restaurant is not a good value on the Disney Dining Plan.
Sci-Fi is open for both lunch and dinner (during busier seasons, they also add breakfast–we did a Star Wars breakfast here a couple of years ago), and we find it to be a restaurant that has improved in recent years following a couple of menu changes. The restaurant serves burgers, sandwiches, ribs, seafood, pasta, steak and salads in addition to its legendary milk shakes. Note that it will remain open during Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land construction. (Woo hoo!)
We had nearly eaten here a couple of times in the past, but always changed our plans at the last minute as we’ve read a lot of unfavorable reviews of Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. It’s actually probably one of the most divisive restaurants at Walt Disney World, with some praising its ambiance, burgers, and milkshakes and others condemning its over-priced menu and mediocre cuisine.
We strongly agree with one of those perspectives…
I’ll cut to the chase: we loved it.
I had eaten at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant as a kid, and I remember it being fun, but I didn’t remember the cuisine before we ate there recently. We were a little nervous going into the meal that it might be a glorified quick service meal with significantly higher prices.
It wasn’t a huge concern, as the ambiance looked so great that it was worth trying even once. These fears were quickly allayed by the ambiance.
The ambiance was actually that impressive. Intricately themed as a sound stage containing a 60s-era drive-in movie theater. While you wait in the lobby (and even with Advance Dining Reservations you’ll be waiting at least a few minutes), you can take a look at the details (including California labor law notices) establishing that this is actually a set. The B-movies that play on the screen at the front of the theater are actually movies within movies. Surreal.
Speaking of the B-movie trailers, they’re quite entertaining and incredibly zany. They’re all real films, and it’s somewhat mind-boggling that all of these films were actually made. If you’re a fan of Ed Wood, you’ll love Sci-Fi Dine-In. I’ll bet it would have been a hoot to be involved with the making of some of them!
In addition to the movies, guests are seated in fun classic cars throughout the theater, with guests in the front being the driver and others being passengers and hitch-hikers. The lighting and general mood of the restaurant is also impeccable, and it actually feels like you’re outdoors at a drive-in theater (unless you look up). It’s really a fun restaurant and worth visiting for the ambiance alone.
However, the fun at our meal didn’t end with the ambiance. We were there for lunch, so we skipped the appetizer and went straight to ordering our main courses. Of course, we started with milkshakes. That was the only logical way to proceed. I also added a Coke blended with cherry flavor. I am a sucker for Coke mixed with grenadine (so much better than actual Cherry Coke), so I felt compelled to order it.
Normally, we try to order different items (for the sake you you readers…and so we can sample a greater variety), but in this case, we both had to get the Oreo Cookie Ice Cream milkshake. It was excellent. creamy with the perfect texture of Oreo crumbles, it was definitely well worth the $4.69 it cost. In fact, if they had offered a “bottomless” Oreo milkshake, I’m pretty sure I would have stayed there all day drinking milkshakes and enjoying corn-ball Sci-Fi trailers. Sarah would’ve had to come back with a wheel-barrel at the end of the day to roll me out!
Since I had heard a lot of the other entrees should be avoided, I decided to give the Angus Chuck Burger a try…
If there was one thing on the menu besides the milk shakes about which I had heard positive things, it was the burger. Sure enough, my burger was excellent. Thick, juicy, and perfectly cooked, it was about all I could ask for in a burger. It was one of the best burgers I’ve had at Walt Disney World, right up there with the storied Beaches and Cream burger. Although, to be fair, I don’t order burgers at the nicer Walt Disney World restaurants. I’ve heard Le Cellier and others have some really good craft burgers.
The accompanying fries were decent, but nothing special. At $14.99, it wasn’t that much more expensive than a Counter Service burger after our Tables in Wonderland discount, but it was so much better (and these days, even a lot of the Counter Service burgers are becoming pretty good!). Part of this was the way it was perfectly cooked to lock those delicious juices inside. Part of it was the quality of the meat. I’m convinced Disney is using better meat for its burgers as of late.
Sarah ordered the Smoked Turkey Sandwich. When I looked at the menu and saw that there was an item with avocado, I knew she’d be ordering that. Sarah’s sandwich was pretty good, but it seemed a little too healthy for me. Grain bread, avocado, turkey, etc. When I’m on vacation, I want decadent food that is high in “guilt” and deliciousness. After all, I’m walking so many miles per day that I basically need to eat slightly unhealthy…right?
Obviously this menu item was designed to be a bit more “reduced-guilt” in nature, and that much was clear from the description, so I can’t fault Disney for not being overwhelmed by this healthier item. If anything, praise is due for including a healthier option.
Overall, Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant is a nice Walt Disney World restaurant that offers exceptional ambiance. Seriously, amazing ambiance. If I haven’t stressed that enough, I’ll pause here and reiterate this once more. This restaurant has the absolute best ambiance in all of Walt Disney World. It also has at least a few items on the menu that are phenomenal, and if you stick to these items, you’re bound to have an amazing (and relatively inexpensive!) meal. When I began this review, I knew that I would rate Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant highly, but I had reservations about giving it a 9 or a 10 simply because of reports that there are some bad items on the menu. After giving it some thought for a couple of days, and receiving plenty of positive reinforcement from my followers on Twitter (yes, that is how we food critics review things nowadays…based upon the consensus of our social media friends), I’m convinced that Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant deserves the ultimate praise. To hold a restaurant back, despite some amazing food items, the best overall ambiance, and good prices on specific items, would be like panning Beaches and Cream (a ridiculously awesome ice cream and burger shop) because their Chicken Noodle Soup is no good. It just seems like an arbitrary reason to penalize an otherwise great restaurant. As such, my score for Disney’s Hollywood Studios Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is quite high. Deservingly so, I think.
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What do you think of Sci-Fi Dine-In? Do you enjoy the theme and ambiance? What about the food? Share your thoughts in the comments, especially if you’ve tried the newer menu at Sci-Fi!