Location: Disney’s Hollywood Studios / WDW
Type: Table service
Cost: Paying for the ambience (about $15-20 per person)
Craig’s Favorite: Fried Pickles and All-American Picnic Burger
Flat out, Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant is our family’s favorite place to eat in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We’ve had a meal there every time we’ve gone and it never gets old. The retro look and feel of eating at an old-fashioned drive-in movie is so familiar yet few of us probably ever went in a classic convertible – and certainly not one equipped for dining! The food is good and definitely a cut above common theme park fare, but that’s not why you go. What has us coming back each and every time is the unique experience that you can only have here at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater!
Make sure you get reservations because there is ALWAYS a wait. Even if you DO have reservations. You simply cannot rely on getting stand by seating so be sure to call ahead of time and reserve your space. They do run out. At Walt Disney World you can make reservations up to 180 days in advance so take advantage of that! Is it possible to get a last minute reservation? Possibly, but from my experience this is one of the most popular spots to eat and if you are only coming once, you need to plan ahead. One of the only drawbacks to the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is the waiting area. There is very little seating ias the space is maximized for the dining experience so especially on rainy days, the lobby area gets very crowded. One time we were sitting on the floor in the aisle just biding time until our car was ready. Quite uncomfortable. But even with that, it was still worth it!
When you enter the building, it looks like you’ve stepped into an active set on a Hollywood lot. The decor is sparse, the floors are concrete, and the walls look like they are temporary. If you’ve ever been to a movie studio, you’d be familiar with the sight. When your hostess takes you to your seat, though, you cross through an opening and into a completely different place! It’s like you were magically transported back in time to the 1950’s. Cars (which Disney cleverly calls automo-booths) are found all lined up and facing the huge movie screen which shows cartoons, old drive-in movie advertisements for the snack bar, and other retro, classic goodies. It’s night time here, regardless of what time it is in the outside world and the smiles and happiness in this place is evident. Working tail lights, leather interior seats, and an open windshield make the details of the cars complete. There are a few tables, but wait for a car – it’s worth it. There are even speakers next to the cars like an authentic drive-in! And they’re great for holding backpacks.
The food is a mix of different American cuisine, mostly sandwiches and burgers but you can get other stuff as well. On the high end side, there are pork ribs with baked beans and slaw or a New York strip steak with garlic mashed potatoes, veggies, and blue cheese butter. If that’s not your style there are standards like a Reuben, a smoked turkey sandwich, pasta with shrimp or chicken, and a build-your-own burger. But if you’re feeling a little adventurous you can stretch a bit and try the salmon BLT, the fried dill pickles (a Southern delicacy – try it!), or…wait for it…the All-American Picnic Burger! Quite delicious. A flame-broiled Angus beef patty topped with sauerkraut, grilled onions, and a hot dog – all between two pieces of toasty buns. Yum. Seriously, if you get the chance, you need to eat at this place. It will be one of the highlights of your experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studio!