Every year or so, I like to revisit each restaurant in Disney's Hollywood Studios to see if anything has changed. Sometimes a restaurant I had written off in years past has a menu or chef change and it becomes a diamond in the rough. Othertimes, restaurants slide in quality or value and they lose their place in my opinion. Most of the time, these restaurants don't change much at all and that's the case of the restaurant I tried for the first time in two and half years, the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre Restaurant.
The Sci-Fi is a favorite restaurant of mine to rally against and urge others to skip. For years, I've found the food anywhere from mediocre to bad and the prices a litle higher than I think they should be. They've changed menus a number of times of the years and still each time I eat there, I come to the same conclusion: not worth it. So would this visit be any different?
Stopping by for lunch this past weekend, I wanted to sample as much of the menu as I could to make sure my tastes aren't limiting my judgement. I brought my wife and fellow Studios Central writer Glenn with me to ensure I'd get a fair sampling of the restaurant offerings.
We were seated in our car, a 3 row table with 2 people per table. Right away, one of the chief complaints remaind true. It's dark and conversation between more than 2 people is impossibly annoying. Since everyone is seated facing the same direction, talking to people behind you is quite difficult. The people in front have to constantly turn around or lean their heads back to include the people behind them. Party of 5 or more? Forget about it, the people in the last row would have to yell to talk to the people in the first row. That or engage in the childhood game of "telephone".
To start with, we ordered onion rings to share. We found the onion rings were identical to the onion rings at 50's Prime Time Cafe and like there, we found them just okay. Not bad, but not great (if you want great onion rings at Walt Disney World, try the Turf Club at Saratoga Springs Resort). My issue is the breading was too hard and the breading and onion were too "mushed" together and frankly, it didn't taste fresh. It definitely wasn't fresh since we ordered them from our waitress and they arived about 90 seconds later, telling me they were made before we ordered them and sat around waiting to be delivered.
For our meals, we had the reuben sandwich, pasta with shrimp and burger. My reuben sandwich was good and I found the serving size adequate. Was it the best reuben sandwich I ever had? No. But it wasn't bad either, just not memorable. Glenn had the pasta with shrimp, which he disliked completely. He really found the taste to be off and the dish a disappointment. My wife had the burger and noted it was quite large but didn't find the meat patty to be very good. She noted the meat was better than the counter service burgers, but it was sub-par for what a good burger is.
Ordinarily I'd have cut my losses and decided to leave but the one comment I always hear about the Sci-Fi is how good their milk shakes are. We decided to order vanilla and chocolate shakes and indeed they were quite good. Glenn mentioned that while good, he'd ratther grab a shake from Min and Bill's Dockside Diner and forgo the hassle of going to the Sci-Fi.
As usual, the atmosphere and theme of the restaurant remains quite good. It really does feel like you're at a drive-in and the film loop is entertaining and far longer than the 50's Prime Time televison loop. Being in the restaurant and enjoying the ambiance definitely helped.
But after we paid our bill and left, the three of us came to the same conclusion we had reached prior to dining. The Sci-Fi just isn't worth it because of the lack-luster food. I think it's a little over priced as well, but really the mediocre food is what does this restaurant in for me. It's a shame such a restaurant with such a great theme continuously has such poor offerings but it's a fact you can't escape.