Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

By Deb Wills

"Attack of the 50 Foot Woman"
"The Amazing Colossal Man"
"Cat Women of the Moon!

These aren't the titles from your local movie theater's retro science fiction, B-movie night listing -- these are some of the movie clips you can see at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at the Disney-MGM Studios!

The restaurant is actually a replica of an old-time drive-in, with seating for 250 in automobiles of the era. Fiber optic stars twinkle as you look about your surroundings, wondering if you really did just step back in time! The finishing touch to the ambience is the gigantic screen displaying trailers from old movies, as well as old commercials, amplified by those drive-in speakers that used to rest on the car window!

Laura, Debbie and I had a priority seating for 1 p.m. on a February Saturday. We waited only a few minutes before we were brought down a darkened hallway to the front of the theater by our "parking attendant" who escorted us on roller skates. This was our first glimpse at the array of cars inside the Sci-Fi. As we walked to our car, we could hear the familiar sounds of the McGuire Sisters singing for Coca-Cola.

Our car, which had 3 rows for 2 persons each, placed Laura and Debbie in the first row, me in the second row and 2 folks we didn't know right behind us. This arrangement was not conducive to conversation -- and between the way the seating is set up, the volume and the visual distraction of the movie clips, it's very difficult to talk to anyone unless they are seated right next to you. That said, the movie clips, which run about an hour before repeating, are fun to watch. Another drawback to the atmosphere, though, was that the low lighting left it almost too dim to read the menu and see what you were eating.

The appetizers sounded much more appealing to us than the standard burger and sandwich fare, so we opted to share several dishes. Sharing turned out to be a bit tricky due to the seating arrangements, but since everything arrived at once, we proceeded to pass the plates around!

We began with Spinach Feta Spread, described as a plate of creamy spinach, feta cheese, and toasted walnut spread served with whole wheat parmesan pita chips for $4.95. We found the pita chips greasy, but mostly enjoyed the spread itself, except for the hidden ingredient - green olives - which was not part of the menu description. To accompany the spread were very thin slices of red pepper served with a lemon garnish. The spread was good, but be sure you like the taste of olives!

An appetizer of Marinated Tomato Salad, at $4.95, consisted of field greens tossed in an Opal basil & white balsamic vinaigrette topped with crumbled feta cheese, and a dark balsamic drizzle. We all enjoyed the tomato salad and would order it again.

The Sci-Fi House Salad was a mix of greens tossed with a light Opal basil & white balsamic vinaigrette, topped with buttermilk blue cheese crumbles and spicy walnuts for $3.75. The blue cheese was very good but be prepared for the spicy walnuts -- they weren't kidding! The Sci-Fi House Salad was probably the best value based on what we tasted.

Finally, the one entree we ordered, the Apple Walnut Chicken Salad, came served in a whole wheat pita with gourmet chips for $10.95. This was a tasty all-white meat chicken with good size chunks of apple -- the only problem was the heavy-handed use of way too much black pepper!

Other entrees on the menu range in price from $9.95 - $16.95 and include a Prime Rib sandwich ($12.95), burgers ($10.95), Shrimp Penne Pasta ($15.95), a Black Forest Ham Sandwich ($9.95) and a BBQ Chicken Breast ($12.95).

The Sci-Fi Dine-In also has some desserts ($4.25-$4.95) that sound interesting, including the Cheesecake that Ate New York and the Cookie Monster. We didn't try any, but they looked good.

The kid's menu features standard fare, including pasta with beverage ($7.49), grilled cheese, fries and beverage ($4.99), hot dog, chicken strips and burgers.

As with all WDW restaurants, if you have special dietary needs, call the restaurant at least 24 hours in advance to make arrangements. Or, at the least, talk to your server when you are seated (if that isn't satisfactory, ask to speak to a chef).

The Sci-Fi serves both lunch and dinner, although during very busy times of the year when the restaurant is open into the evening there might be slight changes to the menu.

Because of the restrictive seating, your wait time may be longer than most other restaurants at the Studios. Spur-of-the-moment, walk-up seating has never been available when I have tried for it.

Sci-Fi Dine-In is the kind of creatively themed dining experience I've come to expect from WDW. The atmosphere, complete with servers shouting lines along with the actors on-screen, and attention detail make it a fun place to visit at least once. Laura and I had dined here before and came away with the same feeling -- the price is high for what you receive and the food leaves something to be desired. Our suggestion is to have appetizers or go for milkshakes, coffee and dessert!

If you are looking for a good place to eat lunch at the Studios, head over to Mama Melrose, which offers a much better lunch of pizzas and entrees in the same price range.

For less expensive lunch options at the Disney-MGM Studios consider: The Backlot Express, Toy Story Pizza Planet or the ABC Commissary, which now offers some interesting ethnic alternatives to the typical burgers and fries.

February 2001

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