Has the Sci-Fi gotten better?

There are a few constants with this site and one of them is for many years I have not been a fan of the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant.  Since this site's inception, I have found the basic problem to be the really good theme cannot make up for the mediocre, over-priced food.  Nonetheless, every year I go to the restaurant to check it out and see if anything has changed.  I went last week to eat at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater and it's better but is it good enough to recommend?

I went to the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant after noticing the menu had added a few new items that sounded good.  I made an 11am reservation for me and my family and gave it a try.  When I go to a restaurant with the intention of trying to evaluate how good or bad it is, I try to order as much as I can to get a sense of how the food is.  For our visit, we ordered the following items:

  • Orange creamsicle milkshake
  • Buffalo popcorn chicken appetizer
  • Fried dill pickles appetizer
  • Crispy onion rings appetizer
  • Traditional Caesar salad
  • Reuben sandwich

The Food

Here is a quick run down of our thoughts on the food here

Orange creamsicle milkshake

This was not on the printed menu but was mentioned by our server as a special they had.  I am a sucker for orange creamsicle anything and considering I have never had a milk shake of that variety I gave it a try.  When the milkshake was brought to me I did notice that I recieved just the amount of milk shake in the glass, whereas at 50's Prime Time Cafe they will bring you a milk shake in a glass and enough leftover milkshake for a second helping.

The milkshake did in fact taste like orange creamsicle and I enjoyed it but it was not something I would want to necessarily drink 3 or 4 servings of.  So I liked it plenty but I will not recommend a cult following grow from it.

Buffalo popcorn chicken

I saw this on the menu and someone on Twitter recommended it so I gave it a try.  The quality of each piece of chicken is not going to wow you. Most of the pieces were small, but then again it's called popcorn chicken.  That being said, there was a lot of chicken in this appetizer.  This could easily be shared among two or more people.  And for fans of spicy, well, it definitely has some kick to it.  I doubt it would win any awards in Buffalo, New York, but as someone who enjoys buffalo chicken, it was quite tasty.  Definitely recommended.

Fried dill pickles

My wife loves fried pickles so she gave it a try.  The pickles come in spear and chip form and her synopsis is the spears were "amazing" while the chips were "so-so".  She attributed the difference to being the preparation and breading with each type.  I guess it was not that bad because she did not offer me any to try.

Onion Rings

Okay I did not actually order the onion rings but a friend was also dining here did and I asked to try one.  They tasted great and what I've always loved about onion rings at the Sci-Fi and 50's Prime Time Cafe is they taste fresh.  Meaning, they don't taste like they were frozen and reheated.  The onion ring also isn't 95% breading and 5% onion.  You can taste the onion while the breading is just enough to cover up the onion but there is not too much of it.  

Traditional Caesar Salad

Once again, this was something my wife ordered.  She opted to order two appetizers in lieu of an entree and it definitely seemed like she had more than enough food to fill her up.  She found the salad to be a good choice and something she enjoyed.  Quite honestly, there is not a whole lot to say about Caesar salads these days.  It was your basic salad that met her expectations.

Reuben

I cannot get enough Reuben sandwiches in my opinion so I gave this a try with high expectations.  The sandwich was quite large, and after finishing the first half, regretted eating as many of the popcorn chicken bites as I had.  Nonetheless, the sandwich featured a lot of corned beef and the bread was perfectly toasted with the right amount of sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing.  It was an outstanding choice, with the only downside being the french fries are rather bland.

The negatives

The main problems I have with the Sci-Fi still are related to its set up.  It's very dark, which makes sense given the restaurant's theme but the problem is it is very difficult to see your menu and even your food.  I noticed many guests that were also eating at the restaurant taking their smart phones out to use as flashlights.  There are small lights provided at each table but they are no where near adequate for seeing what you're doing.

The biggest problem with the Sci-Fi is the seating.  Because you are supposed to be in a car, there are rows of seats that can fit two adults comfortably.  So parties of more than 2 people will be seated in different rows at the same table.  The problem is each row faces one direction, so conversation is really difficult between rows.  Imagine sitting on a school bus and trying to talk to the people 2 or 3 rows behind you.  It's not easy.

I have always complained the prices at the Sci-Fi are too high but at this point, show me a restaurant in Walt Disney World that is not expensive.  Complaining about prices at Disney World restaurants is like complaining it's hot in the desert.  

What do I think now?

For the food I ordered, I really think the food has turned around at the Sci-Fi.  Portion sizes are definitely large, which helps with the price you pay for it.  The food itself tasted great and I enjoyed it.  I do think there are still pitfalls on the menu, namely the burger, which means you cannot order just anything and expect it to be great. 

The theme of the restaurant is still among the best, with great decor and kids will absolutely love eating there.  The theme has always been the best part of the restaurant but I think the food is now catching up.

So my recommendation for the Sci-Fi going forward is to give it a try.  I cannot blindly recommend you go there and eat whatever but I think if you try some of the things I ate, I think you will come away thinking it was a good choice.

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A regular look into Disney's Hollywood Studios, both past and present, with commentary and analysis from Matt Hochberg.


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Posted: Wednesday, May 01, 2013 by