This Week in Dining: Disney’s Hollywood Studios

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This week we’re at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for a peek inside two guest favorites: 50’s Prime Time Cafe and Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater.

Honest Eats at 50’s Prime Time Cafe

When we’re in a hurry and can’t get a table, we’ve been known to take a seat at the bar in Tune-In Lounge and order up a shake. Not just any shake, but the delicious trinity of peanut butter and jelly with vanilla ice cream—yep, our cocktail of choice is Prime Time’s peanut butter & jelly milkshake. Sometimes we call it lunch or dinner, and it’s worth every calorie, a swirled concoction with just the right amount of sweetness.   All for $4.99!

Tune-In Lounge is a cocktail bar adjacent to the kitschy 50’s Prime Time Cafe. At the studios, this is where we head when we’re hungry. Really hungry. More-than-burger hungry.

Atmosphere:  Be prepared for 1950s schtick from the servers. You’re seated at retro laminated dinettes that look just like the sitcom kitchen on “Father Knows Best,” with reruns of black & white favorites on TVs scattered around the rooms. Your server might be “mom,” or “Uncle So and So.” If the food weren’t so good, it might be irritating.

Why kids love it: They get to watch TV at the table. There are sundaes and shakes and gooey s’mores . The kid menu has hot dogs and mac ‘n cheese, but we’re all for sharing off the regular menu – a piece of fried chicken or chicken pot pie. Or just order the appetizer bowl of chicken noodle soup with fat egg noodles and you’ve got a happy kid.

Why grown-ups love it: Cocktails from “dad’s liquor cabinet” like the “Blue Glow-Tini” with Skyy citrus vodka, peach schnapps, Blue Curacao, sweet-and-sour mix and pineapple juice (one is usually plenty to mellow out the day).   Or just order a crisp Chardonnay to go with crispy fried chicken or olive-oil poached salmon.  Generous portions of old-fashioned tastes: chicken pot pie, beer-battered haddock sandwich with fries (best with a draft brewski). But there’s a contemporary twist: the creamy tuna casserole with egg noodles has a slab of fresh tuna steak instead of the canned kind.  Meatloaf is a personal thing, so we can’t recommend PT’s version.   For vegetarians, the pear pasta with roasted zucchini and squash in a tomato broth is recommendable.

 

What we recommend:  Prime Time does a nice job in the kitchen with most everything on the menu. But we get a hankering for the tender pot roast with mashed potatoes, carrots, celery and onions – and plenty of gravy.  Or big, fat onion rings for two with a kicky horseradish sauce. And fried chicken with mashed potatoes and Southern-style greens. The real deal.  And we’re not thinking healthfully. (But if we were, we might have Aunt Annie’s Seafood Salad  with a citrus vinaigrette.)

To sum it up: Run, don’t walk to 50’s Prime Time for a pb&j milkshake (relax at the bar if you don’t want a full meal).  Expect a noisy-but-fun ambience – the kids won’t get the retro décor, but the kitsch always makes us smile when we step inside.  Entrees are  $12-17 at lunch, $15-21 at dinner.

 

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

Clever! That’s the word that comes to mind when we walk through the door into the cavernous Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that’s tricked out to look like a 1950s drive-in theater.   We like eating in happy places and what’s more fun than sliding across the seat to eat in a “car” in semi-darkness in front of a giant movie screen with free popcorn, 45 minutes of sci-fi trailers and cartoons?  The perfect setting for junk food. I’m just sayin’.

Atmosphere: Most cars hold 6 guests in 3 rows of seats. Hope for an even number, or someone in your party will have to sit alone, alas.  But every seat is a good one for watching  “The Amazing Colossal Man,” “Teen-Agers Form Outer Space” and other  classic B movies.   Your roomy  seat has a sturdy table in front of you.

Why Kids love It:  Glow-in-the-dark ice cubes are especially cool at Sci-Fi.  And kids can sit in the backseat by themselves with the ‘rents up front.  Mac and cheese, cheeseburger or hot dog on the kids’ menu.

Why grown-ups love it: Relax, have a glass of Merlot, a draft beer or one of the super-sweet cocktails. Don’t waste your budget on a big meal. Stick with the simple stuff here, as the food is “meh.” At lunch, we vote for the burger; at dinner, the Reuben or ribs. Avoid the seared marinated tofu with an overly sweet glaze, even if you are a vegetarian.

What we recommend: The hot-fudge sundae.  Eat dessert first. Or a burger (but it’s only on the lunch menu.)

To sum it up: The setting far exceeds the food.  On a hot or rainy Florida afternoon, the air-conditioned Sci-Fi is a wonderful place to be.  If the service is fast, you’ll only watch the trailers once.  Stick to the basics, enjoy the unusual occasion of a drive-in movie theater.    Hot-fudge sundae, $6.99;  entrees $12.50-$23. You pay a premium for the fun.

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Posted on April 4, 2011
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