RESTAURANT REVIEW - 50's Prime Time Cafe @ Disney/MGM Studios

Kevin's here with a review of one of his favorite Walt Disney World restaurants.

Written by Kevin Baxter
Published: July 30, 2004 at 2:13 AM

From the official Walt Disney World website: Bop into a Fabulous Fifties kitchenette where Mom is waiting to serve you a heaping plate of comfort food. Enjoy some of your favorite classic sitcom Moms on television sets while you gulp down such favorites as meatloaf, fried chicken, pot roast and milk shakes. So, come in, relax and be prepared for Mom, in her loving way, to treat you as one of her own and encourage you to "join the clean plate club."

Actually, that little blurb doesn't do the restaurant any justice. I have been three times and even though it is just a restaurant, it is probably my second favorite thing inside Disney/MGM.

The fun begins right after giving the front desk your name (for Priority Seating call 407-WDW-DINE up to ninety days before your trip) and you are told to wait in the "living room." The waiting room does look like a fifties sitcom living room, but with WAY more televisions, which feature clips from 50s era television shows. We were delighted on our first visit when we were asked if we were the "Baxter kids" before being seated.

The dining area is not themed as a dining room, but as MANY dining rooms. Having so many smaller rooms makes this one of the better sit-down restaurants in the parks, because the single-room restaurants can be so loud. With all that goes on here, one room would make this an almost intolerable experience.

While there are television sets all over the dining rooms, they don't create the noise. That aspect is left to the serving staff, who play your relatives. Your server will introduce himself or herself as Cousin This or Aunt That and they all refer to Mom back in the kitchen. And they refer loudly. They also yell at each other and sometimes at the customers. One Aunt demanded I set the table as she sat down to chat with my tablemates.

If this is something you don't find humorous, then I suggest you try the Brown Derby instead. Because this is the type of goofiness that the Prime Time is all about. Expect to be reprimanded if your elbows are on the table. Or if you don't finish your vegetables. "Relatives" aren't beyond punishment, which can take the form of running around the dining room like a superhero. They'll also set adults up with Little Mermaid bibs for those eating seafood. Even if it is a seafood pasta!

Of course, this would all be for naught if the food sucked. Not that it can compare to the Brown Derby or most of Epcot's wares, but it does suffice. Appetizers tend to fall into staples like onion rings, soup and French fries, though the fries do offer toppings like gravy, cheese or chili and cheese. There is a trout dip and fried cheese, for those interested in something a little different. I have tried the fries with cheese, and they did the job quite nicely. One friend is an onion ring fiend, and was very pleased with hers. The only problem was the sheer size of the portions. Had we known, we probably would have just shared the fries.

As for entrees, there are actually more offerings at lunch than at dinner, though the extra offerings on the lunch menu tend to fall into the sandwich category. I did order the Turkey Sandwich once, with soft seven-grain bread and some tasty cranberry mayonnaise, but it certainly wasn't the best I have ever had. Okay, not great.

I have also had the Chicken Pot Pie, which I enjoyed very much, even with stuff like broccoli and onions in it. Bleah! One thing about pot pies I like is how big the veggies usually are, making them easy to pick out. I have also sampled from friends' plates and have found the generous Sauteed Shrimp Pasta delicious, though I usually prefer my seafood with smaller noodles than the penne pasta they offer. The pancetta and Shiitake mushrooms helped make up for the penne, somewhat. I have also sampled the Golden Fried Chicken, which many rave about, but in the age of chicken fingers I have grown too accustomed to having ranch dressing on my chicken, so a little chicken went a long way for me here.

On to dessert! The offerings here tend to be diner staples like sundaes, shakes and cakes. My friends and I are in love with Dad's Super Sundae, something the menu does not do justice. Sure, it mentions a brownie with vanilla ice cream covered in fudge and caramel. It doesn't tell you about the whipped cream, the Cracker Jacks or the M&Ms all over it. Or the size! This thing is immense! The last time we visited we were still full from lunch, so we told them we wanted just dessert. I was warned by my Aunt that I couldn't eat an entire Super Sundae. Clearly she is a distant Aunt as she don't know me and ice cream! That thing was history in no time. A friend had the Cherry Cobbler, with ice cream, and I was forced to help her out with it. It was good, and I normally love cherry cobbler, but it was no Super Sundae. The cheesecakes are also fine, but nothing out of the ordinary.

If you want a fun meal with average-to-above-average food, then you can do no better than the 50's Prime Time Cafe. Prices are very reasonable and are in line with what you would pay for a meal at any chain restaurant outside the park (Denny's and the like excluded). Alcoholic drinks are also available and can be obtained without a meal in the Tune In Lounge, which is "next door" but not really. Same building. So go see your "family" and remember to keep your elbows off the table!

My TPI Rating - Personally, I give it a 9-Outstanding, but since a lot of that is because I am sick of most of the rest of the park, the normal rating would probably be an 8-Commendable.

Readers' Opinions

From Joe Llorens on July 30, 2004 at 10:32 AM
This is the only restaurant I eat at when I´m in MGM. During my first visit there I noticed that my table was missing it´s Viewfinder with the dessert menu in it, so I casually went to grab one from an open table. One of the cousins from a completely different section saw me and started yelling at me that I shouldn´t grab things that don´t belong to me and I was relegated to stand in the corner for five minutes while he "went to tell mom." Another time, my ex-girlfriend was full and couldn´t finish her green beans and our cousin made the announcement to the rest of the section that she had to do the airplane in order to be allowed to leave the table. Great stuff.

As for the food, the meatloaf was always a favorite of mine there, until I tried the fried chicken. Now that´s the only thing I eat there. Also, if you´re looking for a special treat, you should order the PB&J milkshake. (I´ll be damned if it doesn´t taste EXACTLY like a PB&J sandwich.)

From Robert Niles on July 30, 2004 at 10:57 AM
Okay, I'll dissent.

Sort of.

The first two times I ate at the Prime Time Cafe, I *hated* it. I wanted waiters to help me enjoy my meal, not berate me throughout. And I wanted top-quality food from a sit-down, full-service restaurant with theme park prices. The rave reviews this place got on TPI left me mystified.

Then I quit thinking of Prime Time Cafe as a restaurant and began thinking of it as a live show where the cast happens to serve you food, and my attitude toward it changed 180 degrees. Indeed, I've thought about switching Prime Time from the restaurant listings to the attractions to make this point. As performance art, or interactive theater, the Prime Time Cafe is innovative, immersive and hilarious. Well worth your visit, if you've got the metabolism to burn off an extra meal during your trip.

Unfortunately, I don't. So one visit to this restaurant (with the proper attitude) to experience the show is enough for me. I'd rather spend my calories eating a meal at a more satitsfying *restaurant* and leave the show-watching for Fantasmic or Festival of the Lion King.

From Steve Feitl on July 30, 2004 at 1:55 PM
I totally understand where Robert is coming from on this one, because I tend to count this restaurant as an attraction myself. When you consider that there's not all that much to do on repeated visits to MGM, penciling in an hour here really fills out the day. And honestly, it's an incredibly fun experience. A lot of credit has to go to the staff here, because after three or four visits I've still yet to see a cast member here who was not "on."

And as Kevin pointed out, the prices are reasonable, so it's a nice place for a light lunch, such as a sandwich or something of the like.

While on the subject, I don't think the food is as good at the Sci-Fi Dine In, but it's a similar experience. I always enjoy being warned not to get fresh with my girlfriend in the backseat of our "car." And those cheesy sci-fi trailers and newsreels entertain me to no end.

From Chad Shelby on July 30, 2004 at 4:58 PM
how could you forget about the smores!!!!
From Brad Watson on July 31, 2004 at 5:18 AM
I have to be honest in saying that the food I've had at Disney/MGM is the worst grub I've ever eaten at a theme park in O-Town. I've stopped at the Commissary, Sci-FI Dine in, and 50's Prime Time, and I couldn't wait to leave all of them. Let's start with the main topic: 50's Prime Time. I have no problem with the theme, it's fun--in a matter of fact, it brings you closer to the servers and gives the time there a personal touch, but the food is horrible. Had the Butterfly Pork Chop with BBQ sauce--you could have used it as a puck. Most of their entrees come drenched in some mystery gravy that's not appealing. Bad times for your stomach. If one stuck to the desserts, they'd be golden, but skip the main course. This, oddly, goes for Sci-Fi Diner. The movie is relaxing and quite amusing, but the food must be made by the same guy at Prime Time. My wife, once again had a pork chop. Since there is almost no light to eat by, this next story almost led to food poisoning. My wife took a bite of her sauteed pork chop and it seemed luke warm. I told her not to freak out because it was probably sitting under a heat lamp for a few moments. She's finicky and had a waiter bring a flash light over. The chop looked like it had touched a skillet for 5 seconds; the inside was completely raw. The waiter raised his eyebrows about a mile high and rushed the plate away. The topper was with Disney employees being magically there whenever you hurt yourself or get treated rudely for coddling we were not offered the entree for free, a comp dessert, nothing for eating a chunk of fresh piglet. Disney routinely drops the ball with food, except for Epcot. You have to try really hard to get a bad meal in the World complex.
From V L on July 31, 2004 at 11:29 AM
If you are looking for good food and incredible service- may I humbly suggest eating at Mama Melrose, near the Muppets 3D show. My partner and I travel to WDW at least once a year, and have made it a tradition to eat here, as we have never received bad service or meal. On our last trip, two of the waiters that have served us in the past remembered us from our previous trips, and one offered to buy us dessert out of pocket to thank us for returning so often.

As far as the type of food you can expect, those familiar with Romano's Macaroni Grill will find Mama Melrose very similar in the types of food that are offered. I strongly suggest the Portabella mushroom appetizer! Priority seating for Fantasmic is offered here, and I have been moved to write the company on more than one occasion to compliment the staff on their extrordinary service standards.

From Mr. D. T. on August 1, 2004 at 2:45 PM
I'm impressed with the atmosphere and the theming of this place. The cast is out of the ordinary, but most of the food seems not. The TV's could update their picture quality and add more 'shows'. I think the food is great, and the place would make a highway of memories.
From Christian Nicely on August 1, 2004 at 6:55 PM
I have probably eaten here about 3 times in my life as a disney fan. It has a great theme and good food. It can get popular meal time.
From Mitchell Botwin on August 2, 2004 at 8:54 AM
I agree, Prime time is one of my favorite resturants in the park. I love talking back to the cousins. One of them said "I've had it up to here with you" moving his hand across his throat, so I said "Well then you don't have far to go". I had to stand in the corner for 5 min timeout. I would rate it a 9, great ambiance with average to above-average food.
From Justin Smith on October 18, 2004 at 6:15 PM
I've only been to Disney World once and my Mom and I were planning reservations for a resturaunt at MGM and we had a choice. We could either Go to the SCI-FI resturaunt and this. Me and my Mom thought the idea of someone pretended to be your Mom forceing us to eat are vedgetables sounded ridiculous. We picked SCI-FI instead. My Mom and I absolutly love the theming and the food. Overall I never been to the "50's" resturaunt yet but I'm glad that I didn't.