Annette Forrest

Published: October 12, 2013 at 11:56 PM

I just love and appreciate Amanda's columns. They are so charming. I hope she is compiling them into an eBook because I'd love to have them with me via Kindle in the parks. I love her photos and I love the way she describes the food and ambience.

This is another restaurant I'm going to have to try. The thing is, though, that the Disney dining plan intimidates me and I end up being too stressed out to make reservations 180 days in advance. I have some anxiety disorders and I am just not good at competitions like this, so I've never been to the SciFi Diner or the 50s Cafe because I had heard that you have to fight for reservations. The Dining Plan is so complicated to me that I prefer just paying cash or credit card in the parks and not having to worry about understanding the plan.

So, in DHS I've eaten in Brown Derby (since it was easy to get a same day reservation when I was in the park that time) and then the counter service places. Next time I am going to have to try SciFi since Amanda made it sound so great.

I would LOVE it if Amanda did a column on how to use the Dining Plan and make reservations without being stressed out and if she could explain how the Dining Plan works. Disney does a bad job at making this stuff understandable to people who are not very knowledgeable about the parks. I'm not the only one in my group of friends who is intimidated and scared off by all the rules and procedures for dining in the parks at Disney.

I wish someone like Amanda Jenkins would explain it in her careful, charming, plainspoken style. That's what's needed for my family, for sure.

Mark Hollamon

Published: October 13, 2013 at 4:11 AM

Nice report Amanda!

Based on our past couple experiences at Sci-Fi my review differs a little:

First, I think it is way overpriced even for Disney standards. The last time we ate there we ordered onion rings and received 5 rings in our order for something like $8-$9. We let our server know about it and he did get us another order on the house, but I let him know for the price being paid, that second order should be included with the first one to begin with. I wasn't a particularly good start to our visit.

We both find the burgers to be on the "meh" side. I have never been so bold as to order a $30 steak there and probably never will.

The desserts are unique. They rotate them on a fairly regular basis and we feel that and the ambience were the two best parts of the experience.

My wife and I as you did, felt the loop needs to be longer or possibly some new content. I like your idea of seeing more of the movies they preview, or possibly sharing more old movies of the early days of MK. Whatever the addition, it should be at least a 90-120 min loop so people can relax and not see reruns during dinner!

James Koehl

Published: October 13, 2013 at 4:26 AM

I see Sci-Fi as more of an entertainment experience than a place for really good food (although I have always been satisfied with what we got there). The atmosphere is tremendous fun, and I have never had a bad server there. I also agree that the loop needs to be longer- much longer, but perhaps that is to keep people from staying too long enjoying the experience. I feel the same way about the shows at 50's Prime Time. But I also agree- the prices are more than they should be for the food, but I guess you have to pay for the show also.
My gosh, Amanda, you write really well! I love your work!
Eric Malone

Published: October 13, 2013 at 5:23 AM

As someone who's been going to the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater since he was a kid, I fell in love with it pretty quickly. It's always a fun experience when I go, and the atmosphere is just amazing. I never went to a ton of drive-ins when I was a kid, but it reminds me of the times my parents took me when they did.

Having said that, you should've tried the cookies and cream/Oreo shakes they have there. They're just amazing. Always order at least one while I'm there, but then again, I always order the hamburger and fries, too.

edwin roman

Published: October 13, 2013 at 5:28 AM

We have eaten several times at the sci fi...Its not about the food at all as its just average to me. We love the cheesy movies and the feel of an old drive in. However, in the hot summer, those shakes are real, real good. At least when I ask for a burger, I get it medium rare. I think its a fun place to go and have a meal that is not pre prepared like other fast food places in the park. Go to that place for fun, not great food.
Annette Forrest

Published: October 13, 2013 at 10:08 AM

@Mark Holloman -- I think it's interesting to see different people's reactions to the prices of food in theme parks. I live in Illinois, about 40 minutes from Chicago. Prices here for a night out in any restaurant that's not a chain like Olive Garden or Friday's are pretty much the same as prices in theme park restaurants. In fact, $8-$9 for a basket of onion rings is pretty much what it would be even at Chili's or Friday's or whatever here. I don't know how much food is where you live but I wish you'd tell us. I'm curious to know.

Here, steaks are in the $25-$30 range, easily. A hamburger in most restaurants is $10 and above. My family doesn't eat out much because it's just not in our budget but last week I was in a little Greek diner with friends and I had a chicken shishkebob plate that was $16. If I made the same dish at home, it would have fed four people for that.

I took my kids to the Brookfield Zoo by us and the food prices there actually are higher than things I've seen in Magic Kingdom. And the quality of the zoo food is terrible. They have a barbeque place at the zoo that is like $15 for chicken and a few ribs and $4 for a basket of very tiny sweet potato fries. A refillable drink mug at the zoo costs $15.

Movie theater prices are even higher. We almost never buy snacks at a theater, but the last time my folks were in town they treated and it came out to like $40 to get snacks for all of us (drinks, some candies, popcorn, and nachos). That was on top of the tickets. My dad easily dropped close to $100 for that outing.

Amanda Jenkins

Published: October 13, 2013 at 11:41 AM

@Eric, I almost got the Oreo cookies and cream shake. With the guys ordering all the ice cream, I thought I would try something different, especially since they allowed me to taste theirs. I love cookies and cream ice cream and who doesn't love Oreos? I will definitely order one on our next visit. Thanks for the tip!
Anon Mouse

Published: October 13, 2013 at 2:19 PM

I eaten there more than 10 years ago. It was a fine experience, but expensive in the Disney way. The unfortunate thing is the video clips being played can get old fast and it really doesn't get better. The video loops every 45 minutes, which might seem to be based on table turnover, but not really. You can easily spend up to 90 minutes to be served and finish with your dinner. This is a long meal.

The food is good for what you're getting, but that's not why you're there. I don't recommend it for others. I won't be going back, so maybe that's why you can get reservations easily; however, on busy days, all restaurants are hard to get in so make reservations if you really want to go or be prepared to wait at least one hour.

Russell Meyer

Published: October 14, 2013 at 11:09 AM

I haven't personally eaten at the Sci-Fi Dine-In, but have not heard terribly good things about it. We did eat at Mama Melrose's next door, and the buffet was equal to our expectations and previous reviews. The prices do seem a bit expensive for a standard sit-down lunch. The prices are approaching "signature" dining levels, but the food and atmosphere are far from a "signature" experience. From my own personal experience, and the concessus reviews from around the industry, dining at Disney's Hollywood Studios is by far the worst of any theme park in Orlando.

BTW, I don't know about Amanda's experience with the DDP, especially since I believe she's a DVC member, which rarely includes any DDP promotions, but I have extensive experience with the DDP, and wrote a story about it a few years ago. The rules have changed a little bit since I wrote the piece (can't seem to find it right now on the archives), but the general rule is that the DDP is not worth it unless you're getting it as part of a promotion, and even then, you have to be meticulous in your planning and making ADRs far in advance to ensure seating at the most sought-after, best-DDP-value restaurants. We have gotten the DDP on four different occasions, but those were all during trips during the EPCOT F&W Festival, when using snack credits on kiosk itmes in EPCOT creates instant value for the DDP over using the credits for fruit, bottled drinks, or popcorn. Disney continues to clamp down on the rules, limiting flexibility and some of the "tricks" you used to be able to do to get more out of the DDP (like getting 2 bottled drinks with a breakfast credit along with using your refillable resort mug, but that was disontinued at least 2 years ago). The rules today are even different than the last time we got the DDP last fall, and they're always tweaking restaurant menus and categories to bring costs in line with what you would pay al a carte.

Disney's explanation of the DDP has gotten better over the years, and is pretty simple now that they've elminated many of the loopholes. The quick-serve DDP (offerred as part of the "free dining" promotion for guests booking in value resort) is pretty worthless these days since you only get 2 CS credits and 1 snack per person per day at a cost of @$35/day. That means you pretty much have to get some of the most expensive counter service meals in the parks just to break even. The standard DDP with 1 CS, 1 TS, and 1 snakc credit is a little better at @$50/day, but you've still got to work just to break even. All of the diing plans require you to stay on property, so you have to consider those costs as well, which is why it's typically only valuable during the times when they offer it free or when there are deep resort discounts.

Published: October 14, 2013 at 1:35 PM

This place is all about the atmosphere! If your a picky eater just go for the desert, because this is definitely a must see

Published: October 14, 2013 at 5:08 PM

I love Disneey and it's parks, but the food is really not very good and way overpriced. Some or the prices are border line ridicoulous and make what I pay for food at the airport look like a major bargain.
Tad Daily

Published: October 15, 2013 at 5:47 AM

If it's good enough for Mandy, it's good enough for me! Seriously -- Amanda, i always enjoy your reviews! I am a bit worried that this extremely positive experiance was more of a show for "someone in the media" that clearly was planned for you and not a typical experiance, but it is hard to argue with "new management" and at least the amount of time he spent talking to you on the phone. That is a positive note. For anyone with a previous bad experiance, now seems like the right time to give them a whirl again.

Amanda - keep up your great work and thanks! I look forward to everything you write - dining reviews, hotel, anything you write is worth don't send free stuff do you??? lol -- just kidding -- thanks for your reviews.

Amanda Jenkins

Published: October 15, 2013 at 9:20 AM

Thanks Tad :)

@Russell, I agree with you about the DDP. You have to really plan to get the most for your money. With my boys, the regular dining plan was just not enough food for their wants back in December. We ended up spending more money than was intended. That and along with making reservations at many places (especially character), was why we went with the Deluxe Dining Plan.