50s Prime Time Cafe – Disney Dining Review

Imagine walking into your Mom’s kitchen back in the 1950s.  You’re probably being told to set the table, while the smell of Mom’s pot roast swirls around you.  Dad may be sitting in his chair in the living room, watching Father Knows Best on the black and white TV.  Then Mom yells, “Kids, come and eat!”, and the family gathers around the laminate topped table with the chrome chairs to dig in to the delicious meal Mom has slaved over all day.  This is the same thing you’ll experience at 50s Prime Time Cafe at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Entrance to 50s Prime Time Cafe at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Entrance to 50s Prime Time Cafe at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Whether you enter into the lounge area – where you’ll find a full bar and some retro furniture to relax in while you wait for your table – or through the main entrance, you are transported to that era when life was as simple, families ate dinner together, and the food was made with love and home in mind.  All the servers here are your relatives, and you’ll find some are like the mean older sister, bossing you around, telling you to set the table; others are the helpful younger brother, reminding you to keep your elbows off the table so you don’t get in trouble with Mom.

Dining room, featuring black and white TV
Dining room, featuring black and white TV

The menu is heavy on American comfort food favorites.  A tender and delicious pot roast, swimming in a gravy with carrots and celery, accompanied by creamy mashed potatoes; a crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside homestyle fried chicken; even meatloaf the way you remember it – sliced thick, covered with gravy, and with a healthy helping of mashed potatoes on the side.  This is not gourmet cuisine, it’s comfort cuisine, and it’s done absolutely perfectly.

Mom's Pot Roast
Mom’s Pot Roast

Menu favorites include the peanut butter and jelly milkshake – a creamy and cold blend of your two favorite childhood flavors, served in an old fashioned milkshake glass with the extra on the side.  Beer battered onion rings are a crispy and delicious throw back to 50s diner food, and a great way to start your meal.  And if you can’t choose among the flashback entree favorites, try the sample platter that gives you a taste of the meatloaf, fried chicken, and pot roast.  There is even a daily blue plate special that can offer a delicious menu alternative to the traditional favorites.

Meatloaf
Meatloaf

This is a must do meal for our family each time we visit Walt Disney World.  They do accept the Disney Dining Plan, and your meal here is one table service entitlement.  The restaurant also participates with Tables in Wonderland.

Daily Blue Plate Special of shrimp and grits
Daily Blue Plate Special of shrimp and grits

 

50s Prime Time Cafe – Restaurant Review

Day 4 6

Back in the day when Brighid was little, 50s Prime Time Cafe was the place to go for really delicious, homestyle comfort foods.  But more than that, it was the place to go for an experience like no other – where you became part of the “family” dining at Mom’s table – complete with Mom yelling at you and making you stand in the corner if you talked back.  Or didn’t eat your veggies.  Or you put your elbows on the table.  And if you did manage to make it through your vegetables, Mom – or a cousin – would hand you a ViewMaster dessert menu, taking you right back to your childhood (or your mother’s childhood) while you perused options for your sweet reward for suffering through the green beans.

On our recent visit, we were pleased to see the menu with which we have become so familiar.  Mom’s pot roast – a table favorite – it perfectly tender, shredded into delicious gravy covered bites, and served with garlic mashed potatoes and veggies you totally don’t mind eating, because they are so perfectly cooked and flavorful.

Cousin Ann’s meatloaf, although flavorful and delicious, was a bit on the dry side.  Nothing a few squirts of ketchup didn’t cure, but the ketchup then overpowered the yummy glaze.  Served on a bed of the garlic mashed potatoes, it’s about as close to Mom made as you’ll find.

Prime Time Meatloaf

Aunt Liz’s Golden Fried Chicken won tremendous praise at our table.  Golden and crisp, the chicken had the perfect crunch without an abundance of grease (take that, Colonel Sanders).  There were those garlic mashed potatoes again, and sweet corn, adding a comfort-ful side dish to an already homey plate.

Prime Time Fried ChickenThe one health conscious person at our table ordered the chicken Caesar salad, and claimed it delicious.  And really, in these days of diets and fad food trends, is there anything more classic than the chicken Caesar?  It has become almost as comforting as pot roast and meatloaf.

What our experience lacked was the fun factor.  I’ve heard before that they no longer use the ViewMasters for dessert due to health concerns, with the toys being so close to so many eyes.  I guess I get that.  But even the interaction with the servers has been greatly curtailed over the years.  Our waiter, Cousin Richard, was nothing more than a sarcastic, bitter, hating his job type of guy who couldn’t wait to be done taking our order and moving on.  And while Richard was one of the worst we’ve had in a while, there is no more real home atmosphere, where mom is yelling at you for something and someone is getting in trouble.  I was told by one server that people didn’t like being told to stand in a corner, so they scaled back that type of interaction, but it was a huge part of the fun of the experience.

Would I recommend this restaurant?  Highly.  It’s still great fun to see and be transported to the 1950s.  The food is still very good overall.  The peanut butter and jelly milkshake is still one of the best milkshakes – anywhere.  But I would tell folks who were there a long time ago to curb their expectations.  What used to be good food and great fun is now great food and good fun.  It’s still a must do for my family.

Live near Disney, Lose the Magic?

The short answer is – no.

I’ve had a couple of people ask me recently if we went to Walt Disney World as often when we lived in Orlando as we do now that we live 1000 miles away, and really, it was as much my favorite place then as it is now!

Almost as soon as we moved to Orlando, we invested in Annual Passes for all of the theme parks – SeaWorld, Universal, and WDW, figuring since we were in a town where we knew no one, this would be our entertainment budget for the year.  No huge Christmas party to plan and pay for; no monthly birthday parties to go to; no Sunday dinners at Grandmoms.  We knew that with our recent move to Orlando, the budget would be tight, and there was a chance we’d even have to miss weddings and other big family events we never would have thought of missing if we were still living in New Jersey.  I found many afternoons and evenings of solace, wrapped in the comfort and familiarity of Walt Disney World, and whenever I was missing home and family, we went to the theme parks.

The best thing about living that close to the Magic was that you got to see and do all the new stuff right away!  I can remember hearing about a new attraction, and planning our next vacation to head down to Orlando so we could check it out.  It instantly became like planning a day in the park for us – literally – whenever announcement was made of something new and wonderful at Walt Disney World!

Another huge perk?  Restaurants!  I don’t think I cooked for the first six months that we lived in Orlando – then suddenly, my husband reminded me we weren’t on vacation, and at some point, I’d have to actually use the stove at our house.  But in lieu of Sunday dinner at Grandmom’s, we did Sunday dinner at “Mom’s” at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe at Hollywood Studios.  Date nights were never spent heading to Applebee’s or the diner, where we often end up now.  Date night usually included a trip to EPCOT for a beautiful evening stroll around the World Showcase, with dinner at a different location each time.

Not only is the magic still there, but you feel like you become more a part of it when you live that close.  It’s the one thing I miss about not being in Orlando.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s great being home again, near family and friends, with the big Christmas party and the family barbecues.  But I cherish my (gulp) monthly trips to the Mouse, and I know when I get there, it’s

Disney’s Hollywood Studios Sci-Fi Dine In – a Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

This review actually will cover more than just information for those gastrically altered, and I may be basing some of my opinion on previous visits to this restaurant in addition to the one we made recently.  Your mileage may vary at this point in time, as I found very little on the menu I considered safe for WLS post-ops, and the other food I’ve eaten here before was quite a while ago.

 Disney’s Hollywood Studios – formerly known as Disney’s MGM Studios – is restaurant deficient in my opinion.  I find it difficult to choose places to eat when we go there, but at the insistence of my 7 year old, on our recent Easter Week visit, I made a lunch ADR for the Sci-Fi.  You will not find a better themed restaurant ANYWHERE on Disney property!  You check in at the podium, and then when you are called, you are escorted to a 1950’s style convertible car, which is parked at a Drive In movie theater!  This could not be a more fun premise.  If you go here and eat nothing but dessert, you must go at least once to enjoy the trailers for a variety of B horror movies and commercials you might have seen at Drive In theaters back in the day.

And then they bring you food.  And you wish you were somewhere else.  Like a real Drive In, where you could escape to the snack bar and grab a hot dog or a slice of pizza or a box of popcorn.

 In the past, I’ve sampled the burger and the turkey sandwich.  Both descriptions read well.  They seem like mouth watering tummy pleasers.  But when they are actually delivered, it turns out that the descriptions were really ambitious and the guy in the back assembling things just throws stuff on bread and hopes you like it.  There’s nothing special or spectacular about either the Angus burger or the smoked turkey sandwich, and in the long run, you’ll be disappointed that you spent so much money on such mediocre food.

On this particular visit, my daughters each chose the kids’ meal burger.  Eilis ordered her’s with a garden salad, and Granuaile got a fruit salad, and then they split the two salads with each other.  They also brought french fries, which I thought the salads replaced, but the kids enjoyed them and after my meal, I was glad to have them as well.  I ordered them each a pirate punch, which is an outrageously priced lemonade, but it comes in a souvenir cup with a glowing Tinker Bell or Captain Hook, and the kids love them.  There wasn’t anything wrong with the kids’ meals – but nothing special, either.  And I wish there were more healthier options available on the kids’ menus!

Now when I looked over the menu for myself, I was stunned by how limited the choices were if you are watching what you eat.  I love salads, and the more packed they are with protein, the better.  The only salad entree offered is the Beef and Bleu – which is a wedge of iceberg lettuce, slices of steak, and bleu cheese dressing, sprinkled with bacon bits.  I can’t always eat steak, so I was afraid to order this particular salad, since iceberg lettuce for a gastric bypass patient is about as helpful as eating a cardboard box, so I skipped the salad.  Next, I tried to avoid anything with bread – so that left out the burger, the turkey sandwich, and the Italian Grilled chicken sandwich.  I was tempted to order the grilled chicken anyway, and just leave the bread off, but having had over-cooked issues here with a burger in the past, I was afraid the chicken would come out dry and inedible. 

At most restaurants, you can usually find SOMETHING you can eat on the appetizer side of the menu, so I browsed there and found a salad and a bowl of chili that sounded good.  The only dressing option on the salad was ranch, which I asked for on the side.  It is touted as a mixed green salad with diced tomatoes and onion, so there was no protein in it, but with the 7 bean and beef chili, I figured I had protein covered. 

The salad and the chili arrive together, to coincide with the arrival of the kids’ meals, and that’s fine.  It looks like a large, hearty bowl of chili, and the only problem I see is a huge pile of fried tortilla strips, which I can easily move off of my bowl, as long as I can find room on the table for the mountain of strips without blocking the view of the cars behind me.  The salad, however, is just ugly.  And the dressing is mixed in. 

Now, part of the problem here today is the service is so GOD AWFUL slow, I could have located one of the few remaining drive in theaters in the country, driven there, eaten something else, and driven back before I was going to see my waitress again.  I held off eating the salad until she came back, but it was getting sadder and sadder looking and I was getting hungrier and hungrier, so I started to pick at it.

You know how when you wash lettuce, it gets wet?  And then if you don’t let it dry – or use a salad spinner – and you pour dressing on it, it thins out the dressing so it’s watery?  And then you serve it and the plate gets filled with a white, watery substance while the lettuce drowns in a slow, wilting, painful death?  That’s what happened with this salad.  It had obviously been prepared WAY before it was served, and left to stew in it’s own juices quite a while.  Had it not been for the diced tomato, floating like jetsam in the watery ranch juice that covered the lettuce, very little of the salad would have been edible. 

That’s okay.  I have my chili to tide me over for the fortnight it might be until we see service again.

I remove a good portion of the Everest size portion of tortilla strips, and dig into the chili.  I want to tell you, the chili is GOOD.  It’s not too spicy – a problem for some people with gastric bypass surgery – but it has a really nice flavor.  There are chunks of ground beef, and lots of beans.  Well, not really lots of beans, because once you remove the very, very, very, very, very, very, very (did I say VERY?) generous portion of tortilla strips and dig your spoon in, you find that the large bowl is about as shallow as a saucer and your spoon hits bottom very quickly.  For about $7, you get half the size portion of chili that you might get in a Wendy’s large chili.  It’s so disappointing, because it does taste good, and my lettuce soup isn’t enough to fill me up, even with my pouched off stomach 🙁  I could have used another bowl.  Or two.

Just as I was getting frustrated enough to leave and ask for my check at the podium, our waitress came over with two ice cream sundaes for the girls.  The sundaes come with the kids’ meal, but they are made in advance and frozen, so you might find it takes a while for your kids to eat the sundaes.  In addition, she brought them two ice cold bottles of water, since they had the pirate punch, because she thought the ice cream might make them thirsty.  She did not charge me for the waters, so I felt awkward complaining to her about the food and the service.  She was trying to be nice, after all.

For the experience of the theming of this restaurant, I would say it’s a must do, at least once.  If you go in expecting crummy food and lousy service, you might be plesantly surprised, but at least you won’t be disappointed!

As a side note, if you are a smaller party – like I was with just myself and two little girls – you will likely share a car with another party.  We were in the jump seat of our car, with a family of four in the two rows in front of us.  If you’re not comfortable with that, you might want to just enjoy sitting in the car parked outside the restaurant.