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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.