Sci-Fi Drive In Diner – MGM Studios – Walt Disney World
I ate that this restaurant in 2000 and then again in April of 2007. Things haven’t changed much.
This time I took my niece (age 14) and nephew (age 18) to this restaurant. They picked it because of the theming. I have to admit the theming is excellent. The premise is that you are going to a drive-in movie and eating in your car while you watch the movie.
The setting of the restaurant is a semi-dark “drive-in theatre” with a big movie screen up in front. The seating looks like cars, old fashioned Cadillac-type cars with 3 rows of seats. The walls are painted to look like outdoor southern California with palm trees and gentle hills. While we were waiting to be seated my nephew had to use the restroom, so he got a view of the restaurant before the rest of us entered. When he came back I asked him, “What did you think?” He said “It was all I hoped for and more.” I did not detect any adolescent sarcasm in his report. I have to agree with him that the ambiance is excellent.
When we got out seats, the young people sat in the front seat of the car (it’s only 2 people wide) and I sat in the second seat. Eventually, we picked up two more “hitch hikers” in the third seat of our car. (There are a couple of tables that have a car front and back attached to a regular table. In this seating arrangement, the party is sitting with the movie screen to their side rather than straight ahead. This would work if there was a person in a wheelchair, a very large size person, or a party that was more interested in interacting with each other than in the theming. In the last instance, there are much better restaurants for spending quality time with one’s friends or family.)
The eating surface is a shelf-type affair, affixed in front of your car seats. There is a low-level light all along the shelf for reading the menu. It’s not much good for anything else.
As for the movie screen, it is huge and really looks like the old drive-in theaters that I used to go to with my family in the mid-1960’s. There is a “speaker” on the pole by each car (just like the drive-in) and the sound is good. The movie screen plays a series of trailers for old and really bad sci-fi movies (I even watched some of them as a child) as well as a number of ads for the drive-in theater. The ads are also classics for the snack bar, just the kind you used to see at the old drive-ins. The film is on a loop that lasts about 45 minutes, which is about all the time that you want to be spending in this restaurant.
At the end of the meal, instead of a check for your meal, you are presented with a “speeding ticket” for the damages.
Now, as to the food… When I first visited this restaurant in 2000, I just had dessert because I wanted to see the restaurant, but I had a smaller income and could not afford a whole meal there. (Compared to all Walt Disney World restaurants, this one is not especially expensive. It was my job that was the problem, not the price of the restaurant).
This time, I had more food. My niece, who hardly eats anything, had a child’s hamburger. She reported that it was “fine.” My nephew ordered the chili with salsa topping off the appetizer menu. He reported that it could afford to have more chili and less salsa. I also ordered off the appetizer menu and had the tortilla chips with artichoke/parmesan dip. There were plenty of chips, but the dip was quite bland. Given the quality of the food, I was pleased that none of us were really hungry when we visited this restaurant. One of the items on the menu is spare ribs with bar-b-que sauce. I tried to imagine eating ribs with a lot of sauce and trying to keep track of everything in the semi-darkness. Not a pretty picture.
On the beverage menu they offered, besides the usual things, Spite soda mixed with flavored syrups. I had the green apple, which was quite good. I only wish they had had a diet version.
Overall, the theming is fun and carried out well. It would probably be the most fun if you’re of the age to actually remember some of the bad movies and/or going to drive-in theaters. Even though I can now afford the food, if I take people there in the future I will stick to my original dessert-only plan. If you go to this restaurant be clear that you’re going for the theming experience and not for the food.