Sunday Brunch: Car Dining at the
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater
June 19, 2011
Editor's Note: In honor
of the premiere of Cars 2 this week,
From Screen to Theme's Days of the
Week will be exploring Disney topics devoted to
cars for Cars Week!
When food and cars are in
the same sentence, a few pieces of classic
Americana come to mind: 'Drive Thrus' and 'Drive
Ins.' While the Disney theme
parks don't have any drive through restaurants
(save for the last McDonald's on WDW Property),
they do have a 'Drive In' or rather, a 'Dine
in.' In honor of Cars
Week, Sunday Brunch will be dining in a car at
the 'Sci Fi Dine-In' at Disney's
away between New York Street and the ABC
Commissary, the Sci-Fi Dine In can be found
beneath this retro futuristic sign.
posting outside gives guest an idea that the
Dine-In serves up classic American cuisine
The Sci-Fi Dine-In opened
for night and day business on April 20,
1991, serving both lunch and dinner.
There is no need to wait for the sun to
set at this 'drive-in.' As an
indoor restaurant, Imagineers created a drive in
with an eternal star-filled night sky, perfect,
climate controlled weather and no smog.
Guests are seated in 1950's white-walled
cars, equipped with 3 rows of counter top tables
and low lighting for food visibility purposes.
As with actual cars, all seats face
forward with room to fit 2 adults comfortably or
perhaps 3 children. Some of
the cars feature actual tables to accommodate
larger parties, with seating for 8.
These cars are actually 2 four top tables
between a car front and back.
Additionally, for more traditionally seating,
umbrella topped picnic tables line the back wall
of the restaurant. Tip: Look
for the Hidden Mickey in the trees at the rear
of the theater! If you can't
find it, I'm sure our Hidden Mickey Monday
expert Alex will be covering it in the future.
of the specially designed car tables is set up
by the restaurant's entrance
is equipped with
California plates, with licenses that are
actually the initials of the Imagineers who
designed the restaurant.
After receiving news of our
Cars themed week, I was fortunate enough
to snag some last minute reservations for 2 at
the Sci-Fi Dine in with my roommate.
Our host led us to a car already occupied
with a family of four, so he told us we would be
hitchhiking tonight. After
scanning our menus, we discovered the Dine-In
was serving up some
American classics such as the Angus Chuck
Burger and Mixed Greens salad to fancier fare
such as the Beef and Blue Salad and Shrimp Penne
Pasta. Though the food may
seem too standard American for those looking for
the interesting Disney twist, the drink menu was
quite impressive and the kick was the inclusion
of glow-in the dark ice cubes to illuminate your
drink in the dark atmosphere.
My roommate ordered the
Italian Grilled Chicken Sandwich (grilled
chicken on a Kaiser roll with Bruschetta topping
and side of fries or cucumber salad) and I
decided to order my namesake.
Sci-Fi's Dine-In's Reuben Sandwich was made
classic deli style with an enormous stack of
corned beef, garnished with sauerkraut, melted
Swiss Cheese, and 1000 Island Dressing on rye
bread. It came with French
Fries and my favorite, a pickle.
While this was only my 2nd
Reuben sandwich in life, I have to say I was
quite satisfied with my selection, though unsure
if I'm qualified to make a fair judgment of its
authenticity. The sandwich
was warm, right off the grill and the bread was
grilled crisp and buttery, enough to help offset
the strong flavors of the rye bread.
The Swiss cheese was melted from grilling
and there was just enough dressing to complement
the meat, rather than drown it, which I found
happens with some sandwiches in my past
experiences. My only
complaint was there was too much meat, so I
couldn't finish it.
drive-ins from the 1950s, snack time
intermissions played on the movie screen between
really night time inside the Dine-In!
If the delicious classic
American cuisine is not enough to entice you to
dine at the dine-in, then the novelty of the
drive-in themed atmosphere should. Each
car is parked next to a tower of individual
speakers that you normally attach to the side of
your car; while the speakers were not removable
here, the audio of the movie screen came from
them like a real drive-in.
There is also a concession window in the rear
where the car hops, dressed in 1950s garb, pick
up orders. I believe in the
past they used to fly by on roller skates,
though that feature has since been discontinued,
probably due to safety issues.
The greatest novelty of the
Dine-In is the movie screen that actually plays
clips of Science-fiction related trailers of
cheap horror movies and space themed cartoons.
You'll see trailers for corny flicks like
'The Great Gila Monster' and 'Plan 9 From Outer
Space' and 'The Robot Monster.'
I think the latter was my favorite since
the monster was a gorilla with a space helmet,
haha. There's also a handful
of snack time and intermission commercials
featuring the classic, thick lined 1950s
animation, in the spirit of Rocky and Bullwinkle
and the Flintstones. Speaking
of animation, several space themed cartoons play
such as 'Mouse in Space' featuring Tom and
Jerry. Another cartoon
featured a Tex Avery style black cat that went
into space. While there are
hardly any Disney space themed cartoon shorts
that come to mind, I was wondering if there
would be any Disney themed clips featured at
all. Finally, about 3/4s of
the way into our meal, we were treated to a clip
of a giant robot named Garco who introduced the
man himself, Walt Disney.
Uncle Walt talks to us about the possibility of
life on other planets.
Following the robot clip was a hilarious Disney
cartoon short of a scientist's secretary being
chased around the moon or some planet by a robot
and an assortment of alien creatures, including
a surprise classic Disney character.
Both these clips were actually part of a
Disneyland episode 'Mars and Beyond,'
available on the Tomorrowland DVD (if you can
find it) of the Walt Disney Treasures
While the menu is not as
thrilling as others at WDW, the novelty and
nostalgia of a 1950s drive-in certainly make
'Sci-Fi Dine In' one of the must do's of the
resort. Drive-in Theaters
have become a thing of the past with only a
handful still in operation today, so if you're
lucky enough to make it down to
Walt Disney World, definitely check out
this faithful recreation of 1950s Americana.