At Disney Restaurants, Is Theme More Important Than Food?

4 Feb

Image from Studios Central

When you’re sitting down to a meal at Disneyland or Walt Disney World, are you more concerned about the quality of the food, or the themeing of the restaurant? There’s quite an interesting discussion going on about that over at Studios Central, in comments responding to Matt’s recent review of the Sci Fi Dine In at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

happy at the Sci Fi

See how happy we are? October 2006: Surprise trip to WDW, and went straight to the Sci Fi.

I’m of two minds, myself. Perhaps it all depends on my mood, and the circumstances. The food at the Sci Fi is kinda lousy, but when I’ve brought WDW first-timers there, they’ve all raved about the place. Clearly it’s not the burgers and fries — those are literally the same burgers and fries you’re getting at every other table-service joint (maybe every quick-service, too). It’s the cheesy B-movie trailers, the hostess on roller skates, the silly cars you sit in. It all makes you forget that  it’s too dark to read the menu, and too loud to talk to anybody. And it was even better before they told the Cast Members to stop shouting out at the films, Rocky Horror-style.

When my brother-in-law and his wife came to Walt Disney World last summer, there were two in-park restaurants I insisted they try: The Sci Fi, and Le Cellier. The Canadian steakhouse didn’t suit their tastes, but they left the drive-in theater smiling.

On the other hand, I’ve been to the Sci Fi so many times now that I’ve grown weary of the movie loop, and if I’m gonna plunk down my hard earned Disney Dollars on a sit-down meal, I want it to be worth the price. I’m happier at Le Cellier than the Sci Fi. I’ve also been enjoying the 50s Prime Time lately . . . but the themeing there is also excellent, so it’s hard to tell what’s affecting my choice.

Power outlet

Sometimes it's all about the grab for power

And of course, sometimes all I really want is a power outlet, and I’ll eat whatever greasy fish-and-chips they might happen to have on hand if I can get a spot by the balcony at Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe, so I can power up that damn phone to keep the Lines app alive for the rest of the day.

These days, I’d rather drop into the Sci Fi for a milkshake or dessert than actually have a full meal there. But dining reservations and wait times being what they are, I rarely want to invest that much time in a snack. I’d still bring first-timers there for sure, though.

I think what bothers me about the argument is that I don’t know why it’s so hard to do both. Why should we have to choose? Certainly some restaurants do both very well: The 50’s Prime Time, the California Grill, Le Cellier all among them. I agree with Studios Central commenter Newkrew35 when he says, “I think Disney rests on the fact that the Sci-Fi is a draw for the theme and not the food. Too bad we can’t have it both.”

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