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A Blast From The Past: Dining at the 50's Prime Time Cafe

Andrew Rossi

Disney's Hollywood Studios may be the smallest of all the theme parks, but it is home to two of the best-themed restaurants in all of Walt Disney World. One of the best parts about dining in Disney World is that you can eat at places that you cannot experience anywhere else. This holds especially true for the Sci-Fi Dine-In and the 50's Prime Time Café, restaurants that are uniquely Disney and offer dining experiences unlike anything you may have had before. These two restaurants are really great examples of Disney storytelling at its best, featuring themes that are embellished with the most minute of details to create an atmosphere and experience which is truly immersive. While both restaurants will take you back in time, they transport you to totally different worlds, worlds in which theming and detail are just as important as the food when it comes to your dining experience.

Prime Time Sign

Prime Time Exterior

Overview:
The 50's Prime Time Café is a nostalgic tour back to the 1950s, a time of classic television sitcoms such as “I Love Lucy,” “Leave It To Beaver,” and “Father Knows Best.” In fact, a meal at 50's Prime Time makes you feel as though you have stepped right into one of these television shows. This is a restaurant where everyone is treated like family. While Mom is back in the kitchen preparing your lunch or dinner, you are waited on by an “Aunt” or “Uncle” and are introduced to the rest of your “Cousins” (your fellow diners) who are sitting at the tables next to you.

While you are invited to be comfortable and make yourself at home, there are also some rules that everyone is expected to follow, such as not putting your elbows on the table or making sure to eat all your vegetables. Your Aunt or Uncle will make sure that you follow these rules and there is a good amount of fun and gentle-ribbing that goes on during the course of your meal. Depending on how strict they are, you may also be forced to set the table before you get your food. For this reason, the 50's Prime Time Café is more than your typical restaurant, but rather an experience that makes you an active participant.

Atmosphere:
Attention to detail is something that Disney is known for and it is clearly evident throughout the 50's Prime Time Café. From the minute you step in the main entrance you feel as though you have set foot in a typical 1950's home. The waiting area and bar have the look of a large living room, complete with wood-paneled walls, bookshelves cluttered with various knick knacks, brightly-colored sofas and love seats, and of course numerous retro-looking black and white televisions playing scenes from classic 1950's sitcoms.

Prime Time Waiting Area

Prime Time Waiting Area2

Prime Time Bar

Entering the main dining area, you move from the living room to the kitchen and once again are treated to a completely immersive and authentic 1950's atmosphere. The restaurant's décor features an astonishing amount of little details, with everything from kitchen appliances such as toasters, blenders, pots, and pans to various vintage clocks, storage canisters and containers, tea pots, colorful glassware, and many decorative items featuring roosters or advertising Coca Cola.

Prime Time Table1

Knick Knacks

50s Decor

One of my favorite parts of the décor were the numerous cookie jars coming in all shapes, sizes, and designs, including one that looked like a dog house.

Dog House Cookie Jar

Just as in the waiting area, the dining rooms feature black and white televisions broadcasting scenes from classic shows such as “Father Knows Best,” “Leave It To Beaver,” and the original “Mickey Mouse Club.” All these details really make you feel as though you are eating in a 1950's kitchen, and it is really fun for people who grew up in the fifties to spot different items that they had in their own home.

Television

This at-home feel gives the 50's Prime Time a very fun, casual, and laid back atmosphere. It is definitely a great restaurant for the entire family (with little kids especially liking the fact that they can watch television throughout their entire meal). Adding to this atmosphere is the tremendous amount of bright and vibrant colors found throughout the restaurant. The main dining area is divided into a series of smaller rooms, with each of these rooms having a different feel in terms of color and decoration. As you move from room to room you encounter various changes in wall paper, curtains, counter tops, and light fixtures, all of which make you feel as though you are moving through different rooms of a house (except in this case all the rooms happen to be kitchens).

Prime Time Table2

Overall the atmosphere of the restaurant can be appreciated on different levels by different guests. For kids it is fun to see how things were in the past and how different they are from today while for adults the atmosphere helps to brings back memories of their own childhoods.

The Menu:
While the 50's Prime Time Café may not feature a menu of gourmet delicacies, it can give you a good, old-fashioned, home-cooked meal that is “just like Mom used to make.”

One of the fun aspects of the menu is that different items are named for different members of the family. For example, among the appetizer offerings there is Aunt Annie's Seafood Salad ($9.99) featuring lump blue crab, bay scallops, and shrimp tossed in citrus vinaigrette and served on seasonal greens as well as Cousin Amy's Iceberg Lettuce Wedge ($5.49) with blue cheese dressing, bacon, and chives. Other appetizers include the Chicken Noodle Soup ($6.49) which includes a hearty mixture of chicken, vegetables, and egg noodles, the Blue Claw Crab Cake ($9.49) served with succotash, chili sauce, and crispy onions, and Beer Battered Onion Rings for Two ($8.49).

The entrée items are all very familiar, with nothing really flashy or exotic, but all the dishes are in keeping with the restaurant's theme. The entrée selections remain the same for both lunch and dinner and include a Grilled Boneless Pork Loin ($20.99) glazed with peppered mushroom gravy with mashed potatoes and green beans, Cousin Barry's Olive Oil Poached Salmon ($19.99) served with sweet peas, brown rice pilaf, and a dill cream sauce, Caesar Salad served with your choice of chicken ($13.49) or salmon ($15.49), Aunt Liz's Golden Fried Chicken ($16.99) served with mashed potatoes, chicken gravy and southern greens, Spaghetti and "Meatballs" ($15.99) featuring multigrain spaghetti and vegetarian meatballs with Dad's marinara sauce, Dad's Traditional Meatloaf ($14.99) with a blend of beef and pork and topped with tomato glaze, served with mashed potatoes, and green beans, Mom's Old Fashioned Pot Roast ($17.99) served with mashed potatoes, carrots, celery and onions, and Grandma's Chicken Pot Pie ($17.99) featuring a creamy cheese mixture of chicken, mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions, and peas topped with a flaky pastry. For those guests having a little difficulty deciding there is the Sampling of Mom's Favorite Recipes ($19.99) that includes the Fried Chicken, Pot Roast, and Traditional Meatloaf with all the fixings.

Be sure to eat all your vegetables because there are some delectable desserts available such as Dad's Brownie Sundae ($5.99) topped with hot fudge and caramel sauce, No Sugar Added Cheesecake ($5.49) topped with fresh whipped cream and strawberry sauce, a Seasonal Cobbler ($5.49) that can also be served ala mode ($7.49), 50's Boston Cream Parfait ($5.49) with layers of chocolate fudge, vanilla cream, and pound cake topped with whipped cream, and S'mores ($4.79).

For an appetizer I decided on the Beer Battered Onion Rings, which in my opinion were some of the best I have had anywhere in Disney World. The onion rings were fried perfectly with a nice golden brown color and were not overly crispy. There was a slight beer flavor to the batter, but it was just enough to add a little extra taste rather than being overpowering. What really adds to the onion rings is the horseradish sauce that accompanies it, providing an extra little kick. The flavor of the horseradish complimented the onion and beer batter extremely well and it was not so strong that it dominated everything. This may be a simple and common appetizer found at many other restaurants or even prepared in your own home, but it is executed perfectly in taste, texture, and flavor and comes in a huge portion that can easily be shared by three or four people.

Onion Rings

Whenever dining at the 50's Prime Time, my mainstay entrée has always been Dad's Traditional Meatloaf, but this time I decided to try something different and opted for Grandma's Chicken Pot Pie. Again, while the menu features many traditional, home-style meals that may not jump out at you as being anything special, you are still getting the same type of quality food that you get from any other Disney restaurant.

The chicken pot pie was very rich and creamy with big pieces of chicken and vegetables. There was also a slight hint of cheese that really added extra flavor to the dish and helped give a little bit of a new twist to a traditional dish. I liked the fact that there were large pieces of chicken breast rather than having the chicken cut up into small, bite-sized pieces. The vegetables, which included mushrooms, carrots, celery, peas, and onions, were cooked just right so that they were not too hard and not too soft. I would have liked the vegetables more, however, if there had been more carrots and onions and less celery. That being said, I am not usually a celery fan, but I did feel as though the celery added a little extra flavor and texture to the dish. The pie crust was very light and flaky, also featuring a hint of cheese for added flavor, and really helped make the meal stand out as something more than your typical chicken pot pie.

Chicken Pot Pie

For dessert I decided to try the S'mores, which presents a new spin on a campfire favorite. The marshmallows are toasted to a nice golden brown and not burnt at all. The dessert is very chocolaty, featuring a layer of chocolate between the marshmallows and the graham crackers in addition to being drizzled over the top. The graham crackers were a little softer than what I expected and I would have really liked it if there had been a layer on top as well like traditional s'mores. Nevertheless, this was still a simple, but tasty, dessert and a fun way to end the meal.

Smores

Service:
I would argue that more so than any other restaurant in Disney World, the service at 50's Prime Time Café can truly make or break your dining experience. This is really a restaurant where the service is just as important as the food. Even if the food is great, if you have a lackluster server it takes away from the overall impact of the restaurant and you leave feeling a little disappointed. On the whole, I have mostly had great experiences at 50's Prime Time. There are some servers who are really over-the-top and truly go above-and-beyond with the theming. I have seen servers not only yelling at guests to take their elbows off the table and embarrassing them in front of the other guests but also putting children (and sometimes adults) in time-out and having them stand in the corner of the room facing the wall. I have been force-fed vegetables by one of my servers when I didn't finish them and another time a server brought me a very “special” dessert because I had not finished my string beans.

String Bean Dessert

At the other end of the spectrum there are some servers who are more laid back and low-key and, although it seems funny to say, they are just too nice. While these servers still provide good service, they do not help create the same sense of immersion that you get when you have a server who is going all-out. Overall, it is the service, especially the really enthusiastic and passionate cast members, that makes this restaurant truly special.

Dining on a Budget:
The 50's Prime Time Café is actually fairly affordable by Disney standards. Entrée selections such as Aunt Liz's Golden Fried Chicken for $16.99, Dad's Traditional Meatloaf for $14.99, and Mom's Old Fashioned Pot Roast for $17.99 are all very reasonable for the large portion size you receive. The best value on the menu is probably the Sampling of Mom's Favorite Recipes for $19.99 that features all three and is absolutely huge. What you have to also factor into the prices is that you are getting so much more in terms of the overall dining experience (the service and atmosphere of the restaurant). Dining at 50's Prime Time is about more than just the food.

If you are looking for an even cheaper option, the restaurant also features a bar at which you can sit and order off the regular menu. One possibility for a quick and fairly cheap meal for two people would be to sit at the bar and order a couple of appetizers. The Beer Battered Onion Rings could easily serve two for $7.99 and the menu features several other affordable appetizer options as well. If you are still hungry, consider splitting a dessert, such as Dad's Brownie Sundae, which is absolutely huge and also a good value at $5.99.

The 50's Prime Time Café is on the Disney Dining Plan and is worth one table service credit for both lunch and dinner. The restaurant does participate in Tables in Wonderland with members receiving its 20% discount. However, neither Annual Passholders nor Disney Vacation Club members receive discounts here.

The Overall Experience:
When it comes to theming and creating an overall sense of immersion, the 50's Prime Time Café is one of my favorite restaurants in all of Disney World. It is a dining experience unlike any other. While the food may be a far cry from gourmet, it is still of a very high quality. But, this is a restaurant where the food may not even be the most important aspect. An extremely dedicated and passionate group of cast members who deliver service that is both fun and entertaining, great attention to the smallest of details in the decor, and a unique back-story all combine to make dining at 50's Prime Time truly unforgettable. I highly recommend this restaurant for everyone, but especially families traveling with children because not only do you get a good, old-fashion, home-cooked meal at an affordable price but in doing so you will also have a lot of fun.

See past reviews by Guest Blogger Andrew Rossi.

Check out Reader Reviews of 50's Prime Time Cafe and post your own too!

The previous post in this blog was Say goodbye to Snow White's Scary Adventures at Disney's Magic Kingdom.

The next post in this blog is HGTV's 'My Yard Goes Disney' returns tonight with 11 new shows.

Comments (26)

jenifer moyer:

great blog when me and my family went there about 3 yrs ago we had a decent time the food was good and the service was good but i agree with you that in order to make this a dining experience that you cant forget depends on the server you have at the time of your visit. our server just was not up to the part. unfortunately because of this i often forget about this restaurant being there and by pass it as a possible place to stop in eat, but now since its been brought back to my attention we will have to go try it again. thanks

Pam Stewart:

On our trips to WDW,we always have a meal at 50's Prime Time diner. It is always so much fun for the whole family. I must give mention to their milkshakes. They are some of the best you will ever have.

Dawn Leigh Bessette:

I have to agree that the service really makes or breaks the experience.

We were in the back room last year and the server at the table next to us was the real deal; his interaction with the kids was priceless.

Our server was obviously new to the experience and started off a bit shy, but he offered us up a trivia question that had us really intrigued for the rest of the meal.

Even the people at the table next to us started seeing if they could answer the question - I cannot remember the exact number, but it was name all (I think 21) of Disney's animated movies.

We got all but one; a very obscure one made during the war.

Paul S:

The antics described (being made to stand in the corner, being force fed veggies) is exactly why we WON'T eat there. We like to eat in peace and enjoy our food. If that was actually an option, we'd try it, the food looks good.

Jane:

On our last trip we decided to try 50's Prime Time. The whole group loved the food (I totally loved the fried chicken) including 2 kids meals. You are right though, the server can make the meal and ours was pretty laid back---not much fun, while many of the table around were having a great time. Were are returning this December and will dine here again for the food, hoping for a better server.
thanks for the review!

Maureen:

When we ate there the waiter took my husband's empty plate to another table to show them what a clean plate looked like. It was awesome.

regina calciano:

I want to try this on our next trip! Do all of the tables have that set up with the TV's for tables of 4? Looks delicious and fun!

AllEars: Not all tables have the TVs.

Brian:

For those wanting to try 50's Primetime but are a little hesitant about playing along, I say go for it. We ate at the 50's Primetime in May. My GF and I aren't what would be called extroverts, so we were a little worried about eating here. Our server was really great. She was stern and completely in character with the tables who wanted to "play along" but dialed it way back for us. She was still in character, praising me for eating all of my plate and part of my gf's.

And the PB&J milkshake was absolutely incredible.

Paula:

How are large parties accommodated? Are they seated at 2 tables?

Ani C:

I made a last minute reservation here in May for my husband & I since he loves fried chicken and reviews said it was really good. I was a little afraid that the waitresses would be over the top in their character and my husband would never let me forget about it. He doesn't like crowds or anything that gets in the way of his dinner.

When our waitress told us she was one of the "nice" ones I felt a BIG relief. She did keep in character to a certain point but didn't overdo it & my husband enjoyed it and even tells others about it. The food was really good. He had the fried chicken and I just had to go for the sampler platter with fried chicken, meatloaf, & pot roast since I just couldn't decide, luckily my husband helped me eat it. We didn't have room for dessert but I have a reservation in September with other family members & planning on eating lighter so I can try the Smores dessert.

Kate:

We absolutely love 50's and go every time we are in Florida. We always wait for our favorite server, Anass. He is seriously awesome...the best there, he always makes sure to treat us right!!! If you ever get him, you are in for a real treat!!!!

deberah davis:

My daughter and I go to WDW every other year and we eat at 50" Prime time Cafe all the time. We have never had a bad experience. My personal favorite is the Mom's Old Fashion Pot Roast. we have never had a bad server.

Rene:

I LOVE 50's Prime Time Cafe. I loved the Chicken Pot Pie. I also get the PB&J shake every time. Anyone I have ever gone with has loved it there. I look forward to being there in November.

Annemarie:

I went here this spring with my college sports team and our coaches. Our coach is a gruff old man and our assistant coach (his wife) was concerned that he may not enjoy the playfulness of the waiter. Boy, were we wrong! Our waiter called him "Skippy" all dinner, and the nickname stuck! Our waiter masterfully understood how to interact with a group whose ages ranged from 15 to 84, and with people of varying interest in playing along. This is a great place, even for rather shy people, and you will have a great time. Oh, and the food is great, as is the PB&J shake.

Paul:

The Prime Time always delivers a great dining experience. We were there earlier this week and had a wonderful meal. The best part are the milkshakes which we like to order for dessert. They are huge and the Peanut Butter and Jelly milkshake is a true original.

Jen:

On our first visit there we had the most amazing waiter (darn, I wish I could remember his name). It was my DH, myself and my parents and we weren't sure what to expect since there were no kids (I was 23 at the time and my mom was the oldest at 44).

He was perfect. Not too stern but also played his part well. It was DH's birthday and our waiter pulled out the card and declared to our room "Since ya'll seemed too cheap to buy a card I got one for yous to sign". My hubby STILL has the card signed by the rest of our "cousins".

Shana:

My, now, husband and I ate here in 2009 and we had the best server. I think his name was Morroco or something. He had trivia questions for us, he had us get involved with the two tables next to us and he even made my husband stand in the corner when he tried to hide his southern greens under his chicken. I got a picture it was great. I don't know how, but he even knew what we were talking about when he left, it was like there was a mic somewhere. We never laughed so much.

My husband didn't even care for his dinner but said for that service he would gladly go back. Pot roast was amazing for me - and I normally hate pot roast. I was nervous how hubby would react because he is kind of shy but we loved every minute of it, we aren't sure if we want to go back because we think we would always compare to our first trip :)

AJ:

I think the idea of being berated for having your elbows on the table is enough to make me give this place a miss. I come to eat and enjoy my family time, not to be placed in a corner that gives me zero enjoyment. Dang, I thought the place looked nice, but now it's off the schedule for sure.

Kate:

We LOVE 50's Prime Time Cafe. It is our first day tradition every trip. My husband and I love the food, the atmosphere and the theming. It's a great way to kick off our trips!

Debbie:

We had dessert there a couple weeks ago. It occurred to us that the dessert menu view masters were no where to be seen, and we were given a standard menu to order dessert from. Are the view masters gone, and does anyone know why? They were a fun and nostalgic part of the experience.

Monica Mitchell:

My family and I LOVE this restaurant, however, we were just a little disappointed that last time we went because the staff was not as "playful" as they had been in the past and when we asked why, we were told that too many people complained. If you are going to go to this restaurant for the experience, then you have to play well with others! That is the whole point! If people just want to eat and not be botherd, then they should not go to this restaurant! I can't wait to return and see if the "playfulness" that we always loved has returned!

Larry:

I love this place and I do recognize a lot of the knick-knacks. And the kitchen chairs and table were very much like those in my house in the early 60s. And my 12 year gets a kick out of the place although he'd prefer color TV.

Mark:

My family and I always make this a must do when where in Disney. Its a great expereince and the staff just make your dining experience a laugh a minute.

I normally end up the the Meatloaf its FAB!!

Alexandra:

I have eaten inside once and it was a laugh and a half. I thought the service was awesome and the food was wonderful so even if I don't have ADR's I'll eat at the bar. David is often the bartender there during the day and he's been there for YEARS (like.... 20!), I make sure I go when he's there, he's the best! I have always been a foodie so I love to eat the CHICKEN SOUP! It's one of the best I've ever eaten, seconded only to mom's! There's no doubt it was made in-house, with love. My best friend and I are local residents and passholders and will go there and each have the soup, share fries or onion rings and each have a chocolate shake (REAL SHAKES, people!). David also makes a WONDERFUL margarita! I've been told wonderful things about the PB &J shake, although I've never tried it yet... that'll be next!

Patty:

Food was great, atmosphere was so fun. Here comes the but.....we were a party of 12 - (with ADR's 6 mos. in advance mind you) and we waited over 2 hours for a table! The guys didn't mind so much since they all plopped down in the "living room" and proceeded to take naps. Res. were for 5pm and it was PACKED, so maybe not the best time for a large party but 2 hours is just ridiculous. We lost a lot of park time and missed a show we had waited all day to see. Then we were seated with some of our party in the cracks between round tables - including my son who was 8 at the time and in a w/c. Our server was NOT fun at all (actually she was rude) and annoyed that she had to "climb over that" (my son's w/c). Hopefully it was just an off day for Prime Time ~ not sure, but I don't think I'll ever go back.

neo:

I agree with Dawn. I'm a little bit more laid back so I actually prefer a low-key dining experience. Thankfully, when I do go here I request the "nicer" servers. If Disney didn't provide this option, I wouldn't eat here, which would be unfortunate because the food is delicious.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 1, 2012 7:24 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Say goodbye to Snow White's Scary Adventures at Disney's Magic Kingdom.

The next post in this blog is HGTV's 'My Yard Goes Disney' returns tonight with 11 new shows.

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