Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Home-cooked fun: Disney's Hollywood Studios 50's Prime Time Cafe review

50's Prime Time Café at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando might just be the most fun, and best themed restaurant in all of Walt Disney World. With a 1950s, Mom's kitchen vibe, a wait staff playing the part of your busybody aunt or bratty cousin, and large plates of comfort food, the restaurant really does take you back to a fondly-remembered, but bygone era.

A step inside the restaurant is a step backwards in time. The décor is straight out of the 50s, with whimsical touches throughout. Is that a Felix the Cat clock? Look at those rooster tins. Oh, I remember those salt and pepper shakers. My aunt had that table. I suspect the restaurant's designers spent many long hours combing yard sales and thrift stores looking for the bric-a-brac you remember fondly from Grandma's house.

While waiting for a table, guest wait in an area decorated just how you remember a den from the 1950s looked. Or just how you think you remember a 1950s den looked. Or maybe one you remember from an I Love Lucy rerun or Back to the Future. There's a black and white TV in the corner, mid-century modern end tables, and hideous floral wallpaper on the walls -- it's kitschy, but charming all the same.

The dining room is over-the-top mid-century, and some tables even have their own black and white televisions showing clips from old shows. The tables are Formica (remember the boomerangs?) and the chairs are chrome with padded vinyl seats. Make sure to request a table with a TV.

The female wait staff uniform would look right at home on Aunt Bee, and the male getup might fancy Eddie Haskell. The staff even attempts to speak 1950s: A request for more water was affirmed with a "no sweat," iPhones are referred to as "walkie-talkies" and the staff constantly berate you to "keep your elbows off the table." It's fun.

Like the décor, the menu is a mishmash of 1950s blue plate specials and recipes from that red and white Betty Crocker cookbook all moms have, but there are accommodations for today's tastes and dietary considerations. Would you find Diet Coke, Omega-3 smoothies and No Sugar Added Cheesecake on Grandma's table? I think not.

Dining with several friends, we all ordered flavored sodas from the fountain ($3.19): several vanilla Cokes, a cherry Coke, and a chocolate Coke for me. There aren't a lot of places left where you can get a chocolate Coke, and with unlimited refills, I may not want another one for quite a while.

Also from the fountain, there is a selection of milk shakes and malts, root beer and Coke floats, Cars-themed fruit punches and the aforementioned Mega-Berry Smoothies.

We started with an order of Beer-battered Onion Rings ($6.49) served in a small fast-food-like fry basket. Typical onion rings you might get anywhere, but fun.

For my entrée, I chose Grandma's Chicken Pot Pie ($18.99). Served deconstructed, the filling was a creamy blend of chicken, mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions and peas topped with a flaky, buttery pastry. I liked the taste, but I prefer a traditional pie, with a crust on the top and bottom and baked in a pie pan. Call me a traditionalist.

Other dishes I sampled (thanks friends) were Mom's Old-fashioned Pot Roast ($18.99), Aunt Liz's Golden Fried Chicken ($17.99) and A Sampling of Mom's Favorite Recipes ($20.99).

The pot roast was tender and flaky, served atop a pile of garlic mashed potatoes. The fried chicken was fantastic - crispy and flavorful. I didn't get a chance to sample the meatloaf, but it looked good. The side of collard greens with bacon was, well, righto.

But let's use a modern day term and "keep it real." The food served is nothing groundbreaking. You can get the same stuff at any diner in the country (and cheaper by far).

You're not eating here for the food really, you're coming for the experience, and no other restaurant on Disney property delivers this much whimsy, or this much retro fun. 50's Prime Time Café is a must visit for everyone, whether you grew up in the fabulous 50s or just wish you did.

4 Mom's Apple Pies out of 5

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