Friday, August 31, 2012

50s Prime Time Cafe

Yesterday (30 August 2012), I was tasked with picking my mother up from her job (she's a merchandise hostess at Disney's Hollywood Studios).  Since I was going to be in Hollywood Studios all night anyway, and since there's only so many times you can ride the Great Movie Ride and watch Muppetvision 3D, I decided to take advantage of the circumstances and try out a restaurant.  As with all surprise stops, I had no opportunity to make a reservation, and when I asked about restaurants taking walk-ins, this was the only one with space.

So 50s Prime Time it was!

50s Prime Time Cafe
Now, remember that this restaurant is located inside the Disney's Hollywood Studios park.  As such, you're going to need park admission in addition to the cost of the restaurant.

For those of you who haven't ever been to Disney's Hollywood Studios, the 50s Prime Time Cafe is located on Echo Lake, right across the path from Dinosaur Gertie's Ice Cream Extinction.  Once you're inside Hollywood Studios, walk down Hollywood Boulevard until you come to the path on the left-hand side, just past Mickey's of Hollywood.  Continue past the Hollywood and Vine buffet restaurant, then past the Tune-In Lounge.  50s Prime Time Cafe will be on your left, with Dinosaur Gertie's on the right.  If you hit the souvenir shop for the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, you've gone too far.

Dinosaur Gertie's Ice Cream Extinction
Across from the 50s Prime Time Cafe.

I walked into the lobby of the restaurant at about 6:30ish and talked to two very nice young ladies at the reservation check-in desk.  When I asked about walk-in seating, I was told that it was available, as long as I didn't mind waiting about twenty minutes.  I indicated that I didn't, and Becky (one of the two ladies in question) pointed out that I could always take a seat at the bar while I waited.

This sounded like a fine plan, so to the bar I hied myself hence.

Becky and Anne, who were taking reservation check-ins.

Tiffany the Bartender
She was bubbly, friendly, effusive, and snarky, just like a bartender should be.
I ordered a Coke and Jack from the bartender and took my first look around the place.  The  50s Prime Time Cafe (not to mention the Tune-In Lounge, where I was sitting) is a themed dining experience, where the theme is "Mom's Kitchen" from circa 1955.  All the decor looks like it came out of somebody's home, some time during the Eisenhower Administration.  Formica counter-tops, tract-home couches, kitschy decorations on the wall (including, I kid you not, a clock in the shape of a cat, whose eyes moved in time with its tail/pendulum).

A sample shot of the decor as seen from my table.

I sipped my drink and watched what was on TV in the 50s.  In addition to the occasional 50s commercial, there were clips from the original "Mickey Mouse Club", "Father Knows Best", "I Married Joan", "Make Room For Daddy", "The Dick Van Dyke Show", and "Car 54, Where Are You".

"Mickey Mouse Club" from the 50s.
These TVs were everywhere.
I chatted with Tiffany the Bartender about this and that (mostly about cooking at the Grand Floridian) while watching old TV for about half an hour before a loud voice called out, "Butler kids... dinner's ready!"  "Aunt" Harriet had showed up to escort me to my table.  You see, all the servers here are family, and you're the kids coming to eat a home cooked meal at mom's table.  All the servers are your uncles, aunts, and cousins.  At least, that's what they try for, and for the most part they carry it off.

Tiffany the Bartender asked Harriet who was taking care of me and it was at this point I found out that my server would be "Cousin Robb".  Tiffany assured me I was in good hands, telling me that Robb was not only a sweetheart, but a great server to boot.  I was escorted to my table, which interestingly was completely empty.  No condiments, no little bowl of sweeteners, no salt and pepper shakers.  Harriet  only brought those after I was seated.

One of the first things I noticed when I sat down was that the table was actually about two inches higher than I was used to in a restaurant.  I took a quick look around, only to confirm that all the tables were about two inches higher.  It took me a minute to realize that what I was seeing was a very cute and subtle way of continuing the theme that I was a kid coming in to eat dinner at Mom's table.

Me at my overly-high table.

So I was left at the table, with only a little bowl of sugar and the salt and pepper.  I mean literally left... Harriet didn't say "Someone will be with you shortly," or "Robb will be right here to take your drink order" or even "Your head looks like a billiard ball, what with it being all bald and everything."

She just sat me, placed the stuff on the table, and walked off.

Let me, at this point, make an observation.  The restaurant was pretty full.  It wasn't over-crowded, and it certainly wasn't as busy and overwhelming as T-Rex had been, but there was a lot of bustle here.  And a lot of background noise.  Between the omnipresent televisions, the conversations going on all around me (and this restaurant is another one of those which for some reason believes that using close-quarters to pack more people into a smaller space is a good thing), it was a surprise I could hear myself think.

And then Cousin Robb arrived, and the fun began.

Cousin Robb, my server.
He made the night more fun than it might have been.
The first thing Cousin Robb did was he sat down across the table from me and asked me how my day was.  You read that right... he actually sat down at the table like a member of the family.  Rather patiently, he explained the rules of the restaurant to me:
  1. No elbows on the table.
  2. Eat all your vegetables.
  3. Clean your plate or no dessert.
  4. No whining.
  5. No fighting, no complaining, and no arguing.
He also explained that there were consequences to breaking these rules, and did so convincingly enough that I believed him.

So he talked to me about the menu... actually reading off of it at one point because "You know how it is, you never know what Mom is cooking up until it hits the table", told a couple of jokes, took my drink order, and hurried off.  A minute later, he was back with my Coca-Cola, a plate (an honest to god diner-style blue plate) some silverware, and some napkins.  I made my dinner choice (Mom's Old Fashioned Pot Roast), and again he rushed off.

Maybe two minutes later he rushes past, taking time to swat me on the arm with a menu, yelling (yes, YELLING), "I thought I told you no elbows on the table, young man!  And what, are you too big for your britches to not set the table?"  I hastily removed my elbows from the table with a funny guilty feeling, but the rest of it puzzled me.  Then I realized that the plate and silverware he'd brought were still sitting in the middle of the table, with the silverware roll still on it, and the napkins next to it, and immediately corrected my error by unrolling my silver, setting my napkins to either side, and creating the setting (plate in the middle, forks on the left, knives and spoons on the right).

My place setting.  I didn't realize I had to set the table myself.
Just so you know, sitting at a table which it built two inches higher than you are used to makes sitting without putting your elbows on the table almost impossible.  A shorter time than I thought had passed later, and my pot roast arrived.

Mom's Old-Fashioned Pot Roast
This is a traditional pot roast served on a bed of mashed potatoes, with a spray of celery, carrot, and onion straws over the top of it.  This pot roast was fork tender (I didn't have to use a knife once), juicy, and delicious.  The vegetables were done to a turn (just a bit al dente without getting into mushy), and the potatoes has just enough cream in them to make them creamy and delicious.

While I was eating, something unusual happened:  the pot roast, the potatoes, and the vegetables simply disappeared.  What I mean by this was that it was a very quick feed; I was done with this dish in about ten minutes, and I was not rushing or bolting the food down.  And it wasn't just me... I noticed that in the family who was seated next to me there was a young woman who was sitting puzzled over an empty plate.  When I inquired, she confirmed that she had ordered the pot roast, found it tasty and delicious, and was wondering how it was she finished it so quickly when the rest of the family was barely halfway through their entrees.

Robb came back to check on me, and was a bit astonished by my being finished already.  He asked me about dessert, and when I said sure he handed me a menu.  (The viewmaster dessert menu isn't being used anymore... sorry about that, folks.)

So Robb asked about desserts, and I picked Dad's Brownie Sundae and handed back the menu.  Now, I was expecting a brownie with ice cream on it, but I really wasn't expecting what I ended up getting.

Take a look at this:

Dad's Brownie Sundae
That's a huge brownie cut in half, with a scoop of ice cream, so much whipped cream it hides the ice cream from view, a handful of M&M's, and last but not least caramel corn.  The thing is topped with both chocolate and caramel sauce.

Dad's Brownie Sundae from above.
This thing was a monster of confectionary and sweetness, and I got through about a third of it before giving it all up as a bad job.  I just couldn't finish it.  I don't mean to say that it was bad... I just mean it was overwhelmingly huge and rich and just too damn much for television, as my mother says.

But that really was the only problem of the night.  For a jack-and-coke, a coke, the potroast, the dessert, and the tip, I ended up paying $32 and change, which is not bad for a full-service restaurant inside a theme park.

And what's my opinion?

I think the 50s Prime Time Cafe is a pretty fun place.  The fact that the theme allows the cast members to get away with some pretty outrageous behavior is interesting.  The food is damn good (though not the best I've had in a Disney restaurant), and the people were friendly.

Three and a half stars out of five stars, I think.  I do wish the dessert was smaller, but that was really the only problem I had all night.  It was busy and loud and a bit off-putting, but I dealt with it pretty well.

Next stop:  Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant.


  1. Heh- cute. Ya shoulda waited for Mom or me to help you finish the dessert, eh?

  2. I love 50's and love having fun with the waitresses! will go back again and again.
    BUT - see your "decor" photo with the TV? see on top of the cupboard there are those jars, reducing in size? That china is Portmeirion from Stoke on Trent - first set created in 1972. I have the dinner service at home. Every time I go in there i think "this is my special secret cause it's not from the fifties and the restaurant has heaps of it.
    Good story! thanks