Tend to hang in Nowheresville? Looking for a flip-your-lid, 18-karat time? I’ll clue you some smarts and tell you it might be time to drag your hep Dolly and the cubs to the kook-kook-kookiest rum n’ shake joint ever to rocket into Echo Lake orbit. The digs? The 50’s Primetime Café®. The bit? How about slugging back a muddy moo or an Atlanta special with your Mom’s Old-fashioned Pot Roast, Cousin Ann’s Traditional Meatloaf, or Dad’s Brownie Sundae all while catching some neat-o episodes of your favorite programs on your own personal vintage boob tube!
You know you dig it!
Alright…I gotta cool it. Speaking in 50’s slang can get one rattled after a while. But you’ll never tire of the act, the fare, or the experience at my favorite restaurant in all of Walt Disney World®: 50’s Primetime Café. The place where cocktails, nostalgia, and comfort food combine for the perfect family meal.
Now, please, allow me to take a moment and set the record straight as I begin: this blog entry will not be a generic review of a restaurant virtually every Disney aficionado has experienced at one time or another. Rather, I would like to point out the opportunity this “attraction” presents for families with young ones.
While all of Walt Disney World is a veritable family paradise, 50’s Primetime manages to poke fun at this very key idea of the Disney experience without sacrificing its utilization. With cast members who double as your old “Aunt Judy” or distant “Uncle Hank,” the comic surliness of your server is only partially overshadowed by the garishness of the 1950’s kitchen sets which adorn the restaurant’s space. It’s a sentimental jaunt – a bit of classic Disney theater – a satisfying foray into the wistful world of comfort food, all rolled into one. In short: 50’s Primetime is a beautiful paradox of families enjoying themselves while being teased for doing so.
And kids go gaga for it – and why shouldn’t they?
Mom and Dad being scolded for having their elbows on the table? TV – albeit in this strange, “non-color” format – at the dinner table? Delicious food? What else could a kid ask for?
To them, not much. But for me, as a dad – and it may sound like a stretch – 50’s Primetime is just as much an opportunity for learning and unplugging as it is for reminiscing and delighting in its culinary offerings.
Case in point: as time rolls on and present day becomes more and more removed from the unique and colorful days of the 1950’s, a growing number of pop culture references go by the wayside. I know this because I am a teacher, and I witness this waning sense of 20th Century American pop culture with a sad and hopeless feeling in my gut. (Ever ask your typical, modern-day middle schooler who Frank Sinatra or Chuck Berry are? Don’t. It’s depressing.)
But alas! If your family can plop your own little ones down in one of those comfy, homespun kitchens that have made this niche restaurant famous, they can’t help but get wrapped up in the fun that is Spin and Marty, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I love Lucy, and — dare I say it: an original Mickey Mouse Club episode! And, simply through osmosis, your babes will absorb the metal toasters, kitschy décor, and whole milk goodness of this 50’s utopia.
And lose the electronics while you’re at it. As if the “performances” by the servers who scold you left and right for all assorted infractions – both real and imagined – weren’t entertainment enough, it completes the retro-experience if the only electronics at your table during dinner are the black and white cathode ray tube set and the light up ice cubes from Mommy and Daddy’s cocktails.
So, as one can see, The 50’s Primetime Café is an uncommon experience replete opportunities to relax and unwind old-school style. And while my mother never made pot roast like the one served here, I can remember just what it didn’t taste like while I savor and embrace the historically accurate environs of this most far-out of eating establishments.
Enjoy, folks — with the whole family. And if you make it there, please, tell Uncle Al, I said, “Hey.”
(Photos from the author’s personal collection. Lounge image ©Disney.)
Richie McNanna is an 8th grade teacher from Westfield, NJ. He has been a self-proclaimed Disney nut since the age of seven when his parents convinced him that real ghosts lived in the Haunted Mansion, and his goal in life is to retire one day and become one of the Dapper Dans. Richie’s wife, Helene, is the most understanding woman on the planet for putting up with his Disney obsession and owed a great deal of emotional payback. His son is one year old and already owns several sets of Mickey ears.