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Review: Rainforest Cafe a la Disney

Welp, I finally got a chance to have another meal at Rainforest Cafe!

These restaurants often get a bad rap food-wise. While this is a really fun place to shop and explore, a lot of people wonder how good the food can actually be in such a themed restaurant. (Disney meals are precious and expensive things, and I hate to waste even one!)

But I hadn’t been to an RC for a while, and it was time to head back into the jungle! Come with me and find out how it was…

Atmosphere

This is a review of the Rainforest Cafe located in Downtown Disney District at Disneyland. However, the Disney Rainforest locations (one in Disneyland, two in Disney World) are actually quite similar.

The menus themselves — and many of the decor elements — are the same, so keep that in mind if you are only planning to visit one of the two Disney World locations.

Outside Sign - Close Up

One main difference: each location has a slightly different exterior. This Disneyland eatery has a sort of temple-in-the-jungle feeling to it.

Rainforest Cafe - Outside

As you walk in, you find yourself in a very large gift shop with all manner of Rainforest Cafe merchandise.

Merchandise Area

And if you’re so inclined, you can certainly start any number of collections here, like this cute Rio collectible cup!

Rio Collectible Cup Banner

So, once your eyes adjust to the surrounding commerce, it’s time to check in. Or, as they say at Rainforest Cafe, “go to the elephant.”

Fun Sign - Head to the Elephant!

FYI — the Safari Club mentioned here has been upgraded to the Landry’s Select Club as of April 2012. Safari Club members should head over to the Rainforest Cafe website to see the details. You can also find the information (along with other great membership savings info) in The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2012!

And in case you were worried that you’d miss the pachyderm in question… you won’t. ;-)

The Elephant!

Now, something else we’ve gotta mention is what I think is a truly fantastic bar…at lest theme-wise. I love that the RC has these fun bar stools in many of its locations. And with the aquarium bar, this is some rockin’ themeing, don’t you think?

Bar Seating

And another fun feature of this area are these huge aquariums. And I mean huge! Like guys-in-scuba-gear huge!

Huge Floor to Ceiling Aquarium

Floor to ceiling, they have all kinds of tropical fish, with signs located at the bottom to help you identify the different varieties.

Connected Aquariums - Fish Swimming Over Our Heads!

By this point you’re heading into the restaurant to be seated. The first thing you’ll notice is that you’re surrounded by animals. Nope — I don’t mean your fellow theme park guests (HA!), but audio-animatronic jungle and rainforest animals. These active creatures are the centerpiece of Rainforest Cafe’s themeing.

View Into the Seating Area

We caught a glimpse of this dude swinging in the trees!

Swinging Monkey

The seating area is large, and is surrounded by the “rainforest.” You may find yourself next to an animatronic bird…

Seating Area and Wildlife

…or maybe even a gorilla. And that’s something to note: If you have small children who startle easily, you may want to request a seat toward the middle of the floor or at least away from the animals.

Since you are seated in a rain forest environment, it “thunderstorms” rather loudly every 20 minutes or so, and the animals all come alive, chattering. It may be a little scary for kiddos who can’t distinguish a real monkey from a fake one. We’ve heard the gorillas are the worst offenders.

Seating beside a Gorilla!

While many of the chairs are those rustic, stick and wooden models you see above, there are a few comfortable booths available as well.

Comfortable Round Booth Seating

The frogs all over this two-top were kinda fun, too! (I promise they won’t come “alive” in the middle of your meal.)

Standard Table for Two

And the jungle feel follows you straight to the restrooms!

Mural on Women's Restroom

Mural on Men's Restroom

The centerpiece of the restaurant is this lovely two-story waterfall, which sports a rainbow. The neon sign reminds us to “Save Our Rainforests.” This is a message echoed throughout the restaurant and gift shop.

Waterfall and Rainbow

As you can see, that waterfall is a two-story affair. The Disneyland location is two stories, so the top floor may be open on busy days.

Whew! Now you’re finally seated and you’ve experienced your first thunderstorm. It’s time to turn our attention to the food! Let’s go!

Eats

You see some nods to the “exotic” on the menu, like references to Mexican and Asian fare, but there are also plenty of familiar options, like Buffalo wings (Yessss!) and clam chowder.

Menu - Click to Enlarge

Menu 2 - Click to Enlarge

Here’s another shout out for the Rio Collectible cup. And who doesn’t want a CoronaRita? That’s what I always never say.

Collectible Cup and the Corona Rita

However, today I decided a fruity drink was in order and went with one of the choices that came in a souvenir hurricane glass. (I still have it! It’s in my cupboard!) Say hello to the Pink Parrot Lemonade.

Pink Parrot Lemonade

The menu lists this as a combo of Skyy Infusions Citrus vodka, X-Rated Fusion liqueur, pomegranate syrup, sweet & sour, and Sprite. It tasted pretty light on alcohol and had a hefty pricetag because of the glass. All in all it was fine, but I wouldn’t rush to order another one. It certainly was no Victoria Falls Mist. ;-)

Front of Souvenir Glass

We were starving, and of course the table-top advertising did its job. The Awesome Appetizer Adventure was comin’ our way, yes indeedy!

Awesome Appetizer Adventure

And you know, we were pleasantly surprised. How many times do you order something and it looks nothing like the picture? This actually came pretty darn close!

Awesome Appetizer Adventure

It was actually quite good! The spinach artichoke dip was decent (and we’re pretty picky), and the chicken tenders were excellent. I think two less hungry people could probably make a meal out of this, easy.

I also asked for extra dipping sauces for the tenders (you’re not surprised), and they brought me Buffalo wing sauce and nacho cheese sauce. They weren’t the best I’d ever had, but they elevated the dipping experience to a notch above honey mustard, so I was pleased.

Buffalo Wing and Cheese Dipping Sauces

On to entrees! I tweeted at this point, requesting reader insights into what we should order. The responses were pretty overwhelming for the following two entrees! So if they’re no good, blame it on twitter! ;-)

Our first was the Amazon Feast, which consisted of a half rotisserie chicken and St. Louis-style barbecue pork ribs. Side dishes included fries and coleslaw.

Amazon Feast

The chicken was, again, perfectly fine, but wasn’t overladen with flavor. It tasted like standard grocery store rotisserie. The ribs, on the other hand were quite good – saucy, tender, and smoky. We enjoyed the fries as well! Just the right mix of oily and crispy — and very flavorful.

Amazon Feast - Another View

Our other entree was the Pastalaya. With all the flavor components of a Cajun jambalaya worked into a pasta dish, I had my hopes up pretty high for this one.

Pastalaya

It was huge! And…delicious! Filled with huge chunks of chicken, shrimp, and andouille sausage (sausage makes everything better), plus all the appropriate veggies, this was very, very good.

While I only ate about a quarter of it, I would definitely recommend this spicy twist on a classic. (For purists, you can also request the dish served over rice.)

With such generous portions, we were definitely feeling full, but still wanted to round out the meal with a little sweet treat. (OK…a big sweet treat.)

Our first dessert, the Tribal Cheesecake, was pretty unremarkable. It’s standard, frozen restaurant cheesecake. The white ball of fluff is whipped cream, by the way.

Tribal Cheesecake

The Sparkling Volcano, however, was dazzling indeed!

Sparkling Volcano

Beneath the brownie mountain (and I mean mountain) was a ton of ice cream, caramel sauce, and hot fudge. That giant ball on top is all whipped cream. The brownies were excellent. I know you can’t usually rely on restaurant brownies — they’re usually dry or way too spongy. These? Moist, mushy, deep dark rich wonderfulness. I only wished I wasn’t so full! Darn you Pastalaya!

Sparkling Volcano - Up Close

And when they say it’s enough for two or more, they aren’t kidding! The was like an entire pan of brownies on this plate, I kid you not.

Whew. Are you in a food coma? Good. Me, too.

Overall

Our experience at Rainforest Cafe was definitely better than we expected. Previous visits to a non-Disney Rainforest Cafe as well as T-Rex at Disney World (which is also owned by the same parent company) had left much to be desired, so we were a little concerned going into the meal.

But the food was tasty and the portions were extremely generous, which made for an overall decent experience. Service was decent as well! Add to that the fun atmosphere, and we would probably visit again (even if we didn’t have to because we write a food blog…and that’s saying something).

What are your favorite menu items at Rainforest Cafe? Let us know in comments!

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21 Comments

  1. FHB says:

    I love the lost temple vibe at the Anaheim Rainforest Cafe. We ordered 4 Volcanos and ate…1

    Those things are monsterous, but yummy!

  2. Jill D says:

    We had reservations at rc in animal kingdom but cancelled them for another restaurant… but maybe I should reconsider! Great review.

  3. Jennifer says:

    That Pastalaya looks good! Did it have a spicy kick to it?

  4. Kb says:

    This is a great place to take kids! The animals will keep them entertained during dinner. We haven’t been in a few years so I decided to take my 3 yr old after we saw the Neverland Band do their concert (so much fun by the way). The appetizer platter was very good and my Asian pork wrap was delicious! The service was very slow but I really didn’t mind because I didn’t want to rush for once.
    My only tip is that they are redoing the volcano on the top of the restaurant so the rain inside wasn’t working (or the air conditioner for that matter) and that was the only disappointment.
    Overall, I really enjoyed my meal :)

  5. AFoodie says:

    I used to absolutely LOVE the Hong Kong Stir Fry they had on the menu back when Rainforest first came around. Sadly, I feel like the food quality doesn’t really justify the high prices. I guess you pay for the atmosphere and the theming.

  6. Miranda says:

    I love the Chimi Cha Cha rolls (on the appetiser plate or can be ordered on their own). We have been to the WDW Downtown RC and the Animal Kingdom one and always order a portion of Chimi Cha Cha’s! I love the China Island Chicken Salad too.

    I had such low expectations the first time we ate at RC but am always pleasantly surprised when we eat there. It’s not gourmet, nor the best meal at WDW, but always tasty, and portions are huge!

  7. Sandra says:

    We’ve never tried the RFC at WDW because there is always a mob at the one at DTD, and we don’t feel like a sit-down at AK. We did meet with friends to try T-Rex when it was fairly new. We paid around $85 for the three of us, which is pricey but hey, it’s Disney. The theming was a knock-out (loved the octopus bar) and our server was very good, but the food was hit or miss. My tomato soup was tasty but only lukewarm; my chicken salad with almonds on croissant was too cold to taste anything; my husband’s sandwich was nearly inedible, with grisly meat. Our son loved his big cheeseburger and the waffle fries were worth the extra cost. We also were treated by a friend to The Chocolate Extinction, whose ingredients look alot like the brownie dessert at RFC–but arranged on a plate with a smoking “volcano” in the center. It was plenty for 4 or more people to share and major fun!

  8. Jennifer D. says:

    We have been to the one at WDW and most recently went to the one in Galveston, TX. My husband who was weary of going loved the ribs! I always love my food but I feel like they do ribs best!

  9. Cathy says:

    RFC is our first night in Disney tradition and I can honestly say that I have never had a bad meal (this year will be my 22nd trip). Last time was with my sister and mother, sister had the coronarita and enjoyed it very much. Mom wasn’t interested in anything on the menu and created her own meal and the server was very accommodating. The steak and ribs were fabulous. Since we were on the DDP, we used our deserts to get the volcano and it was wonderful. They used to have a shrimp pizza that was awesome, wish that would come back. My only complaint through the years has been where we were seated.

  10. AJ says:

    FHB — It’s pretty cool, right? And the Volcanos are incredible. You ordered 4!?

    Jill D — I’ve heard breakfast at AK’s Rainforest Cafe is pretty good, too, if you’re interested in trying something a little different.

    Jennifer — Yes, it did (not too spicy at all, but at least something!). I really enjoyed it :-)

    Kb — Thanks for your feedback! And great reminder that the one in WDW’s Downtown Disney is under construction right now!

    AFoodie — You definitely pay for the atmosphere here, but I was surprised by the food quality based on what we were expecting. Maybe low expectations is the key here! ;-)

    Miranda — Sounds like you and I had similar experiences! Thanks for the recommendation on the salad.

    Sandra — Great mini-review of T-Rex! I haven’t been back there in a while, but the experience was similar to mine. Great themeing, but hit or miss food.

    Jennifer D. — They do great ribs, I think! Thanks for sharing your experience!

    Cathy — Thanks for your comments about your visits there! That’s good info that your mom was able to mix-and-match!

  11. Kristina says:

    We have eaten dinner at RC in DTDWDW for our last 3 trips in a row. My husband always gets some massive platter of Mahi Mahi, coconut shrimp and scallops in a delicious creamy sauce (I may have sampled some of his;) ) I have ordered the giant appetizer sampler before as my meal and since then just order the ChaCha rolls. My husband swears that the mai tai is the best he’s ever had here too.

  12. Alan says:

    We always liked this restaurant as it had a nice selection for my picky eater wife. Any place that has more than one or two items she would consider is rare. The RC has a great variety of dishes and that made it a must eat at place. However since the DDP started, we’ve passed it by. It just didn’t make sense to pay out of pocket when we struggled to use all our meal tickets on any given trip. Now that it is included in the plan, it’s back in the rotation. If you like carbs – Rasta Pasta rocks.

  13. Rochelle says:

    Thank you SO much for reviewing the RC! We have never been (thought it was below our high foodie palates) but our 12 year old has wanted to, so we decided to go on our upcoming Oct. trip. Very grateful for your meal suggestions! Reminds us all to keep an open mind and re-try places that we’d written off.

  14. Galloping Gourmand says:

    I’ve always found Rainforest Cafe to be decidedly not terrible. They have ok food and put on a decent show inside. It’s a good choice for fussy families who favor familiar flavors*. RFC is all about the show. The theme restaurant trend has fallen away in the past decades and there are vast areas of America that don’t have anything like this place within 500 miles. The intense theme, show, and anamatronic figures would be the epitome of “Disney” to people even though it’s an outside vendor.

    From a strictly food standpoint are so many more interesting choices at WDW, specifically at AK and DTD where the Rainforest Cafes are located. The pricing is pretty much in line with the other places as well. If you are not intent on seeing the Rain Forest Cafe there are better options available. Check the Disney Food Blog Guide for ideas – they’re on sale now!**

    *Alliteration rules!
    ** Now is Sept. 10, 2012 in case you are reading this blog from the post Emil Bleehall robot wars future.

  15. Attalina says:

    Observation: Speaking as an artist, I noticed the proportions of the cheetah and lion’s heads on the bathroom doors are off. That is all.

  16. Joel says:

    We’ve only been once, and had a really good time. I think we sat at the booth you photographed!

    I mostly just wanted to say, though, that’s a fantastic review, A.J. So refreshing in so many ways. Thank you!

  17. Michelle P says:

    We love the RC at DAK for breakfast! It’s a great start to the day (especially at a theme park without many breakfast optoins) and my neice loves that she gets her own little mini-pitcher of milk for her cereal. The coffee is good and strong and served in big ceramic mugs.

    I don’t believe DTD offers breakfast…

  18. I went once as a young child for my birthday and once when I was a bit older for a friend’s birthday. I can’t really comment on the food because I ordered off the Children’s Menu both times. But I can say to heed the warnings about the animals possibly scaring younger childen. The first time I went, we were seated right by the elephants and I was terrified of them the entire time (not the best birthday dinner). I can honestly say I thought the elephants were much scarier than the gorillas.

  19. Heather says:

    I hate to be the little rain cloud, but I have to say, we didn’t have that great of an experience. :( we went last night and had no dining plan or advanced reservation, so that could have been partly to blame. We checked in at 4:23 and were seated a little after 5:40. This was ok since they had told us that the wait was 50 minutes, but our problem was waiting the next whole hour for our food. Don’t know if our server just lost our ticket or what but the people beside us who came in after us and got their food obviously didn’t have any problems. Skipping dessert because my one year old had already seen enough thunderstorms and was getting a little too anxious, by the time we were done with dinner there it was after 7:20. I had no problem with the food, it was really good but I’m really getting nervous because we have a Disney vaca coming up with lots of cool ADR’s and I can’t help but wonder, even with all those ADR’S will we still be spending 2+ hours at restaurants? Needless to say the chef sent the manager to our table (without us asking for) and he was a really nice guy and got the ball rolling cause we finally got our food shortly after that. Maybe it was just a bad night for that server…

  20. Katie says:

    Can you remember if there were any seasonings on the chicken tenders? I have food sensitivities and my stomach does not agree with oiliness or too much pepper. Thanks!

  21. Leslie says:

    I’ve been to Rainforest many times over the years, but when we went in 2012 my husband and I ordered the burgers that day. I knew from the past they were always good, but that day they were not good so I thought maybe just overcooked. So it just so happened we hadn’t returned to the Rainforest until 6-6-14. It was very hot that day here at Disneyworld Animal Kingdom. Because of the hot temperature we decided to just get the burgers and I figured that the last time they were just overcooked. So I was very disappointed when they came out and once again were bad, so this time I started to examine the patty and now know the reason, they are now serving frozen patties instead of fresh meat like the past. I am sickend that Rainforest is charging 15.00 for a frozen blan tasting burger. They should be ashamed. By the way this is the first restaurant review I have ever written. I am a red meat girl, and there is a huge difference between frozen patties and fresh. So if you plan on ordering a burger at the Rainforest at Disney then you should know you can save alot of money by going to the quick stops around the parks. because they use frozen patties.

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