Hang on to your hats, kids, because we’re heading into the rainforest!
No, we’re not riding the Jungle Cruise (again). We’re headed to Disney Springs to have a meal at Rainforest Cafe. We recently ate at the location at Animal kingdom (you can read our review here), but it’s been a hot minute since we’ve dined at the chain’s location at Disney Springs. This spot is typically way more about the theming than the food, so we tempered our expectations and headed in for lunch!
The thing about Rainforest Cafe is that if you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all. But if you’ve never been inside a Rainforest Cafe, it’s actually pretty cool. Although these restaurants are not owned by Disney, they still bring their “A” game with theming.
The exterior is admittedly pretty cool — and hard to miss. It’s a mega-sized volcano! You’ll easily spot this when entering the Marketplace area of Disney Springs, which is where Rainforest Cafe is located. Each night, you can see the whole area light up when the volcano periodically erupts (it does it during the day too but for full effect, try to spot this at night!). Fire will shoot out the top and “lava” (AKA red lights) will look like it’s pouring down the sides momentarily. This happens about every 30 minutes and makes sounds to alert guests it’s about to happen!
At the waterfront side of the restaurant is the aptly named Lava Lounge, which is an open-air bar serving up all the colorful, souvenir cup-centric drinks available inside Rainforest Cafe. Space is a bit more limited out here, especially if you’re after a table, but you do get a nice view of the water and the bar is pretty fun.
Inside, it’s quite literally like stepping into a dark rainforest. Not only is the restaurant decorated with LOADS of fake greenery, but there are also fake random thunderstorms (thankfully without actual rain) to get you in the rainforest mood! It’s actually pretty cool sitting under a giant canopy of trees while you eat!
But the best part is probably the animatronic animals! But once they get going, they can get a little noisy! There are critters like snakes, monkeys, fake bugs, and more hiding in the greenery so keep your eyes peeled.
There’s plenty of seating with tables and chairs, as well as booths. There is also a bar where you can wait if you’re a walk-up.
There’s even a ginormous aquarium full of fish you walk under and can watch them swimming about.
And of course, there’s a shop — so if you REALLY feel the need to commemorate your time here with a souvenir, go for it (but something tells us you might already be walking out with a souvenir…more on that in a bit!).
We got to sit by this big guy. Hey there buddy! What should we name our dining partner? How bout Rupert. Seems like a distinguished name for the big hairy guy.
We can probably say that the atmosphere is the main reason we come here — it’s a lot of fun, especially for kids or adults looking for a silly night out!
We checked in via Mobile Dine Check-in on our phones, allowing us to skip the check-in podium. We verified our party size and had the option to note any special requests. After a short wait admiring the crocodiles out front, we were called in!
The food here is basically your local Applebee’s type “American Classics” food but like…double the price. That may not sound uber appealing but that DOES mean there is a lot of variety to choose from — even the pickiest of eaters should find something on the menu that sounds good to them. In the past, not surprisingly, the food here has never really blown us away, but we’re always willing to give a restaurant another chance.
The Menu is available as a paper menu or you can scan a QR code to pull it up on your phone.
We started with the drink menu, which features cocktails where you buy the drink and keep the glass. Note: you can still order any of these drinks and specify you don’t want the souvenir glass, so keep that in mind if you’re looking to save a few bucks. And that’s the case with kid’s drinks, too, which also come with pricey glasses.
For the menu proper, you’ve got, as we said, a lot to choose from. First, there are appetizers.
You’ll find a fair amount of salad choices here as well as some ancient grain bowls.
You’ll find a couple of burgers and sandwiches to choose from…
…as well as a whole section dedicated to seafood.
There’s a variety of meat-centric options available. It’s pretty basic like ribs and steak.
Pasta gets its own section as well. You can add on “Enhancements” here to any meal. At a few Signature Restaurants around Disney World, this is an option for an upscale side item typically. Here, it’s mostly an overpriced option to add on extra protein to your meal. It is interesting to be able to order a side of ribs to go with your meal though!
Some of the menu items offer a choice of side or they can be purchased separately. Desserts are largely underwhelming here right now, aside from the Sparkling Volcano (and even that is just really a brownie sundae).
The kids’ menu is surprisingly fun. You can tell this restaurant knows the clientele it’s catering itself towards! We love the name Shrimpkins (and it’s trademarked! 😂). We’ve totally been there as the parents very seriously helping our child order a bizarre-sounding dinner like, “And little Susie here will have the Rainforest Rascals, please.”
We decided to start our meal, as many often do, with a giant souvenir glass we don’t particularly need. 😂 The Strawberry Mojito is priced at $15.50. You really can’t go wrong with a good fruity mojito, right?
Or maybe you can. It’s not a super sweet drink (at least not as sweet as most of the other sugar-bomb beverages on the menu), and we liked the refreshing taste of mint. We did pick up the strawberry flavor but overall it was a forgettable drink for us. It still tasted very much like a mass-produced drink and there are SO many other craft cocktails you can get at Disney Springs for the same price that are much much better.
With our drink in hand, our food arrived. We decided to go with our meat craving and ordered the Ribs, Steak, and Shrimp Trio for $35.99. This is a plate of Caribbean Coconut Shrimp, Mojo Bones Ribs, a 10-oz Flat Iron Steak, Coleslaw, and Safari Fries.
The coconut shrimp is pretty good, but it tastes just like pretty much the coconut shrimp you can get at any other chain restaurant. That is to say — we LOVE those coconut shrimp soooo…no complaints here. They’re served with a sweet and tangy marmalade type dipping sauce that is also pretty good to dip the fries in.
The ribs were surprisingly pretty great. They were slow-cooked and SO tender to the point that they were falling off the bone as we picked them up — and anyone who knows anything about BBQ knows that’s the END GOAL for ribs. We were genuinely surprised by how well-cooked these ribs were!
The steak, though, left us feeling underwhelmed. It’s not a very good quality cut of meat, and it just tasted so-so. It was cooked fine, though, so we’ll give Rainforest Cafe that. And we did like the slab of butter on top. Even on the plate, the steak looked a lot less appealing than the coconut shrimp and ribs. Sorry, little guy. You tried.
The fries are also pretty good, but here’s a tip: always ask for the safari sauce. It’s basically like Thousand Island, but it’s great for dipping fries into! And shrimp. And that steak. And pretty much anything else!
So basically, we had another largely forgettable but OK meal at Rainforest Cafe. But at least we enjoyed our meal in the company of our robo-gorilla buddy, Rupert. He didn’t provide much sparkling conversation while we ate, but he was a nice companion. At least we got to eat some good ribs, so that’s something, right?
Nosh or Not?
Rainforest Cafe might be right for you if:
- You have kids who would love the rainforest theme and animatronic animals. This place is a total draw for kids. There’s SO MUCH to look at.
- You have picky eaters and need a large menu with a lot of variety to please everyone.
- You don’t have a dining reservation anywhere else (it’s pretty easy to get a reservation here and the walk-up list is never too long).
Skip Rainforest Cafe if:
- You have kids that are afraid of loud noises and/or storms. When the animatronics start doing their thing they can be LOUD.
- You are a foodie and would rather eat something more unique and interesting. You ARE in Disney Springs, sp basically throw a rock in any direction and you’ll find something higher quality.
- You want a quiet, romantic meal. This place is often loaded with families or louder parties celebrating something, so don’t come here expecting a calm atmosphere.
We’ll never complain about the theming at Rainforest Cafe because it really is a lot of fun, and that’s saying a lot coming from us because we spend most of our days at Disney restaurants! We can’t imagine kids not loving this place just for the atmosphere. This is a spot parents may have no choice but to visit if it catches their kid’s eye. We know our kids have begged us to eat here before — the appeal of eating in a giant firey volcano full of screaming animals is like catnip to many kids!!
The food and drinks, though, still seem to be pretty mediocre, and there are so many dining options at Disney Springs that it’s fairly easy to find something to eat that’s far better. You’re paying a lot here for average food. The prices are comparable with most sit-down locations in Disney World, meaning you could eat just about anywhere else and find better food for the same or lower price. Even in the realm of “fun decor but not so great food in Disney Springs” you can walk across the bridge in the Marketplace to T-Rex for a similar meal in a more uniquely themed atmosphere.
We can see, though, the appeal of Rainforest Cafe for families or groups who need to please a variety of palates in one sitting. There are a lot of items to choose from here, and we get how that could be a deciding factor when it comes to where to eat at Disney Springs. But in the end, you don’t come here for the ribs or the burgers or the drinks — you come here for the atmosphere. It FEELS like you’re on vacation eating here, which is not a bad thing! Check your expectations for the food at the door and enjoy the soothing sights and sounds of a screaming gorilla while you dine in an artificial tropical paradise!