Restaurant Review: Rainforest Cafe in Animal Kingdom
Do you ever eat at McDonald’s? I probably do that every 10 days or so, even though I know it’s terrible for me.
There’s something to be said for easy decisions, places where you know everyone will agree to go, even if the food’s not great.
Chain restaurants work the same way, as you’re not going to eat the best meal of your life at Applebee’s. If you do, your life is sad.
Still, such eateries earn billions of dollars in revenue each year, which says something about how much we all hate deciding what we want for dinner.
I say all this as a preface to the fact that I recently ate a meal at Walt Disney World that I didn’t expect to like…and I didn’t.
So, who is to blame for that, the restaurant or me? Here’s a review of Rainforest Café.
About Rainforest Café
Ordinarily, I go into lengthy discussions about the theming of Disney restaurants, presuming that you don’t know anything about them.
With Rainforest Café, you should know the deal. It’s like Bubba Gump Shrimp Company in that if you’ve visited tourist traps over the years, you’ve seen one.
You may have even eaten there for the reason I just discussed. These places possess some sort of Pied Piper effect wherein we all want to go.
Not coincidentally, one restaurant group owns Rainforest Café and Bubba Gump, among other chains plus a few standalone places you might know.
I’m speaking of Landry’s, Inc., which also owns and operates T-REX and Yak & Yeti Café at Walt Disney World.
However, Rainforest Café comes with the strongest brand awareness to the point that Walt Disney World hosts two of them.
You’ll find one at Disney Springs, and it’s hard to miss since it has a volcano on the top of the building!
The other restaurant is impossible to miss, as it’s right by the front gate at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. And that’s where we dined on this particular day.
Check-In Process and Getting Seated
I’ll preface this with some insight into our day. Animal Kingdom wasn’t crowded on this particular day, which worked out perfectly for us.
So, we were on top of the world by the time we sat down for lunch. I mean, we’d already ridden Avatar Flight of Passage, Na’Vi River Journey, AND Kilimanjaro Safaris.
After watching all the animals, I guess we were ready to study some fish in the aquariums at Rainforest Café.
We circled back to the front of the park, where we knew that the restaurant offered immediate seating.
Plus, my wife and I genuinely revel in those opportunities where we can be shameless tourists.
As one of my favorite authors, John Scalzi, once described it, we’re the “most touristy tourists who ever touristed.”
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) February 16, 2017
Folks, I’m here to tell you that there is NOTHING more touristy at Walt Disney World than Rainforest Café…except maybe T-REX.
As such, I can spoil this review for you right now and say that you should always pick T-REX. It’s just plain better.
Our check-in experience utilized the new system wherein we did online check-in, which took maybe 15 seconds.
Nobody else was waiting to be seated, and this cavernous restaurant had plenty of open tables.
A kindly hostess rushed us to our table, taking the time to compliment my wife on her (admittedly awesome) WandaVision shirt.
Moments later, our server had our drinks sitting on our table. No matter what else I’m about to say, let me stress that the service here was PHENOMENAL.
My only regret involved our table, which wasn’t right by any of the ample number of aquariums.
Still, the ambiance here is pretty terrific no matter where your table is.
The Dining Experience
I often recommend third-party restaurants at Walt Disney World to friends, especially when they’re traveling in large parties.
One of the underrated secrets about Disney dining circles back to the tourist nature of the restaurants.
Third-party vendors cannot rely on Disney branding or theming. As such, their menus must appeal to the most people possible.
So, everyone will find something to eat at Rainforest Café. No, it won’t tickle your tastebuds, but there’s undoubtedly something on the menu you’ll eat.
This particular restaurant offers 18 (!) different appetizers, soups, and salads on the menu. That’s a lot of shareable options.
As for the entrees, I count 24 of them, not including the soups and salads. You could eat here at lunch for an entire month and never have the same thing.
Even the kids’ menu comes with variety, with ten different entrees, some of which are a bit more daring.
Of course, that strategy makes sense, given that Rainforest Café caters to kids more than adults.
Appetizers, Entrees, and Dessert
As a sucker for cheese sticks, I always order them whenever I can while on vacation. I’m walking enough at Disney that I’ll burn off the calories.
This particular appetizer seems pricey at $12 (50 percent more than I usually pay locally). Still, it was also one of the two highlights of my meal.
As far as cheese sticks go, they were, you know, fried cheese. Because I’m gross, I dip them in ketchup, and then I’m happy.
These cheese sticks were nothing special, but I devoured them anyway. Dear Disney: please add fried mozzarella as an appetizer at more of your restaurants!
After debating some other options at the surprisingly vegetarian-friendly eatery, my wife settled on the Beyond Burger.
The phrase “the worst one I’ve ever had” was tossed around. In fact, she felt ill soon afterward, which didn’t seem coincidental.
The Iggy’s Piggy Sandwich ingredients weren’t available this day (supply issues have plagued Disney over the past 12 months).
So, I settled for the Mojo Bones, which is a half-rack of St. Louis ribs. The phrase, “How did they mess up BBQ ribs?” got tossed around.
At least I didn’t get sick immediately afterward.
Frustrated by our meal, we did try the Key Lime Pie for dessert, but my wife had turned on the place by then.
I thought it tasted perfectly fine. Still, the dessert seemed quite bland given that I’m a superfan of Key Lime Pie as a rule.
Overall, nothing hit right for us during this entire meal.
We could have titled this lunch “Living with Regret: An Afternoon at Rainforest Café.”
While the service impressed us and the cast members were kindly, the cuisine reminded me why I rarely eat at places like TGI Fridays.
Bland food is problematic on its own. But, when you’re paying $90 for two people, well, fool me once…
Seriously, we chose Rainforest Café at Animal Kingdom for the same reason that everyone else does.
The convenience is inimitable, and seeing the restaurant at the start of the day kinda plants the seed of the idea in your head.
When lunch or dinner rolls around, you cannot help but think about the place you saw as you entered the park.
Plus, if you’re leaving afterward, you’ll be right at the front gate after the meal, a definite bonus.
Alas, the food here tastes like something a first-time chef would cook when trying but failing to impress a date.
Even worse, the pricing reflects the fact that Rainforest Café is a recognizable brand in thriving tourist traps.
So, you pay thriving tourist trap pricing. I could have gotten better cuisine at Flame Tree BBQ for half the price…or less.
I know that we all love the aquarium backdrop at Rainforest Café. Still, the meal will punish you for choosing theming over flavors.
This was legitimately one of the worst meals we’ve ever had at Disney. We regretted everything…except the cheese sticks.
Feature Image: Mealtrip.com