I don’t admit this to many people, because it’s a little embarrassing, but, Rainforest Cafe is my favorite restaurant ever. Seriously. I know it gets a bad rap for being overly kitschy and touristy and over-priced. But ever since my first visit to the location at Downtown Disney in Anaheim over 10 years ago, I’ve been hooked. They have locations all over the country (and even some internationally), and I’ve probably been to about a dozen or so, and honestly, I’ve always had a great experience. Although, I’ve heard different from other people, I find them to be extremely consistent, and that is exactly what I needed after last weeks disaster.
I originally made an ADR for 2:30pm for a late lunch, but yesterday Will, my fiancee, asked me if I could take him to the Orlando airport this morning so we ended up going earlier (I wasn’t concerned about switching the ADR because I’m a Safari Club member, and get priority seating, more on that later). We got to Downtown Disney (DTD) at about 11:00am, and I can I just say, I am from now on going to DTD early. There was NO ONE there! We had a great parking spot, no traffic, and walked right in at RC.
As usual, we began our adventure at the purple elephant out front where the hostess asked how many people were in our “safari.” I know, it’s silly, but I always love that they refer to “party’s” as “safaris.” It probably has to do with my love of complete themeing, and I know it’s a small detail, but it makes me happy. We then head towards the next stand where our “adventure will begin.” On the way, we pass the bar, and RC has the coolest bar EVER. It’s situated under a giant mushroom, there is a ring of rain that falls almost all the way around the outside of the bar area, there are fish tanks and waterfalls, and all the barstools look like animals hindquarters. Seriously, how fun is that?! After we pass the bar, we go under the big archways that are actually giant tropical fishtanks. This is one of Malcolm’s favorite parts of the restaurant, and I have to admit, I really enjoy it too. It’s so neat to see the fish swimming above you and all around. Sure it’s simple, but it’s a really cool touch. We get seated and are introduced to our “safari guide” (server), and are then given the spiel about how every 10 minutes or so the animals come to life, and every 30 minutes there is a thunderstorm.
For people who haven’t been there, this probably doesn’t make sense, so I should explain what the inside of the restaurant looks like. First of all, the whole place is covered in jungle foliage. It’s everywhere! On the ceiling, on the walls, everywhere, is beautiful, lush, (faux, obviously) greenery. Throughout the restaurant there are also numerous jungle animal animatronics. There are gorillas, elephants, monkey’s, birds, etc. Every 10 minutes, these animals come to life. They make noise and move and in general create a ruckus. Then, every 30 minutes, there is a thunderstorm. It gets dark, lightning flashes, thunder booms, animals freak out…it’s all super fun! Also featured in the dining room are a giant fountain with a big golden statue of Apollo, and several more (smaller) tropical fishtanks. Everything else in the restaurant is also super themed. The tables all feature jungle prints and scenes, the restrooms are painted with rainforest murals, and the food and drinks have animal names. Also, I think RC plays the best music! They play fun, upbeat tunes that really get you in the spirit of everything…however, if the restaurant is crowded it gets very loud and you often can’t hear the music at all.
All of these great themeing elements can prove difficult, depending on where you are seated. Once, at a location in Texas, I saw a man get repeatedly hit in the head by an elephant’s trunk while he was eating. I also really don’t like sitting next to the big Apollo fountain/waterfall feature because not only is it very loud, but you get splashed the whole time you eat. Today, Malcolm and I had what I considered to be an ideal table. We were seated right next to one of the fishtanks, plus, from Malcolm’s seat, he could see both the group of elephants (right in front of him, behind me), and the gorillas (to his left) when they moved. All of these elements combined meant that I was actually going to get to enjoy my food because he would have something besides me to distract and entertain him. I also really loved our seat today because we were right under the “open sky.” In every RC, they have a section of the ceiling where there is a hole in the greenery and you can see a gorgeous jungle sky lit up with twinkling lights and planets, and it changes colors from pink to purple to blue. Again, I know it’s silly, but I think it’s so pretty and I get really excited when I get to sit under it. The fact that it was early also meant that the restaurant was pretty empty. We could actually hear the music playing and Malcolm spent a large part of the meal dancing. One last thing that made our seat great, was our “safari guide” Christy S. She was so friendly and efficient, and she was really good with Malcolm (she has a 3 year old and 3 month old at home). Sometimes at RC the service can be slow, and servers seem to have too many tables, but today Christy was very attentive and I plan to request her next time we go. I realize the great service may also be largely in part to it being so early and un-crowded, but honestly, from now on I plan to always go early.
Anyway, RC used to have these really awesome menus where on every other page they had pictures and information about different animals and plants that you could find in the rainforest. I really like those menus and liked reading about everything, but at some point they switched over to more standard menus. I thought that was disappointing, especially as I’m sure it had to do with wanting to turn tables more quickly.
Today, I ordered Bamba’s Barbecue Wrap. The menu describes it as “shredded beef or chicken [I got the beef] wrap with our Smokin’ Mojo BBQ sauce, fresh cilantro, onions, and our four cheese blend. Served with mango sauce and coleslaw.” Also, it comes with potato chips, or for an extra charge (99 cents I think) you can get fries. The chips vs fries decision always takes me like, 10 minutes. I really like their chips. They’re so crispy and crunchy and salty and just all around delightful…but the fries are really good too. Today, I decided on chips. I also ordered Malcolm kid’s macaroni and cheese. RC is also one of the few restaurants where I ALWAYS get Malcolm his own meal. Okay, so, are you ready for one of my favorite dining secrets ever? Maybe it’s not a secret actually, but I’d never heard of it, I discovered it accidentally, and now I’m going to share it with you. If you go to Rainforest Cafe’s website and click on the “Wild Bunch Kids Zone” tab, there is a link on the right hand side that says “Click here to get your Kid’s Rewards Calendars.” Under that link there are different printable rewards things for kids. One is a certificate from the tooth fairy, there are sports awards, and even a calendar where you can fill in a goal and check it off for every day your child completes that goal. Every one of these rewards gives the child a 99 cent kids meal (with adult meal purchase). I always thought this was so weird because clearly it’s a reward for the parent more than the child (the kids meals at RC are like 6-8 dollars). Today, I decided Malcolm and I were celebrating over a week of going to bed without a bottle, so I fudged the calendar a bit (filled it out like he went the entire month of June), and just like that…I saved 6 bucks on Malcolm’s lunch! And, I do this every time we go.
When our food arrived, it looked so good, I forgot to take pictures of it before we started eating! That’s why the pictures don’t look so great. However, everything tasted AWESOME!! I’ve honestly never had a meal I didn’t enjoy at RC. Again, I’ve heard different from other people, and I know lots of people consider the food inedible. I don’t really know why I feel so differently. Maybe I just have simpler tastes, or maybe I love the decor so much I can’t really focus on what I’m eating. Who knows. Either way, I like it and I think everyone should try RC at least once, just because it is a fun experience.
There are a couple of things though I feel are worth mentioning. First of all, don’t expect to go to the RC and have a quiet, relaxing meal with good converstation. Often, between the noise of the crowds, the animals, and the thunderstorms, conversation is close to impossible. Second, some kids may be afraid of the storms. Lucky for me, Malcolm thinks the storms are funny. He laughs at the flashing lights and tries to mimic the grunts of the gorillas. However, today there was a family seated next to us with a boy who was about 9 who was TERRIFIED by the storm. After the storm he hid under the table every time one of the animatronics moved…they left after about 5 minutes. I recommend if you have children, and have never been there, spend some time in the shop area until you experience the storm and see how your kids react.
And, oh yes, there is a store. Again, this is something lots of people don’t like about RC, however, I love it. I like my theme restaurants to have shops in them. I have a shot glass collection and love to buy shot glasses everywhere I visit. I also, love jungle animals. Therefore, I have spent a fair amount of money in the RC store. Malcolm has RC outfits, we have RC glasses and mugs, I have RC t-shirts. I think that is fun. Yes, it’s touristy, but I don’t care, I like it. Also, it gives you someplace to hang out if you do have to wait for a table.
If you are like me, and you like the Rainforest Cafe, I really have to say, I love their safari club program. It’s only like 10 or 15 dollars to join (I think it’s normally 15, but they run specials where it’s 10. I joined for 10), and you get a 10 dollar gift certificate for joining. Obviously, that means if you join for 10 dollars, it’s basically free. You also get 10% off adult meals (no alcohol) or a free chef’s appetizer at every visit. You also get priority seating and 10% off in the shop. It’s really a good deal, even if you only go a couple of times. Plus, Tables in Wonderland is not valid at Rainforest Cafe.
Seriously, I love Rainforest Cafe, I can’t say it enough times. Sure, it’s probably overpriced. Sure, it’s really cheesy. But I really think everyone should at least try it. It’s fun. Go and get into it. At the very least, go have a drink in the bar, just to experience the atmosphere.
Instead of doing dessert at RC, I decided to walk across the way to Goofy’s Candy Co. instead. I was planning on writing about that as part of this blog, but honestly, it deserves it’s own post. Also, I’m suffering a severe sugar crash from my visit there and don’t think I can write anymore. So, look out for another post, most likely tomorrow.