I finally made it to T-Rex, the new restaurantasaurus at Downtown Disney. I put it off as long as I could because it’s operated by the same folks who run the Rainforest Café, which is known more for its retail shop than its food, and the hugely disappointing Yak & Yeti at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which has no redeeming qualities.
The T-Rex Website address refers to the place as a café, but that word suggests something quaint, something quiet and peaceful. This place may be the largest restaurant I’ve ever seen. It’s also a lot of fun, with plenty of things to look at, places to explore and sensory diversions.
And the food I sampled wasn’t bad, or at least it could leave the offerings at Rainforest and Yuk, I mean Yak & Yeti, in the dust, which is basically what the food in those places tastes like.
And what I had at T-Rex was only a sampling: one soup and an entrée, but the entrée had two items that are offered separately on the menu, barbecued ribs and rotisserie chicken. The soup was a tomato basil, listed on the menu as lava tomato basil. Turns out lava is fairly sweet; who knew?
The ribs, a generous half slab, were tender and the bones easily relinquished the meat, but there wasn’t a lot of distinctive flavoring. The same was true of the chicken, an even more generous half bird. It was nicely cooked and had juicy flesh. But there were no seasonings, no flavor. It’s a common problem with restaurants in tourist areas to dumb down the seasonings so as not to offend the common palate. Pity. The platter also included a healthy portion of waffle-cut fries. Maybe healthy isn’t the right word, but you know what I mean.
The real attraction here is the array of animatronics dinosaurs that “roam” the restaurant. These range from a gigantic version of the eatery’s namesake lizard to baby mastodons. An octopus of Jules Verne proportions looms over the bar. Most of the monsters move. I watched as a young girl stroked the trunk of one of the baby mastodons and it actually seemed to react to her touch.
There are four or five distinct rooms in the restaurant. The most dominant is the ice cave in the center, which glows a glacial blue except during the occasional meteor shower when, for some reason, it turns pink. (The meteor shower involves lights streaking across the ceiling. Given that many surmise the age of dinosaurs came to an end because of a meteor hitting the earth, it seems a strange thing to highlight. You’d think they’d save it for “last call” each night.)
I was seated in front of the kitchen area that houses the rotisserie ovens. In front of the kitchen area is a row of gas flames behind a glass panel, which is labeled to be hot. Wonder how long before some child gets burned before the fire is doused permanently.
There are many photo opportunities, but, oddly, guests are prohibited from taking video. That’s just silly.
Another minor complaint: the lighting designers need to go in and refocus the spotlights so they shine on the dinosaurs and not in the eyes of the guests. Also, it’s unfortunate that the entrance of the restaurant is so large and open. The light pouring in from outside prevents a total immersion experience.
This is not a place to come for a gourmet food experience. But for people with young children it offers palatable enough food and something in every corner to grab their attention.