Menu Monday: Rainforest Café Showdown

Share This!

Rainforest CafeMy family and I are big fans of the Rainforest Café. During our travels across the country, we always make a point to visit this restaurant every chance we get. In the last few years, we’ve dined at the Rainforest Café in Disneyland, Las Vegas, Dallas, San Antonio, Galveston, and of course, Downtown Disney (Springs) and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

What keeps us going back again and again? We are suckers for a good theme! The more immersive and detailed the environment, the more we love it. This, coincidentally, is one of the main reasons we repeatedly visit Disney World as well. There’s just nothing quite like escaping to another “world” whether it’s for just a meal or for an entire trip. During our summer vacation this year, my family and I had the opportunity to dine at both Disney World locations. Are you considering a visit to the “rainforests” of Downtown Disney and Animal Kingdom? Trying to decide which one is best for you? Then read on for the complete Rainforest Café Showdown; your adventure is about to begin!

The Rainforest Café Basics

 

For our Rainforest Café Showdown, let’s start by comparing some basic information about each of the locations.

Rainforest CafeDowntown Disney

  • This location serves lunch and dinner.
  • It is open from 11:00am – 11:00pm daily.
  • You can make advance dining reservations by clicking here or calling 407-WDW-DINE.
  • The Rainforest Café offers a 10% discount for Annual Passholders and DVC Members. (subject to change)
  • The Rainforest Café requires 1 credit on the Disney Dining Plan.
  • To get there using Disney transportation, take a boat or bus directly to Downtown Disney.

Rainforest CafeDisney’s Animal Kingdom

  • This location serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • It is open from 8:30am – park closing daily.
  • The Rainforest Café does not require park admission to Animal Kingdom.
  • You can make advance dining reservations by clicking here or calling 407-WDW-DINE.
  • The Rainforest Café offers a 10% discount for Annual Passholders and DVC Members. (subject to change)
  • The Rainforest Café requires 1 credit on the Disney Dining Plan.
  • To get there using Disney transportation, take a bus directly to Animal Kingdom.

Landry's Select ClubLandry’s Select Club

The Rainforest Café is part of the Landry’s Select Club. This club has a one-time non-refundable $25 membership fee and includes the following perks: priority seating (you will be seated at the first available table even without a reservation), $25 welcome reward (available approximately 24 hours after registering your membership online), $25 for every $250 you spend, $25 birthday reward every year, and exclusive member-only offers. For more information or to join, please click here.

The Rainforest Café Experiences

 

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s continue our Rainforest Café Showdown with the stories of my family’s experiences at both locations.

Downtown Disney

It was a hot and crowded Friday night in June. My family (which consists of my husband, my two boys, and my parents) and I had just spent a long day traveling to Walt Disney World from Colorado. Our day had started before dawn and by the time we had arrived at the Rainforest Café, we were all hungry and tired. Luckily, we showed up at the restaurant prepared with both a dining reservation and our Landry’s Select Club Card.

The line was long, but as members of the Club, we were allowed to bypass it and head straight to check-in. The host was very polite and let us know that even though we were an hour early for our 8:00pm ADR, he would seat us immediately, because we were members. Within five minutes, we were being escorted to our table. Moments later, a manager stopped by to thank us for being a part of the Club and told us to let her know if we needed anything. Things appeared to be off to a good start so we relaxed and began to browse our menus confident that dinner was going to be great.

Since we are frequent diners at the Rainforest Café, we chose our meals quickly and began to chat about our exciting trip ahead. We got so wrapped up in our discussion that it was quite a while before we realized we hadn’t seen our server yet. Finally at 7:20pm (15 minutes after we had been seated), our server arrived to greet us and take our order. She was all business — not unpleasant, but not quite as enthusiastic or charismatic as we have become accustomed to at Disney World. With our order in, the conversation returned to all of the fun times we had to look forward to during the week ahead. Twenty minutes more passed before our drinks arrived. Now if we had ordered something from the bar on a busy Friday night, I could see that, but we had just ordered water and soda. Our server dropped off the beverages and said that our food should be up in a little while.

This is when I started to get nervous. By now we had been at our table for 35 minutes and all I had was a glass of water and a promise of food “in a little while.” My kids were starting to get restless and even more hungry. Plus we still had a long night ahead of visiting guest services to convert our annual pass vouchers, grocery shopping, and unpacking. I’ve worked in the restaurant industry before, and I know waiting 35 minutes for water isn’t a good sign. The Rainforest Café was obviously having some problems that night. My hopes were that it was just a front of the house staffing issue and that were no concerns in the kitchen. We kept ourselves distracted from our hunger by retelling some of the best moments from our past Disney World vacations. Finally 25 minutes later at 8:05pm, a full hour after we had been seated, our food arrived and we were thrilled!

So here’s what we ordered:

  • I ordered the Chicken Tenders appetizer with a side of French fries.
  • My husband ordered the Mojo Bones which are slow roasted St. Louis style pork spareribs basted in Rainforest Café Mojo BBQ sauce. The ribs are served with fries and a side of cole slaw.
  • My youngest son ordered the Pasta with Marinara Sauce from the kid’s menu with a side of kernel corn.
  • My oldest son ordered the Rainforest Burger which is a 100% beef burger topped with an onion ring, lettuce, tomato, pickles and cheese and is served with fries. He opted to have no cheese, to add bacon, and to have his burger prepared well done.
  • My dad ordered the same Rainforest Burger, didn’t add the bacon, and requested that his burger be prepared well done.
  • My mom ordered the Pita Quesadillas which are grilled chicken, roasted peppers, caramelized onions, and melted cheese on grilled pita bread served with fresh pico de gallo and sour cream.
Rainforest Cafe
Hmmm…Does this look well done to you?

And here’s what we received:

  • My chicken tenders and French fries were delicious. My meal was warm, well-prepared, and flavorful. The tenders were lightly breaded, and fried perfectly so that the batter was crispy while the chicken was still moist. The dipping sauces (honey mustard and BBQ) and the French fries were equally tasty.
  • My husband thoroughly enjoyed his ribs. The BBQ sauce was sweet with an extra spicy kick to it and the meat was tender. The cole slaw, on the other hand, was a bit warm and had a strong vinegar flavor.
  • My youngest son devoured his pasta with marinara sauce. This could be in part, because he was so hungry, but he did say it was warm and very yummy. Unfortunately his kernel corn was a different story. It was cold and over cooked with several pieces of corn being so hard that they were inedible.
  • My oldest son enjoyed the flavor of his Rainforest Burger and fries, however the burger wasn’t prepared correctly. It was cooked medium at best and it was missing the onion ring topping.
  • My dad’s Rainforest Burger had the correct toppings, but it was lukewarm and only cooked to medium-rare. He agreed that it tasted fine, but he would have rather had it cooked to his liking.
  • My mom’s pita quesadillas were also well-seasoned, but were served to her ice cold.

So I was the only one out of the six of us that didn’t have some sort of issue with the meal. We contemplated sending some of the items back, however we were hungry and our server didn’t return to check on us or to refill our drinks until almost 30 minutes after she had originally dropped off the food. At this point, we were done. Although, we usually order dessert at the Rainforest Café, with all of the problems we had already experienced with the long wait, lack of service, and mediocre food, we decided a visit to Goofy’s Candy Company would be much better.

I am not a complainer and I would normally leave a restaurant after a meal like this and just not come back, but in the interest of this story I thought I would speak to a manager to let them know about our experience. After paying our bill, I went to the check in counter and asked to see someone. A few minutes later, I very politely relayed the story of our dinner including the long wait for the food as well as its quality once it arrived. I was actually quite surprised at how unapologetic and defensive the manager was. In the end, he did end up crediting us for the cost of one of the undercooked Rainforest Burgers.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Rainforest Cafe
Now that’s a well done burger!

A few days later after spending a fun-filled morning touring Animal Kingdom, my family and I headed to the Rainforest Café near the front of the park for lunch. Again we arrived with both an ADR and our Landry’s Select Club Card in hand. It was early, 11:15 in the morning, and the restaurant was starting to get busy with the lunch crowd. We were quickly and politely checked in and seated.

Just like at the Downtown Disney location, a manager visited our table a few moments after our arrival, greeting us and thanking us for being a part of the Club. Within seconds, our server — a friendly and upbeat guy — took our drink order. We took a quick look at the menu to see if anything was different here (it wasn’t) and then our drinks arrived. In the interest of fairness, we ordered the same dishes that we had ordered at the Downtown Disney location. This dining experience was already looking better than the last one. In 10 minutes (in comparison to 35 minutes), we had gotten seated, ordered our drinks, received them, and placed our food order. During the next 12 minutes, we chatted about our morning adventures and what we were looking forward to seeing at Epcot that afternoon. Exactly 22 minutes after being seated (compared to 60), our meal arrived and it was delicious. Every dish was warm, flavorful, and cooked to perfection! The entrees were so tasty, we even stayed for dessert – our usual Chocolate Diablo Cake for the adults to share and Lava Muds for the kids. This meal restored our love of the Rainforest Café!

The Rainforest Café Showdown Winner is…

 

Rainforest Cafe AK 4

 

Rainforest Café at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

 

Are you a fan of the Rainforest Café? Have you dined at either Disney World location? What was your experience like? Please leave a comment; we would love to hear from you!

 

Kristi Fredericks

Kristi is a lifelong fan of all things Disney and has been visiting the resorts since she was a baby. She is thrilled to share her passion for the Disney parks and feels that there is nothing better than enjoying a Disney vacation with the ones you love. Kristi is the author of "A Tale of Two Resorts: Comparing Disneyland and Walt Disney World" and "501 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Walt Disney World Vacation" and founder of the blog DisneyWorldEnthusiast.com. She can be contacted on Twitter @DWEnthusiast, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/disneyworldenthusiast or by email at disneyworldenthusiast@outlook.com.

6 thoughts on “Menu Monday: Rainforest Café Showdown

  • August 24, 2015 at 3:10 pm
    Permalink

    I have also found the Rainforest @ Animal Kingdom to be the better of the two in recent trips. To be fair, though, we go for a late breakfast. It’s very good. The Ozzy’s Omelette and the Eggs Benedict are my favorites. It’s much less hectic than lunch or dinner, so you can enjoy the atmosphere.

    • August 28, 2015 at 11:17 am
      Permalink

      Thanks for the info, Anna. I might have to try breakfast there sometime!

  • August 24, 2015 at 4:39 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks for sharing. The “Club” seems to offer some good benefits. How does the atmosphere compare between the two locations? Are they similar in size & scope?

    • August 28, 2015 at 11:23 am
      Permalink

      Hi Douglas – We love our “Club” membership! The atmosphere and size of the interiors feel practically the same, although the Animal Kingdom restaurant is slightly larger. The exteriors are quite different with the Downtown Disney location housed in a gigantic volcano and the Animal Kingdom location nestled in a heavily wooded area of the theme park. Once you are inside, though, the “show” is the same at both places. Hope this helps!

  • Pingback:TouringPlans – Rainforest Café Showdown | Disney World Enthusiast

  • August 31, 2015 at 4:00 pm
    Permalink

    It just makes me sad when people choose to eat at Rain Forest Cafe in either location. The food is sub-par national chain for 2xs if not 3xs the cost. You are at WALT DISNEY WORLD – eat something unique to WDW. The cleanliness is sad – dust all over those not-up-to-Disney-standards fake greenery. I can somewhat get my head around T-Rex (same terrible food and service, but dinosaurs). Better off grabbing a Big Mac on your way down the road.

Comments are closed.