Restaurant Review - T-Rex restaurant, Downtown Disney, 1676 East Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista, FL
Rising up from what was once a parking lot at Downtown Disney is the new towering T-Rex restaurant, brought to you by Landry's, the same folks who brought you Rainforest Cafe. And, in a way, it is like a Rainforest Cafe, loud, colorful, and exciting, except with animatronic dinosaurs instead of rainforest pals. No need to worry if your kids are usually loud as no one will notice. But do take care with very young children as they might be frightened by the noise, large, moving dinosaurs, and the lights darkening for the meteor showers, which happen every 15 minutes.
If you go on an off time, like we did on our two visits (between 3 - 4:30 pm), you can generally walk right in with little wait. However, during the lunch or dinner hours, you will probably have to wait for your name to be called (the "Smith Expedition of four is now ready!") and then wait in line to be seated. This can take over an hour during very busy tourist times.
There are several different seating areas: The Ice Cave that is covered with "ice" and "snow" and changes colors during the meteor showers but mostly stays blue. The Kitchen of Fire area features woolly mammoths and pterodactyls, and the namesake rotisserie over fire. The Fern Forest, which is towards the back of the restaurant and is a little quieter (compared to the rest of the restaurant), has most of the herbivore dinosaurs and lots of greenery. And, the Coral Reef area is topped by a huge octopus flailing its tentacles over the bar with enormous “floating” prehistoric sea creatures, and a few real sea creatures in an aquarium.
I found that the only thing really unique about most of the food items on the menu was the name. So, you had Brachiosaurus Bruschetta which is really just bruschetta, and Asteroid French Onion Soup which is really just French onion soup. And frankly, I found the prices to be about twice what I would have normally paid for well, everything. For example, my pot of (Asteroid) French Onion Soup was very good but I would have preferred to pay $3.50 or so for it, not the $6.99 that I did pay. So, I have to conclude that it is like a dinner show... besides the food, you are also paying for the "entertainment" and atmosphere. If you go into it thinking that, you should be okay.
What with the roaring dinosaurs and meteor showers, it can be hard to hear your server depending on what area you are seated in. The menu is large with fun alcoholic (some with cotton candy no less) and non-alcoholic drinks in souvenir glasses, like the Discovery Blast slushie ($4.99), served in a large bone-shaped cup. The kid’s menu has a lot of activities, if they are bored by the multitude of things moving and roaring around them.
One of my friends got the Colosso Nachos for $13.99. It was a humongous heap of tri-color chips with beef, beans, pico de gallo, sour cream, and a velveeta-like cheese sauce. She liked it, but couldn't finish it and took the rest home. Her husband got the Fire-Roasted Rotisserie Chicken ($19.99), a half-chicken with two sides. He thought it was “fine” but was expecting more for the price. I got the Tribal Tacos ($16.99), fried fish tacos with black beans and wild rice. The taste of the fish was good, not too overly fishy, and the avocado cream sauce added a lot of flavor. I would have preferred the corn tortillas to be heated up a bit as they were a bit stiff. Plus, I could have done without so much red cabbage filler. My mother had the tacos on our second trip and she thought the pico de gallo was a bit too spicy for her tastes and agreed about the tortillas. My father ordered the Mega-Mes-O-Bones half-rack ribs ($21.99) with waffle fries and cinnamon apples. He really liked the ribs but wasn’t that impressed with the side dishes. On our second trip, I started with the Asteroid French Onion Soup ($6.99) which is served in a cute metal bucket with a very savory slice of garlic toast. The soup was served hot, and was very cheesy with lots of onions and I really enjoyed it. My entrée was the Triassic Tuna appetizer ($11.99) consisting of three crispy squares of fried wonton topped with small chunks of ahi tuna, mango, and avocado, and topped with a wasabi aioli. The tuna was nice and fresh and the wasabi sauce added a nice kick without being too spicy. It was very good, but very pricey for what I got.
The kid’s menu runs from $6.99 - $7.99 with drinks $1.99 extra. Pasta and pizza items come with a cheese toast slice while the mini-corn dogs, quarter chicken, mini-cheeseburger, popcorn shrimp, and dinosaur chicken nuggets come with a choice of side dish – either carrot sticks, chips, baked beans, cinnamon apples, Jell-o, mashed potatoes, or a whole, unpeeled banana. My older son ordered Cosmo’s Cheesy Macaroni and ate the whole thing, including the cheese toast. My younger son got Sly’s Slider – the mini-cheeseburger -- with a banana. He ate about half of both. Both boys loved the atmosphere and we had to walk around the entire restaurant with them while waiting for the food so they could see all of the dinosaurs and take pictures.
We didn't have room for dessert (plus my wallet was cringing) either time we went but they do have the signature Chocolate Extinction ($14.99) that looked huge and could probably feed a whole tableful of people. In the several that we saw carried past our table, it looked like four large pieces of chocolate cake, with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, and a sweeping fog covering the plate (courtesy of dry ice in a sealed container) to give it some prehistoric atmosphere.
Part of the experience of T-Rex is the gift shop, dino dig site (that's free!), and the Build-a-Dino store where kids can make dinosaur friends just like at their sister Build-a-Bear stores. I probably won't go back unless we have guests in town and they are big dinosaur fans.
Find out more here: T-Rex Cafe