Our first evening at Disney, before we even got to the parks, began with a dinner at T-REX. If you’ve ever been to Rainforest Cafe, this is the same restaurant, except rather than a rainforest theme we find a prehistoric dinosaur theme. For those that don’t know about either place, these themed family restaurants have extravagant décor overtaking the interior, include large food portions at moderate prices, and are really geared towards the kids. Once we get inside you’ll understand how far they go to fulfill their particular themes.
To start, T-REX is located outside the parks, in Downtown Disney. The entire restaurant is built to look like a chunk of a mountain.
It’s complete with rock, vegetation, and even an enormous dinosaur skeleton stands over the front.
The sign over the entrance describes the experience as “ A Prehistoric Family Adventure.” This is more than just a restaurant, and it includes a bar and a gift shop well.
We were here on a Sunday evening right at prime dinner time, 6:00. We had a reservation which helped reduce the wait, but it still took about twenty minutes until we were seated.
Immediately inside the opening to the cave that is the restaurant’s entrance, stanchions mark the area where the line needs to form for those waiting on a table. Reservation or not, this is Disney, you always have to wait in line. We waited until we could tell the host we’d arrived, and then were given a pager to notify us when our table was ready. We chose to stay put even with the pager in hand because the crowds made it difficult to get around.
On one side of where we stood was the gift shop.
Not one inch of space is wasted anywhere inside this building. Looking up towards the ceiling, it appears you’re on meteor, looking into our solar system. With stars and planets above, and the peaks of the rocky terrain just below.
The floor area is littered with the typical gift shop shelves and racks. Among them are lifelike dinosaurs, trees, and other vegetation.
The dinosaur theme is even built into the store racks, with the supports looking like arching rib bones.
If the store wasn’t visually busy enough, looking the other direction was the bar area.
This entire section is bathed in colored lighting, that varies in different shades of blues and purples. A giant octopus hangs over the area. The bar itself is internally lit with a light ocean blue color, and in the center is a giant aquarium.
This closeup of one section of the wall shows how literally no spot goes undecorated, whether by objects, colors, or lighting. This carries on throughout every section of the restaurant.
Large animatronic dinosaurs are everywhere. This section represents rocky, mountainous terrain with a glacier nearby (the large purple area in the back). Even the glacier is a dining section.
This is an inside view of that “glacier.” These photos were taken while it was purple, but the lighting color changed over time.
One member of the family we were dining with said they sat in there once, and the lighting really messed with their perception of the colors of the food. I can imagine this being uncomfortable for certain people that find it important for the food they’re eating to be the correct color.
This is where my party sat. It resembles a jungle atmosphere, making it very similar to what you find throughout the Rainforest Cafe.
Just like Rainforest Cafe, every thirty minutes the main lights dim, while strobes flash in the background and thunder claps from the sound system, simulating a thunderstorm. Photos can’t convey the experience, but it’s important to know that it can get a little loud during this time depending on your table’s position to the speakers. The overall atmosphere is quite noisy, from the cavernous space, to the large number of people dining inside. It might be too noisy, or even scary for very young children, but it’s built for them specifically so don’t avoid the place for that reason alone.
There’s incredible amounts of detail with the physical aspects of the building, and even though it’s a privately owned business, it’s designed as if the Disney imagineers were involved. Of course, even if the atmosphere is special, that’s not why we’re here. Let’s get eating.
The first page of the menu has your appetizers, salads, and soups.
Prices are a fairly high, but portion sizes help relieve the pain a little. After that, you’re paying a little extra for something you get at many Disney restaurants, the unique dining experience.
The next page has the meat dishes and sides.
Here you find a few pasta choices, along with burgers and sandwiches.
Finally we come upon the seafood dishes and at the bottom, the desserts.
Our dining partners started with the Footprints Flatbread.
The $15.99 appetizer is a size that would equate to a small pizza from your common chains. It’s divided into nine square slices, and for the average person would be considered enough for three or four people as an appetizer.
The flatbread was soft in the middle, while having nice crispy edges. It had vast amounts of chicken spread around, and large quantities of basil that gave a nice flavor.
Among the usual cheddar, mozarella, and Parmesan cheeses, there was also the addition of Goat cheese. This was the cheese that stood out the most with its unique taste. Any bites without any Goat cheese and balsamic glaze tasted just like a normal chicken pizza.
The times when I got a helping of Goat cheese and balsamic, the taste was more special than just pizza. The balsamic glaze had a noticeable sweet taste, which contrasted nicely with the salty cheeses.
I sampled three of these squares along with my own appetizer. I usually don’t order flatbread in restaurants, but may reconsider after realizing they can be quite different from your standard pizza.
The appetizer my wife and I ordered was the Dexter’s Dual Dip.
As the name implies, it’s two different dips that come with “tri-colored tortilla chips.” I may be lost on the multi-colored chips concept, but they all taste the same to me. I feel the colors are just about the “fun factor” with this restaurant. This is a case where the $10.49 price tag may be justified. You can see that each of the two bowls of dip are the standard size you might find on any other restaurant’s menu. This is really two appetizers for $5.25 each.
The Chili Con Queso Dip looked like a melted cheddar with its orange hue.
The cheese alone was nothing unique. It was the same as you’ll find at your local Mexican restaurant. It did have some red and green onion mixed in for added flavor. The red onion made a big difference with the bite it added to the more mild cheese. As someone with a low tolerance for spicy foods, I can’t say I even noticed a hint of chili or anything else remotely spicy.
The Shrimp & Artichoke Dip was a different story. It had an overall sweet flavor, with saltiness also apparent from the cheese and shrimp.
Visually, you can see it was loaded with shrimp, and the taste couldn’t be avoided. Oddly, it had an aroma that was very similar to clam chowder, just with shrimp instead. Seeing that I love clam chowder, it was quite enjoyable to me.
The included chips were a little disappointing. They weren’t fresh and crisp, but rather a little soggy. The dips were a decent value and are probably worth a future purchase. There were hits and misses between the two, but overall it wasn’t too bad of an appetizer.
I always like seeing the word buffet on a menu, so naturally I had to try the Boneyard Buffet.
It combines two other entrées, the Fire-Roasted Rotisserie Chicken and the Mega Mes-O-Bones, with waffle fries and another side of your choice. I personally picked the Red Skinned Garlic Mashed Potatoes as my additional side.
The potatoes can’t be seen here, they are buried underneath the chicken and some waffle fries.
I found the potatoes to be a bit dry. The flavor was great however, and the taste of garlic was strong. The skins were kept in, and even though it doesn’t affect the taste for me, I like knowing that the extra nutrients were kept intact. I’m not here to eat healthy, but if they’re going to add a little extra nutrition without altering flavor, I’m all for it.
The skin on the chicken was excellent. It was well seasoned with several herbs and spices.
Unfortunately, once I was past the skin my initial bites of the chicken were really dry. Then as I got deeper into the middle, some moisture had been retained in the meat.
As is common, the dark meat as a whole was juicier than the white meat. The chicken was cooked in a standard rotisserie fashion, so it wasn’t smoked or flavored in any way on the inside.
The ribs also happened to be way too dry for my liking. This was the biggest letdown.
I usually have high hopes for fall-off-the-bone ribs. This was not happening tonight. It did help that as I made my way from one end of the rib to the other, the fat content increased, bringing a little more moistness to each bite. I don’t have a cross section to view, but they had the appearance of food that had sat under a heat lamp for a while. They certainly weren’t fresh out of the cooker.
The waffle fries were very crispy, almost too much so. They tasted fine, and were seasoned similar to many other fries at these types of establishments. I just don’t like them so crisp that they break when I try to stick a fork in them.
The entire entrée was not an pleasant experience. There were dry meats and potatoes, overly crispy fries, and a general lack of flavoring in most everything. The whole dish felt as if it had sat under a heat lamp, keeping it warm and drying it out as we waited the 20 minutes for the table’s food to be served. Contrary to the wait, the food almost seemed rushed in the way it was prepared and plated. It had a real semblance of cafeteria food, and that upsets me when I’m spending $27.99. I expect more for that price.
Now for the grand finale. The $16.99 Chocolate Extinction.
Impersonating a volcano, the centerpiece is an erupting red container that spews carbon dioxide gas from the boiling dry ice inside. Wrapped around this eruption are four sides of a mountain made out of fudge cake. These alternate with scoops of ice cream topped with almost equally large scoops of whipped topping. The entire platter, and yes this is a dessert platter, is drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauces and then sprinkled with crumbled Butterfinger®.
The fudge cake was denser than average. It was about half way to being a brownie. I found it a bit dry, but the abundant quantity of caramel holding the two sides together helped to moisten it. When eaten with the adjoining ice cream, dryness really wasn’t an issue.
Mixed in with the caramel “glue” were Butterfinger® crumbles. I loved the powerful crunch blending with the smoothness of the fudge cake. The fudge name is deserved, as the cake had a solid chocolate flavor. The cake could almost hold its own, but mix it with the next ingredient and everything changes.
Chocolate and vanilla have gone together since long ago in history. Four scoops of vanilla ice cream paired up with each of the four cake pieces to offer that classic combination.
Each scoop was capped with whipped topping and drizzled with chocolate sauce. The ice cream had a strong vanilla flavor so it didn’t disappear under any of the stronger flavors of chocolate and caramel.
The whipped topping was a thick, seemingly oil based topping, but taste wise it seemed like it could have been cream based. Honestly, if I couldn’t tell for sure, then apparently it was good enough for my dessert.
It did taste great, and added yet another texture to the mix with its creaminess. The whipped topping was covered with additional Butterfinger® crumbles.
The volcano smoke was just for show, but it fit in perfectly with the family theme here at T-REX.
Kids eat this up, and there were more than enough sweet favors around the volcano that literally could be eaten up.
There were so many great combinations of flavors and textures from the soft chocolate cake, smooth vanilla ice cream, crunchy Butterfinger® toffee, creamy whipped topping, and liquid caramel. To top it off, it was all put together in a visually stunning mystical (or “mist”-ical) visual treat. I may have found the cake to be less than appealing, but there were more than enough other ingredients to make up for what it was lacking. As a whole, the Chocolate Extinction dessert was gratifying and as a bonus it didn’t lack in quantity either. This was a very large platter of food and I have to admit that I struggled a little to finish it, but enjoyed every minute accomplishing that.
After visiting Rainforest Cafe once before, and now T-REX, I feel that even though the larger portion sizes put a dent in the distance between food quality and price, it’s still tough to justify the amount they charge. The majority of the food is sub par, most of it tasting as if it were made at an earlier time and sat under heating lamps until dumped on the plate, not appearing freshly cooked. That being said, the real highlight to T-REX is the atmosphere. This is the only restaurant I’ve reviewed so far that has an atmosphere that alone can hold the business up. If you have kids, then this is the place for them. There is so much going on visually, that the kids can be mildly entertained from just the décor. Top that off with the animated creatures, and the occasional simulated thunderstorm, and the children have have a fun and memorable meal. I feel anyone with kids should try this at least once. Those without could probably do just fine avoiding this chain.