With so many friends and family escaping the cold this winter, I’m often asked for dining suggestions in Orlando, Florida. Now normally, if you’re staying at the Walt Disney World Resort, I’d say just break bread at one of their fabulous, kid-friendly restaurants. They have a variety of themes and cuisines to suit every taste, and in fact are very reasonably priced for families of four.
(If you’re on a budget, you can try the quick-service restaurants – however, while easy on the wallet, they’re not-so-easy on the waistline, offering heavily greasy, heavily portioned food.)
Of course, whether you’re staying on- or off-resort, there’s one dining option that is always a treat for the whole family: T-REX Cafe in Downtown Disney.
I had the pleasure of visiting T-REX Cafe last year during a Visit Orlando media trip, and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience from start to finish. However, it occurred to me this morning that for all the times I’ve recommended the restaurant to family and friends, I haven’t written an official review! But first –
Why It’s a ROAR:
1) Squawking pterosaurs, wooly mammoths, a massive undulating octopus and life-sized animatronic dinosaurs – including a 15-foot-tall T. Rex – make for a roaring good time.
2) Dine on family-friendly American favorites beneath luminescent jellyfish or inside the midsection of a triceratops! Every 20 minutes or so, witness a meteor shower complete with rumbling and fiery “explosions.”
3) From salads to steaks, tear into tasty tectonic plates that every creature in your family will enjoy. Brought to you by the same folks behind Rainforest Café, T-REX features family-friendly fare sure to please herbivores, omnivores and carnivores alike.
4) Visit the Paleo Zone, a hands-on experience where you can dig for hidden dinosaur fossils, pan for precious treasures in Discovery Creek and learn more about “the time before time” through interactive displays.
5) Parking is complimentary at the Downtown Disney area, so even if you’re staying off-resort, you can drive in to enjoy a feast for the senses. Then, stay awhile and explore the Downtown Disney area, where world-class restaurants, dazzling entertainment and unique shops line the waterfront.
When I first learned that we would be dining at T-REX Cafe, I had high expectations for the experience. After all, attaching ones restaurant with the Disney brand is almost an assurance of excellence, and judging by the mile-long stand-by lineup, I can only attest that they’re on to something magical. (Two words: Make Reservations)
With themed rooms depicting diverse primordial landscapes, including a color-changing ice cavern and a fern forest buzzing with giant wasps, you can spend ages wandering from area to area. Our table was situated in front of the most splendid aquarium, which provided visual distraction for the kids and helped ease boredom between courses.
I started my meal with a Caveman Punch, available in a keepsake glass. A mixture of “Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, Banana Liqueur, DeKuyper Peachtree Schnapps and Tropical Fruit Juices” was just what the doctor ordered after a long day of delayed flights and Orlando rush-hour traffic. Cheers!
Now if I had high expectations for the experience, I wasn’t so optimistic about the food. After all, it’s “American fare”, which to me, normally translates to bland, over-processed food. However, when my dish arrived, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I truly enjoyed my meal. Colour me impressed! I dined on Mammoth Mushroom Ravioli, simmered in a rich lobster cream sauce with Roma tomatoes and fresh spinach. To die for? And then some.
If you can catch one of the specials – the Carnivore Platter – get ready to feast on saucy baby back ribs and tender rotisserie chicken. The portion sizes live up to the hype of a dinosaur-themed restaurant.
The kids menu is chock full of variety, with almost all meals priced at $6.99. Options include Paleo Pizza, Lava Lasagna, Jurassic Chicken Tidbits and ever-popular Prehistoric Pop’n Shrimp. Both boys opted for the Chicken Tidbits and seemed to enjoy it, requiring only 3-4 reminders to finish up (they usually require about 10).
For the ambiance, quality of food and service, and entertainment extras, I give the T-REX Cafe two thumbs up. ROAR!