Tuesday night we made it over to Downtown Disney’s Marketplace to experience “T-Rex” the latest addition to the food and entertainment options. Lines were long, but moved fast as guests were entered into a virtual queue to wait for their tables. Inside the place was loud, but everything seemed surprisingly well run for the first night open to the public.
T-Rex, developed by Schussler Creative, Inc. and operated by Landry’s Restaurants, Inc., features dining and retail in a 30,000-square-foot, 600-seat, family-friendly interactive prehistoric environment. The concept is built around water, fire and ice: Guests are greeted with life-size animatronic dinosaurs among cascading waterfalls, bubbling geysers, a fossil dig site and much more.
Invevitably T-Rex will be compared to the Rainforest Cafe, another concept from Schussler Creative. The food selections, although named according to the theme, were surprisingly similar to what you could find at Rainforest Cafe. We found the food to be just a notch above Rainforest in quality and the portions just a bit smaller. The general feeling at our table was that it was a good value for what you got.
We were seated in the absolute busiest part of the restaurant. Everyone walking in had to pass right by our table. It was distracting at times, but you never feel like you’re in a factory instead of a restaurant. A word of advice, don’t let yourself be seated in the Ice Cave. The blue light makes it difficult to read your menu and all the food looks gray under it. Not very appetizing.
The whole place was very loud. Much louder than Rainforest normally is. If I had a child that was upset by loud noises or flashing lights, I would avoid this restaurant.
Decorated as it is for the Dinosaur set, there are plenty of photo opportunities with giant creatures. However, the way the themes but right up against each other was a bit odd.
For instance, I have no idea what the solar system over the store area has to do with the theme of this place. Unless it’s a subtle reminder that humanity is fragile and a single meteor shower could wipe out all life once again. That’s a comforting thought to dine to.
Here’s another comparison to Rainforest Cafe. When you go to Rainforest Cafe, you feel like you’re actually in the rain forest and all the animatroic devices are well hidden. Even the wires, cables, lights sprinklers are hidden too. Whereas at T-Rex, all that is clearly visible. So the verisimilitude is missing. This makes you feel like you’re at a restaurant instead of adventuring with Dinosaurs.
Apparently they spent $35 million on this place but were unable to afford a few dollars to hide the lights and cables. Too bad. It gives the atmosphere more of a kitschy carnival feeling and I think the guests react accordingly.
The end result is our five year old has no desire to return. That’s pretty much their target market. However, judging by the lines and the uniqueness of the audience (mostly one time visitors), I don’t think they’ll be hurting for business. Plus Downtown Disney really needed the extra dining seats.
So all in all I’m glad to see it finally open. Lot’s more photos over on Flickr.