I had the chance to visit the newly opened T-Rex Restaurant at WDW's downtown Disney.
I was very much looking forward to see this place as I was pleasantly surprised by what I had seen from the outside days before the grand opening.
Tonight, I returned in hopes that the place and food would live up to it's anticipated hoopla.
I was disappointed. Not by the decor nor the food, mind you, but by the ambiance.
T-Rex definitely aims for a very elaborate themed experience... and it nearly delivers that. The building itself has very nice artistic touches, with bushes, rock formations and even a nicely themed waterfall that sadly faces the parking lot. Not all is wonderful here, as many areas of the building look like a plain old painted wall similar to the same treatment that DL's Indy or IOA's Jurassic Park''s backsides got with the tall barrier walls facing public areas. So no.. not all the decor is 100% wonderful.
The front entrance features a very nice dino-bones structure and an unnecesary sand trap for kids to go barefoot and play along. Think of this as T-Rex's way of entertaining the brats the way McDonald's next door failed too. Yes, folks, there are McD's with NO play areas in this World... shocking!
Inside T-Rex, I have to admit, the theming was more interesting and elaborate. While the jurassic decor rules.. I do like the distint look of some of the areas... such as what appeared to be the ice age room in the back of the restaurant itself. The bar area however seems disjointed with an underwater look featuring jelly fish and a giant optopus.. Honestly? it screams "overpriced Sushi Bar" to me, without the seafood. The gift shop has an interesting decor that is reminicent of that giant meteor theory that may have killed the dinos way back when.. Further into the gift show is another unnecesary kiddy area of merchandise geared towards the little ones. At this point I was beginning to sense that the place was yet another attempt to attract kids with parents who like to overspend on their vacation. BTW... the merchandise itself..? nothing special. Like it's sister restaurant at the other end of the Village, the merchanside has that generic dino feel, with your obligatory logo tees and such other gadgets and gizmos. Think overpriced Discovery Channel store. Then there are the line of T-Rex characters they are out to sell... like Trixie the dino..
Little things did call my attention.. one of the details that I found interesting, yet had no purpose... was the points of laser lights that project what appear to be small ants walking on the rocky surface above the backside of the gift shop.. For a moment I was mesmerized looking at it as if it was bugs crawling on the rocks. I do not think anyone else noticed that.
In the big things that did call my attention... they do have AA dinos in most areas inside the facility but most focal was the T-Rex that sits just inside the doors. It's roars and nods its head as if it was in attack mode. Those are required touches to bring the theme to life.. but honestly, I felt these AA dinos have nothing on the 26 yrs old dino AA's at Universe of Energy. They are not Disney quality, but I did not expect that in a place not run by Disney. Think Jurassic Park the ride AAs in a restaurant setting.
The Food: I can not comment on this. I was willing to wait the 90 mins for a table and try some of the little menus items.. like the T-rexadillas, Layers of the Earth Lasagna, and many other diner joint food options with cutesy names like that. I was not impressed with many of the menu choices and it didn't help the menu sign did not fit well in the frame that holds it outside the place, but just pouring down the menu list, it became apparent to me this is an overpriced tourist trap/diner-quality joint. Not necesarily the place for a special dinner night out. However, I was willing to give it a try, and after reserving a time slot to seat down and eat, just 10 mins. into my wait time to be seated, I just could not take it anymore.. and you may ask.. What did you TDLFAN could not take anymore??
Glad you asked!!
THE NOISE!! From the moment I was within 100 feet of the building's front side and the entire time that I spent inside T-Rex's gift shop... relentless and constant announcements of "parties of X number of people.. your expedition is about to embark" just drove me nuts! The screechy female voice was so so so so so loud inside that building and so so so so frequent.. my ears were in pain and I just could not take it anymore. Nearby, I found a manager whom I approached and told him that the theme in the place was very nice but the constant noise of the PA announcements made it unbearable... and that was "something you guys need to work on resolving as it destroys the mood of the place". Of course, his polite answer was to thank me for the comment and that he would "look into it". I expect no changes there and as long as they continue using that loud PA system, I doubt that I will ever eat there, much less shop. One more thing, I hope Disney realizes the place is too busy and the bushes outside the building will get destroyed by bored families who are now using them grassy areas as waiting areas for T-Rex.
So my initial impressions are positive in regards to the decoration and theming of the place. Everything looked nice both inside and outside the building, even with the faux-pas flat walls outside the building itself.. but that is only because everything themed on the building is totally brand new. However, they will need to keep maintaining the props as with the weather in Orlando, I can see these dino props covered in mildew by late next year... so I hope they are up to that challenge, or else, T-Rex will look like crap soon.
Still, due to all of that noise I experienced today.. I can not recommend this place for a long term visit, such as having dinner. It's besides me why they can not offer those vibrating remotes to advise parties when their sitting time has come, instead opting to scream over a loudspeaker.. and trust me it does NOTHING to add to the overall theming of the place. I have also commented on this problem in regards to Rainforest Cafe.
Maybe sometime, I will get the chance to eat there and change my mind but in the meantime...
..TDLFAN rates T-Rex Restaurant: 2** and a half stars out of 5.
One more thing... do yourself a favor and do not try finding a parking space close to T-Rex at busy times such as friday evening... you will not find one. Better park at the other side of Cirque Du Soleil and walk over...and if you are lucky, you may choose to do another restaurant in the west side area of DTD... which are better places to eat anyways, that is.. if you do not mind overpaying.