Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day @ Rainforest Cafe

For our Valentine's dinner this year, we considered splurging on a multi-course, totally local dinner on the farm... but decided that given the economy, we'd stick to something more economical - but still fun.

In the morning, we exchanged modest gifts (Dan surprised me with an emptied box of chocolates that he filled with all the money we got from turning in our coins, and I made him a handmade card). Then after our usual Saturday business (farmers market, baking muffins), we got dressed up and headed to Southcenter Mall for dinner at The Rainforest Cafe.

We didn't get a reservation (though you can), and found there was an hour wait for a table when we arrived at a little past 5pm. But because their usual demographic is parents with kids, the bar (which sits under two giant mushrooms) was practically a ghost town. A few people were sitting at the bar itself (in stools that look like the lower half of animals) and a few at tables, but there was a lot of space - even on a busy Saturday night. So while we waited for our table, we sat at the bar and enjoyed a cocktail - and a bit of conversation with our very friendly waiter.

Dan started with the Panama Punch (Bacardi 151, Myer's Rum, Peach Schnapps, Banana Liqueur, Creme de Cassis, Orange Juice & Pineapple Juice), which our bartender let him know was the strongest drink they had. I opted for the Rainbow Colada, which he joked was the wussiest drink (Captain Morgan's blended with Strawberry, Banana, Pina Colada mix, and Pineapple Juice). It tasted like a fruit smoothie, and was pretty wussy - but still tasty.

Right at the time they indicated, our table became ready, and we passed under a beautiful tropical fish tank and were seated in the Gorilla area - where a family of Mountain Gorillas come to life every 15 minutes or so. (In addition, the entire restaurant goes into full thunder & lightning storm mode about every half hour, with all sorts of animals coming to life.

We'd read some horror stories in online reviews of the place, claiming high prices and bad service. But our waitress, Carly, was wonderful. She was genuinely friendly and attentive, without being unnaturally perky, and took wonderful care of us - even wishing us a Happy Valentine's Day at the end of the night. And the prices were exactly what I would expect at a chain restaurant with so much invested in the decor.

With dinner, Dan had another Punch, while I ordered the Mongoose Mai Tai (Malibu Rum, Myer's Rum, Creme de Noyaux, OJ and Pineapple Juice), each just $6.99.
Our drinks were $6.99 each. My entree was a Blue Mountain Chicken Sandwich for just $11.99, which came with chips (fries, soup or salad would be extra). Dan went with the Pastalaya - a apparently tasty blending of Pasta noodles with Jumbalaya ingredients, including shrimp and sausage - for $17.49.

We ate light all day, and saved a little 'room' for dessert - because we couldn't resist the Sparkling Volcano ($13.99). This behemoth dessert features big scoops of ice cream underneath a volcano made of slabs of brownie with caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, and a big glob of whipped cream on top - served with a lit sparkler in the top. It was plenty of dessert for four, let alone two, so we didn't come close to finishing it, but it was a wonderful end to a great meal.

Afterwards, we met up with friends at a bar to wish our good friend Spencer a happy 30th birthday - and the usual response when people found out we went to Rainforest Cafe was 'Why?'. Given that, I thought I'd explain it's appeal to Dan & I. Chain restaurants, especially such overtly thematic ones, remind Dan & I of being on vacation. Not only did our childhood vacations often include theme restaurants, but when you walk into a place like Rainforest Cafe you feel transported to another place. It's easy to forget you're in Tukwila when there's a giant butterfly flapping on the wall, rain falling from the sky, and every menu item has a thematic name. With the economy as it is, the 'staycation' is on the rise, and I highly recommend a 'staycation' at The Rainforest Cafe. When the Light Rail starts up in a few months, we hope to drag a crowd down with us for drinks in the mushroom bar - just be careful with those Panama Punches.

Rainforest Cafe on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

a-worry-a-day said...

Well said. I think the response should be 'why not?' as the Rainforest Cafe is a terrific exercise in old fashioned fun!