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Downtown Disney spotlight: T-Rex and Characters in Flight

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Published: June 19, 2010 at 7:01 PM

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida - After three intense days at Universal Orlando for the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, my parents and I drove over to Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney for lunch.

We ate at T-Rex, one of the few Downtown Disney restaurants none of us had eaten at before.

T-Rex at Downtown Disney

T-Rex is a Landry restaurant, the same company that owns and operates Rainforest Cafe. Which isn't surprising, given that T-Rex is essentially a carbon copy of Rainforest Cafe, except with dinosaurs rather than jungle animals.

A T-Rex at T-Rex

The menu is similarly expansive, heavy on the meat. Nevertheless, I went with a fish dish, the Mesozoic Mahi Mahi: a filet of panko-crusted mahi mahi, served with a sweet and sour sauce, wild rice and roasted vegetables, including green beans, carrots, zucchini and peppers, for $23.99. (Apparently, T-Rex recently dropped the price $1, but replaced a shrimp topping and lemon shallot butter sauce with the sweet and sour sauce. It also changed the breading from a Parmesan crust to the Japanese breadcrumbs.)

Unless you're talking fish n' chips, fish doesn't need breading. Like a good steak, a fish filet's best when prepared simply - just grill or saute it. The sweet and sour sauce didn't add much to the fish, though I wish I saw roasted red peppers offered at restaurants more often. They're a yummy side dish.

Mesozoic Mahi Mahi

My mother selected the Lost World Chicken Salad Sandwich, a pulled rotisserie chicken in mayonnaise with celery, onions, almonds and tarragon. It's served on a croissant, with potato chips for $13.99.

I found the chicken salad to have an off, perfumey flavor that kept me from trying more than one bite. Typically, I love tarragon, but in combination with the other flavors here, well, it just didn't work for me.

Unless you've got a kid who's a dinosaur fan, in which case you're likely to end up here at some point during your Walt Disney World vacation, there's no reason to seek out T-Rex. You can find much better food elsewhere on property, often at less cost.

After lunch, we walked over to West Side for a trip on Characters in Flight, the immense helium (not hot air!) balloon that floats 400 feet over Walt Disney World.

Characters in Flight at Walt Disney World

The 10-minute up-and-down trip costs $18 for adults and $12 for kids, ages 3-9. I wouldn't recommend the trip for anyone too short to see over the handrails, so skip it if you've got kids under 8 in your group. Nor will this ride appeal to anyone with a fear of heights, even if it's a mild case. You're in a real balloon here, so don't expect the stability you get riding something such as SeaWorld's observation tower. You feel even the gentlest breezes here.

Epcot, from the air

That's Epcot, above. And here's a shot of Downtown Disney:

Downtown Disney

On a clear day, the views are lovely. Are they worth the extra cost? I'll leave that to you. But if you've never been up in a balloon before, this is an easy, visually rewarding way to do that.

Readers' Opinions

From Anthony Murphy on June 19, 2010 at 9:52 PM
All I know is every time that I have gone to T Rex, my family loved the food! Then again, it is expensive!

Lucky you getting on Characters in Flight. It always seems to be down due to potental weather!

From James Rao on June 19, 2010 at 10:02 PM
The first T-Rex opened right here in Kansas City (on the Kansas side - not Missouri) a few years back. While I have always loved the exquisite theming, the food is an overly expensive and uninteresting disappointment. I just don't understand why Landry's will invest so much into the dinos, and so little into the food. And I totally agree with you, Robert, about that "off, perfumey flavor", as it seems to permeate most of the entrees I have tasted.

Anyway, whenever we visit now it is just for dessert, which even the weakest of kitchens has a hard time screwing up completely!

From 97.100.86.125 on June 20, 2010 at 3:37 AM
It's interesting to note that (because he was in the neighborhood) Robert (whose prime objective was to see Potter) spent a day down the street at Disney.

It's safe to assume that will happen again and again -- people who travel to Florida to see Potter will no doubt eamark time for Disney as well.

"What's good for tourism and entertainment is goof for Central Florida."

From Thomas Caselli on June 20, 2010 at 7:46 AM
My friend and I went to T-Rex last June. I thought the food was very good. That is the only time that I have been to T-Rex, although I have been to Rainforest Cafe many times. I have never had a problem with the food at Rainforest Cafe, always very good to me. When we were there last June, the balloon wasn't up and running.
From Joshua Counsil on June 20, 2010 at 7:31 PM
I tend to avoid dining establishments that have been poorly reviewed by every single travel book I've read. I never have, and never will, eat at a Rainforest Cafe or T-Rex.

Surprisingly, Downtown Disney and CityWalk have pretty mediocre restaurants with a few exceptions (e.g., Raglan Road, Emeril's). Meanwhile, excellent fare can be found at their resort hotels, but some people don't want to travel out of the way to get to a good restaurant. I really think both resorts' dining/shopping/partying districts could use a high-end dining experience.

From hannah caller on June 21, 2010 at 3:10 AM
Me and my family ate at T-Rex in January, i opted for the colossal Nacho's from the appitizer menu for my meal it was nice but not as nice as any meal i'd had at the Rainforest, the colour of the nachos also put me off a little, as well as the usual colour they were red and black and my brain was telling me there was something sinister about eating nacho's of that colour lol, everyone elses meal was standard but nothing special, the cocktails on the other hand were amazing, as an adult i'd recommend checking out the bar but not the food!
From Nick Dakuginow on June 21, 2010 at 8:16 AM
T-Rex was a nice environment and had pretty good food. I believe I had the Chicken Fried Steak which was phenomenal and I too had those nachos noted before me, which were very good as well. A very crowded place with kids running all around, still an enjoyable experience.
From luis gonzalez on June 21, 2010 at 1:00 PM
T-rex is pretty much overpriced crap. If your going to spend the money, go to maggiano's on I-drive, or fulton's crab house, or wolfgang's. Take it from me, I've eaten everywhere.

WORD to your stomach!!!!!!!!

From 74.233.169.14 on June 21, 2010 at 1:04 PM
My wife and I dined at the T-Rex Cafe in Downtown Disney for our 5th wedding anniversary. We had never eaten there, but had been to the Rainforest Cafe on several occasions, and thought we'd give the T-Rex a shot. We were very happy with our seats, as we were right next to the Triceratops. The food was very good, and the price is not bad considering the theming and the location.

Overall, I would recommend T-Rex for anyone who likes dinosuars, and good food.

From Manny Barron on June 22, 2010 at 12:26 PM
Ate at T-Rex last week. I found the food to be delicious although portions were small. Theming is Rainforest Cafeish with Dino's. Overall i liked it and would visit again.

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