It has been a while since I visited the Rainforest Café in the Ontario Mills Mall. One of the first things I noticed was that not much has changed—there are some minor things. For example, the tropical guide who introduced everyone to the animatronic alligator is not there any more. But the rest of the restaurant still is—the souvenir shop, the bar and the exotic walk-through salt-water fish aquarium.
And, of course, the stormy weather.
Every hour thunder and lightening rumble through the dining area. The elephants roar and the monkeys scream. It is quite a pageant. You could call it environmentalist dining. They call it a wild place to shop and eat.
It must be noted here that theme restaurants can wear thin quickly. Many, which I can think of, start to drop certain parts of the experience soon after they open. There was even a theory among certain themed chains that they could get away with mediocre food and service for the sake of the fun and games. That has proven tragically wrong.
Still, Rainforest Café has maintained what they presented when they opened in Ontario. The menu still has a number of wittily named food selections and drinks. They offer the Rumble in The Jungle Turkey Wrap, The China Island Chicken Salad, The Chime-Cha-cha and an equally creative number of fruity rum-based drinks.
(Warning: Beware of fruity rum-based drinks. Bring a designated driver with a taste for club soda.)
Lunch or dinner can be an event, whether you dine at the Ontario Mills Mall, Downtown Disneyland or the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (which is a two-story wonder).
My last visit to these three locations was back in 2007, but they are still there and I am happy to report that the servings are still generous and the wait staff is still happy to be of service. You cannot taste service but it can make all of the difference when you dine out.
OK, this may not be elegant dining. I didn’t even ask if they had a wine selection. But they do offer a good time that can be ideal for family outings, group parties or just a chance to break away from the grind of mall combat shopping during the holidays.
The story of how the Rainforest Café came to be is remarkable in itself. The original owner had come up with a “wild” idea for a restaurant and went in search of backers for the enterprise. In order to sell them on his vision, he painted his living room black and added the animals and effects to give his money people a true taste of his proposal.
I honestly do not know if that is true or just a form of urban legend, but it makes a great tale.
One last point. It may mean nothing to you, but I had to stop in the souvenir shop and by a t-shirt and coffee cup. They both had a giant lion’s head wearing a set of headphones. You could say I heard them calling me. They may not be calling you, but if you are in the market for a full meal and a fun dining experience without video games and yards of tickets to exchange for toys, this is a place for the family. Besides, the thunder drowns out the sound of screaming kids.
Ontario’s Rainforest Café is in the southeast corner of the Mills Mall at 4810 Mills Circle, Ontario, CA.