Rainforest Cafe – Gurnee, IL
The main reason J and I were in Illinois this weekend was to do Christmas with my family. A few months ago, my brother had gotten a Groupon-like deal for Key Lime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort. He asked me if we wanted to go as well as my parents. We all said yes and since J is going to be just a few weeks from her due date at Christmas, we decided it’d be better to do it now than travel on Christmas.
Before heading to the hotel, my brother wanted to get lunch. Last time his family did this trip, they ate lunch at Rainforest Cafe. His two girls loved it, so they wanted to make that part of the trip this year as well.
Rainforest Cafe is located inside the Gurnee Mills Mall just off I-94 on Grand Avenue. There’s a large outside entrance for Rainforest which doesn’t actually lead directly in to the restaurant. It’s just a mall entrance, but it’s the closest to the restaurant and they have it done up with the same jungle theme that adorns the restaurant.
The rest of my family actually got to the mall about twenty minutes before J and I did. To kill time, they walked down to Bass Pro Shop, so that’s where we met them.
After rounding up the girls, we heading back to the restaurant. J was kind of worried about getting a table since it’s inside a large mall with just a few weeks to Christmas. To everyone’s surprise, the mall was not crazy packed and neither was the restaurant.
The jungle theme to Rainforest starts before you even walk in the door. The shared walls with the mall are all decorated and some of them are even open in to the restaurant.
The entrance has a hostess sitting in a large elephant. She asks how many then gives you a ticket that you have to take to the dining room. You have to walk through the large gift shop and through one of the many fish tanks to get to the spot where another person takes your ticket and shows you to a table.
The big thing at Rainforest Cafe is the atmosphere. My three-year-old, and 17-month-old niece had plenty to look at. We were actually seated at a table right in front of one of the large fish tanks, so there was that to keep them entertained. There were also “animals” mixed in to the vines and tress that covered the ceilings and walls. It really is a cool place and I was surprised by the enormity of the place.
I had kind of thought of starting with a drink and I know a non-pregnant J would have went for one of the specialty drinks, but that wasn’t happening today. Our drinks were a Sprite, a Coke, a Diet Coke, a couple Waters w/Lemon, a Raspberry Iced Tea, a Chocolate Milk, and an Apple Juice.
The menu is pretty standard casual dining chain. They didn’t have a lot that really jumped out at me, but they had the old standby’s. Of course, I ordered a burger. My dad and I both ordered the BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger. The 100% beef burger comes topped with the Smokin’ Mojo BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese, bacon, and a fried onion ring. It’s served on a toasted bun with chips or french fries for an extra buck. The burger was pretty average. I would call it safe. It was good, but nothing spectacular. The beef was cooked a little past medium and there wasn’t much BBQ sauce, but the bacon was crispy and the cheddar was melted into the meat to hold everything together. I gave my onion ring to J. The fries were skin on and cooked pretty crispy.
J was very intrigued by the salads and ordered the Calypso Salad. It was romaine and iceberg lettuce with baby greens that came topped with goat cheese, dried cranberries, strawberries, red onions, and caramelized pecans topped with their Paradise Balsamic vinaigrette dressing. She said the salad was delicious and really liked the creamy goat cheese with the dried cranberries. Her plate was pretty large and came with a large piece of foccacia bread which she also said was yummy.
My mom ordered the Fish-N-Chips. The flaky Cod is battered and fried then served with french fries, coleslaw, and tartar sauce. It still amazes me everytime my mom orders the Fish-N-Chips but she really seems to like it. I’m pretty sure she got extra coleslaw and tore through both servings. She’s trying to lay off fries, so she gave them to my dad and took a few of his potato chips instead.
My brother got the Philly Cheesesteak. Well, the Rainforest version of a Philly Cheese Steak. The toasted hoagie roll is stuffed with sliced beef, lettuce, tomato, Swiss, and Monterey Jack Cheese. I never asked him what he thought, but he cleaned his plate.
My sister-in-law actually shared with the two little ones. Between the two kids meal orders, they got chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese. I didn’t exactly see what my brother handed the waiter, but somehow, he had two coupons for free kids meals. Both girls ate what was given to them and my sister-in-law ate what they didn’t.
I do have to say the waiters/waitresses we encountered were all great. They deal with kids and tourists everyday and the guy we had was fantastic and very accommodating. At one point, the Mario Batali look-a-like came down to our end of the table and asked where everybody was from. When we said Kalamazoo, to our surprise, he said he just got back from a trip to Bell’s. Well, Bell’s, Arcadia, Dark Horse, and, his favorite, Founders. Always fun when we’re three hours from home in a different state and when we say we’re from Kalamazoo, the first thing someone says is Bell’s.
In reality, we only paid for five meals and drinks. The bill? $88! All of our meals were over $10 with my burger coming in at $14 with the fries. Absolutely not worth the price. The food was good, but waaaaay overpriced. You definitely pay for the atmosphere. With that said, it was a good place to take the kids. The girls loved it and we did all enjoy our meals. Once I did the math and realized that three people didn’t pay for their meals, my jaw dropped. Still, it’s a memory maker for my brother’s family. My niece was excited all week for “Raindeer Cafe” That’s what’s really important when dining at places like this.