Rainforest Cafe – San Francisco

volcano.jpgRainforest Cafe is an international chain of themed restaurants which feature a jungle-like atmosphere with large and pretty realistic looking animatronics. I’ve only been to the San Francisco branch, both times during a slow time, and I found the restaurant sort of sad. It’s pretty dark and it reminded me of the dining area at the zoo, soon before it closes.

The first time I went to the Rainforest Cafe in San Francisco was last March, when Desiree and her kids joined my kids and I on a ferry trip from Jack London Square to Pier 41. We ate at Boudin, but we toured the Cafe to please the kids. They liked it, and I thought that we should probably eat there next time we were in the area. The opportunity presented itself yesterday when my father and sister were visiting from L.A., and I decided to repeat the ferry trip from last March. Mika insisted that we go there and I saw no reason why not to. My dad, who’d been there before, did say the food wasn’t very good, but I am an optimist. The Rainforest Cafe made it clear that I shouldn’t be one.

The menu at the Rainforest Cafe features typical American restaurant food, burgers, pastas, wraps, pizzas and meats. Prices are pretty high, with appetizers averaging about $10 and main dishes in the high teens to twenties. Children dishes, which don’t include either drinks or dessert, are about $7. The place ain’t cheap.

We weren’t terribly hungry – I’d actually eaten before we left – so daddy and Kathy split the fried mozzarella sticks and the buffalo wings while Mika had the pasta marinara. Neither the cheese nor the wings were special, the wings were a bit spicy but otherwise unmemorable. The pasta – penne – was very unwieldly for a 6 yo (she ended up getting most of it over her shirt) and innocuous enough. The portions were in the small side, considering the prices.
I wanted to try “The Volcano”, their signature dessert ($15), and I was also disappointed. The dessert consists of a mass of ice cream shaped in the form of a pyramid and sided by large slabs of brownie. Chocolate and caramel syrups complete the effect. The description (and price!) suggests that it’s large enough for 2 or more people to share. Three adults and three kids couldn’t finish it at our table – it’s really immense. It’s also not that great. The vanilla ice cream is generic, the brownie could be chewier and more chocolaty, and the sauces could have stronger flavors. I can only speculate that the problem is the lack of quality ingredients – so much money has gone into building the restaurant, that there can’t be much left for the actual food.

The waiters, at least, were trying. Ours overheard my sister say it was my birthday and he brought me a complimentary ice cream sundae (just what I needed). They also sang me happy birthday. Yes, I was mortified. The kids enjoyed it, though.

In all, given the quality of the food and the prices, I’d avoid the Rainforest Cafe if I was you. You can, however, go and tour the place, have your kids see the animals, and avoid the food.

The Rainforest Cafe
145 Jefferson St # 400
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 440-5610

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