My wife took our son Avery “Lil Ace” Goodtimes to Atlantic City one day a few months ago while I was working, and she couldn’t quit talking about the Rainforest Cafe. They had walked in for just a quick look inside and Avery had been kind of spellbound by it. So I decided that we’d go there for Mother’s Day. It was gonna be nice out, so a brunch at a Rainforest Cafe and a walk on the Boardwalk seemed like a lot of fun.
We got into AC, where I haven’t been in quite some time, and I gotta say, it’s a pretty decent deal. Parking was just $10 all day, less than a block from the boardwalk! So we walked down to the beach, where Lil Ace ran wild in the sand for awhile, then walked down the Boardwalk. We were near a Guy Fieri BBQ restaurant at one of the casinos, which is unfortunately right next to the AC Korean War Memorial. Avery loves statues, so we walked over to the memorial. I’m glad I didn’t lose any relatives in that war, because hearing “Who’s ready for some lip smackin, rib ticklin’ BBQ?!!” over a loudspeaker on repeat makes it really hard to give the whole War Memorial anything other than a surreal quality. He might as well, say, “We want to honor all of the heroes at the Battle of Flavortown! Oh yeah!”
We headed into the Rainforest Cafe, and it was quite an experience. I had thought there would be like live birds and shit in there, but it wasn’t nearly that classy. They were all animatronic (<—love that word) creatures, and after receiving our passport, we were led to our section of the rainforest.
I don’t quite know how to do the place justice, but I’ll try: there was a golden statue of what I assumed to be Atlas holding the earth on his shoulders sitting in a pond in front of a waterfall. Now what this Greek hero had to do with a rainforest, I wasn’t quite sure, but it was an impressive homage. Avery said that it was a “Ninja Warrior who fell in the water.” He stared at it for quite some time. There were mechanical gorillas in the “forest” behind some of the tables, giant butterflies on the trees that flapped their wings, and even a couple of mechanical elephants. There was a lot of smoke, fake trees, and plastic ivy was EVERYWHERE. It was also a bit dark.
We sat near the two gorillas, but still within eyeshot of Atlas holding up the earth in the fountain (Aside: Avery calls them “water mountains”. It’s so cute we don’t have the heart to correct him.) Our server, dressed like he’s prepared to lead an expedition though the rainforest, came to take our orders. Normally, I’d get a mai-tai in this situation, but this is the kind of place has laminated menus, and those places always make their drinks too sweet, so I decided on a beer instead.
The menu was laughably expensive, with stuff like $19 spaghetti. And when you go to places like this you know they’re not attracting America’s finest chefs, so it’s good strategy to order the burger. The beer was cold, the burger was fine, the gorillas were a tad underwhelming. They were pretty much shown from torso up, and they occasionally beat their chests, but it was sort of half-hearted. Like if they were real gorillas, you’d think they were kind of depressed. But there were jungle sounds playing all throughout the meal, which was kind of cool. Much better than listening to Guy Fieri talking about things sticking to your ribs.
My wife asked me, “Would you rather work here or at City Tavern?” (Where, as you may or may not know, I used to work.) It was a real toss up. I mean, at the City Tavern I was forced to dress in 18th century colonial-wear and sell turkey pot pie. But there were fewer small kids running around looking at gorillas at that job, and so I’d have to lean towards City Tavern.
We exited (through the gift shop, of course) and after saying 200 times that we weren’t getting a plastic snake we headed back outdoors, got back in the car, and headed back to Philadelphia. Great day trip. Highly recommend a day in AC, and if you’ve got a 3 year old I sort of recommend a trip to the Rainforest Cafe.