After 16 years of serving food amid faux animals, greenery and falling water, the Rainforest Cafe at South Coast Plaza closed Sunday, a company executive confirmed.
"The mall decided not to renew our lease," Keith Beitler, Rainforest Cafe's chief operating officer and senior vice president, said in a prepared statement Monday. "And although we are sorry to go, we look forward to serving guests at our other two Southern California Rainforest Cafe locations, at Downtown Disney at Anaheim and Ontario Mills mall."
A new Chinese restaurant, Din Tai Fung, is scheduled to open early next year in the Rainforest Cafe's former space, said South Coast Plaza spokeswoman Debra Gunn Downing.
She said the restaurant, famous for its dumplings, will be one of about four locations in the United States. It will take up an 8,000-square-foot space — half of the 16,000 square feet used by Rainforest Cafe.
"We are so thrilled about it," Downing said.
What will occupy the other half of the space is still being determined, she said.
Downing said the McDonald's, which was upstairs from the Rainforest Cafe, also closed Sunday. The fast-food restaurant opened in the shopping center in 1981 and discussions are being held over a possible reopening elsewhere at South Coast Plaza, she said.
Rainforest Cafe, which dubbed itself "a wild place to shop and eat," opened on the first floor near Sears in June 1997. It was Houston-based Landry's Inc.'s first Southern California location, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Landry's recently closed another Newport-Mesa restaurant, the Chart House, along Mariner's Mile in Newport Beach. That iconic restaurant operated at two locations for more than 40 years.