How was your experience?
Merlin's Magic Dinner Show at the Rib Trader Restaurant in Orange is a great choice for a family-friendly evening out. The meal was quite good, which was not surprising as the show is within an actual restaurant (not a production kitchen, as with similar type events). They are very accomodating with special dietary requests, and have vegetarian and diabetic meals all ready to go. Merlin's takes place in a very small "showroom" connected to the Rib Trader Restaurant. The venue is far smaller than similar type places, but it's much more intimate. Our Goldstar tickets got us the best spot, middle table in the first row, although the room is small enough that any seat is probably just fine. The magic show is entertaining, but don't go expecting large illusions, sets, lighting, special effects, music, etc. The focus is more on sleight of hand and more tried-and-true card and device tricks. We still found it fun, though, and our 10-year-old was entralled. Merlin makes ample use of the children present, and many have the opportunity to come on stage as assistants. The low-key comedic jibes varied from quite funny to a few groaners, but everything was "G" or "PG" so enjoyable for all. The "Merlin" theme doesn't really play into it, though. Previous comments on Goldstar indicated issues with mandatory "gratuities". Though this is still the case for groups of 6 or more, they seem to have gotten the message. Even though the menu noted that there was a mandatory 17% "gratuity" for pre-purchased tickets (something not indicated anywhere on the Goldstar listing), this wasn't applied to our bill. They did provide a somewhat inappropriate comment about a suggested tip amount and even put down an amount, but it was left to us to actually total the bill. This seems to be an improvement over the experiences others have reported in the past. Note that Merlin's has a reduced fee children's meal, which isn't (as of this writing) available via Goldstar. I checked with customer service at both the venue and Goldstar, neither knew why that was the case. A word to the wise: DON'T pay for an adult meal (even at the reduced GS price), when you could purchase a kids meal onsite. DO be sure to call in advance after ordering your adult tickets via GS and advise the venue of the actual number in your party (including the kids), so that they hold enough seats for you. The bottom line: A very enjoyable family event, very good food with an amusing show, all made much more palatable by not paying full fare.