Hard Rock Café
AddressUniversal’s CityWalk
CityOrlando
Phone407-351-7625
Price$$$
Scott's Review

Orlando is the home of the corporate headquarters for HRC, so you’d expect the restaurant here to be superlative. And it is. It’s a massive structure, and I doubt the music plays any louder at another location. The food is basic, but more than passable.

Texas chili was a good chili, but I would hate to be there when it was served to a real Texan and he or she discovers beans in it. You can find chili in Texas with beans in it, but you'll probably also find the cook strung up out back.

Then there is the Tuscan chicken salad, which could just as easily have been named Tallahassee chicken salad, or Berlin chicken salad, or even world-class chicken salad because there certainly wasn't anything remotely Tuscan about it. OK, there were some slivers of salami and provolone cheese (which mostly comes from northern Italy, by the way) mixed in with mesclun greens, red peppers, mushrooms and asparagus. The greens were topped with cubes of grilled chicken and tossed with a red wine vinaigrette. Despite its geographical misplacement, it was a good salad.

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Jack’s Place
Address9700 International Drive
Rosen Plaza Hotel
CityOrlando
Phone407-996-1787
Price$$$
Scott's Review

Chef Michael McMullen has reenergized this upscale dining room with a new menu. Favorites include spicy shrimp and grits, maple horseradish mustard crusted baby rack of lamb, and cedar plank roasted sea bass. Service is among the best in town. The highlight of the dining room is the array of celebrity caricatures that cover the walls. They were done by Jack Rosen, father of hotelier Harris Rosen (hence the name of the restaurant), when he was employed by the Waldorf Astoria in New York.

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Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville
AddressCityWalk
Universal Orlando
CityOrlando
Phone407-224-2155
Price$$
As you stand in line at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville to get your beeper, which you'll carry with you as you wait even longer for your table, you might be reminded of the lyrics ``Wastin' away again in Margaritaville .''

No, you definitely will be reminded of those lyrics, because if you spend more than 20 minutes in the restaurant you're sure to hear them. Heck, you could spend 20 minutes just trying to get a drink at the bar.

The theme here is the music of Jimmy Buffett and his parrothead paradise. Sorry, I don't know why his fans are called parrotheads. And I probably missed a lot of the insider jokes and other references to his songs that I'm unfamiliar with. The upstairs bar, for example, is probably called the 12-volt bar for some reason.

I have only a Top-40 knowledge of his songs. I enjoy his music, though two straight hours of it can be a bit much. I do know that many of his songs are either themed on food and drink, or contain references to them. So that part lends itself well to a restaurant theme. And the Key Westiness and island atmosphere of his songs add to the decor.

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Keke's Breakfast Cafe Milennia
Address4192 Conroy Road
CityOrlando
Phone407-226-1400
Price$
Scott's Review
I enjoyed everything else about my breakfast, from the sincerely pleasant staff and simple decor to the delicious food.  I ordered a sausage and cheese omelet with home fries. And because I knew that the first Keke’s started life as the Florida Wffle House, I wanted to see how this Keke’s flapjacks were, so I asked if I could order just one. I’m glad I got only one because it was huge. The buttermilk cake filled the plate (which was square, but that didn’t bother me) and was nearly three-quarters of an inch thick. (Yes, I measured it.) It had a fluffy texture and a golden hue, and while it might have been a bit hotter so as to melt the butter -- they’re also called hotcakes, after all -- it was delicious. So was the omelet, which was dotted with bits of sliced sausage and had gooey cheddar cheese folded inside. The home fries were good, too, and had the perfect bit of greasiness, but the wheat toast went uneaten -- the pancake was bread enough.... Read more
Leaky Cauldron
Address1000 Universal Studios Plaza
CityOrlando
Phone407-363-8000
Price$$
Scott's Review
I don't expect to be back in Universal's good graces with this review of the Leaky Cauldron, the dining venue in Diagon Alley, which I finally got around to visiting recently. Most of the food is embarrassingly inadequate, and what they charge for it borders on gouging. Worst of the lot is the mini pies, which is a sampler of the cottage pie and fisherman's pie, which are both available separately. As samplers, the pies are served in small aluminum plates with crusted liners and mashed potatoes on top. The fisherman's pie had a bit of flavor if not much in the way of anything a fisherman might catch. The cottage pie was largely flavorless.... Read more
Lombard's Seafood Grille
AddressUniversal Studios
CityOrlando
Phone407-224-3613
Price$$$
This restaurant was originally called Lombard's Landing; not sure why that was changed to Lombard's Seafood Grille -- maybe people thought Landing had something to do with an airstrip. No, no - this Lombard's is the street that runs into San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. The food here has never been special but it's usually palatable. And as one of only two full-service restaurants inside the theme park (Finnegan's Bar & Grill is the other) it's the choice for people who'd rather not do the self-service thing.... Read more
Mythos
AddressUniversal Studios
Islands of Adventure
CityOrlando
Phone407-224-4534
Price$$$
Scott's Review

Mythos is one of only two full service restaurants at Islands of Adventure (Confisco Grille is the other). It wanted to be a fine dining restaurant when it first opened a decade ago, but that never happened. Of course, it's difficult to be a fine dining restaurant when you take your last reservations at 4:30 in the afternoon (the park closes at 6 p.m. most days).

But the atmosphere is pleasant, and the food is mostly good. Learn from my mistakes, though, and don't bother with anything fancy, like crabcake sliders. Go for the Mythos burger, a big, juicy thing with melted cheese and rashers of bacon. Then head immediately for the Incredible Hulk roller coaster. I dare you.

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Nile Ethiopian Cuisine
Address7040 International Drive
(north of Sand Lake Road)
CityOrlando
Phone407-354-0026
Price$$
Scott's Review

Central Florida finally gets another chance to experience the wonderful world of Ethiopian cuisine. Don’t blow it this time! Wash your hands – you’ll be eating with them – and order an array of wat to sample. What? No, wat. It's a sort of stew, and wats are the most common dishes in an Ethiopian restaurant. These might include variations of beef or chicken, but pork is never served. There are a few seafood selections on Nile’s menu, but Ethiopia is a landlocked country and seafood dishes are not common. Vegetarian wat versions feature lentils or split peas. Ethiopian restaurants are wonderful places for vegetarians to dine as meatless meals are a big part of the country’s cultural heritage. If you feel lost, ask one of your gracious hosts to guide you.

Coffee is Ethiopia’s top commodity and the coffee ceremony is a big part of a traditional meal. The coffee service area occupies a space in the front of the dining room. The whole beans are roasted in a small metal saucepan while incense burns nearby. When the beans are roasted the pan is brought to the table and waved about so the guests can enjoy the aroma. Once the beans are ground and brewed, the coffee is poured from ... Read more