Hard Rock Cafe - Universal City

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Orlando Hard Rock Cafe - Still the Largest Hard Rock in the World!

Jan 26, 2005 (Updated May 11, 2005)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Food and Presentation:
  • Ambiance and Decor:
  • Quality of Service:

Pros:Fantastic food, great music, and unique atmosphere.

Cons:Poor service, long wait times

The Bottom Line: If you have 2 hours to spare check out the Hard Rock Cafe for a fabulous selection of food, alcohol, and rock nostalgia!

Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando is the largest Hard Rock Cafe in the world with more memorabilia than any other Hard Rock location. My first visit to the Orlando Hard Rock cafe was 15 years ago, the year that they first opened long before there was a City Walk or Islands of Adventure or a Hard Rock Hotel. I enjoyed it so much that we would drive three hours from Georgia just to eat there but that was when gas was less than a dollar a gallon. Eventually I moved to Orlando and spent an obscene amount of time and money there.

With growth came change. The original Hard Rock Cafe that was shaped like a big guitar was closed and a new Hard Rock Cafe was built in the City Walk area in 1998. The waitresses who would address me by name, who could remember my order without writing it down, who received the biggest fattest tips that we have ever left are now long gone. They were replaced with ones that were shy to say hi, forgetful that you wanted a drink to go with your meal, and virtually clueless to what your needs are even though you express them. I guess my whole problem with the "new" Hard Rock is their service.

Below are some of my experiences from 2004. I will complain and give examples of how bad the service is in my rant section and brag about how wonderful the food is in the rave section.

I don’t really remember the details of the good experiences; I’ll just assume you know what a good visit is like. I assure you that when you pay $50-$80 for a meal you remember the bad ones.

The upstairs area is closed at lunch time. You can still take the elevator or the stairs up to the top floor and look at the memorabilia but they do not sit people there during the lunch hour. What this means to us is that we have to wait for seating and sit in a noisy crowded confine of tightly situated tables.

One time we visited in the evening and were seated in the very last table in the way back corner. We had to put the kids on the wall because the chairs didn’t pull out far enough for us to sit down. Do you know that feeling that comes over you and says you’re going to regret sitting down? My husband and I both got that feeling but we were starving so we sat. We sat, and sat, and sat waiting for our waiter to take our order, to bring our food, to bring the check. We spent a good hour just waiting. When our order came my Jerk chicken came without a refill on my drink. I asked, my husband asked, and then we asked again. Three times…I mean seriously, do waiters even need to be reminded of such things? Finally my drink arrives with the check. Apparently they were “busy” that night. Frankly it was the worse waiter experience at an Orlando restaurant that we’ve ever had. I think the reason it was so disappointing was that our seats were absolutely horrible and our waiter was too busy and too inexperienced. The next time we visited they tried to give us the very same seat and we walked out. Absolutely not in the corner, definitely not there!

Perhaps it wasn’t the seating, perhaps it’s more than that. Our next experience was a little more enjoyable, this time we had a front and center seat on the top floor, close enough to jump down onto the pink Cadillac. The food was excellent this time. Our waitress was more attentive. She took our order quickly, she brought the food out quickly…..then she brought us balloons in the middle of our meal? Now I have paid for two meals that would never be eaten because the lady brought a couple of balloons to the table before the kids had finished eating. Then she disappeared and we ended up spending 30 minutes fighting over who was going to get what color balloon while we waited needlessly for the check. Apparently they were busy that night, I have heard that excuse before, thank you very much.

Next trip was JUST for desert. They were not very busy and it was 3:00 in the afternoon. We were just having ice cream so surely that would go smoothly. We ordered 5 desserts, 3 small sundaes and two brownie sundaes. Surely they can’t mess this up. Surely. They brought the kids their sundaes and soon they were done and ready to leave but we are still waiting for our ice cream. We wait, and wait, and finally they eventually come. Another experience, ruined.

Since we frequent there so much we’re really not in a position to “cause a scene” over the service so we have just come to an understanding that this is the way they operate now. We have managed to find a way to work around this lackadaisical bunch. As soon as we are greeted by our waiter or waitress we stress how important it is to get our 2-year-old out of there as quickly and we can; we also ask for the check as soon as the food arrives to the table.

After a handful of bad experiences a logical person would cross them off their list and move on to the next restaurant. Well the problem is our whole family is addicted to the food. Despite their shortcomings with the service, the food is still excellent and the prices are reasonable.

Typically I stick with one thing on a menu at a restaurant but this menu is very tantalizing and over the years I’ve pretty much eaten everything listed on their whole menu. I like to start out with an appetizer because it really does take a long time to get the food. Their nachos are my top pick. Tortillas are topped with roasted corn, grilled red peppers, black beans, Cheddar Jack, green onions, sour cream, guacamole and salsa. Their dips are also fantastic for a backup plan.

Since I’m such a big fan of nacho’s I also recommend their fruit nachos which are delectable. They have fruit such as strawberry and pineapple on sugar chips dusted with sugar and glazed with chocolate syrup. I’ve had this as an appetizer once and the other times as a dessert.

For lunch a hamburger is always a sure thing and comes with a lot of different fixings. There are a lot of other sandwiches that we enjoy such as stacked roast beef, turkey club, and bacon lettuce tomato (BLT). Don’t want to forget the pig sandwich which is one of their top sellers. There’s a selection of BBQ and dinner plates as well. I’ve only had the grilled shrimp fettuccine parmesan and the fajitas from the dinner menu. It’s really a hard decision, everything is so delicious.

Our favorite pick for dessert is their signature ice cream which is relatively inexpensive. They make killer milkshakes too. The desert choices are really tantalizing but there’s not much room for dessert after a large meal.

They have a bar section and anything from the bar can also be served at the tables. I don’t need to list the drinks, if you can think it they can make it.

How much do you think it cost to insure a place like this? Wow, they have some irreplaceable items from huge legends in there. Worth the trip just to touch it if you’re a rock and roll fan. The first thing that comes to mind is the pink Cadillac that is over the bar inside the building, this will give you an idea of just how big the cafe is.

The walls are set up like any other Hard Rock. The walls are full of collectibles like albums, clothes, and signed photos. It’s a shrine! Some of the famous items are from the Beetles, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley’s white jumper, Michael Jackson’s jacket. There are so many interesting things inside and it’s perfectly acceptable to walk around and look at the collection regardless if people are dining under them.

As you might expect, they play rock and roll music non-stop. The music is loud so is not the type of place that you would want to bring clients or first dates. A lot of people go there to celebrate their birthday.

Can I bring my kids?
Kids are welcome at all hours and they have high chairs, crayons, balloons, and children’s menus as you would normally find at restaurants. Although they do serve a lot of alcohol I’ve never felt the environment was inappropriate for children.

Gift Shop
A gift shop is strategically attached to the restaurant so in order to get out of the building you have to go through it. I see their marketing plan behind this but it makes it difficult to get out of the restaurant on a busy day because the line for the register and people shopping crowd the path to the exit. I really get peeved when I have to wait in line to get out of a restaurant! If you just want to pick up some Hard Rock apparel you can enter the shop without eating at the restaurant.

The Orlando Hard Rock Cafe is located at City Walk which is a just outside of Universal Studios theme park. There is no admission to City Walk or the Hard Rock Cafe but parking is $8.00 for the day. Parking is free after 6PM.

My overall opinion of this place is that it rocks! No pun intended. I have had poor service many times but have never had a bad experience with their food. It has always been delicious and filling. Sometimes they add new food to the menu which is nice surprise.

It is very difficult to get a seat at the restaurant during regular feeding hours. Reservations can be made up to 30 days before the day that you want to go. Reservations by phone must be made at least 24 hours in advance by calling 407-351-ROCK. Otherwise you can get on the waiting list at the door. The process from ordering to leaving usually takes around two hours so have a drink and relax!

Recommend this product? Yes

Kid Friendliness: Yes
Vegetarian Friendly: Yes
Notes, Tips or Menu Recommendations Reserved seating is a must for the wekend and peak season. Call 407-351-ROCK at least a day in advance.
Best Suited For: Friends

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