Pros: Large arcade, Pac-man theme, fun atmosphere
Cons: Not the best food in town
While looking for a place close to Sea World to dine for lunch we found Pac-Man Cafe on International drive in Orlando, FL. We usually avoid International Drive because the area caters to the tourist however being a theme that the whole family was interested in we decided to give it a try.
The restaurant is located in Pointe Orlando which is an outdoor mall. Parking is next door in a parking garage which cost us $2 for the hour that we were there. I didnt notice any other parking options nearby. Parking is waived with $20 food, bar tab, or game receipt, just ask your waitress for a parking voucher.
The restaurant is at the front of the mall and can be seen from the road. It is an inviting odd-shaped 3-story building. We came in from the street entrance so had to walk through the restaurant to get to the hostess.
They open at 12PM on Sunday and we arrived at 12:15 assuming we would get there before the crowd. There were only a couple of people in the dining area but we were told it would be a 25 minute wait and we were given a pager to notify us when our table was ready. I usually hate waits but not in this place because there was plenty to do while waiting.
Unlike other restaurants in town the focal theme is not hanging on the walls but in a designated room in a museum-like setting that everyone can lookout. We enjoyed our stroll down memory lane with a selection of 80's collectibles such as the coin operated arcade game, childs book, pac-man board game, glasses, watch, Pac-man spaghetti-os, record album, and more.
We then proceeded up the carpeted stairs to the upstairs game room. You do not have to eat in the restaurant to play in the game room; it is accessible from the outside however you do get a discount after you have dined in the cafe.
The games are set up like an arcade however there are only the best and biggest games in the room. I had my young children with me so I was relieved to see that there wasnt a lot of violent video games like are often found in some arcades.
There are 100 games to choose from so there are a lot of options. Ferrari 355, F-zero AX, Pac-man, Virtual reality racer, Daytona USA 2, Dance Dance Revolution, Jet ski, Star Trek Voyager, star wars pod racer, Tekken 4, Soul Calibur 2, a simulator that wasnt open yet, air hockey, pool table. I dont remember all the games but nearly all of them appealed to us. There is $1.5 million worth of gaming equipment. Game play is $20 an hour or $25 for two hours.
We got there when it first opened so there were only a couple of people in the game room. The room could handle a large amount of people and with the prices I doubt that it will be overly crowded.
The third story of the building is the rooftop for special events.
There is a bar on the first and second floor which was nicely organized and had a few bar stools along it. Not so much a drinking place, more like a social drink.
Unlike Pac-Man, the building was not from the 80s. It is very modern in design with a complementary color painted on each of the walls. There were large sliver modern cut-outs of Pac-man or ghosts on the walls. There are tons of ameba or jelly fish lights on the ceiling in the restaurant. The seating section had large windows revealing the mall walkway outside. We watched people pass by while we waited. There is crazy busy carpet up the stairs and around the building like in the game room. The place is very large so you can hear different upbeat music in different areas but its not very noisy in the restaurant area.
The staff was setting up for a birthday part while we were eating so I think the place was about to get a lot noisier. They had a very long table and they were placing balloons on each of the chairs. Birthday parties start at $20 a person and include pizza and video games for a minimum of 10 children. It seems like to me most of the video games are more suitable for older kids.
The pager soon went off and we were seated in the cafe for lunch. We were seated in front of the kitchen which was nice because I wanted to peak in and make sure that it was cleaner than the dining area was. If we had not made a special trip to eat there and were already starving I probably would have motioned not to eat there. My menu was grimy with finger prints, the advertisement on the table was equally dirty, the window ledge was gross, there were food smudges on the cloth of the booth, and the aroma from the kitchen reeked of ketchup and grease.
One of the things that enticed us to drive over to the restaurant was that you get a free kids meal with each adult entree purchased which were otherwise $5 without drink. My son chose a personal pepperoni pizza and my daughter had a hamburger. I was impressed with the size considering the freeness. Both ate every bite and asked to return again so I guess you could say they liked it.
I personally couldnt stand the smell of the burgers on the grill so I ordered a Chicken Pecan Salad which was diced grilled chicken and glazed pecans tossed with honey aioli dressing and hone mustard dressing on the side. The salad was good and had I was pleased with the large portion of meat and nuts on the top.
My husband ordered a hamburger which seemed like an easy request but an abnormal odor was noticed when it was placed in front of us which we quickly dismissed. My husband took a bite of his hamburger and immediate realized where the stench was coming from. The waitress agreed that the smell was unpleasant and took the hamburger away. Our daughter was also having a hamburger and I assure you they smelled like night and day.
The waitress took the plate away without argument and returned and asked if he wanted something else instead. He had already lost his appetite so declined. After smelling the meat for as long as we had I was nauseous by this point too.
We were surprised that the manager didnt come out or compensation made in some way but were pleased to see that the dinner was credited and the kids meal was still free which was the least that we expected. In all the years of eating out, weve never returned a dish.
There are other things on the menu such as pulled-pork sandwich, Ruben, Philly Cheese steak, and other sandwiches in the $8 range. The dinners are $15-$20 with items such as ribs, salmon, mahi mahi, steak, and chicken. There is really a large variety to choose. The entire menu with prices can be found on their website at www.pacmancafe.com/family_food.asp
I'd like to mention that a 19% service charge is automatically applied to parties of 6 or more.
Im trying to avoid figuring the hamburger episode in my decision because that could happen anywhere and I think they handled it pretty good however they were already falling short in other areas. The restaurant had just opened with only a few people seated so it is crazy that we had a 25 minute wait. The restaurant area was dirty and reminded me of a bowling alley cafe for some reason. I was set back by the smell of the kitchen which was drifting into the seating area. As for the hostess and waitress, they were nice but they didnt seem to have the outgoing or confident attitude that we normally see when we eat out. The waitress was fine, but didnt seem to complement the lunch at all. My dinner was okay but nothing to brag about. I did like the free kids meals and there was a variety of choices on the menu. The restaurant just opened late 2004 and its obvious that a lot of money was dumped into it. The building is very nice and the games and equipment is new. I think the restaurant lacks good management and once they get an experienced staff this place will start to shine.
I hate to rate this place so bad because its a really cool place other than the food and we went there for the theme, not for the menu to begin with. I think the theme worked out really well and the restaurant is a mere complement to the arcade rather than the focal point. We probably wont eat there again but have already planned our revisit to play at the arcade. If youre in town on a rainy or cold day this would be a good place to salvage the day at. If you are a Pac-man freak, its a must see. There is also a Muvico movie theater a few steps away and an outdoor mall with some neat shops which might help make it worth the trip.
Location: 9101 International Drive
Hours: SunThurs 12:00PM 12AM; Fri-Sat 12PM-2AM
A special thanks to megugrrrl for another addition to the database for me!