Our Top 5 Orlando Restaurants for Visitors
Thank you for listening to The Orlando Local Show!
When you visit Orlando, how do you decide where to eat when you venture outside of the attractions? In this episode, we share our favorite restaurants in five categories.
Let’s face it. Dining is part of your vacation experience. Orlando has plenty of restaurants in the visitor areas by Walt Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios.
The restaurants we chose are reasonably priced, yet have good quality food with plenty of menu options.
There are a lot of other fine restaurants in Orlando. We chose this list to find quality restaurants in visitor areas to offer an alternative to some of the theme park food.
If you want to see a good sample of what Orlando Restaurants have to offer, check out our Taste of the Nation review (linked below) for plenty of photos and samples of great dining choices in Orlando.
BJ’s Brewhouse (American Brewery)
Yard House (American Brewery)
Bahama Breeze (Caribbean)
Peach Valley Cafe (Breakfast)
House of Blues (Themed Restaurant)
William: Welcome to the Orlando Local show, episode number fourteen.
My name is William Beem.
Lee: Hi, my name is Lee Beem.
William: And I just want everybody to know my wife, Lee, just won first place at the Celebration Florida 10k race. Her very first one and I can’t say how proud I am.
Lee: That made me so happy. That was the highlight. When my husband is proud of me, that’s all I want.
William: I tell you, that almost makes it worth getting up at 4 am to go there.
Lee: I’ll be hearing about that for a while.
William: We had a great time out there. This is one of the runs that you wanted to do that was just for the fun of it and then you end up winning first place.
Lee: I did and there was really no way to tell where you were as well in the race so I had no idea. The 10k is not my distance. I prefer the longer distances, so I was kind of out of my comfort zone in this. There was no pressure, but it wasn’t something that I knew how to handle, so it really was just for the social.
William: I’m glad you had a good time. I’m thrilled that you won. It just made me so incredibly proud of you, because you’ve been working hard at this.
Lee: Thank you so much.
William: I know how much you love your running and this was kind of strange. We got there and it just started pouring down with rain.
Lee: Yeah and it wasn’t forecast and then suddenly the forecast updated to say, oh by the way it’s raining.
William: So at about 6:45 it stopped raining, everything was good, you went on your run and it was a little slippery on the road. And then after you got back, before everybody else had finished the race, then the rain started up again.
Lee: I know. It was kind of cool. Like the heavens went, oh hold on; Lee’s running. OK, she’s done!
William: Lee’s on the road. Hold rain. I’m proud and I just wanted to share that with everybody.
Lee: Thank you so much.
William: After that we went off and actually had breakfast at Keke’s. The one we went to was in Hunter’s Creek with a couple of your friends from the UK that came over.
William: And we had a really good time. We had really good food and we thought that is going to be our topic for today. Our top five restaurants, or at least our top five categories that we really like and what we want to share with you just so you’ve got some options beyond what you see in some of the theme parks.
Lee: Yes. Something different.
William: I mean when you think about it, everyone’s got to eat. Food is a really big part of your vacation experience.
Lee: That’s right and that’s what our friends said when I spoke to them last night. They said to me, “We know the typical places that have been recommended to us by other visitors. We don’t know where non visitors go.” And this is a place we’ve wanted to try for a long time.
William: Actually, the places we have chosen are kind of in tourist areas or close to where some of the visitors are staying so we didn’t want to give you something that was too hard find or too far to go out.
Lee: They said it was incredibly easy to get there.
William: Yeah, they were staying in the Poinciana area and Hunter’s Creek was not too far from there, but why don’t we go on and just jump into it.
We started off with Tex Mex and Mexican, which is one of our favorites.
Lee: I love my Tex Mex.
William: I know and we have gone to a number of places, but the one that we really seem to like these days is called Chuy’s. It’s a chain and a number of these ones that we are going to be talking about really are chain restaurants. But you go in there and it’s got a very eclectic kind of vibe; it’s very colorful and the food is just fresh and outstanding.
Lee: It is. If I had to sum up with one reason why I like that place, it’s consistency. When I go somewhere, whether I like it, don’t like it or whatever it is and however I see it, I want to know what I’m going to get when I walk in at any time on any day. And you can go to any branch of Chuy’s and you know exactly what you’re going to expect with the service, with the food, with the portions and everything is consistent.
William: And we’ve tried a couple of them. There is one near Walt Disney World on 192, I believe. It’s in Kissimmee and it’s on Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway. So that’s one of the major roads that runs right by Disney.
We’ve also gone to the one on International Drive and there’s another one in Winter Park.
But International Drive and the one on Kissimmee are really probably the ones that are going to be closest to the visitor areas, whether you are going to Universal or Disney or Sea World, I’d say the closest is probably the one on International Drive and then the one in Kissimmee is closest to Walt Disney World.
But it’s been very consistent. We’ve been to at least three of them – no four of them, because there’s another one on Alafaya. So we’ve been to four different restaurants for Chuy’s, yet it’s very consistent and very good every time we go there.
Lee: And the portions are very generous and the prices are not bad. It’s not a bill that breaks the bank account. Even their alcohol is pretty reasonably priced for what you are getting.
William: The only thing about Chuy’s that got me was the one on International Drive has a guy who does balloons.
Lee: I think that’s the kind of thing where if you’ve got little kids, it might be cute and fun. But every time we go there we have to listen to the whole spiel because you don’t want to be rude and interrupt the guy, because this is what he does.
William: Look, once you say no thank you, he takes that right away. It’s not like he is pestering you for it. It’s just that the one on International Drive has a balloon guy there. The other ones I haven’t seen anybody trying to go around and entertain at tables.
Lee: No, and it might be the location that is the reason that he’s there.
William: Yeah, but honestly the food is really good. If you like Tex Mex, if you want to go in for fajitas, burritos or a number of other things .... You like to go in there and do a weird thing.
Lee: I order the appetizer sampler. It’s just a plate with four or five different things on and you’ve got the queso, the guacamole to go with it, there are tacos. It’s not a meat based one. There is chicken inside some of the items, but I usually manage to eat about a quarter of it and then I bring it back and put it in Ziploc bags in the fridge and some in the freezer.
William: Now this is not just something that comes out on a plate. It comes out on a big serving platter.
William: And they put it right down in front of you so it’s something that is meant to share with a group of like maybe four or more people.
Lee: I would say for four people. Especially as an appetizer; even five.
William: But for you, like you said, you want the variety of tastes in a couple of samples and then you just bring it home and snack on it later.
Lee: I do because I don’t eat a lot at one given time, so for me I like the novelty. What was it? About $10 for the plate?
William: Oh, yeah. You’re a cheap date, honey!
Lee: Thank you so much! I’ll take that as a compliment.
But I struggle sometimes because I don’t eat a large quantity, I get stuck with something small and it’s one thing and I don’t really mind that for the most part, but when I go out I like to try out something different or have something that I don’t make at home.
William: I’m almost always going in there and getting the steak or beef fajitas and I like it because, like I said, it’s a good portion size. I hate it when you go to a Tex Mex or Mexican restaurant and you order fajitas and you get down to that third fajita wrap and there is really not enough meat left over.
If anything, I’ve got the opposite problem because I’m a little cautious with the first one and I put a little more on the second one and then the last one is just bulging with meat.
Lee: That’s true. Tové always takes chicken home. She usually finishes the fajitas or at least most of them, but she takes quite a lot of her chicken home. She goes for the chicken ones.
William: So anyways, if you like Tex Mex, if you like Mexican food, we really do enjoy Chuy’s. It’s in multiple locations out there and the website is just chuys.com.
Alright, we are going to move onto our next category and I’m calling this one American Brewery because both these restaurants -and there are a couple of them and we couldn’t really decide which was our favorite – but both of them have their own in-house brewery and they both have a very large menu with a number of items.
Lee: Yeah, if it’s your first time you might want to look at the menu online before you go, for both of them. Because it takes some time to get through it and sometimes it can be overwhelming just with the variety.
William: The first one is called BJ’s Brewhouse. Just go to bjsrestaurants.com. We are going to put links to all of this on the show notes for you. So that way it will be very easy to find.
BJ’s Brewhouse has a number of locations. Again, they are in Kissimmee on West Osceola Parkway, they are in Lake Buena Vista on Vineland, they are on I-Drive in Orlando and if you are going to the Mall At Millennia they have a location there. We have got a couple of other locations in town like one in Oviedo that we go to.
This is one of my favorites because they have really got the best jambalaya in town.
William: I used to really love to go to another restaurant we are going to talk about later for jambalaya, but they have since changed their recipe a few years ago and it’s just not what it used to be.
If you like jambalaya, I don’t know why, every time I go in there I get the jambalaya. It’s made fresh, shrimp, chicken, a little andouille sausage and all sorts of other things with the rice in it and I just love it.
Lee: And it’s nice and spicy as well. Tové has tried a number of things there. I’ve also tried things but I have a different reason for going there.
William: You do. Go ahead with that, because I was going to go with the appetizer, but let’s go.
Lee: I have always liked my dark brews and particularly Guinness. I was not a beer drinker until fairly recently, but I do like the dark brews. I tried other dark beers that were not Guinness and I always went back to what I liked; until I tried their own brew which is called Tatonka Stout.
This one packs a punch. It’s quite high in alcohol volume, so pace yourself with it. I know once I had two and I came back feeling like ....
William: You were a little loopy that day!
Lee: Yes. I don’t like feeling like that! But it’s got such rich flavours and they have a number of things. That’s not all they have. Right now they are doing Halloween things so they are doing things like pumpkin spice brews and things.
William: Usually around this time of year you will end up with the pumpkin drinks.
Lee: Dark beer is to a particular palate, but if you are into your IPA’s or other kinds of brews like pale ales and things, they have all kinds of stuff there.
William: They’ve got a little bit of something for everybody. The other thing that we like there is an appetizer. It’s a simple thing, but they have got fried mozzarella that’s done really very well.
Lee: Oh the marinara sauce!
William: Yeah, if you are going to go there, order an extra cup of marinara sauce. There never seems to be enough.
Lee: No, there isn’t. We always run out.
William: But on the other end of it with the desserts, they’ve got something that they call a pizookie, which is kind of like a freshly baked cookie in a little small pan with a scoop of ice cream on top of it. They’ve got different flavors and you can even get mini versions. You can get a flight of pizookies with three different flavors of cookies and ice cream on top of it. And if you just want ice cream, just say give me a scoop of vanilla or a scoop of chocolate. And it’s like Godiva chocolate ice cream with little chunks of chocolate inside of it. Both the vanilla and the chocolate are just really good. They are very rich ice creams.
So those are some of my favorite desserts there. I know they have got more.
Lee: They are very accommodating though. Mozzarella sticks with the appetizer ... Was it the there something else you wanted to say.
William: No, that’s usually what we end up getting.
Lee: See, usually with my beer, I’m happy with that for a meal if I’m picking on mozzarella sticks with the others. I am not going to eat a whole meal. I like chips.
William: Yeah, you’ll get the chips with the salsa. And the salsa has kind of a smoky flavor to it.
Lee: It has and that’s what I like about it.
William: It’s definitely a different flavor and as we said, this restaurant has a very large menu. They have got pizzas, burgers, they’ve got jambalaya and they’ve got a number of pasta dishes. If you’ve got a kid that likes a grilled cheese sandwich they’ve got a couple of takes on that.
Lee: Yes, they do. And the other thing that they have if you are watching your diet or you have dietary specifications, they have a number of lighter things; lighter portions and they have also got calorie counts noted on the menu. So for people who are busy counting up the numbers, that’s a nice thing to have.
William: Alright, the other place that we like is a different restaurant called Yardhouse. It is right by the Orlando Eye.
William: You’ve got your brews that you like.
Lee: I do and I’m thinking ... I’ve tried something different every time. I’ve gone for various ciders, some fruit ales, I’ve tried some of the dark brews. There is not one that I have settled on there. I haven’t had something that I haven’t liked.
William: And it’s not just that. They have got a good wine list as well. They had a few of them on there. But when we got there for an appetizer they’ve got this onion ring tower that we like to order.
Lee: Oh, yeah!
William: And we are talking about twelve inches. Kind of like a little base plate with a metal rod going straight up was about twelve inches tall. Just with onion rings cascading down.
Lee: And they are really good because they get it just right. It’s hot, the oil is obviously hot so they are not greasy, but they are nice and crispy and they have nice seasoning on there as well.
William: I’ve enjoyed it. I went there and had street tacos one time, I’ve had barbecue chicken pizza there which I really enjoyed. The barbecue chicken pizza reminded me of one that I loved at Mr Lucky’s at Hard Rock in Las Vegas. It was kind of made the same way.
I’ve had a number of barbecue chicken pizzas, but I don’t know. There was something about the flavour of this one and that one that was just right and those were my favorites.
The only thing I haven’t had there is a burger and I’ve got friends who were not impressed with the burgers there, but everything I’ve had has been delicious.
Lee: We’ve been really happy with our experiences there.
William: So those are the two if you are looking for – what do you call that?
Lee: Oh, I don’t know. I didn’t even know they had a name!
William: Well, if you’re looking for in-house brewed beer, those are the two places we are going to recommend. Yardhouse and BJ’s Brewhouse.
And even if you’re not really into beer, we still recommend the restaurants because we’ve had good meals at both of them and we’ve gone back multiple times.
Lee: Yes. Absolutely.
William: Alright, probably Lee’s favorite. If you like Caribbean food, this is also a chain for a company I used to work for. It’s called Bahama Breeze.
Lee: I love fruity and salty mixed together. Sweet and salty really is my thing.
William: Bahama Breeze is from Darden Restaurants and it was one of my first IT jobs years ago. But Bahama Breeze is kind of a tropical take on things. I like going in there and having the jerk chicken with some black beans and yellow rice and the flavors are just right. It’s not too spicy, there’s nothing mild or bland. It’s just got a really good flavor to it. You’ve got some plantains to go with it so they kind of hit the comfort food spot for me for some of these dishes.
But it’s not just that. There is a ropa vieja sandwich that I really enjoy there as well.
Lee: Yes. Sandwiches are really good, they have lovely salads, the soups, if it’s winter time or if it’s cooler and you want something to warm up (which is not very many months in Florida) are good comfort food. If you like chowder and cream based soups, they make a good chowder. I have also had the chicken tortilla soup, which was really good.
William: Yes, it was. And another thing to keep in mind is since it’s kind of a Caribbean based restaurant, they have got a full bar and they have got drinks that will just knock you back on your butt.
Lee: Oh, cocktails, yes. Absolutely amazing stuff.
William: So definitely go there and have some rum based beverages.
Lee: Banana Nut Bread!
William: Oh yeah. The banana nut bread dessert.
Lee: Oh that is so good!
William: OK. Go ahead and tell them.
Lee: I just wanted to roll out of there. They had two or three slices of this banana bread with nuts over the top – I think they were slivered almonds that they had put over it – and it was drenched in this sticky, syrupy sauce that was caramelized. There was ice cream with it and it was just ooey gooey sweet decadence. I couldn’t leave it alone.
Every time I took a bit I said I can’t eat any more. And then I’d put more in my mouth and try figure out how to swallow it. But it was just so good.
William: It is a nice place and we go there probably not as often as we should, because there is one not too far from where we live and then there’s one kind of in International Drive area. It is really a nice step aside from the typical kind of food that you get. It’s not necessarily based off of beef or traditional things that you are going to find around here.
Lee: No, also for picky eaters. Tové likes very simple foods. She doesn’t want complicated things and she has never had a problem choosing.
William: I think even if you are a picky eater and you think, oh I don’t know because I don’t understand or recognize these meals, look at the heart of it. It’s really chicken or fish and there is a little bit of beef or pork. So there is really something there for everybody. And even if you’re a vegetarian you can find some things.
Lee: Oh, yes. And you’ve got such a vast variety of sides. If you want a side you usually get fries or a soup, or fries and a salad. They have things like fruit bowls, which is usually what I go for so that I have room for dessert.
William: And the plantains and rice and beans are comfort food kind of things for me so I really enjoy that.
Alright, next up on the list we figured at some point or another, you’ve got to have breakfast. I mentioned we went to a place with our friends over from the UK and we went to Keke’s. That was actually our first visit there. I know the place kind of by reputation. Everybody has said that this is a wonderful breakfast place and man, they were right!
Lee: Oh, it was good!
William: There was a little bit of a wait getting in there and this is a popular place. But there are going to be plenty of locations too, so there is one by the Mall at Millennia at Conroy Road; the one we went to is in Hunter’s Creek on Town Center Boulevard, there is another one on Dr Phillips, which is near Sandlake Road. Actually it’s on Dr. Phillips Boulevard but it’s kind of near International Drive and Sandlake Road in that area. And there are plenty more. There is Winter Springs, there’s Longwood and we are getting into locations where most of the visitors probably don’t go off to. Maybe if you head off to Winter Park and there is another one in Waterford Lakes, but basically go to the website. It’s kekes.com and click on Locations. You’ll see exactly where they are.
There was a two sided menu: lunch on the back side and we were looking at everything on the front side and it was just jam packed with options.
Lee: I didn’t even turn it over. But I knew I wanted pancakes.
William: They’ve got pancakes, they’ve got French toast, they’ve got waffles, of course they’ve got eggs, omelettes and so forth. The portion sizes are large!
Lee: Yes, thank goodness our server mentioned that you could order one instead of two. Even the one ... I think all of us were defeated by the one pancake.
William: Yeah, I mean when he came out Elaine, our friend who was with us, was thinking a pancake would be maybe four inches in diameter.
Lee: Well you usually get a stack.
William: Yeah, a stack would be about a four inch pancake. And he said, “No, no, no. Ours is much bigger than that.”
It is probably twice the diameter.
Lee: He said it was plate sized and we kind of figured, I guess, that he was exaggerating.
William: But he wasn’t really.
Lee: No, he really wasn’t.
William: And it wasn’t just the fact that it was that large, but also the toppings on it. She got the Florida Pancake.
Lee: That was strawberries, bananas and blueberries.
William: Yeah, but we are talking layers of the stuff. In other words, you slice bananas and put it over the entire width of that thing, then on top of that you pile on fresh strawberries, throw some blueberries in there ...
Lee: It was very full!
William: Tové got a waffle, but what did she get with it?
Lee: She had strawberries and cream on hers and she had the option of plain, fresh strawberries or the glazed ones and she went for the glazed ones. I wouldn’t have done that because that’s too heavy for me, but it is the kind of thing that she would like and she couldn’t finish.
William: She left some. And it’s not that she didn’t tear it up and dig into it, but she couldn’t finish.
Lee: No. I had a pecan pancake which was probably the more sensible option because it wasn’t loaded with toppings. The pecans are inside the pancake and it was just perfect. The syrup was on the side and I was able to control it.
William: Kenny ordered French toast with apple cinnamon and it was just four huge slices of French toast with apples and almost like pie filling on top of that - that’s the way I look at it.
Lee: Yes, they were cooked apples.
William: Then I went a completely different route so I got a combo and that was with a couple of scrambled eggs, bacon, which they gave me about four strips of bacon and then ...
Lee: But bacon makes the world go round!
William: Then they had a hash brown. The hash browns were like slices red potatoes with some onions in there. They had a really wonderful flavour to them. They were great. I could have gone there and just eaten the potatoes, but I didn’t; I had more. And then on the other part of it I decided to get some French toast. So I had a couple of slices of French toast and man, that was good.
I looked at it when it came out and it had that white, powdered sugar on it and I thought, that’s not going to be all that great. But once I put the syrup down and started eating it I thought man, I don’t want to stop eating this stuff!
Lee: Oh really?
William: Oh, it was good!
Lee: I love French toast, but sometimes French toast has kind of an eggy taste and I cannot – it’s not that I won’t eat egg – as long as you can disguise it that I cannot identify the taste I’m fine. I’m always wary of ordering it. So it was not eggy?
William: I didn’t think so. But then again I was also eating egg.
Lee: I guess.
William: So it’s hard for me to say. But I had a really great breakfast and after a big race like you had, I felt I deserved a big breakfast.
Lee: Yes you did! Four o’ clock wake ups deserve breakfast! This was late morning. We hadn’t eaten yet.
William: The other place that we really enjoy is called Peach Valley Cafe. This one is not going to be as close to some of the visitor areas, but the breakfast is really good. It is more of a comfort food and basic kind of breakfast. In other words, they are not trying to wow you with all the culinary stuff.
It’s a very good kitchen. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say that they are slopping it out there, but if you are looking for a really good, basic breakfast with a great biscuit ...
Lee: Oh, I love the biscuits there!
William: They call them drop biscuits. I don’t know why because I’m hoping they are not dropping them on the floor.
Lee: You drop them on the baking tray.
William: I go there and it’s the same thing. I’m going in for bacon, eggs, the hash browns that they’ve got and the biscuit. That is just wonderful stuff.
Lee: I always get the potatoes. I get sides. Three sides is a main, right?
William: Something like that.
Lee: So I get the potatoes which are little potatoes with the skin on and they’ve been done in the pan with peppers and onion and spices and it’s absolutely lovely. I have to have my biscuit and I usually get the fruit bowl.
William: The one that it in the visitor area is in the Dr Phillips area, so again, that’s going to be Dr. Phillips Boulevard and it’s going to be near Sandlake Road and I-4. You just go up and there is a whole restaurant row up there.
So in other words it’s kind of competing with Keke’s in that spot.
We go to another one. There is one in South Downtown on South Orange Avenue, if you get to that part, but that is kind of away from where a lot of the hotels and visitor areas are.
I would be happy to recommend Keke’s or Peach Valley Cafe and whether I would recommend one over the other or not, I’d say if you are a bit adventurous, go for Keke’s; if you want a really good, hearty stable, comfort food breakfast, go to Peach Valley Cafe.
Lee: I would say that also depends where you are from. Foreign visitors might go to Keke’s for something more comforting, even though it’s different, because it’s what you would expect from American food, but with a flair of creativity.
William: They are very creative and both of these places are going to be busy. I mean they usually have a line going out the door. At least on the weekends.
So if you go on a weekend, be prepared to wait. I’m not quite sure what it’s like during the week because ... well, I’ve got other things I like to do.
Lee: Well today we were kind of late morning so we arrived on a Saturday when you would expect people to be still eating and the restaurant full. But I think we waited a good 25 minutes.
William: We got there about 9:50 am coming from the race and probably waited about 20 minutes, but also keep in mind that Kenny and Elaine had already put in to get a table. So I’d say it might have been a 30 minute wait.
Lee: I thought about 25. Yes.
William: Both of them highly recommended. We really enjoyed it. I don’t think you can go wrong with either one.
The Peach Valley Cafe, the reason I call that one comfort food is because my mother is from West Virginia and I’m used to hillbilly cooking and that was very close to hillbilly cooking.
Lee: His mother makes wonderful food!
William: Yes she does.
One of the last areas that we want to go over with is kind of like tourist restaurants. In other words, Orlando is filled with themed restaurants that really only exist in the visitor areas. The two that we have are probably two of the most popular ones.
That is going to be Hard Rock Cafe over by Universal Studios in City Walk and House of Blues in Disney Springs.
We’ve actually got a review on our site and I’ll put a link to that in the show notes for Hard Rock Cafe. It is big, it’s loud, but I tell you something, the food was really good.
William: We had a great time with the food and mostly we’ve had good luck with our servers. The last server that we had was a little bit too comfortable with us.
Lee: Yes, but that was the one exception to every other rule so we let it slide as a once off.
William: We had some friends visit us from Denver. They like to come into town and bring their son and hit the theme parks and we met them there. We had a great server that time and they’ve got this big, interactive wall. The kids really love getting up on that. So they can put their hands on the things and slide things around and it’s like a giant video game or giant iPad as far as they are concerned.
Lee: And the interior of the building is absolutely spectacular. When you are done, take a walk around, go up the stairs or down the stairs and have a look around. It’s really wonderful.
William: You know what? Kenny said something that we haven’t tried yet and we need to. He said when you go to the reception stand, ask for the backlot tour. In other words, he said it’s kind of a thing that many people didn’t know about, but if you go up there and ask to have the behind the scenes tour, they will take you to the Green Room, they will show you where a number of things are kind of behind the scenes for how Hard Rock works and the stage.
There is a big concert hall there as well. So that is something I think we may want to go check out. So give it a try and if you have got any luck with that, I would really love for you to give us a report back. You are going to be able to find this at orlandolocal.com/14 So if you’ve been on this tour before or you know anything about it, leave a comment. Maybe it will help someone else out. Maybe it will help me out, because...
Lee: It will certainly help me out because I didn’t even know this existed.
William: Absolutely, so we want to go check that out.
Alright so Hard Rock Cafe. I am going out there and my favorite for years out there was something called the Pig Sandwich. It’s pulled pork sandwich. And I still do like that. I can go out there and have fajitas, but honestly, if I’m going to have fajitas I’m probably going to go to Chuy’s instead. But it’s another place where there’s a big menu. You really can’t go wrong.
Lee: I’ve had the barbecue chicken sandwich, I’ve had salad there ...
William: But we’ve had an appetizer there.
Lee: I’ve had an appetizer.
William: There is some kind of sampler platter appetizer and we were sharing that with, what, six of us I think?
William: And it was enough for all of us. There were wings, there were nachos, potato skins, a few other things that I can’t remember, but I remember thinking this is actually pretty good!
Lee: It was really good and there was a lot of variety on there. We have got some photos on the review and you can read about it. I think that’s what happened with the server the last time. We ordered this and suddenly there were only three of us and I think we under estimated the quantity of food that was on there. So when it came time to order I said, look, so that we don’t waste it, I will eat what I can from the appetizer plate. So I didn’t order an entree.
That apparently didn’t go down too well.
William: No. Well, never mind! It’s our fault. That’s OK. Honestly, we’ve had pretty good help and support there before. Now years ago I think Hard Rock Cafe had kind of gone downhill a little bit so that is why I’m really happy with it now.
When we went back out there about a year and a half ago – that’s when Michelle came out – we went out recently for our review ... We were pleased both times. We had really good food. The environment is loud! So you are going to be hearing rock n roll music, there are going to be people screaming, there are all sorts of people that go there for parties and celebrations, so it’s not going to be a quiet fine dining experience. It is raucous.
Lee: But it’s fun. It is a lot of fun and as you say, it wasn’t just good service; it was outstanding service.
William: Getting there, you are going to go to Universal City Walk and you’ve got that big parking structure out in front. Unless you are staying at one of the resorts there you can take a launch and get straight over to it, but getting there you’ve got a bit of a walk. But the same thing is true over at Disney Springs. You’ve got a big parking garage there and then you walk into House of Blues.
That is another favorite of ours and we’ll start off there with one of the appetizers. It’s called Voodoo Shrimp.
Lee: Oh, with cornbread!
William: It’s cornbread with shrimp and what was that sauce? Is it a gravy or a sauce? I don’t know.
Lee: It’s not a gravy. It’s a sauce.
William: Alright. Whatever it is, it’s good. But be careful. When you bite into the shrimp and you’re wearing a brand new shirt, it will splatter on it. But man, it’s delicious!
Lee: Don’t ask us how we know this!
William: Yeah, it was a honeymoon accident!
Lee: Oh dear!
William: We’ve got a number of things we like over there too. If you like fried chicken, they’ve got a brined fried chicken and it looks almost like they bring out a whole fried chicken sometimes. Maybe that is the Jake and Elwood kind of thing.
Lee: They’ve got sandwiches as well, they’ve got soups, I’ve had street tacos there which were really good, Tové has had sandwiches which she enjoyed.
William: Now this is the place where I used to really love jambalaya. It’s the first place I ever had jambalaya and it was like instant comfort food. It was the greatest thing in the world.
They have since changed the recipe a bit and the flavors ... it’s not a bad jambalaya, but it’s just that the flavors don’t go with my palate the way the old one did. So that’s why I like the one at BJ’s Brewhouse.
So I’m not going to tell you don’t have the jambalaya. I am just saying it’s no longer my favorite jambalaya.
Lee: What have we had for dessert there?
William: We had a brownie. And of course we get the cornbread. We start off with it.
Lee: The skillet of cornbread. Now they have changed that. What do they have now? There are peppers in it. It used to be the rosemary one.
William: When it was rosemary it was kind of more like a cake type of cornbread with rosemary in it and I really liked that flavor. Now the cornbread is a bit more gritty.
Lee: It’s the coarse cornmeal.
William: It’s coarse cornmeal so they have changed the cornmeal and they have put some peppers in it. Again, it’s not a bad cornbread. I like the old one better.
Lee: I really like this one and I’m happy to order it and recommend it anytime. But the old one though was like dessert before your meal.
William: It was and I’ve got a sweet tooth so that is why I loved that one so much.
Lee: I loved it with the maple butter.
William: Yeah the maple butter. Definitely check out the cornbread. It’s not bad cornbread. It’s just different than what they used to have.
Lee: And another place where we have always had great service. You and I have been there so many times, even before we got engaged, we had gone separately and together.
William: And that’s part of the reason why we are recommending both of these places. We have gone there multiple times, we’ve had really good experiences and we have had good meals there. Plus I just really like the music. At Hard Rock you are going to hear rock n roll music; House of Blues you are going to hear some soul music, you’re going to hear the blues music and I just really like that atmosphere.
Lee: I love the atmosphere.
William: It’s a bit dark in there.
Lee: It’s kind of rustic and really cool.
William: You’re going to go in there with those old wooden chairs or wooden benches.
Lee: Yes. And shoes on the ceiling. Have a look at the details. It’s just incredible. Go and have a look at the bar. Look at the lamps, look at the tables, the art and lampshades. It’s just wonderful.
William: And just like Hard Rock Cafe, they have concerts at House of Blues just right next door as well. It’s not as large of a venue as Hard Rock Live venue is. They give some great shows out there. Sometimes it’s nicer to go see a band in a smaller venue. So just something to think about.
And that was really our list of our top five restaurants. We gave you more than five restaurants, but at least we gave you five categories.
William: There are a few other things in town. I read something recently and I wasn’t sure if I bought it or not, but it was saying that Orlando is becoming the number one foodie destination in the States. At first I thought no, it’s got to be New York, it’s got to be Las Vegas. But the more I think about it, we are getting a lot of restaurants here.
Lee: Oh, yes we are.
William: There are a lot of choices. If you listen to a few episodes back where we went to Taste of the Nation and there were a number of great restaurants that we went to or visited at their stations, Cuba Libre was one of them (that’s at Pointe Orlando), Highball and Harvest ...
Lee: That was really good as well.
William: Oh yeah. They had good things.
Lee: Marlow’s Tavern.
William: Marlow’s Tavern. We need to go back and hit those folks up again. So there is a number of places and on previous visits, Four Rivers Smokehouse. They do barbecue and they’ve kind of come in and become, I guess, the premiere barbecue place in the area. I think they’ve got one down in Kissimmee. I’ll have to look that one up and put that in the show notes if they do. The barbecue there is just flavorful and moist and it is really good.
We’ve got a lot of options in Orlando and we wanted to give you a few of our favorites that hopefully are in the areas that you might be looking at if you are visiting town.
Lee: If you want it, you can get it.
William: Absolutely. That’s going to wrap it up for us today. We really enjoyed having you here and hope to see you again next week.
Thank you for joining us on episode 14 of The Orlando Local Show. Of course if you would like a transcript for this show, you can get one for free. It is at orlandolocal.com/14
As always, we appreciate you. Thanks so much. Talk to you next week!