Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Universal Studios - Dinner in Orlando

I'm down in Orlando, FL for a client conference this week, and it's pretty damn nice. The daytime highs have been mid-70s. We've been in a conference center around the clock, but I've been able to stick my head outside for brief, brief periods between sessions.

Last night my colleague and two conference attendees went to dinner at Universal Studios Citywalk! - the bar/restaurant scene at Universal. I'd forgotten how spread out Orlando is. You can drive for almost an hour and still be within Orlando city limits!

We tried to eat at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, but even in February, the wait for a table was an hour and 45 minutes. No thanks. So we rounded the pond to Hard Rock Cafe. A classic American choice. I'd eaten there with my family when I was 14, but I think this time I was even more impressed by the infrastructure it takes to support that restaurant. They can seat 1,400 people at a time, and they usually turn tables over 5 times during the dinner hours. That's almost 7,000 people a night! I can't imagine what the servers take home. (I think someone forgot to tell all of them that Goth is out. I've never seen so many piercings in one concentrated area).

The food is so-so, but of course that's not why you go there. The dome ceiling over the main bar is painted like the Sistine Chapel, but instead of heavenly cherubs, the "saints" are famous rock and roll stars with lines from their songs on tablets at the feet. Janis Joplin looks good in heaven.
A full-size 1950s pink Cadillac convertible rotates on a pedestal in the center of the bar. Gongs ring out when birthdays are announced. Horrible (aka, amazing!) rock videos are looping on the TVs.

Shockingly, a cheerleading convention was in town, or at least that's what we finally dubbed it. Hordes of 14 and 15-year old girls had taken over the top floor of the restaurant, and upon a trip to the bathroom, I found a group of them sitting on the floor of the hallway, hugging each other and crying as a group over something. Lost competition? First heartbreak? Cell phone got lost? Ugh. Way too much teenage angst for me. No pity from this former cheerleader.

Gotta run back to the conference now, but the night was really fun. Behaved myself and enjoyed the scenery.

1 comment:

Timothy said...

Meghan, this is just a caveat into the Jimmy Buffet dining/drinking experience (and by no means needed for posting): Before Iraq I made an eventful trip down to, I believe (it has been a while and my mind was altered with beverage "enhancements") somewhere in southern North Carolina with Army-buddy Brady. Among places that we frequented when we briefly traveled to the Myrtle Beach area was Buffet's "Margaritaville" restaurant. While fine dining wasn't at the forefront of my mind, rather the bar was, I was taken aback with some memory throw-backs. While I do not know what the restaurant chain appears like in Orlando, the site in South Carolina reminded me of a place endeared to the Norville family: Pargo's. Yes, for those who knew it, the now Chik-Fil-A casual dining experience of the Harrisonburg Pargo's vaguely conjured up a few thoughts. These mainly include: the relaxed atmosphere tended by marijuana-smoking and hung-over college students and the seemingly random crap, dummies and whatnot, hanging from the ceilings. Unlike you I stayed at the restaurant and partook in libations, mainly of Buffet's Landshark Lager, and was as impressed as one can be at a beach bar that isn't located at the beach. However with Buffet music "buffeting" you as you relax in a tropical atmosphere it is hard to leave with a negative impression, or for that matter a sober one.