Nobody comes to a Hard Rock Cafe (11 a.m.–midnight or later daily, main courses from $12) for the food, but grabbing an expensive—and admittedly tasty—burger at this one is a must-do for rock-and-roll fans; this outpost of the international chain is the world’s largest, and accordingly it has a most impressive collection of memorabilia.
There’s something a little disturbing about tucking into “The Whaler” (a tilapia sandwich) or a “Natty Dread” (vegetable patties) while your little one noshes on “Jamacaroni and Cheese” and flocks of tourists take part in the beer and booze specials of “Red Stripe Rastafarian Thursday.” At least it’s disturbing to me. Still, as jarring as the theming of Bob Marley — A Tribute to Freedom (4:30 p.m.–2 a.m. daily, main courses from $9) may seem, the kitchen serves up some surprisingly tasty Jamaican dishes. I just wish they’d change the name to “A Taste of Babylon” or something like that.
Emeril’s (lunch 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m. daily, dinner 5:30–10 p.m. daily, main courses from $18) is, of course, one of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse’s 10 restaurants, and the menu is predictably a combination of New Orleans flavors and contemporary cuisine. The stylish dining room can sometimes be deafeningly loud, but dishes like an andouille-crusted redfish are worth the hustle and bustle. Rumor has it that the billionth person to say “BAM!” on tasting their food gets a free dessert…at least it seems that way, judging by the tourists who think they’re the first person ever to make that exclamation.
Latin Quarter (5–10 p.m. daily, main courses from $15) is an oft-overlooked gem among CityWalk restaurants, probably because the pan-Latin menu goes well above and beyond the Tex-Mex fare one might expect here. Instead, Latin Quarter serves up a wide variety of excellent traditional dishes like churrasco skirt steak, paella, carne frita, and chorizo-topped snapper.
If you’re headed to CityWalk for a night of entertainment but are interested in some different on-site dining options, the resort’s three hotels have some impressive restaurants. Emeril’s Tchoup Chop (Royal Pacific Resort, 5:30–10 p.m. Sun.–Thurs., 5:30–11 p.m. Fri.–Sat., main courses from $18) is a more upscale and quieter fine-dining experience than Lagasse’s CityWalk boîte, with prices and dress code to match.
The Orlando outpost of famed New York steakhouse The Palm (Hard Rock Hotel, 5–11 p.m. daily, main courses from $20) successfully captures the elegance and classic American menu of its namesake.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition