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The Resort Hotels – Hard Rock Hotel:
Palm Restaurant

What: Steak house
Where: On the lobby level, near Velvet; also has an outside entrance
Price Range: $$$$+
Hours: Monday to Thursday 5:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.; Sunday 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Reservations: Not required but highly recommended, especially on weekends. Call (407) 503-7256 or OpenTable.com

The original Palm opened in New York in 1926 and over the years developed a reputation as a place where movers and shakers gathered to devour mammoth steaks and cut big deals. In the intervening years, the Palm has branched out to many other cities and has now established itself in Orlando. Those who know the original will find the Hard Rock incarnation familiar, if larger. Like the other branches, the walls of this one are filled with colorful caricatures of regular patrons and local celebrities from the business world and the media. The dark wooden wainscoting and room dividers evoke an earlier, male-dominated era when the steak house was something of a boy’s club. The waiters in long white meat cutters’ aprons complete the vintage picture.

This is a noisy, boisterous steak house that fits in well with the spirit of Hard Rock and is proving equally popular with tourists and high-rolling locals, which is probably the whole point. It's a great place to come in a celebratory mood with a bunch of friends who don't mind shouting to make themselves heard as they tuck into huge slabs of prime aged meat or crack open a five-pound lobster, all washed down with some pricey wines. Figure a bare minimum of $60 per person for the standard Palm blowout meal, much more with cocktails and wine. Those looking for a quiet table in the corner or a moderately priced meal should look elsewhere.

Steaks are the center of attention here and they are quite good. They range in price from $42 to $58, with a mammoth 32-ounce double steak for two going for $92. Three-pound lobsters start at $75; at times you can get a four-pounder for two with salads and sides for $99. If you don't know exactly what you want, rely on the server's recommendation. Steak and lobsters at the Palm are traditionally accompanied by a number of side dishes served "family style for two or more" ($9 to $12). The creamed spinach is justly famous and the others are good, too.

For those not into thick slabs of steak or gargantuan crustaceans, the Palm offers a selection of fairly standard Italian veal dishes (about $30) as well as some pasta dishes. For lighter appetites, two of the Palm's signature salads are worth recommending. The Gigi ($13) is a blend of tomatoes, bacon, onions, chopped shrimp, and green beans in a light vinaigrette and the Monday Night Salad ($12) is mixed greens, pimentos, onions, tomatoes, anchovies, and radishes.

Desserts ($6 to $12) are fairly pedestrian versions of old standbys and strike some as a tad overpriced. They include New York cheesecake, tiramisu, key lime pie, and creme brulee. From 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. to close on Monday through Friday, the Palm offers "Prime Time Bites" at the bar. A selection of substantial appetizers (including steakburgers, crab cakes, and charcuterie) can be had for only $4.50; shrimp and raw oysters are also discounted. Drinks are still full price, but the food is a fantastic value. Repeat diners should ask their server about the 837 Club; you can earn points towards free lobsters.

The Palm has two entrances. One leads from the hotel lobby down a stately corridor lined with psychedelic day-glo posters from the heyday of San Francisco acid rock; the other offers access from the hotel's front drive for those arriving by car.

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Universal Orlando 2011


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