Dining at Orlando’s Amway Center: A review of Jernigan’s
Jernigan’s is described by many as that fancy, new, upscale restaurant located somewhere in the vast land of the Amway Center. While I wouldn’t go far as calling it “upscale,” more like a higher class Golden Corral, it is a very pleasant new feature of the building that everyone should check out at least once. Essentially, it’s above average food and a glutton’s paradise.
There are only two time options for seating at Jernigan’s (an hour and a half before the game and at game time) and you must have reservations to get seated. Pre-game reservations seem much easier to get, however you will be booted out of the restaurant 15 minutes before tipoff so that they can seat folks for the next round. Assuming you’re seated promptly, that allows you only an hour and 15 minutes to do your best Kobayashi impersonation on the food stations. That doesn’t even include time to sit and relax with a bottle of wine or enjoy one of the new desserts by The Dessert Lady.
For $35.95 a person you will have any and everything you could want to eat. There is no set menu and everyone orders from the set “Chef’s Table Menu” which features several ever changing food stations and includes free soft drinks (sample menu). This is where Jernigan’s sets itself apart in my opinion. You never have to feel the anxiety of picking between the Rib Eye and the Rigatoni. You get to have it all!
Let me preface this portion of the review by stating that I am no Scott Joseph. I am FAR from a foodie. I love Seasons 52 and The Ravenous Pig but I am just as happy eating at McDonald’s.
On my first go-around, I decided to fill my plate to the brim with as much randomness as possible. The first plate included: Rigatoni Pomodoro, Sirloin Steak, Orzo Pasta Salad, Mojo Chicken, Pork Loin (w/ apple cinnamon chutney), Creamed Corn, and Plantains. Not to take away from the others, and I know it sounds strange, but the Creamed Corn was my favorite. It had a little kick to it and also little chunks of ham, onion and parsley. Delicious. The steak and rigatoni were rather regular, but the pork, orzo, and everything else was very good.
My second plate ventured into the small sushi selection available that night with a few pieces each of the California Roll and Black & Blue Roll and then decided to try the Duck Salad, sans the salad, and the Pan Seared Tilapia. The sushi was good, but you could tell it wasn’t their specialty and the fish tasted frozen. Seconds of the pork, creamed corn, and plantains made up for it.
The whole meal reminded me somewhat of a churrascaria with the plentiful meat choices. Although, they also offer many vegetarian options – wedge salad, mushroom brushetta, eggplant caponata, golden beets, and more were on the menu during my visit – that would allow you to leave without feeling starved. Cheaper, yet less mouth-watering, alternative to Texas de Brazil!
For dessert, my date and I shared a 3 layer Key Lime Cake that was a little over refrigerated, but still delicious and plenty enough for both of us to share (especially after stuffing ourselves). There were 4 different dessert options on the menu that night and all desserts are provided by The Dessert Lady, which regularly wins all the local Foodie awards.
When it comes to drinks, your best bet is to probably just stick to the free soft drinks. While Jernigan’s offers decent beer and wine choices, it’s not great and is rather pricey. They also didn’t have a wine list waiting for us which resulted in delay while the waiter, who is dealing with too many people at once, went to grab one. Not only did they not get us a wine list, but they told us nothing at all when we sat down. After waiting 20 minutes longer than we expected to be seated, it left us with a cold feeling to just be dropped off at the ledge with no idea of the Jernigan’s process.
There is also inconsistent pricing on the menu – i.e. Rodney Strong Pinot Noir can be purchased by the glass for $10 or you can buy a bottle for $60. What? Unless that is a jumbo bottle of wine, that pricing is wrong. Also, they have Widmer on draft and are charging $11 for the beer. You can walk 50 yards outside the restaurant on the club level and buy a Widmer draft for $9.50.
My only major complaint, and it did bother me quite a bit, was the initial seating process. My date and I arrived at 6:35 in order to ensure we got the ledge seating (best view) and the hostess took my name, gave me a buzzer and ensured the ledge seating and told us they’d buzz me when it was ready. While this is a pretty standard move in the restaurant world, it is recent improvement to the process at Jernigan’s. Previously, you needed to show up and wait in line with 100 or so of your closest hungry friends. It was very similar to waiting in a Space Mountain line, except you didn’t have to hear screaming kids, only irritated hungry adults who were missing tipoff. So I felt good knowing that they’re at least trying to improve the process and that, at a minimum, I didn’t have to wait in a Wizarding World length line to eat dinner. However, I wasn’t expecting to not be seated until 7:20… missing the tipoff… and then not having a drink in front us until 745. Needless to say, much more improvement is needed to sure up this process.
Priority seating is supposedly given to premium guests and Magic season ticket holders, so maybe you’ll have a better seating experience. Initial customer impression is very important and something a patron will remember, and in this area Jernigan’s failed.
My business critique aside, the restaurant has a lot to offer. All the problems that I found are fixable and none had to do with the quality of food. Jernigan’s will always have the awesome location and superb view and because of that will likely remain an Amway Center staple for a long time. While I don’t personally think it is a spot that I would find myself going to on a regular basis, it is definitely a place that fans seem to like, if not love.
One patron sitting nearby was on her sixth trip to Jernigan’s and just loved having the ability to eat the constantly changing food choices while being able to sit in good seats and watch exciting basketball. Others purchase the cheapest seats they can find and remain in Jernigan’s for the entirety of the game. Allowing them to get a substantial seat upgrade and good food to boot.
Whatever your motivation may be for checking out Jernigan’s, it’s likely that you will leave satisfied. At a minimum, it’s one more thing to cross off your Orlando bucket list.
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