Whenever I think about the food one would find at an amusement or theme park, my mind gravitates towards stale pretzels, nachos with fake cheese, artificially colored cotton candy, and a lack of alcohol. I’m happy to report that the food situation at Universal Studios is as far from my preconceptions as possible.
While Universal has some pretty solid food options within the park, the real star of the culinary show is CityWalk, the strip of restaurants and entertainment that lies right outside the park entrance. I’m not exaggerating when I say you could literally live happily for months without leaving the area, especially if your hotel is on property. CityWalk is home to a handful of upscale restaurants, a movie theater, more bars than your liver would know what to do with, and even QSRs, for when you’ve had your fill of the good stuff and are just really feelin’ Qdoba.
Because there are a mind-boggling amount of ways to feed yourself at Universal Orlando, here’s where you should be eating, and what to order once you get there.
Whats Shakin’ Tuna Bacon Sandwich
This thing is a monster. Inside two spring roll wrapper buns filled with sushi rice and kani, a type of crab commonly used in sushi, you’ll find applewood bacon, blackened yellowfin tuna, jalapenos, tomato salsa, iceberg lettuce, slaw, and spicy mayo. Once you figure out how to fit this thing in your mouth, you’ll be happy you ordered it.
Jen’s Fresh Find Roll
The Cowfish is known for both sushi and burgers. It kind of seems like a strange combination for a restaurant, but they really do excel at both. While there are nearly twenty rolls on the menu, I had a clear favorite. The Jen’s Fresh Find Roll is filled with cucumber, tuna, and green onion and then topped with avocado and salmon. Not to mention, the whole thing is served with a side of poke. This just goes above and beyond.
The Three Broomsticks
Okay, so this isn’t food, but it’s important to know that The Three Broomsticks sells Fire Whisky. Universal gets this made by a local distillery and The Three Broomsticks is the only place in the world you can find it. This whiskey is super potent. It’s kind of like Fireball on crack. I tried to take a shot of this and nearly died, so sip slowly.
Chocolate Banana Gooey Cake
Mythos was rated the #1 best theme park restaurant six years in a row. That’s a pretty big feat considering the amount of places you can find high quality food at Universal alone. Their savory items are pretty great, but this chocolate banana gooey cake steals the show. This dessert comes with a molten chocolate lava cake, banana chip, fresh bananas, homemade caramel sauce, and a perfect scoop of ice cream on top. If you get one dessert at Universal, it should be this one.
NBC Grill & Brew
Grand Slam Burger
NBC Grill & Brew is any sports lover’s paradise. There are a ridiculous amount of TVs in the place, and they even have a big screen on the exterior of the building where they show notable events like the World Cup and the Olympics. They mostly serve sports bar-type food, but on crack. The Grand Slam Burger has two patties topped with cheddar cheese, butter bibb lettuce, applewood smoked bacon, tomato, BBQ ranch, and crispy tabasco onions on a brioche bun. They also have a pretzel that’s literally bigger than any normal human’s face, so you should get one of those for the table (or yourself) as well.
Strong Water Tavern
Strong Water Tavern, located in the the Loews Sapphire Resort, is any rum-lover’s dream. They have two pages of their menu dedicated to an impressive rum inventory that is divided into multiple categories: Spanish Island, British Island, Spiced & Flavored Rum, French Island, Mainland, and the good ‘ol USA. The best part is they sell rum flights, where you can choose three types of rum from any category to sample.
Arroz con Pollo
The food at Strong Water Tavern is just as impressive as their rum collection, if not more so. Their menu is inspired by several cuisines of the Caribbean, including Jamaican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, and more. Strong Water’s secret weapon, in my opinion, is the Arroz con Pollo, made with bone-in chicken, garlic, peppers, onions, and tomatoes cooked into yellow rice. I basically gorged myself with this stuff and have absolutely no regrets.
Lobster Seafood Toast
Tchoup Chop is yet another testament to the caliber of food found at Universal, as the restaurant is owned by Emeril Lagasse. The lobster seafood toast with citrus aioli is an item on the appetizer portion of the menu, and it would be a crime to travel all the way to Tchoup Chop without eating it.
While this chirashi bowl is a tad out of character in comparison to the other items on the menu at Tchoup Chop, it was so incredible that you just gotta go for it. In this dish, you’ll find sushi rice, salmon, ahi, cucumbers, kamikana, spring onions, avocado, unagi glaze, and spicy mayo. It’s kind of like a deconstructed sushi roll, but the key to the deliciousness of this dish was the super fresh fish.
Toothsome Chocolate Emporium
Pork Belly Sliders
Toothsome is Universal’s newest restaurant on CityWalk, having opened just a few months ago. They specialize in sweets, as the name would suggest, but their savory menu is immense and incredible. One of my favorites was the pork belly sliders, because they garnish each mini burger with a piece of chocolate dipped bacon. If you’re wondering, this is literally the way to my heart.
Toothsome has clearly hopped on the extravagant milkshake trend. I would say majority of their dessert menu is comprised of crazy milkshakes, some of the more impressive flavors being Red Velvet, Strawberry Cheesecake, Chocolate Banana Brain Freeze, and Key Lime Pie. Even though a lot of places are serving milkshakes like this, Toothsome sets themselves apart by using unique flavors of ice cream, like sour cream, and excessive garnishes like an entire red velvet cupcake, slice of key lime pie, or chocolate covered banana.
The moral of the story when it comes to the food at Universal Studios Orlando, is that there is something for anyone and everyone. You can go an entire stay without needing to eat at the same restaurant twice, and you can definitely go an entire stay without hitting all the places Universal has to offer. When you do book your trip, feel free to experience all the park has to offer on a culinary scale, but make sure to hit up our favorite restaurants here, or live your life full of regret.
Photos: Analiese Trimber