Universal Orlando has been upping its food game for years now, and fans of the parks already know places like Bigfire, Mythos and Voodoo Donuts are where it’s at. I don’t need to tell you this, as these places are often bandied about over and over again on lists. But there are a couple of places with excellent dining choices I would not have guessed, and for varying reasons.
During a recent trip to Universal Orlando, executive Chef Jason Glus shared that it’s been an important piece for the resorts to really amp up their food game over the past three to four years with offerings at all kinds of different price points. Of course, the food game has been upped with programs like the Mardi Gras food festival and even hotel food at Universal quick service spaces, particularly in resorts like Endless Summer Dockside Inn And Suites and Cabana Bay. However, during a recent trip to the parks I was impressed by multiple new dining experiences that surprised me, albeit in very different ways. And no, I’m not about to throw longtime favorite Mythos at ya.
You probably already knew that Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay is full of thrills when it's open, from a not-so-lazy river to a 125-foot high body plunge slide called Ko'okiri Body Plunge. Yes, the theming and the attractions are really awesome, but you’d be surprised about how great the fare is beyond your average pretzel, ice cream and burger snacks at usual water parks.
OK those things do still exist, in particular an epic and rainbow-themed ice cream cone called the Waturi Fusion ice cream. It features four flavors: blue raspberry, strawberry, orange and banana, and a definite photo opp. But along with the expected ice cream, the multiple dining spots in the water park offer so much more as well.
Just out here trying to make Waturi Fusion Wednesdays a thing, ya feel? pic.twitter.com/ZlcAUbE5dMAugust 19, 2020
Another signature item in the water park is, of course, the coconut crusted fried chicken -- which is probably among the more famous items you can nab at Volcano Bay. Regardless, if you’re feeling like some mac and cheese with jerk shrimp, that outside-the-box offering is available, as well.
My personal favorite thing I’ve tried so far – and the one least likely to typically be available within the realm of an actual theme park – would be the Poke Poke Bowl available at the quick service establishment The Feasting Frog. It’s delightful, refreshing and also won’t weigh you down if you plan to spend a few more hours in a swimsuit afterward.
The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium And Savory Feast Kitchen
Many, many people have passed The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium at Universal’s CityWalk and many, many of you may already know about the chocolate counter near the restaurant’s entrance and about the excellent milkshakes you can get that are roughly the size of your head. That's only two of the three experiences the establishment is really offering though, and what I didn’t really know is how fine dining the actual food menu is. In short, there’s a reason this restaurant tacks “& Savory Feast Kitchen” to the end of its name.
The warm chocolate almond bread is Instagram-worthy, but I was shocked about how good a firegrilled pork chop with chocolate-based mole sauce and gnocchi with grilled chicken and rapini peppers were. Don’t skimp on the salads either, as one barbecue chicken salad also features outside-the-box ingredients like pumpkin seeds, sweety drop peppers and a chipotle lime vinaigrette. More like vina-great. (Sorry, had to.)
If you go ahead and commit to one of those milkshakes, you'll pretty much have the perfect meal from start to finish at CityWalk. As a whole, it's been a great addition, given Toothsome was part of the “massive expansion” in that area to bring more offerings to fans of the Orlando theme park. As an added benefit for you West Coasters, the walls are up for another location at Universal Studios Hollywood, too.
Again, Universal has really been ramping up food on all fronts in recent years. Even quick service offerings throughout the resort include dishes like fried rice or Cuban sandwiches rather than the chicken nuggets and pizza most of its rivals are offering at that price point. But this fine dining and water park fare really goes a long way to show you how far that Universal Orlando has come since it started gaining notice for its churro offerings, of course.
If you are thinking about planning a Universal Orlando vacation this endless summer, varying ticket packages are available now.
Amazing Race & Top Chef superfan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.
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