You know how it goes on vacation. You eat out! I realize there are probably those people who never eat out on vacation, renting an AirBnB and cook all their meals. That’s not me and my family. I love to try new places to eat. Vacation is a giant excuse to do that, 3 times a day, if the desire strikes.
On our recent trip to Universal Studios Orlando my family had many culinary adventures. —I really do love having teenagers when it comes to food. They are so much more open to experiences than when they were 5 and ate only white noodles with white sauce.–I wanted to share a little bit of what we loved at Universal Studios Orlando
There is no surprise here. Our favorite food at Universal Orlando was Butter Beer. We have craved it ever since our last trip to the park (3 years ago). I think Universal learned something after building Hogsmeade. Turns out, people are obsessed with Butter Beer. So there are 2 butter beer taverns in Diagon Alley, plus The Leaky Cauldron (if you want to sit and eat food with your sugar rush). We especially loved frozen butter beer this time. In fact, I would say it is better than the original.
I desperately want to try hot butter beer, but I have yet to be in Orlando when the weather justifies a hot beverage, so that may never happen. There are copycat recipes all over the place, but nothing copies sipping frozen butter beer while watching your son Wingardium Leviosa a feather in a shop window of Diagon Alley. We are so in love with butter beer that we drank it in the rain one night. And the stuff is still delicious in a rain poncho. —I kinda want to break into Suess rhyme, “drink it in the rain, drink it on a plane. With a goat on a moat.”
Photo by Melinda Jae Photography
If you are willing to exit the parks, which you really should if you want decent food, the Universal City Walk offers some great sit-down options. Tucked in a less than prominent location is Antojito’s Mexican. They do tableside guacomole, had a mariachi band playing and work the street food vibe.
Best of all we discovered Esquites, a roasted street corn dip with jalapeno and queso fresco. Oh. My. Word. We loved that so much–we actually didn’t finish our guacamole as fresh and delicious as it is. We totally passed it up for this dip. I am attempting to recreate it at home. Their burritos, chimichangas and carnitas were satisfying and huge portions. We found their dishes weren’t too spicy but flavorful. This is a huge plus if you have younger kids that balk at spicy food. Warning, it’s not going to be as cheap as a pretzel and soda in the park, but trust me sitting down and enjoying Esquites is totally worth a little more cash. Plus then your feet don’t hurt as much heading back to ride The Hulk again.
Toothsome Chocolate Foundrey
This is the newest thing at Universal Orlando’s CityWalk. And can I say I am all in on how cool this is. A restaurant dedicated to chocolate with a Steam Punk theme. So cool. You can get these awesome pile high shakes (photo) or gourmet candies or macaroons. Or dinner. This place has it all….and that also means it has a line. Sorry, but hopefully that will calm down in a year and you can get in and get your food. Crowds aside it was a fun adventure to pick a chocolate and savor it in their outdoor seating area. I wanted to take so much home, but alas the odds of chocolate surviving in my presence during a 4 hour flight is 1 in infinite.
Cabana Bay Food Court
I am including this one because I was so pleased to find a food court option. So if you choose to stay at the Cabana Bay Resort –which you will want to ’cause Volcano Bay Water Theme Park is next door– you can also enjoy the Bayliner Cafe. It has that food court advantage that everyone gets something they like. This is big with my teens. There are grab and go options and they are open for breakfast to boot.
Now I can’t recommend going out of your way to come there from the park or another on-property hotel. That is just too much time to give up when you could be shooting a high score on Men In Black. But this is so perfect if your family likes to return to the hotel for afternoon breaks or if it’s the day you want to be poolside. I give Cabana Bay extra points for the wonderful feature of grab and go breakfasts, casue morning time is prime at the park. If you want full pictures of the options and a great review of all you can get there I recommend Orlando Informer’s posts about it.
The Kitchen at the Hard Rock Hotel
There is no way around how wonderful the food here is. The menu is this great mix of culinary quality but food accessibility. I don’t enjoy snobby food places or culinary artistic places (you know food looks great and that’s what you pay for). This was neither. From the cornbread and pretzel bread to start to the white chocolate cheesecake to finish we reveled in every bite. Short ribs that were tender. Sauces that enhanced, didn’t overpower. Cedar plank salmon that my daughter begrudgingly shared. I could go on and on. Oh, I have to mention the chicken empanadas with tomatillo sauce. Empanadas may be viewed as poor man food by some, these are not that!
A quiet restaurant –and we were there on a Friday night. After all the stimulation of an amusement park, I can’t tell you how much our well-being welcomed sitting in a calm place. We enjoyed our meal without pans clanging and music blaring. And it’s still in the Hard Rock Hotel, where music is often over powering.
When on vacation we splurge and this was a HUGE splurge. I am not going to lie to you it can get pricey. From the food costs to tipping the roving magicians (which the slight of hand is unbelievable) you aren’t leaving without dropping a heavy chunk of change. If you pick one splurge dinner while enjoying Universal Orlando foods, this is my recommendation hands down.