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Universal Studios Florida

Universal Orlando has some wonderful table-service dining establishments. But if you are anything like me, you don’t always want the full fine dining experience in the middle of a theme park day. Sometimes you would rather just walk up to a counter and get some food—yet you don’t want to be relegated to eating hot dogs and turkey legs all day. Thankfully, Universal is filled with creative, well-themed counter-service dining options. Inside the Studios park, here are 5 of my favorites.

1. Spaghetti and Meatballs, Louie’s Italian Restaurant

Image (c) Universal

Modeled after the restaurant in The Godfather, Louie’s Italian Restaurant is also a great place to see how moviemaking is done. Part of the restaurant is fully finished with beautiful high-end details. Yet that area gives way to unfinished wild walls, high industrial ceilings with stage lights, and other tidbits that make it look like a Hollywood set. There is plenty of seating both inside and out, even on crowded days.

The authentic Italian food is superb, and I have never had a bad meal. But my absolute favorite is the spaghetti and meatball dinner. Easily good enough to be served in a more expensive table-service restaurant, yet surprisingly inexpensive, the spaghetti and meatballs are hearty enough for those with moderate appetites to share. Add on a small Caesar salad for a complete, and excellent, meal.

2. Bacon Double Cheeseburger, Mel’s Drive-In

Image (c) Universal Orlando

Want to head back to the malt shops of the 1950s? Mel’s Drive-In is modeled after the restaurant in American Graffiti, and the “parking lot” outside is filled with vintage cars just waiting for a photo op. During Halloween Horror Nights, “burned out” letters in the sign disappear to transform the place into Mel’s Die-In.

The menu is packed with traditional malt shop favorites. I prefer the enormous bacon double cheeseburger, which is easily enough for lighter eaters to split. Substitute huge old-fashioned onion rings for the fries, and add a root beer float or one of the restaurant’s signature milkshakes for a true throwback experience.

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