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Let's Talk About the Food at Universal Orlando Resort's Parks...

The restaurants that really shine…

Bangers and Mash from the Leaky Cauldron

Image: HarshLight, Flickr (license)

The good thing is that despite a tendency towards theme park food, Universal Orlando Resort’s parks do have a few truly standout restaurants.

In Universal Studios Florida, many guests can’t go on enough about Finnegan’s Irish Pub, situated snugly in the Streets of New York section. Even with a cursory glance at the menu, Finnegan’s already passes the first major test most pubs fail—the food is actually Irish-themed without feeling like a St. Paddy’s day party menu. There’s something uniquely disheartening about settling into a pub only to find out the menu is full of nachos and disco fries, and Finnegan’s avoids this with eclectic options like beef pasties, scotch eggs, potato and leek soup, bangers and mash, Kilkenny pot pie, and more. It’s such a good selection that we can forgive them for throwing in a few gag-on-me-Lucky-Charms dish names, like calling a fruit plate “The Leprechaun’s Rainbow”.

Our second option for Universal Studios Florida actually ties to one of our favorite choices in Islands of Adventure. The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley shares a very similar menu to Three Broomsticks in the Hogsmeade section of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Both of these counter service restaurants share incredible theming (even if we could stand for them to pump up the AC) and a menu of UK comfort food offerings, ironically quite similar to Finnegan’s. Some of the highlights include Beef, Lamb, and Guinness Stew, Cottage Pie, a Ploughman’s Platter, Cornish pasties, a family-sized Great Feast, and even some wonderfully refreshing drinks beyond Butterbeer (the pumpkin drinks are particularly nice). Whether you like Harry Potter or not, there is no question that these two locations offer some of the hands-down best counter service food in any of Universal’s parks.

Mythos giant statue fountain pouring out of mouth

Image: Jett Farrell-Vega

The real king in the dining realm at Universal Orlando Resort, however, is Mythos. We cannot gush enough how much we love this insanely themed restaurant, to the point that we still think Disney could learn a thing or two from it. Mythos is unique in that it is both impossible to ignore and yet completely easy to miss. Its towering statues are visible from almost every waterfront in Islands of Adventure, yet many visitors completely pass it by without realizing what an incredible restaurant lies inside. It’s a bonus point that the walkways surrounding the restaurant are one of the most peaceful places you will find anywhere in the park.

Mythos isn’t a perfect culinary experience—they do have some dishes that are hit-or-miss, and quality sometimes wavers when crowds surge. However, they truly do stand out both for theming and food as a must-visit stop if you’re visiting IOA. There’s something incredibly soothing about Mythos’ cavernous interior, the scent of warm bread, and the creative range of Mediterranean flavors subtly mixed with family-friendly offerings. The only area we found where they fell short was in desserts, but overall, Mythos still offers one of Orlando’s best theme park dining experiences, even over many of the choices at Walt Disney World.

While our focus has largely been on Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure, it is worth noting that Universal’s Volcano Bay also has a few really great dining options. The Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club, in particular, offers an awesome menu surrounding Pacific Island-inspired fare including Coconut Curry Chicken, Hawaiian Ribs, and even a decent grab and go menu. It’s such a good selection that visitors to Universal’s other parks might get jealous!

Want to eat healthy? You may run into some challenges…

TODAY Cafe Avocado Toast

Image: Universal Orlando Resort

While Universal Orlando Resort’s parks do have some good dining options, there is one area where visitors may run into some frustrations—eating healthy, especially if you’re on a special diet. People seem to commonly assume that a garden burger, salad, or anything with grilled chicken fits the bill for a healthy diet, and this theme runs true throughout Universal Orlando Resort’s parks. Universal's app doesn't offers as much help as My Disney Experience, so guests looking for something healthy might feel a bit adrift when perusing options. Fortunately, there are some choices if you dig, and Universal seems to be getting better and better on this front.

While they don’t offer a particularly large menu, if you’re a meat-eater looking for some tasty counter service food at Islands of Adventure, check out Doc Sugrue’s Desert Kabab House in The Lost Continent. Running with the land’s Mediterranean theming, this quick stop offers beef, chicken, and vegetable kababs, along with some quick bites like hummus, Greek yogurt, and salad. Confisco Grille also offers some good healthy choices, including options for vegetarians like a plant-based chipotle sausage with orzo or a Portobello Veggie Wrap. For table service, Mythos once again takes the crown with a good range of healthy and even some vegetarian choices like their delicious Mezze Platter and a plant-based Tomato Pesto Cresto de Gallo.

At Universal Studios Florida, things get a little more difficult, but there are some options. The Classic Monster’s Café, shockingly enough, actually offers some decent vegetarian options, including a vegan jackfruit combo or platter. Lombard’s Seafood Café offers the best choices for table service diners, with options including a Tuna Poke Bowl, a hearty Harvest Salad, the Portobello Quinoa entrée, and any of the grilled fish entrees. TODAY Café also recently introduced some healthy breakfast items, including a seasonal Avocado Toast and Acai Bowls.

If all else fails, garden burgers abound in Universal’s parks, with some locations even offering Beyond Meat’s highly lauded Impossible burgers (you can find these at Richter’s, Captain America’s Diner, and Kohola Reef in Volcano Bay). While Universal has been a bit slow to catch up with Disney on catering to parkgoers with vegetarian or vegan diets, they are making some progress, which is encouraging for healthy diners overall.

What has been your experience with food inside the parks at Universal Orlando Resorts? What are some of your favorite options to eat, especially beyond standard theme park fare?

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