Home » If You Love Disney’s World Showcase, You Have to Visit These Eight US Theme Park Restaurants

If You Love Disney’s World Showcase, You Have to Visit These Eight US Theme Park Restaurants

There’s no question that Disney is in something of a league of their own when it comes to theme park dining. The vast majority of theme park restaurants across the US fit a familiar mold offering safe classics likely to please families and picky eaters. Even at some of the top parks in the country, it can prove a serious chore to find dining options beyond burgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, pizza, and maybe a little family Italian for variety.

Epcot’s World Showcase remains something of a gold standard when it comes to theme park dining, giving guests the chance not only to explore idealized portraits of eleven countries but to taste those nations’ cuisine—indeed, during the Epcot Food and Wine fest, the whole park fills with eclectic dining pavilions from around the world. Disney’s Animal Kingdom offers similar excellence in presenting African and Asian flavors, and across the country, Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure put up an excellent show with options like Cocina Cucamonga, Lucky Fortune Cookery, Alfresco Tasting Terrace, and the French Market.

If you love World Showcase or any of Disney’s international dining options, other theme park restaurants might feel painfully boring in comparison. However, that isn’t to say Disney has a monopoly on world cuisine. Indeed, that’s what makes these eight US theme park restaurants outside “The Disney Bubble” stand out so much…

1. Finnegan’s Bar & Grill (Universal Studios Orlando) – Ireland and the UK

We’ve not exactly pulled punches in the past pointing out that Universal Orlando Resort’s park food choices aren’t great, especially when compared with Disney. While searching for variety in the food inside Universal Studios Orlando might seem a daunting task, but there is at least one gem in that park that manages to deliver a commendable option bringing to mind World Showcase’s UK pavilion.

Finnegan’s Bar & Grill is easy to miss on a busy day, but this comfortable pub stands apart from the rest of the offerings at Universal Orlando thanks to its Irish comfort food menu. There’s nothing sadder than an “Irish” pub that only serves loaded nachos and pizza, but Finnegan’s manages to not fall into this trap.

Finnegan’s menu contains a great range of UK pub fare like Scotch eggs, potato and leek soup, fish n’ chips, bangers n’ mash, and shepherd’s pie. The selection is so surprisingly good that we can forgive them for having a fruit plate with the oh-how-my-Irish-soul-cringes name of “The Leprechaun’s Rainbow”. Finnegan’s even offers a few vegetarian dishes, a huge find for this particular park. If you’re looking for a sit-down experiences at Universal Studios Orlando, this Irish pub is a sound choice.

2. The Hungry Dutchman Cafe (Nelis’ Dutch Village) – Holland

When we think of theme parks, we tend to think of the major players in the business—Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens, Knott’s Berry Farm, and even Sea World. However, if you’ll be visiting Holland, Michigan anytime in the future, you may come across a park that largely flies under the radar compared to its bigger cousins.

Nelis’ Dutch Village could almost be described as a lost Dutch World Showcase pavilion hidden on the other side of the country. The quaint park is a local favorite that celebrates Dutch culture through food, historical recreations, children’s rides, and learning experiences (including authentic cheese making—yum!). A beloved stop within the village is The Hungry Dutchman Café, a quick service restaurant serving authentic Dutch cuisine like kroketten, Erwtensoep soup, and metworst sausage. While the café does serve a number of more familiar dishes for picky eaters, those looking to try Dutch flavors for the first time won’t be disappointed—indeed, some experts actually name The Hungry Dutchman as one of the best theme park cafes in the country, placing it in the same category as many Disney favorites!

3. Jurassic Café (Universal Studios Hollywood) – Costa Rica

Don’t confuse Jurassic Café with its Florida counterpart, the basic BBQ stop Thunder Falls Terrace. Indeed, don’t even confuse it with the restaurant’s previous iteration which offered painfully homogenous pizza and chicken dishes. Jurassic Café has a whole new face, and wow—Universal seriously “spared no expense” to upgrade their foodie scene with this one.

To pair with the land’s renovation from Jurassic Park to Jurassic World, Jurassic Café’ has an entirely new menu serving tasty Costa Rican cuisine. The new restaurant couldn’t be more different than its previous version and is a case study in how to renovate a theme park restaurant right. The menu has been completely transformed to serve a rich array of mouth-watering dishes like slow roasted mojo pork and jackfruit, citrus glazed chicken, gallo pinto, plantain chips, and roasted mahi mahi.

Reading the reviews for the café from its previous version to the new iteration is like hearing people describe two completely different restaurants. People seem to love the new Jurassic Café, to the point that some said they couldn’t believe they were eating theme park food. Needless to say, this is a serious upgrade for a location that used to be known for terrible burgers! Clearly this experiment worked in Hollywood, so we only have one thing to say, Universal: Get into the game, Florida!

4. Das Festhaus (Busch Gardens Williamsburg) – Germany

Having been raised on authentic German food, I’m something of a purist when it comes to cuisine from das mutterland. I admittedly have low patience for French-ified German bakeries and mediocre German restaurants. It is for this reason that Das Festhaus almost didn’t make this list, especially when compared to the surprisingly-authentic food at Epcot’s Biergarten. However, no exploration of World Showcase-like restaurants would be complete without visiting this pleasant mainstay at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Das Festhaus is consistently celebrated as the best place to eat in the park, offering not just a colorful German setting but also an entertaining show. The restaurant’s German offerings include bratwurst, knackwurst, German potato salad (yay for no mayo!), sauerkraut, and a delicious torte cake. For picky eaters, the rest of the menu offers more familiar fare like sandwiches, salads, pretzels, and pizza. Despite mixed reviews, the restaurant remains a beloved classic that many guests call a favorite. Overall, don’t expect Disney’s Biergarten when visiting Das Festhaus—you won’t find any sauerbraten, spaetzle, or schnitzel. However, Das Festhaus still puts forth a laudable effort and remains a must-visit if you’ll be in Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

5. Cocina Mexicana (Universal Studios Hollywood) – Mexico

While many theme parks have Mexican restaurants, the vast majority do a better job representing Taco Bell than they do proper Mexican food. While they still have a little ways to go, Universal Studios recently added a nice option to their counter service lineup with Cocina Mexicana.

While it is still too early to tell how this restaurant will pan out in the long term, Cocina Mexicana starts off in the right place with a menu including tasty chicken tinga tacos, roasted chicken with rice and beans, beef tacos, tres leches cake, and Buñuelos. You cannot get away with mediocre Mexican food in southern California, so Universal has every incentive to make this place shine among their counter service offerings. While we’re hopeful other theme parks will incorporate full Mexican restaurants similar to Disney’s Cantina de San Angel, this is at least a step in the right direction for Universal parks.

6. Dragon Fire Grill & Pub (Busch Gardens Tampa) – Italy, China, and Mexico

If you like international cuisine, you will definitely want to check out Busch Gardens Tampa’s Dragon Fire Grill & Pub. This eclectic market-style eatery is rated by many guests as the best place to eat in this beautiful park, and its food court layout means families can find something for everyone.

The World Showcase vibes come mostly from the restaurant’s broad offerings which include Italian flatbreads and pasta, southwestern fajitas and churros, and Asian classics like kung pao chicken, orange chicken tempura, noodles, and veggie stir fry. Similar to Das Festhaus, Dragon Fire offers a 50’s style live music show, adding to the ambience. While the food court style may make the pub sound a little all-over-the-place, guests consistently rate Dragon Fire as a park favorite.

7. Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club (Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando Resort) – Polynesia, Asia

You don’t normally think to yourself, “Wow, I really would love to go enjoy some food at a water park today…” If most theme park food is mediocre, the average water park food is nigh inedible for a foodie.

Universal completely tosses that perception out the window with Volcano Bay. Unfortunately, they then apparently grew cold feet.

The food selection at Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay started off so staggeringly good, it actually left the offerings at Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure in the dust. The park’s main restaurant, The Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club offered a dazzling menu of Polynesian and Asian delights to leave Disney executives jealous. You would almost have to list off the whole menu to give scope to the excellent variety available in the burgers section alone, but a few of the menu highlights included a coconut curry chicken combo, jerked mahi sandwiches, a tandoori sandwich platter, Hawaiian ribs, tapioca guava pudding, and even a few sushi options. The Feasting Frog quick service stand also offered an excellent range of tacos and poke bowls.

Unfortunately, within the last year, it looks like Universal decided their dining venture was too ambitious and removed more than thirty items from the menu across the park. Sadly, this included some of the park’s best international offerings, including the Hawaiian ribs, Jerk mahi sandwich, and guava tapioca pudding. Fortunately, the park still offers a great range of international food for a theme park, even if we are a mite cantankerous that they backpedaled on their previous stellar offerings. Fortunately, Universal still has one ace in the hole in the area of theme park dining.

8. Mythos (Universal Islands of Adventure) – Mediterranean

While Volcano Bay puts up a showing worthy of standing applause, there is one other restaurant at Universal Orlando Resort that we would be remiss not to mention in regards to international dining—Mythos, aka the crown gem of non-Disney theme park restaurants.

Mythos is a theme park restaurant so well done that it baffles the mind. While the restaurant definitely has its hit or miss moments during busy times, we could not rave enough about our experience there. It would be easy to disregard Mythos from the international food scene on the grounds that it is entirely based in the fantastical Lost Continent, a blended homage to Greek, Roman, and other cultural mythologies– however, the best food at Mythos is firmly grounded in the realm of Mediterranean cuisine.

The theming at Mythos is so grand and mesmerizing that you just catch yourself staring at the details your whole time there. It’s wonder presented on a scale we usually expect from Disney, complete with beautiful sandstone carvings and relaxing water features. As far as the food, you cannot go wrong starting off with the tasty mezze platter, a spread of hummus, baba ganoush, marinated fennel, pita, and olives. While the entrees change from time to time, a few of the international options include a summer truffle risotto, a souvlaki couscous bowl, Moroccan lamb chops, yogurt marinated chicken, and a delicious Pacific flounder with olive tapenade.

When visiting Mythos, take advantage of the opportunity to try something new—venture away from the familiar and let your taste buds join the same party your eyes, ears, and nose will be enjoying during your visit to this excellent theme park restaurant.

Have you tried any of these? What other non-Disney US theme park restaurants serve international dining options that you would recommend?