During our trip to Orlando, Florida we had some highs and lows when it came to food. If you are planning your trip, hopefully you will get to try a few of our favorites and avoid a few of our less enjoyable food stops. We spent Monday through Friday away, which meant a lot of eating out. We planned one restaurant and then decided to wing it with everything else. We also had a full kitchen in our room that allowed us to carry some items that needed refrigerating. I think it easiest for me to break it down into food in the different locations: Universal theme parks, restaurants outside the park, and items at Disney Springs. This should help you have a few options in each area.
Let’s start at Universal. I mentioned in my post about the parks that there are several options for dining in the City Walk area and inside both main parks. Many of the food options in the parks are overpriced and mediocre, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a few really good gems. Decide in advance how you want to spend your money and which food items are most important to try. Also decide when you want larger meals or just snacks. We prefer eating breakfast outside the park and then having small snacks while in the park. We then find a nice larger meal for dinner in town. I always carry items on me that can easily be eaten and don’t require staying cool. You can always bring your own small cooler with a lunch, but remember, unless you have a stroller to set it in you will be carrying extra weight while doing a lot of walking. And you will need to place them in the lockers before boarding rides. So instead of doing that, just bring snacks. I carry a few granola bars or beef jerky, and my favorite a bag of what I call my “sanity mix”. This is a mixture of pistachio, almond, and cashew nuts, plus dark chocolate chips. Cashews are a natural source for reducing stress and anxiety, so they are perfect for munching on when in high stress situations. I make a large container and then carry a small quart size bag with me into the park. We brought water bottles that can be refilled instead of purchasing drinks, with the exception of butter beer! That was worth every penny!
We ended up only eating at two spots in the park. Jim got some chili fries at Mel’s diner that were meh and then we ate lunch the second day at The Three Broomsticks. That lunch was fairly decent for overpriced park food. The menu is very much themed to British foods that would have been eaten in the Harry Potter World. We used the Universal App to order our food while standing in line. Using the app you can check out all of the dining options, hours open, and the menu items etc. The portions look a lot bigger in the pictures, so if you are really hungry, be advised it might not be the portion size you are expecting. But it was perfect for us because we wanted a small option to hold us until dinner.
Jim ordered a smoked turkey leg and a side of roasted potatoes. (The potatoes were wonderful!) I got the beef pasties with garden salad, our youngest got the kids macaroni and cheese with fruit, and the oldest just wanted a butter beer.
This was meant to be a light meal to get over the motion sickness from earlier that day, so it was perfect. We shared the turkey leg and my salad which was larger than the picture. I think I got a full-size salad instead of the normal size, because of my allergy notice. Speaking of food allergies, they were really good about accommodating for that. We simply clicked on the notice when we ordered. Before making our food, a chef came out to speak to me. She asked about my allergies and assured me that mine would be prepared separately and safely marked. For example, I can’t eat cucumbers, so they removed those and put my salad on a separate plate which was then covered with another plate that was marked on top with “allergy.” It was a great lunch, and we loved the atmosphere. The biggest perk was ordering in line and then walking right out when done, because we had already ordered and paid through the app. Other than those two items the only thing we ate while in the parks were our wonderful beverages in the Harry Potter sections. We tried the Butterbeer, Frozen Butterbeer, and the Pumpkin Juice.
Frozen Butterbeer was our favorite! The butterscotch flavor wasn’t too sweet or overpowering. Even with the sweet cream on top which we liked blended in. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try the hot variety of Butterbeer. I intentionally got the collector cup of Pumpkin juice. I wanted to try it both cold and warm. I knew I would be able to take it back to the room and keep it in our fridge and heat it up there. Without the collector cup it just comes in a plain plastic cup without a lid, similar to the Butterbeer cups. You can get collectable mugs for the Butterbeer, but we just got them in the less expensive plastic cups. Pumpkin juice, to me, was better hot. It has a strong spice flavor that when warmed tastes like a lovely, mulled cider. It has a very similar taste of apple cider, but slightly thicker and more pumpkin pie essence. If you like those flavors definitely try it out. As for the Butterbeer, Jim who usually doesn’t like butterscotch or butterscotch soda loved it. He enjoyed several while we were there.
Outside the park is where we spent most of our time eating. For breakfast we either munched on items we had in the room, ate the free breakfast at the hotel (not all hotels have free breakfast anymore, so check first when booking), ordered drive through Chick Fil-A on the way to the park, or at First Watch. Most of our other meals out were at the following restaurants:
First Watch—This is a chain restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch items. They have an assortment of egg dishes, pancakes, sandwiches, healthier bowls, and a juice bar. I love the Eggs Benedict and their country potatoes (roasted or pan-fried potato chunks with onion). I also get the blue pea and lavender lemonade. The kid’s waffle is a half of a regular waffle served with their choice of side (our little chose the fruit cup). This is a great option if you are wanting something more than just eggs.
Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse—This is one of the best Brazilian BBQ restaurants we have tried. You can park right outside the restaurant or use the valet instead of finding a spot in a nearby parking garage. It’s also within walking distance of ICON Park, an entertainment area with activities and shopping for the whole family. If you are unfamiliar with this style of restaurant, let me fill you in on this wonderful meat fest. Once you are seated you will be given the opportunity to go to the buffet of side items. The buffet is like a large charcuterie board filled with different cheese, cold cuts, vegetables, and fruit options. It also has several warm side dishes that are traditional to Brazil. Once you have your side items, you can enjoy the table sides of fried polenta, plantains, and cheese bread. Then, you can flip your two-sided card to the green go side and an assortment of grilled meat is then carried out by the waiters to each table. They will ask you if you want the particular type of meat and if you like it cooked more or less. They have items like picanha steak, bacon wrapped tenderloin, chicken, sausage, lamb. All cooked and flavored in various ways. Sometimes they will have grilled pineapple or grilled smoked cheddar with honey drizzled over it. Both of which are delicious! Whenever you feel too full or need a break simply turn the card to the red stop side and they will avoid asking you if you want more. You can return to the buffet for sides, if you aren’t overly stuffed by that point, or order one of the various desert options. The staff were wonderful and as friendly as can be. If you have a birthday or special occasion, they will also help you celebrate. Which is also why we keep it on our list even though it is a pricier place to go. It is perfect for celebrating birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries. Also, they are kid friendly! Our six-year-old ate for free, which was great since he didn’t eat as much as normal that night due to a loose front tooth troubling him.
Pizza Bruno–We decided on finding a pizza place to try out on our second night. This one is a tiny hole in the wall off the beaten path. They have two locations, with varied menus at each. It has a great atmosphere, and the staff are wonderful! Be advised they do not take cash! Each table gets glasses and wine bottles filled with cool water, or you can order from a list of drink options. They have wonderful garlic knots the size of a small apple served with marinara for an appetizer, and each table gets a small plate of olives in oil to munch on. The pizza at the location we ate at comes in one size, about an 8–9-inch round Neapolitan style, but that was plenty. We got a cheese variety and the Roni, a meat topped one to split with all 4 of us. I also got this delicious strawberry salad. It had toasted pecans, strawberry dressing, arugula, and a Burrata mozzarella ball on top.
KPOT Korean BBQ & Hot Pot—This place was a spur of the moment dining experience, and I mean experience in all aspects of the word. It was a first for us, and probably would have been better without kids being involved. If you enjoy Asian food and cooking everything yourself then this is a good option. For us it was just totally exhausting. We had spent the entire second day at Universal Studios, gotten stuck in the park and missed our reservations elsewhere. This was a spur of the moment “let’s just try it” meal. Definitely not the best option when tired or stressed out, because the stress of figuring out what sauces to use or how to best cook your items without burning them was difficult. But if you choose to try it, and you should consider if you like Korean BBQ or Ramen, you will be seated at a large table with several cooking eyes on which to place a medium sized pot.
Each person gets to order a broth base and a variety of meat, vegetables, dumplings, and noodles to cook in this broth. The boys picked a spicy flavor and I got a simple miso. Next you move to your grilling items that you cook on a large round grill set into the middle of the table. You go around the table picking various meat and seafood cuts and flavored cuts to grill. Then you go to a small buffet full of sauces, oils, butter, and minced onion and garlic to use while cooking. You can adjust the temperature on your pot or grill to boil or simmer items or sear the meat. I found it is best to grill an item or two at a time and immediately eat those items or just cook it all off at once and place on a clean plate. The problem is if you cook it all at once then it starts getting cold before you can enjoy it, and if you cook an item at a time you don’t get to eat because you are too busy feeding the younger child. Plus, unless you are really knowledgeable with what all the sauces taste like, it can be overwhelming trying to flavor the meat to enjoy it without it being just bland cooked meat. But like I said, if you are feeling adventurous you should try it out.
Now let’s talk about Disney Springs. This place is one large shopping center with food and entertainment options. We ate lunch, shopped, left for a bit, and came back for the evening and dessert. These are the places we tried:
Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin—This was a great lunch spot with items to keep everyone in our family happy. Chef Art is a past Florida Governor’s chef. He later started a few restaurants with his own and his family’s recipes. We tried the fried pickle spears (well Jim and the boys did) and fried green tomatoes as appetizers.
The tomatoes were served on fresh greens and topped with thin sliced ham and a drizzle of a remoulade sauce. Then the big guys ate fried chicken with mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and…. donuts. Yes DONUTS!
They were perfect yeast donuts too! The little guy ate a burger, and I ate a grilled chicken sandwich with a pepper jelly on it.
They are very good about allergy requests and check with the whole table before submitting the order. The macaroni and cheese has a creamy sauce with noodles and baked with a nice, caramelized layer of cheese on top.
We left this restaurant with happy full bellies.
Pepe by Jose Andres—This was a last minute to go item for me as we were heading out of the Springs. They have two sides- a sit-down restaurant and a quick to go fast food side. The picture is what drew me to this location. It shows a sandwich made with a rustic ciabatta bread. And of course, you know me and bread, I had to have one! But silly me didn’t pay attention to the menu as I was stressing over the impending storm. They make a few types of sandwiches either cold or hot. I was in such a hurry, and we needed to get back to the car that I just looked at the fillings. I ended up getting a panini with ham and cheese instead of one with just toasted bread. It was delicious, but not what I had pictured in my head. I would love to go back and try other items, because they all looked really tasty.
Amorette’s Patisserie—If you are looking for a French style sweet shop, this is the place to visit.
Here you will find the beautiful mini desserts made with mousse, chocolate, gelatin, and sponge cake. They have eclairs, sandwiches, and drinks.
But, of all those items our favorite was this little red rose shaped dessert. It was a chocolate mousse with a raspberry center and thin layer of chocolate sponge on the bottom. Each has a coating of chocolate, a chocolate leaf, and a tiny piece of gold leaf on the top. It was so good Jim went back and bought a few more to take back for enjoying later. Thanks to our cooler they made it home with only a little bit of heat damage. We also tried a Mickey shaped white mousse filled one, and a key lime flavored one with a raspberry and mini macaron on top.
Ghiradelli—This place always has a line, so just plan on getting your items and enjoying the outside entertainment in the amphitheater nearby.
Jim got the frozen hot chocolate, and the boys got a chocolate shake. I tried a little of the shake and then bought a few chocolate pieces to enjoy. They also have a great hot chocolate and other beverages to choose from.
Our last item from this trip was from a little hut in Disney Springs near the Ghiradelli store. It sold poutine. If you are unfamiliar with this dish, I feel sad for you.
It is essentially fries with gravy and cheese curds. But it can be made in a variety of ways. Some places add other toppings like bacon, BBQ, or even onions. Jim kept it simple and got one with just gravy and curds. You can’t go wrong on a cool night with fried potatoes slathered in gravy and cheese chunks. So next time you are in Orlando, go check out a few or all of these food stops and let us know if you found them as good as we did.