An important aspect of planning a trip with my kids to Orlando: dining at Universal Studios. Vacations for me are more than just about having fun at amusement parks, or hanging at the beach. It’s also beyond the choice of “adult” beverages available to me, and how often I can suck one of those down. What are vacations for me? FOOD. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m a lover of food! I wolf down most of my daily meals at 9pm, after I write all day, as well as drive my kids to every activity known to man. Sitting, enjoying and tasting food? Not the norm for me.
Well, when I’m on vacation, food is my top priority. I want to TASTE it. One of my favorite parts about Family Forward was the amazing dining at Universal in Orlando. Between the food offered at the conference, and the restaurants we ate at, it’s the best 10 extra pounds I’ve ever gained!
Dining at Universal in Orlando
First of all, every meal offered during the conference was delicious. Breakfasts filled with bacon, eggs, sausage, and all the best breakfast goodies. One was at Loews Royal Pacific Resort and the other was at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. Both were excellent! Royal Caribbean’s sponsor lunch provided some of the best food I’ve had at a conference, but hey, I completely love the flavors of the Caribbean. Oh my gosh, the all natural Roasted Mojo Pork with Sweet Plantains: mouth watering. I piled a huge mound of it on my plate, and could’ve put another pile on top of my first pile.
Is it wrong to want to pile my plate with pork at our @royalcaribbean lunch? #familyforward #loewsroyalpacific #travelforreal A photo posted by Staci (@novsunflower) on
Buffet at Universal Studios
Our first dinner was a buffet at Universal Studios, and I sat myself down with burgers from the slider station, as well as nachos from the nacho bar. The guacamole was insanely delicious, and if I could have taken a bath in that with some sour cream, I would have. I was in heaven. HEAVEN. I even took the guacamole and put it on top of my mini sliders. Yes, it was that delicious. Plus, Little Miss got to pose with one of the best Marilyn Monroe impersonators I’ve ever seen!
Sweets aren’t my thing, so even though the dessert parties were fantastic, I let the kids and hubby enjoy those. I stuck to the savory goodies. Probably the best meal during the entire conference was at The Cowfish for The Boy, and me. The hubby and Little Miss went to VIVO Italian Restaurant, and said it was fantastic. I’ll take their word for the food at VIVO Italian Restaurant, but since my husband is super picky when it comes to Lasagna, I would imagine the layers of ricotta, mozzarella, Bolognese and marinara, were to his ultimate liking. Little Miss had spaghetti and meatballs, and loved it.
The Boy and I feasted on Parmesan Bacon Truffle Fries. Yes, it was beyond delicious, and The Boy ate quite a bit of the fries! I couldn’t believe how much he liked them. Frankly, it pissed me off. November Sunflower doesn’t share food. He followed up our appetizer with some chicken bites from the kid menu, which came in a super cool Bento-type box, while I went for, of course, a big, juicy burger.
The Boursin Burger was topped with garlic & herb Boursin cheese, applewood bacon, sauteed mushrooms, grilled onions and lettuce. I ate every last part of that burger, and didn’t feel an ounce of guilt. It was worth every last calorie. Walked all day; rainstorms drenched me; equals well-earned! WELL EARNED burger.
Now, you can’t head to any kind of amusement park, that offers character meals, and not book a character meal. Especially if the character meals include a visit with a Minion! Our Saturday evening was going to be free, so we chose to book a character dinner at The Kitchen at the Hard Rock Hotel. Once Little Miss “prettied up,” in her pretty dress, the water taxi to CityWalk, then another water taxi from CityWalk over to Hard Rock Hotel.
The Kitchen: Good vs. not-so-good
What I loved about The Kitchen at the Hard Rock Hotel: the food was fantastic, and again, an excellent burger with killer fries. What I didn’t love about The Kitchen: it doesn’t have a great character dining experience. When we go again, I’ll stick with a breakfast with the characters, because those had the most characters visit throughout the morning. We saw them through the windows when we walked by the restaurant at the hotel we stayed in. Total bummer, however the kids totally loved Scooby and the one Minion they got to meet, and have autographs from!
I will say the selection of food from The Kitchen is much friendlier for pickier eaters, as it has more American foods. Kids can get the same kid menu at every restaurant in each hotel. It’s just a standard menu for kids, no matter which hotel’s restaurant your family eats at. Mr. Sunflower didn’t love the food offered at dinner time at the host hotel’s restaurant, so we chose to check out The Kitchen. It worked for us, and the kids loved the fries at The Kitchen. We also had a great server at The Kitchen.
You’ll see a running theme when it comes to my meal of choice: burgers. I’d eat them all day, every day, if I could. On our first night, of course, a burger for dinner is a must! Pat O’Briens has great burgers and fries, plus a great chance to listen and sing along to dueling piano players! Excellent. Great food, great service, and amazing entertainment. Our server knew by looking at me, I’d like to know “You can ask for your drink to-go, even alcoholic ones, here at CityWalk.”
She got me. She felt me. I didn’t even order an adult beverage that first night, so she must have just seen it in my eyes!
Some newbie tips about dining at Universal:
- If your kids are all about characters, then shoot for the breakfasts, rather than the dinners. There seem to be a lot more characters at the breakfasts, at least that was the case at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. They seemed to also have decent characters at their dinners, too. Perhaps just hit the Loews Royal Pacific for all your character experiences for dining?
- Go to Universal CityWalk for great food. Seriously, don’t just stick to the hotels. Head out to The Cowfish, it’s got fantastic food, and who can say no to truffle fries?
- Sit down restaurants are all over the place, and one day I hope to travel with people who love Mexican Food, because the menu looked insanely delicious at Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food. And the nightlife….excellent fun happening at Universal CityWalk.
- If you get yourself an adult beverage, you can ask to have it put in a cup to go. It’s okay to walk around at CityWalk with your alcoholic beverage. Burger in one hand, alcohol in the other – isn’t that what a vacation is all about?
- Don’t worry if you can’t do a full-on sit down restaurant. There’s plenty of places to order at the counter, then find a spot to chow down for a quick meal. There’s a Whopper Bar, a sandwich place, and even Panda Express. Oh, and plenty of others.
What’s your favorite place to eat when dining at Universal in Orlando? Let me know in the comments below!