When it first opened in 1990, the single theme park, Universal Studios Florida, was all that awaited visitors to the now bursting-at-the-seams Universal Orlando resort. If you wanted to burst your own seams, you had a handful of dining choices at the park. In the subsequent years, a second theme park, Islands of Adventure, along with the CityWalk entertainment, shopping, and dining district, and on-property hotels have been added, and there are now over 50 places to dine throughout the resort.
It's not nearly as big as Disney World (and if you are looking for places to eat there, head over to my Disney World's Best Dining feature), but it can still be overwhelming for Universal Orlando visitors to determine where they should plan to have their meals. That's where I can help.
I spend a lot of time at the resort (and at many theme parks; that's why I am About.com's Theme Parks "Expert"), but I am not based in Orlando, and I don't get to frequently visit all of Universal's restaurants. That's why I turned to some of the most respected travel and food writers covering the Florida theme park resort for some help. I asked them to pick their top 10 table-service restaurants. I then threw their choices into a Cuisinart, strained them through a sieve, ranked the results, and developed an overall top-10 list.
Whether you're planning a special-occasion meal or want to grab a bite before you race off to help save the universe on Transformers: The Ride 3D, you'll find restaurants to please the palate as well as the wallets of you and your park mates with these top dining spots:
- Top 10 Best Universal Orlando Table-Service Restaurants
- Top Ten Best Universal Orlando Quick Service Restaurants
If you are curious, the following are a couple of Universal eateries that didn't quite make the top-10 cut, but still scored highly and bear mentioning:
- Confisco Grille at Islands of Adventure. The menu at the grille and "backwater bar" represents (according to the backstory) the many traders and their varied nationalities who pass through the park's Port of Entry area. That would explain the wildly incongruous dishes that exist side by side here, including freshly prepared hummus, pad thai, fajitas, greek salad, and pasta. The food is tasty, and the cost is moderate (around $10 to $18 for adult entrees).
- Pat O'Brien's at CityWalk. The Universal outpost of the famous New Orleans spot comes complete with its own dueling pianos bar and Cajun-influenced menu. Dine on Crawfish Étouffée, Jambalaya, N’awlins Loaded Gumbo, and other Big Easy favorites. As for the famous oversized Hurricane drinks, they may taste sweet, but I dare you to imbibe more than one. The cost is moderate (around $9 to $17 for adult entrees).
Many thanks to following panel of travel writers who participated in the best restaurant survey. They are listed along with their top restaurant picks.
- Robb Alvey of Theme Park Review. Table-service: Mythos.
- Mike Collins, producer and co-host of CoasterRadio.com podcast. Table-service: Mama Della's Ristorante.
- Lyn Dowling, food critic and feature writer for Florida Today. Table-service: Emeril’s.
- Dan Hatfield, owner and editor of OrlandoInformer.com. Table-service: Mythos
- Seth Kubersky, travel and attractions journalist, Orlando Weekly and The Unofficial Guide. Table-service: Mama Della's Ristorante.
- Ashley Nichols of Theme Park Foodie. Table-service: Nascar Sports Grille.
- Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com. Table-service: Lombard's Seafood Grille.
- Matt Roseboom, editor of Orlando Attractions Magazine. Table-service: Finnegan’s Bar & Grill.
- Erik and Racheal Yates, editors, BehindtheThrills.com. Table-service: Emeril's Tchoup Chop.