If you will be heading to Universal Orlando, you'll find that helping the Transformers save the universe, flying around with Harry Potter and his pals, and getting derailed alongside Homer Simpson on Krusty the Clown's absurdly dangerous roller coaster will make you hungry. But with all of the dining options available throughout the resort, where should you eat? You've come to the right place.
I've compiled a list of the top ten best table service restaurants at Universal's two theme parks, its on-property hotels, and its CityWalk entertainment, shopping, and dining district. This isn't just a random rundown based on my personal whims. I had some help pulling the list together from an esteemed panel of expert judges. You can see which travel and food writers participated in the survey that led to the rankings at the Best Universal Orlando Dining feature. To find more reasonably priced restaurants at the resort, see my rundown of Universal Orlando's top ten best quick service restaurants.
Note that the restaurants can get quite busy, particularly at dinner, and that advance reservations are recommended in most cases. Reservation info is included for each entry. OK, let's begin our culinary tour around the resort with the eatery that came in at number 10 on our top 10 countdown.
Restaurant: Emeril's Tchoup Chop
Location: Royal Pacific Resort
Cost: Moderately high (dinner entrees about $25 to $30 per adult)
Attire: Theme park casual
Food: Asian- and Polynesian-influenced with a hint of New Orleans
Reservations: Recommended. 407-503-CHOP (2467)
You know Emeril, the flamboyant celebrity chef who loves shouting, "Bam!" as he tosses ingredients into his flaming pans. He has a number of restaurants around the country (including a second location at CityWalk in Universal Orlando that also makes the top-10 list), each with its own menu and personality.
Tchoup Chop, named in honor of Tchoupitoulas Street, the New Orleans address of Emeril's flagship establishment, mixes Asian and Polynesian flavors with a dash of Big Easy attitude and spice. The pan-Asian focus befits the restaurant's location at Universal's Royal Pacific Resort. In addition to creative entrees such as hibachi steak and Hawaiian-style snapper, the menu includes an extensive array of pu pu appetizers, Japanese grilled robata dishes, and sushi.
Erik and Racheal Yates, editors of BehindtheThrills.com and dining survey panel members, ranked Emeril's Tchoup Chop at the head of their list. "The atmosphere, and menu are top notch. The service is always amazing, and staff go out of its way to make sure you have a great experience," they say. "Its unique menu is the opposite of what you'd expect from a big name like Emeril at a theme park."
Next up: Bice Ristorante