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On our way from Universal Studios Florida yesterday to a good soaking at Islands of Adventure, we decided to try lunch somewhere we hadn't eaten before. So that's what brought us into NBA City at CityWalk.
NBA City sticks to the well-worn theme restaurant game plan. You walk past the gift shop and hoops-themed arcade on your way into the dining room, which stands on a parquet, hardwood floor (of course), ringed with TV sets, from scoreboard-sized to standard hi-def flat screens. The waiter brings you menus, bound in basketball-style pebbled leather as the kids get to work on their paper placemats, matching NBA team names with their cities. ("Ugh, Charlotte is Bobcats now, not Hornets....")
Much to my dismay, the kids both opted for the "Pistons Pizza," despite their mother's campaigning for the "Denver Nuggets" (best kids' menu entree name ever, BTW) and mine for the "Pacer Pasta."
Laurie chose the garlic grilled chicken with sauteed spinach and mushrooms served over pasta in a bleu cheese sauce. ("Served at the 2001 NBA All-Star Game!")
And, following our waiter's suggestion, I opted for the grilled salmon with roasted red pepper pesto, served over bowtie pasta in roasted garlic sauce, with diced tomatoes.
A couple bites of Laurie's entree was more than enough for me. I found the bleu cheese overwhelming, but my bleu-cheese-freak wife enjoyed it. The salmon, on the other hand, hit the spot and I polished the plate. It was one of those dishes that I will find myself craving later, leading to a ham-handed attempt to recreate it at home.
As the for the pizzas, the kids finished them, which is not something they always do with kids' meal pizzas. So consider that a strong endorsement.
Overall, we found the food at NBA City well worth a special visit -- tasty and satisfying while leaving you feeling well-nourished, instead of weighed down and stuffed. There are plenty of "sports bar" options available, but why opt for the same fried and cheese-laden meals you can find anywhere when better options await you on the menu?
As good a the food was, my son Brian suggested the real highlight was the bathrooms. ("NBA" for the men; "WNBA" for the ladies.) Who hasn't played "Pop-A-Shot" with the paper towel after washing up? NBA City fulfills that fantasy, with NBA-style rims and nets mounted over the waste-baskets. Nice touch.
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