More airing of grievances: Table service dining in Universal Orlando's theme parks
If last week's, initial grievance was over an embarrassment
, this week's first grievance marks more of a missed opportunity.
Theme Park Insider readers love Universal Orlando's top two table-service in-park restaurants, Lombard's Seafood Grille at Universal Studios Florida and multiple Theme Park Insider Award-winner Mythos at Islands of Adventure. Both offer a nice selection of entrees for reasonable prices (all but one entree under $20), placing them among the best meal values in the theme park business.
But let's be frank. Executive Chef Steve Jayson and his staff can cook much more ambitious cuisine than fried fish, burgers and a daily pasta special. This isn't the pre-Harry Potter era, when Universal needed to beat Disney on price in order to remain competitive in the Orlando market. Potter's shown that Universal can compete with - and beat - Disney on quality, commanding premium prices at the same time.
I love that Universal is stepping up its game, bringing Transformers to Orlando, approving a top-quality expansion of The Simpsons, and expanding the Wizarding World to the Studios theme park. Please, Universal, turn Chef Jayson loose and let him upgrade the menus - and yes, the prices - to make Mythos and Lombard's not just the best value in Orlando theme park restaurants, but the most ambitious and highest-quality dining rooms in the market, as well.
Let's see what Universal can do with a plus-$20 theme park table-service dinner entree. What do you think?
Finnegan's Bar and Grill at Universal Studios is also a great table service eatery. Good food and great atmosphere.
Since I'm vegetarian, I was impressed with the offerings these restaurants had for me. The pad thai at Mythos was amazing, as was the ravioli at Lombard's. I was very impressed with the options at the Universal Orlando parks.
I'm not sure where you're coming from on this one Robert. My wife and I ate at both of these places a few weeks back during our vacation and we were really impressed with both. Admittedly they aren't exactly Narcoosees or Jikos, but they were by way ahead of the average theme park eatery and we ate stunningly well in both of them. I thought they were frankly the best things about both of their respective parks....
Along with Finnegans there is Confiscos in IOA
I'm really kind of surprised that Universal hasn't figured out a way to allow guests to dine in the Great Hall at Hogwarts. What fan wouldn't want to eat under the floating candles and the Enchanted Ceiling. Especially at Christmastime I'd imagine many guests would pay just about any price to experience something like that.
Most folks who visit theme parks are families on a budget. These days, many families are seeing their dollars buy less and less; from food to clothing and school supplies, things cost more. So to encourage the management of Disney and Universal parks to increase the costs of their lunch or dinner plate menus, which you're doing with this column, doesn't make much sense. They already raise their entrance fees each year. So I'm not sure what they really need to do right now is offer lunch or dinner options that exceed $20 a plate. Many people are looking for value -- even when we're on holiday. After paying several hundred dollars to go through the gates of a theme park, I certainly don't want to pay nearly a hundred dollars more for a single lunch or dinner at one.
If my group wants a more upscale meal, city walk is right there. The options in the park should be geared more towards families with a budget, and if I want exspensive seafood, I go to Jimmy Buffets instead of Lombards. Emrils orlando also has seafood options with its new orleans style food. I eat in the park if I want a snack or a quick burger. Breakfast and dinner, citywalk will always have better options.
When Krusty Burger/Kentucky Fried Panda/General Chang's Taco Italiano come, I'd love to see a show accurate menu.
Most folks who visit theme parks are families on a budget?
OT your comments of 188.8.131.52 are very flippant, Im a european visting Disney every year, its my favourite place to visit Florida but find for the dollars you are paying your not getting a meal of any higher calibre then a Denny's sometimes. As 184.108.40.206 its not about raising the cost of food but for the parks to not be so greedy and charge top dollar for mediocre food. And as for food at IOA and USF its pretty low grade bordering on Macdonalds and Burger King fodder. So with keeping with this thread I would love to see Universal and disney raise the bar with its food but not fleech you of your pocket at the same time. We visit all the parks when we holiday for 2 weeks, Seaworld, Disney and Universal and we never eat at universal as we find the food very poor. I think it can be easily done, move away from a quantity to quality ethos, a big portion doesnt reflect value, I would rather have a smaller portion of excellent food then a stacked plate of rubbish.
I think the CityWalk and the ease it which you can leave and come back makes Universal Orlando unique over all the Disney parks when it comes to dining.
NB, you want a Disney property, something roughly inspired by the same fair that produced the Carousel of Progress, at USO?
It is very embarrassing how poor quality the restaurants at Universal are (yes this includes the laughable and way over-rated Mythos). I don't like taking family to the parks because unfortunately we can't eat on property, the choices are so bad. Universal can do much better (this coming from a Universal fan-boy that has no real interest in Disney, but can admit when Universal needs improvement). On a side note, the parks make little or no effort to provide food to people with different diets, such as vegetarian or vegan. But that aside, the food is just cheap for the sake of being cheap. Burgers, fried chicken, pizza, and fast food style pasta dishes can be had at any dump outside the park. There is no reason that this is all that is offered.
off-topic: is there a winner in the backstory competition?
I pretty much disagree with the idea of putting 20 plus restaurants in parks especially with Disney and Universal which offer mostly sub-food quart quality (with a few exceptions like Three Broomsticks).
Lombard's Seafood Grille serves what most guests who visit Universal expect. Look around at the guests in the park and you'll get a clear idea of what they've been stuffing in their mouth for years. Agreed it's not idea, but missed opportunity I disagree. I'm not sure Universal guests would order what I would consider to be quality food.
We have eaten at the Three Broomsticks on our last two visits. I get the traditional English Breakfast and I don't quite remember what the other family members usually order.
Having had an awful experience the last time we ate in Finnegans - literally filthy floor, wrong food brought, inattentive wait staff we have completely given up. We mostly eat outside of the park, and outside of Citywalk too usually.
This is always an area where I feel that Universal let themselves down. There just isn't the range or quality that Disney offers - sure they've far less venues, but they should be able to have one premier/experimental stall in each park. Of all the parks the biggest disappointment in terms of food is still Discovery Cove - it's my favourite place in Orlando and as an experience is unmatched, but the quality of food is in stark contrast to the rest of the experience.
I will echo NB's comments. Citiwalk & the on site hotels' close proximity to the park (easy walking distance for most) makes this a moot argument. Fine dining, and entrees over $20, are available at numerous dining establishments. Universal, for all intents and purposes, is really one closely contained resort with artificial boundaries that only exist to maintain seperate admission rates. And yes, Pat O'Briens intimate courtyard is one of the best kept secrets in Orlando.
"Let's see what Universal can do with a plus-$20 theme park table-service dinner entree."
To digress.... Totally agree with Rob about Pat's courtyard! Halfway to St Paddy's party - a few years ago was awesome! (Just because I havent eaten there doesnt mean I have partaken) :-)
Kelly; Pat O'Briens...the best piano bar. Just like the one in New Orleans. We had many merry nights there. You need to do the courtyard for dinner. My girlfriend thought it was very romantic in the evening.
whats different for universal is the fact they have world class dining just outside the parks at city walk
World class dining at CityWalk- What are you talking about? I'm going to be laughing about that comment for days.
Not a bad idea... However, Universal does make it count in big ways.
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned price. The prices at the table service restaurant are much better than the disney counterparts around the same level. Finnegan's we'll actually go to because it's fairly reasonable, same with Mythos. When you add that into the picture we wind up eating more at Universal than at disney because of it.
hey Eric G glad i can make you laugh for days
I think if you want superb food and the prices that go with it at Universal Florida, than take a short boat ride to one of the 3 on site hotels. The Palm will be one of the best steaks around, Emril's 2 restaurants, City Walk and Royal Pacific, are great and over at the Portofino Bay, the Italian food is out of this world. In addition there is a fairly new Brazilian Steak house in the Latin Quarter restaurant. So there are choices.
The Palm is a good steak house and it's certainly upscale dining. I'm a fan, but it wouldn't rank among my Top 20 Steakhouses. However, for Orlando it's one of the better restaurants in the area.
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