on Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge, I treated my Gold Cup-winning self to lunch at the Toadstool Cafe next door in Universal Studios Hollywood's Super Nintendo World.Fresh off my leaderboard-crashing (but mostly just crashing) performance
The host at the counter will ask for your drink order first, since other team members will prepare that will you are completing and paying for your order. Once you have paid, you will be given your drinks and silverware (real metal utensils! Let's see how long that lasts... sigh) on a tray to take to the host stand. There, another team member will take your tray and lead you to your table, where you will await the delivery of your food.
It's an immense dining area, but I appreciate the strict crowd control here that will prevent anyone from getting a seat until they have ordered. While you wait (it won't be long), notice the animations in the windows all around the dining room, including a look into the Toadstool Cafe "kitchen" in the back, where Chef Toad and crew are preparing your meal.
Once delivered, dig in!
I loved the Piranha Plant Caprese Salad [$13.99]. Okay, January is hardly peak season for flavorful tomatoes, but the pesto and basil leaf added welcomed zing to the mozzarella and good-for-January tomatoes. A side of greens with shaved radishes, sautéed mushrooms and an apple vinaigrette added to the flavor on the plate, while the asparagus and extra tomato provided a whimsical visual touch to create the Piranha Plant. If Universal can keep the quality up on this one, this salad ranks among the best themed-food items I've had, for overall taste and visual appeal.
The cafe was not offering the Chef Toad Short Rib Special that Universal had promoted to some local media this week, so I settled for the Mario Burger [$16.99], with bacon, mushrooms, and American cheese, served with truffle-seasoned French fries. It's a cute presentation, with a plastic mini Mario hat and a mustache brand in the top brioche bun.
It's all a mouthful, and nothing especially different from other burgers at new restaurants at Universal. The "new restaurant" part is key, though, because I've found over the years that whatever is the newest restaurant in the park is the one that serves the best-quality burgers. Toadstood Cafe continues that streak. So long as Universal keeps on the execution and presentation here, the Mario Burger provides a tasty and satisfying meal. Toadstood Cafe also offers a Luigi Burger [also $16.99] with grilled chicken, pesto, and Swiss.
The Question Block Tiramisu [$9.99] provides a nice bite at the end of the meal. The sharp coffee flavor and richness of the cream balance the sweetness, making tiramisu a long-time popular dessert choice. But while the Question Block cookies make this worthy of fans' social media feeds, they do nothing for the flavor of the dish and just get in the way of eating it.
I liked the tartness of lemon in the Super Star Lemon Squash [$8], but the mango stars and boba-like jellies just pushed this into the "too sweet" category that keeps me just ordering water as my drink when I am not taste-testing meals in theme parks.
You can watch me eat all this here:
Other menu items include Toadstool Cheesy Garlic Knots [$5.99], Yoshi's Favorite Fruit and Veggie Salad [$13.99], Super Star Chicken Salad [$14.99], and Fire Flower Spaghetti & Meatballs [$16.99]. A Mount Beanpole cake, with layered Italian cookies and matcha mousse was $8.99 while the Princess Peach cupcake - which is Funfetti-flavored and not peach, because that would be weird if you think about it too much - is $8.99.
For more coverage of my visit today, including my review of Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge, see Super Nintendo World Soft Opens in Hollywood.
And here is my review of the interactive gameplay within Super Nintendo World, including the Boss Battle with Bowser Jr. show: Having Fun With Real-Life Gameplay in Super Nintendo World
Super Nintendo World opens officially at Universal Studios Hollywood on February 17.
For discounted tickets to the park, please see our travel partner's Universal Studios Hollywood tickets page.
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As with all of these highly themed eateries it will ultimately come down to whether Universal can maintain the level of quality and attention to detail as the restaurant ages. I will say that they've been doing a great job with the WWoHP eateries, but the Springfield ones have started slipping a bit (perhaps because the license may be allowed to expire in the coming years now that the IP is owned by Disney).
It does seem that these dishes are heavy on the visual appeal, while the WWoHP eateries rely more heavily on their "foreign" English cuisine, so it will be interesting to see if the kitchen can maintain the standards to deliver the theme through exacting plating. It's easy to prepare a salad and put it on a plate, but it's much harder to make that same salad look like it came from the Mushroom Kingdom. I worry that under a constant crush of intense crowds that the exacting detail needed to make that salad look like a Nintendo character is lost to make sure guests get their food in a timely manner. I had similar concerns from Disney's Avengers CAMPUS Pym Test Kitchen, and from what I've read, it does sound like they are maintaining their standards, but the menu relied less on visual appeal/plating to relay the theming than I had expected (and based on preliminary images and menus).
You can set and (pretty much) forget an animatronic, a set design, or a piece of filmed media. Yeah, you need to do maintenance and show quality adjustments from time to time, but themed entertainment creativity in those media does not require minute-by-minute attention.
Themed entertainment in the food space does, however. Every plating must be consistent, for every minute the kitchen is open. Quality control is so much harder than it is for ops teams running an attraction installation. I have so much respect for the people who show up and deliver in theme park kitchens every day, because the standard they must maintain to pull off something like this - for years - is so stupidly high.
I really, really, hope that Universal can continue to deliver, because when they do, this experience is a delight.
Well, this is America. I wouldn’t worry about too many people ordering salads.
Anyone know the plans when it opens to the general public? Will reservations be required to enter the new land or even to eat there?
The salad looks great! And the Luigi Burger sounds great! Robert, do you know if they had any veggie burgers on the menu?
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"...while the Princess Peach cupcake - which is Funfetti-flavored and not peach, because that would be weird if you think about it too much..."
Can't be any weirder than a restaurant staffed by mushroom people offering a menu full of mushroom entrees.