Minion Land opens officially Friday at Universal Studios Florida. In advance of the grand opening tomorrow, Universal invited me and several dozen other reporters to visit the land and its new attraction.
I will post my review of Illumination's Villain-Con Minion Blast later tonight. But first, let's look at what else Universal Orlando has added to the former Production Central land. Let's start with Minion Cafe.
Universal set out sample portions of several Cafe menu items for us to taste this morning, including Agnes' Honeymoon Soup, Carl's Crispy Cauliflower, Lucy's Top Secret Salmon, and Uncle Dru's Belly Fillin' Pork Sandwich. I will share my thoughts about each under a photo of the full-sized item, which Universal prepared for us to photograph.
Agnes' Honeymoon Soup [$14.99]
This is a green tomato soup, adorned with basil oil, diced pork belly, and a tomato Gummy bear, served with a grilled Pimento Cheddar cheese sandwich. The sharp taste of the soup surprised me. Was there some pepper in here? Anyway, I didn't care for finishing this one, though I did enjoy the grilled cheese, which appeared to have some chimichurri in there to boost the pimento flavor.
Carl's Crispy Cauliflower [$15.99]
This one surprised me, too, but in a different way. Creamy on the inside with a crispy coating, Carl fries up one decadent cauliflower. Served with a sweet & spicy chili sauce that's more sweet than spicy, along with edamame, Thai cucumbers, and coconut blue rice, I enjoyed every bite of this vegan dish.
Lucy's Top Secret Salmon [$19.99]
Swap the cauliflower for some wood-grilled Atlantic salmon, and you've got this dish. I guess the "lipstick taser sauce," in a pipette, is supposed to be a differentiator, too, but what I squeezed out tasted just like the mostly sweet and spicy sauce from the cauliflower dish. While I enjoyed the salmon, that's a weekly dinner for me, so I preferred the novelty of the expertly fried cauliflower instead. But both of these dishes are the sort of items that I adore seeing on opening-day restaurant menus, only too often to watch them disappear when park guests complain that they would rather have oversized and under-flavored burgers on a menu, instead.
Please, anyone, help out Carl and Lucy here. Before it's too late.
Uncle Dru's Belly Fillin' Pork Sandwich [$15.99]
Here we've got roasted porchetta on a Hawaiian pretzel bun, along with bacon jam, arugula, chimichurri, apple butter, and a mustard aioli. It's usually served with green banana chips, but I opted instead to grab a couple of the Minion-shaped tots that Universal made available. This is one of those menu items that probably doesn't work in a sample size, with all these flavors packed into this sandwich. In a bite size, it's all muddled. But there was enough promise here that I would welcome trying this one in full size.
As for the Minion tots, these are a creamy mash inside, not the diced potatoes usually found in tots. You'll find them on the menu accompanying Mr. Gru's PB & Jelly and Mini Boss' Mega Melt on the "Mini-Minions" menu.
Other menu items at Minion Cafe include a Tonkotsu broth udon noodle bowl, ropa vieja, a chopped salad, a Szechuan-glazed rotisserie chicken, a French dipped ribeye sandwich with more of that Pimento cheese, and a stuffed pizza with meatballs, as well as four kids' items, plus desserts and drinks, including two $8 specialty drinks that looked far too sweet to consider.
Use Universal Orlando's app for mobile ordering while in line to be seated. Then just scan the code on your table to let the kitchen know where you are sitting and wait for your food to arrive.
Just outside the Minion Cafe entrance, you will find Pop-a-Nana, serving Banana [$6.69] and regular [$5.19] popcorn, the two specialty drinks from inside the cafe, as well as three beers and soft drinks.
Continuing down the street is Freeze Ray Pops, which offers a variety of themed [$7.99] and flavored [$5.99] popsicles. The Minion is blue banana. The Gru is Nutella, and the Vector is orange creamsicle. Other flavors include mango, strawberry, coconut, blueberry lemonade, cotton candy, cheesecake, lemon mint, and cookies & cream.
Next door, on the corner, is Bake My Day, a retail location with a bake counter serving a couple of the desserts from the cafe, along with several other selections, including cookies, macarons, s'mores, mini Whoopie pies, and a Minion apple. Prices range from $6-20.
Next to that stand the Illumination Theater, which isn't actually a theater but instead an art deco theater facade, where Despicable Me and Sing characters will appear under the marquee.
Along with the long-standing Despicable Me Minion Mayhem across the street, these new Minion Land destinations make a strong statement right at the park's entrance as to what Universal sees as its dominant family IP these days. Forget the misguided days of Curious George or Woody Woodpecker. All hail the Minions. This is the Minions' land now, and we'e just here to visit it.
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