When I’m on vacation, I want certain things out of my dining experience.
I want something unique, entertaining and delicious.
And that’s what I love about Universal’s CityWalk. There’s a fantastic variety of options, most of which are better than what you’d find in the park.
Sure, we really enjoyed Lombard’s Seafood. Mythos almost lived up to its reputation, but we quickly found ourselves willing to make the walk out of the theme parks to try the dining in CityWalk.
What are the best places to eat in CityWalk?
Glad you asked. Let’s rank ‘em.
Nothing personal here. Starbucks is fine. You need a jolt of caffeine? Perfect. But as a dining location? There are just better options.
If you want to grab something quick-service style, it’s fine for a snack or whatever.
14. Hot Dog Hall of Fame
I am a hot dog aficionado. Love a good dog. In fact, if we’re in the Magic Kingdom, we HAVE to stop at Casey’s.
And if it wasn’t at Universal CityWalk, I’d love to go to the Hall of Fame and score a Chicago dog, a Colorado Dog, a Boston Dog or even an Italian Sausage. It’s great stuff.
But I wouldn’t leave one of the Universal Studios theme parks to walk all the way out to a CityWalk restaurant just to get a hot dog, even a great one.
I suppose if I was hustling through at lunchtime and wanted a quick-service restaurant, this would be the one.
13. Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville
I’ll admit to a certain level of confusion at the success of Jimmy Buffett hotelier and restaurant magnate.
I like quite a few of the man’s songs. I certainly see the appeal of dropping out and spending my days getting hammered by a hammock on the beach. But if you’re going to hang your hat on a cheeseburger in paradise, you ought to have the best cheeseburger around.
There are at least two other places in Universal Orlando’s CityWalk I can get a better burger. And I know it was voted Orlando’s No. 1 burger … I blame the Russians.
I’ve heard good things about the fish tacos, but I suspect you can do better.
12. Bubba Gump Shrimp
If I’m perplexed by Maragitaville, I am mystified by Bubba Gump Shrimp. Why does this exist? Of all the fictional restaurant themes your restaurant after, you go with Bubba Gump? Heck, you could even stay in the same year.
For example, you could have Jack Rabbit Slim’s restaurant from “Pulp Fiction” where they have dance contests and waitstaff cosplaying as movie stars from the 40s and 50s for our entertainment.
Still, if we’re being fair, the menu at Bubba Gump is fine. It’s not a bad meal for a chain restaurant. Anything with crawfish, I can get behind. It’s not the best dining. It’s not the best food. But it’s fine.
Furthermore, I’m not sure I could look a waiter in the eye and order the Ping Pong Chicken Pasta or any of the surf and turfs named after characters from the movie like Lt. Dan, Bubba or Jenny.
And the lack of crawfish on the menu is a disappointment as well.
11. NBC Sports Grill & Brew
Another “‘why does this exist”‘ addition to the Universal CityWalk. Not that it’s bad. A giant sports bar with burgers, wings and sandwiches to go with heartier items like the Buffalo Mac and Cheese.
I suppose if a big sports event coincided with your vacation, it might be fun. It’s not the best restaurant in CityWalk, but it’s not the worst.
In my experience, this is one of the easier places to get a reservation, so it’s got that going for it. But I’d probably rather eat in the park or at one of the Universal Orlando Resort restaurants than here.
10. Red Oven Pizza Bakery
I’m never going to turn my nose up at good pizza. Good pizza is an art. And the Red Over Pizza Bakery delivers good pizza.
It’s ranked here because if I’m dining in CityWalk, I want it to be something special. Something memorable.
And as good as the Alla Benno is – with prosciutto, pineapple, jalapeños, San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella – I’m looking for something more than pizza when out on vacation.
9. Vivo Italian Kitchen
I have nothing but good things to say about this classic Italian dining establishment.
If you come here, you’re getting a great meal. I just prefer Mama Della’s Ristorante just a short boat ride away from CityWalk at the Loew’s Portofino Resort.
8. Pat O’Brien
Here is a little bit of New Orleans at Universal CityWalk Orlando. You certainly can’t go wrong with Cajun-themed dishes and they get bonus points for serving crawfish.
Add in the Nightly Piano Bar and this is one CityWalk Orlando Restaurant that feels like an event night out with good food.
7. Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen
Other than possibly the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Three Broomsticks in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, this is the most fun-themed restaurant in the entire Universal resort complex.
And when you compare the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium’s menu to the Bangers and Mash in Hogsmeade, the Emporium is the clear winner.
With a Steampunk Willy Wonka vibe, this factory-style eatery is visually arresting with a menu to match. Certainly, it’s a wonderful destination for a Sunday brunch. The place has the perfect balance of interesting options and classics.
I love a good croquet monsieur with country ham, Gruyère cheese, French loaf toasted, topped with béchamel sauce, grated parmesan and fontina cheese mix – but it’s hard to pass up some of the more upscale options.
Finally, the milkshake and dessert menu is simply overwhelming.
This is good dining but definitely best if you’re not planning on going back into the park. And honestly, I kinda wished it was closer to the busses because that’s a bit of a hike after a heavy meal.
If I’m being honest, I wouldn’t consider Dutch Oven Beef Burgundy perfect fare for the summer Florida heat. But I’m willing to push boundaries when necessary.
Oh, and the kids love finishing the night by making s’mores at the table.
5. Bob Marley: A Tribute to Freedom
Start with the Taste of Jamaica app and go from there. I love the opportunity when I’m on vacation to get things I can’t get at home. Nobody at home is serving Oxtail Stew or curried goat.
And live reggae music also adds to the ambiance and makes for a memorable night out on the town.
4. Hard Rock Café
I am a child of the late 80s and early 90s when the Hard Rock Café was king.
Can I swear to you that you’ll get a better meal at the Hard Rock than say – Bigfire or Bob Marley? Reader, I cannot.
However, I will cling to the coolness of my youth until I can no longer Rock and Roll all night and party every day.
Plus, they have stuff from the Beatles on the walls. Beat that, Jimmy Buffet!
3. Voodoo Doughnut
We’re taking a break from the hardcore dining options of CityWalk to talk about what is most likely the most popular food establishment in the place. These doughnuts?
So good you could go nuts.
And yes, that’s two Willy Wonka references in one article. You’re welcome.
2. Antojito’s Authentic Mexican food
You can get Mexican food anywhere. But really good Mexican food? It’s around but harder to come by. Antojito’s has good Mexican food.
They’ve got the safe stuff anyone would recognize from their hometown Mexican joint. But when they say Authentic Mexican food, they mean it.
If you don’t know the wonder of a good Al Pastor Taco, you’ve been missing out. But if you want to truly live, get the Campechano.
1. Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar
This is the best burger in CityWalk – a place where there is serious burger competition.
The service? It wasn’t great. The guy at the door was sort of rude.
But the food? Really, really good.
I went with the Royale Burger – Wagyu beef burger, Italico cheese, pork belly, fried shiitake mushrooms, A1-aioli, arugula, tomato, Kaiser roll – and it was the best burger I’ve ever had in my life.
My wife Leslie nearly pulled the trigger on The Cowfish Has Officially Left The Building – a full-pound beef burger with creamy peanut butter, fried bananas, applewood smoked bacon and brioche bun – but chickened out.
The sushi was excellent as well. I went with the classic rainbow roll.
Do you have a favorite place to eat at the CityWalk? Let us know in the comments!