There are many differences between Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World. And I don't mean that in a bad way! They both have so much to offer and the pros of one can be a con of the other almost like opposite sides of a coin. It's really like two different vacations when you visit each one. But today I want to highlight a big difference, table service dining.
If you have been to Walt Disney World recently you know the struggle of securing reservations for table service dining. For most locations you have to book 60 days out if you want to guarantee a table. And the odds favor on site resort guests because they have access to book 60 days from the check in date of their resort reservation thru their entire trip. If you can't find what you want right at 60 days you need some luck and perseverance! There are always cancellations but you have to be diligent or sign up for dining alerts. It sounds stressful and it can be.
There is always the chance you can grab something last minute while you are there but on a vacation where you have to plan what park you are at on each day of your trip and reserve return times for attractions, winging it with dining is sometimes not easy and adds more stress to what should be a vacation from your stress!
That's where Universal is so different. While you can make reservations ahead of time by visiting UniversalOrlando.com via Open Table you really don't need to. It's not uncommon to get a table by walking up or even online that same day, especially before dinner. Now if you are looking to have dinner at City Walk I always recommend making a reservation, especially if it's a priority to dine at that restaurant. There are not as many choices as at Walt Disney World but the food is still really great! And they just started to bring back character dining. Announced for this holiday season is the return of The Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast! Prior to COVID there was also a Marvel Character Dinner and Despicable Me Character Breakfast. I'm hoping Despicable Me is back by the spring when I'll be staying at Lowe's Royal Pacific Resort! In addition I love that there are so many great quick service options, but I'll get into those in another post. That's where the great theming is if you are a Harry Potter fan and you don't need a reservation!
So what are your options for Table Service dining at Universal Orlando? Here are the different options and where they are located and I even highlighted my favorites.
Universal Studios Florida
Lombard's Seafood Grille - located on the waterfront in the San Francisco section, seafood is obviously their specialty. I dined there last year and loved both the atmosphere and the food! We got the calamari, Baja Mahi Tacos, Caesear Salad with Salmon and Lobster Roll.
Finnegan's Bar & Grill - Is a traditional Irish American Pub in the New York section of the park and on the list for my trip in April.
Islands of Adventure
Mythos Restaurant - Features a mix of Mediterranean, Asian, and American fare in a mythical setting in the Lost Continent section of the park.
Confisco Grille - Located in Port of Entry features Italian, Asian and Greek dishes.
Bigfire - open fire cooking of American classics
Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food - Live Mariachi music and Mexican street food make this a popular spot. I'm also planning to hit this up in April because I've had it recommend by quite a few people.
Bob Marley - A Tribute to Freedom - Jamaican-influenced dishes, live reggae music, and Bob Marley memorabilia.
Cowfish - Discover the Burgushi® or sample their famous burgers and sushi on their own. I've been here a few times and loved it both times! I usually opt for the Bento Box which is a fantastic taste of everything! We got the Mango Ginger and Pearls of Wisdom off the drink menu. Then the Fusion Specialty Box with the Firecracker Roll during my visit in October.
NBC Sports Grill & Brew - 100 high-def screens, brews, ribs, salads, steaks and burgers are featured here.
Pat O'Brien's - Bayou themed dueling piano bar featuring Cajun cuisine
Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen - 19th century Steampunk inspired establishment features classic dishes and amazing confections. Make sure you meet Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome and her robot Jacques. They have quite a story to tell so spend some time talking with them. Everything was fantastic when we visited last month. As a sucker for a mule I tried the Chocolate Cherry Mule and a Chocolate Martini, appetizers the Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Warm Chocolate Almond Bread (amazing!) and for dinner the Wild Mushroom & Chicken Risotto, Chicken Bercy, Grilled Teriyaki Salmon and the Super Foods Salad. And always save room for dessert, their milkshakes are famous!
Vivo Italian Kitchen - Open Expo Kitchen with authentic Italian cuisine
Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville - Live the island life with a Cheeseburger in Paradise and margaritas
Hard Rock Cafe Orlando - The World's Largest Hard Rock where you can take in classic fare and check out music memorabilia
Resort Dining Options
Loews Portofino Bay
Mama Della's Ristorante - Authentic dishes from Tuscany, Naples and Piemonte and they claim the best lasagna this side of Sicily.
Trattoria del Porto - a casual restaurant serving breakfast and dinner overlooking the bay.
Bice Ristorante - Northern Italian cuisine featuring fresh pasta and a pastry chef who creates decadent desserts.
Hard Rock Hotel
The Kitchen - Famous for amped up American favorites and jaw dropping desserts.
The Palm - Famous NY Steakhouse with an Italian inspired menu.
Loews Royal Pacific
Islands Dining Room - Features a traditional breakfast and pan-Asian cuisine for dinner.
Jake's American Bar - Pays homage to the fabled South Seas explorer, Jake McNally, whose seaplane floats in the lagoon.
Loews Sapphire Falls
Amatista Cookhouse - Exhibition kitchen cooking up Caribbean-inspired cuisine. The restaurant is beautiful with a great view of the lagoon. The stand outs of our meal were the Poached Pear Salad and the Coconut Jerk Shrimp Pasta. While the menu and presentation were fabulous it left a little to be desired. The steak was overcooked and not impressive so my overall review is this is not a restaurant I'd recommend going out of your way for.
Strong Water Tavern - Known for their rum specialists and tapas-style menu. The atmosphere and menu at this establishment was better than Amatista.
Which one of these restaurants do you want to try on your next visit to Universal Orlando? When you are ready for an epic adventure reach out to one of the travel advisors at Coasters & Castles Travel!
Melissa Lenox is a Vacation Specialist and blog editor with Coasters & Castles Travel. She is a former entertainment cast member, loves Star Wars, Harry Potter, Marvel, Chip 'n Dale, great food and planning trips for others! Follow her on her pages below or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to plan your next adventure!