As promised, the next installment in our coverage of the new Fast Food Boulevard of The Simpsons’ Springfield in Universal Studios Florida has arrived… And this time we’re focusing on the good stuff–the food!
It is hard to fathom the transformation has taken place in this corner of the park, taking the formerly dated International Food & Film Festival and turning it into a lively romp through the notable locales of the popular show’s many antics. The area is not yet complete with Kang and Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl spinner ride, Duff Gardens, Lard Lad, and Taco Fresho still being developed, but what has already opened has changed the culinary landscape of the park, offering an extremely broad menu of options to choose from in food and beverage. We’ll start with a look at the menus and the food items before getting to our review…
Lisa’s Teahouse [of Horror] is the first “booth” in the new food court, offering healthier, lighter options for those without the craving for some Clogger Burgers or chicken and waffle sandwiches.
Luigi’s offers three different types of thin crust pizza: “Meat Liker’s,” cheese and vegetarian. While I didn’t sample these during my initial visit, they did look pretty good for quick service pizza.
The Frying Dutchman had me intrigued by its unique menu offerings–most specifically the calamari, as I couldn’t remember ever seeing calamari served in a quick service environment within a theme park. All of the items offered look to be heavily fried, but they really look delicious as you can see above. And while I didn’t try any of these options during this visit, I will certainly be coming back to satisfy my curiosity.
Cletus’ Chicken Shack is home to a variety of chicken-based products that, despite the names may seem like more conservative theme park fare, save for one entree. The Chicken & Waffle Sandwich is the signature item of this menu (we’ll revisit this item momentarily) and the Double Batter Chicken Platter features battered chicken breasts, wings and legs. The “Chicken Arms” are buffalo wings (something I’ve always enjoyed Universal’s take on over at Monster’s Cafe) and the “Chicken Thumbs” are the standard chicken tenders you’d find in the park’s other quick service venues. The “Thrilled to Be Grilled Chicken Sandwich” features a grilled chicken breast for those with a craving for a less-breaded and fried take on poultry.
Universal has found a healthy medium (well, not that healthy!) when delivering the must-have tourist food of hot dogs and hamburgers to its target audience. But rather than settle with standard versions of this typical fare, they’ve gotten creative with their burgers, evoking the eat-til-you’re-a-zombie style of Krusty Burger (the effect of which is something you can see while watching the video loop found in the seating areas of the food court). Seemingly the most popular booth during my visit (although it was early in the day), I couldn’t even get near enough to grab a photo of the food itself, but I saw several burgers carried out in passing and I was stunned at how big they were. I have no doubt that I will be back to try challenge the Clogger Burger! Traditional Nathan’s hot dogs are also included on the menu with some interesting toppings, but most importantly is the inclusion of The Ribwich, famed from the show itself. I’m terrified at mere thought of eating a ribwich (I can’t say that I have before), but for you all, I may just have to take the plunge.
Flaming Moe’s is a booth dedicated entirely to beverages and it offers the largest concentration of custom beverages I’ve seen at a theme park thus far. In addition to offering the signature Flaming Moe (I’ll get to that shortly), the venue offers the Mt. Swartzwelder Apple Drink, Groovy Grove Juice, the Mr. Teeny, Buzz Cola (I’ve got more to say about this one too), and three versions of [alcoholic] Duff Beer. There is not a doubt in my mind that I’ll be frequenting Flaming Moe’s quite often–I’m a sucker for unique beverages in the parks, and Universal has me hook, line and sinker.
You can see the Flaming Moe being poured in the picture above. The cup is a patent-pending design that features a bottom layer for liquid nitrogen, which is then topped with a light orange soda with a hint of vanilla. The liquid nitrogen makes the drink bubble and smoke–the closest thing to drinks on fire you’ll find in a theme park. It should be noted that the Flaming Moe is a non-alcoholic drink, even though it costs more than any of the three alcoholic Duff Beers. You’re not only paying for the drink itself though, as you’ll get to keep the Flaming Moe cup, meaning that you can probably try to replicate the bubbling effect at home if you so desire.
On to the checkout area, you’ll find one last line of desserts to try and entice you, including “The Big Pink Donut” from Lard Lad’s (you can also purchase one of these in the Kwik-E-Mart next door) and fresh baked cupcakes. Annual passholders discounts are valid in the Fast Food Boulevard venues, so there’s another plus for the repeat visitors!
I’ll admit… I had no problem being a little gluttonous when it came to ordering during my visit. I had to try the Buzz Cola, but I couldn’t not get the Flaming Moe either, so I opted for both. And being a sucker for chicken and waffles (mostly thanks to Sleepy Hollow Refreshments over at the Magic Kingdom Park), it was a fairly easy choice to go with the Chicken and Waffle Sandwich from Cletus’ Chicken Shack. The Flaming Moe is more of a novelty drink than anything, with the bubbling and smoking effect wowing at first, but for as long as it lasts, and how messy it ends up getting (the area of the tray surrounding the cup was covered in stray Flaming Moe drops that had blown out of the cup as a result of the bubbling effect), it can get a little tiresome to deal with. The drink itself has a light orange flavor with a hint of vanilla as I mentioned before, but I don’t believe that this is a bubbling version of Universal Studios Hollywood’s Energon, the orange and creme Fanta drink that debuted there alongside Transformers: The Ride last year. Again, you are paying for more of an experience and souvenir than for the actual drink, with the serving size being significantly less than the other special drinks on the menu (like the Buzz Cola you see above), but it is worth at least one try, for the souvenir glass and photo ops alone.
The Buzz Cola took me by surprise in how cherry-flavored it really was. I’m not a huge fan of cherry flavoring in drinks, so this wasn’t a sure win for me, but it wasn’t off-putting either. For the price, the serving size was huge and I couldn’t finish the entire drink no matter how hard I tried (and that is not a common occurrence for me). The drink tasted (as best I can describe) as cherry soda with a splash of Coke (not the other way around). Cherry fanatics will love it, but I’ll probably try one of the other unique drinks from Flaming Moe’s next time around.
The Chicken and Waffle Sandwich was the star of my meal, with the double battered chicken breast certainly impressing. The waffles looked like they might be Eggos (we are told that they do come in frozen), but they tasted much better than they looked. Served with a “maple mayo,” I asked for it on the side for fear that it would be too mayonaise-y. The sauce turned out to be more like a sugary glaze of a doughnut, and while it didn’t taste bad by any means, I had to limit the amount in which I put on the sandwich for feature that I’d go into sugar shock. The soft and doughy taste of the waffles with the maple mayo and the crunch of the (thankfully moist) chicken worked quite well. The meal comes with a side of tater tots that actually had me considering going back for a second order of them (I held off on that though). Overall, this was a solid entree and while I’d likely order it again, it may not make its way into my meal rotation for a while as there’s still so much at Fast Food Boulevard that I have to try!