Posts Tagged ‘dining’

Favorite Parks Series: Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on July 16, 2014

We’re at the half way point in our Favorite Parks journey! (Read about Disney’s Hollywood Studios here.) Before doing research for this article, I’ll admit that Disney’s Animal Kingdom was my least favorite park. However, the more I delved into the MAGIC* behind the park, the more I realized how spectacular and incredibly unique Animal Kingdom is.

Memorable Moments

Since Animal Kingdom is known for its hot environment, Kali River Rapids is just the attraction to cool you off. As the unpredictable rapids decide which way the raft spins, no one is safe from the surprising splashes and torrents. Once you’ve become thoroughly soaked, dry yourself off by enjoying two delightful shows; Finding Nemo – The Musical and the Festival of the Lion King. Adrenaline junkies will love running into the Yeti on Expedition Everest, while those looking for further adventure can experience DINOSAUR. An underrated attraction at Animal Kingdom worth attending is Flights of Wonder, an educational and entertaining exotic bird show. You’ll be ‘squawking’ about it for days!

How many animals can you spot?

How many animals can you spot?

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Universal Dining: Emeril’s Tchoup Chop at the Royal Pacific Resort

by on February 11, 2014

TchoupChop_SignI’m a big fan of all three of Universal’s on-site hotels but the Royal Pacific Resort is definitely my favorite. Even though I have been going to the hotel for years, I have always eaten my meals at the parks or at CityWalk. After having a terrific breakfast buffet experience at the Islands Dining Room earlier last year, I realized I needed to start checking out all the eateries at the Royal Pacific. First I tried lunch and drinks at Jake’s American Bar, followed by the Royal Pacific’s Character Breakfast (also at Jake’s). In January of this year, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop made some major changes by bringing in a new chef de cuisine, Ryan Vargas, and completely updating their lunch and dinner menus. Seth Kubersky wrote an article on the TouringPlans blog recently that explored the new menu, and that sealed the deal for me. I needed to try Tchoup Chop ASAP.

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Universal Orlando CityWalk Antojitos Review

by on February 9, 2014

Universal Orlando CityWalk Antojitos review

Our Antojitos review is in, as Universal Orlando CityWalk’s newest restaurant opens its doors.

After months of construction and speculation, and a week of soft-opening service, Antojitos Authentic Mexican restaurant officially opened to the public on February 5, 2014, as the newest dining upgrade in Universal Orlando’s ongoing CityWalk overhaul. I was among the few journalists invited to taste-test the menu last month, and since the first public seating I’ve dined there three times, including the grand opening media party. While I haven’t yet eaten everything on the menu, I have sampled enough to provide this preliminary Antojitos review, which we’ll refine as the restaurant finds its rhythm.

Atmosphere

As you’ll instantly notice from the photographs, Universal’s replacement for the former Latin Quarter restaurant isn’t some sedate hacienda.

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First Look: Review of Spice Road Table at Epcot

by on January 14, 2014

IMG_3049Spice Road Table opened up on Saturday for previews, and I was able to head over there on opening night.

This new restaurant is found in the Morocco Pavilion at Epcot, situated along the water’s edge. It serves up Mediterranean-inspired small plates, along with an extensive drink menu. The restaurant’s inspiration is drawn from outdoor cafes found along the Mediterranean. You really get the outdoor cafe feel, as most of the restaurant is outdoors, with only a small portion of seats situated inside. In the same complex as the restaurant is a Henna tattoo artist station, as well as a Moroccan shop.

The night the restaurant opened, as my husband and I were walking through Epcot, it started sprinkling. Then it started raining…by the time I reached the restaurant, it was POURING! I looked like a drowned rat, seeing as I’d left my umbrella back at the hotel. (So dumb on my part! I always bring it, and then the one time I don’t, downpour!) So, I ran into the restaurant, observing its beauty with rain water-filled eyes. (PS: keep the rain in mind when dining here. While it is covered, there is the potential for you to get a bit wet, depending on the way the wind is blowing.)

My first impressions were that the whole complex was quite pretty. Disney did a great job in the design and theme. As I walked in, I marveled at the incredibly blue wall behind the bar area. I was also in awe of the lights that hung above.

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Observations from the Universal Orlando Resort for December 22, 2013 (Antojitos, Blues Brothers Christmas, NBA City)

by on December 24, 2013

ANTOJITOS

Antojitos concept art

This week Universal NOW‘s Brandon Glover and I went to the Universal Orlando Resort to experience Grinchmas and see the latest construction work at CityWalk and Universal Studios Florida. We also wanted to see the Blues Brothers Holiday Show. We had heard a lot of great things about this show and wanted to see if it lived up to the hype. Spoiler Alert: it does, but more on that later. Lastly, we were determined to finally go into NBA City and check out the legendary Towering Cheesecake dessert.

Our first stop was the upcoming Mexican restaurant Antojitos.  Earlier this month, Morgan Crutchfield was at the Universal press event that detailed the upcoming dining venues including Antojitos. Her writeup of the event details all the upcoming restaurants in the massive CityWalk renovation, including concept art for each.

IMG_1027

Antojitos, the former home of Latin Quarter

The above picture was taken on a Friday and the one below was taken on Sunday. Universal is using a lot of color on the outside of this restaurant. I personally don’t like it. The overuse of color is perfect in Seuss Landing, but – to me – just seems out of place in CityWalk.  I think the front of this restaurant looks gorgeous and all the wacky colors just take away from it. Maybe I’m alone on the island on that one though. I am looking forward to trying the restaurant out as I’m a huge fan of freshly made guacamole and quality Mexican food.

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Video: Red Oven Pizza Bakery Now Open in Universal Orlando CityWalk

by on November 17, 2013

Red Oven Pizza Bakery Universal Orlando CityWalk Opening Day Video

Opening day at Red Oven Pizza Bakery

Stormy Central Florida skies couldn’t keep Orlando from welcoming a little piece of Italy to town today (Saturday, November 16, 2013), as the new Red Oven Pizza Bakery opened at Universal Orlando’s CityWalk. The new quick-casual al fresco restaurant replaced Pastamore’s counter-service market, and offers a new moderately priced alternative for upscale pizza and salads at Universal Orlando.

This afternoon we were among the establishment’s first day of paying customers, and returned with the following footage to give you a first look. We’ll return to Red Oven Pizza Bakery soon for a full review, but our first impressions were very positive. All the ingredients — which include house-sliced prosciutto and hand-pulled mozzarella — tasted fresh, and the pizza crust had the perfect amount of chew and char.

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Universal Dining: Backwater Bar at Islands of Adventure

by on November 16, 2013

Backwaterbar

Backwater Bar

During my most recent visit to Islands of Adventure a friend and I decided to eat lunch at the Backwater Bar, which is part of Confisco Grille. I’ve eaten there a few times before and wanted to give it another try, as it’s what I consider to be the best bang for your buck restaurant in IOA.  The best part about eating in the Backwater Bar is that you don’t have to wait for a table; you can just walk up to the bar and order food along with a wide array of drinks. Guests can eat at the bar or sit at one of the few tables inside the bar space. There is also a large patio outside with covered tables where guests can enjoy their drinks on days with favorable weather. You may notice the large signage out front that includes what appears to be an ad for the Seagram company. Many guests don’t realize that Seagram owned Universal Studios in the late 1990s, when IOA was built.

Backwater2

The actual Backwater Bar

If you’re looking for a fine adult beverage in IOA, look no further. Backwater has a few draft beers as well as a variety of bottled beers and a full selection of top shelf liquors. There are daily specials on margaritas and other mixed drinks. Whenever I see Shock Top on draft, I have to have it. It has a smooth citrusy flavor and comes with a slice of orange; and because it comes with an orange, that means its good for you, right? Pressing on…

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Ring in the New Year at Walt Disney World With Delicious Dining

by on November 6, 2013

©Disney

©Disney

Are you thinking about New Year’s Eve yet? Well, I bet now you are!

If you will be in Walt Disney World during the New Year festivities this year, Disney has recently released that a few restaurants will help guests celebrate 2014 with style. Guests can choose from over a dozen different restaurants, each one offering special dining experiences with featuring showcase menus.

Restaurants include:

Magic Kingdom:

  • The Tomorrowland Terrace will feature a New Year’s Eve fireworks dinner and dessert party

Epcot:

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Universal Dining: Mama Della’s at Loews Portofino Bay (Photo Review)

by on November 4, 2013

Mama Della's photo review

The chickens welcome you to Mama Della’s!

With Bice, The Palm, and two Emeril’s — not to mention Pat O’s, Jimmy B’s, and Mr. Gump’s — the Universal Orlando Resort packs in more name-brand dining options per square foot than anywhere else in Orlando, including the sprawling Downtown Disney. With so many restaurants within steps to each other, a few are bound to get lost in the shuffle. Last month I returned to Loews Portofino Bay Hotel for a photo dining review of Mama Della’s Ristorante, one of my favorite underrated eateries inside Universal’s hotels.

Mama Della’s is located on the lowest level of Portofino Bay Hotel’s waterfront plaza, between Sal’s Market Deli and Trattorio del Porto. You can self-park at the hotel, and the restaurant will validate; or park in Universal’s main garage and take a scenic water taxi from CityWalk.

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Eating at Universal on Just $20 a Day: Snacking Edition

by on October 12, 2013

IMG_6051

A Duff beer, Flaming Moe, and a Duff Lite. I need to crunch these numbers again…

Recently the TouringPlans blog has posted an interesting series of articles explaining how you, Dear Reader, can survive on eating inside the theme park world for just $20 a day. Click on these links to see the plans for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom. It’s only natural that this financial exercise be extended to the Universal family of parks, and who better to tackle this subject than a man who has eaten a three pound slice of cake at Universal, twice?

At first, this seemed like a no-brainer. Well, duh. A Chicken & Waffle sandwich ($10.99) from Cletus’ Chicken Shack and a Flaming Moe ($7.99) from Moe’s Tavern. My favorite theme park food item and a show, but after tax the total came out to $20.11. I quickly realized that I would have to get my thinking cap on for this one (plus I was informed from the Grand Poobah himself, Len Testa, that most guests would want more than that during an entire day at the park. I know what you’re thinking: Americans.)

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