I was lucky enough to be able to take my family to Florida, primarily to visit Universal Studios and Disney World. I realize this is something not everyone gets to do, so I wanted to share the experience that we had. And for those who do get to go one day, hopefully some of this feedback will help you on your trip.
The parameters of this food experience is what was walking distance of our hotel, the Coco Key Water Resort, or near or on-site of either of the theme parks. Our room only had a fridge and a microwave so we ended up eating out quite a bit.
Some fave flavours I wish to highlight:
- I couldn’t resist trying the food at the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley. Staff are dressed in character, and even the greeter makes the experience memorable. I thoroughly enjoyed the beef and lamb stew platter, which came in a bread bowl with a side salad. The meats were cut in large pieces, perhaps for a rustic touch, and there was quite a bit of it. The bread would’ve been better had it been sourdough, but I was still satisfied at meal’s end. D shared the fish and chips with our little one and there were still left overs. I sampled the fish and found the batter crispy and the fish tender. You don’t have to eat there to go in for a picture but I’m glad we made it part of our food experience. I also had the butterbeer at a separate stop in Hogsmeade and still don’t know quite how to describe it other than to say it was sweeeeet. I didn’t try the hot or cold options, just the frozen one, which was just fine given the Florida heat.
- For my birthday D treated me to the restaurant of my choice, again within walking distance. I decided on Fishbones, named for its fresh fish and aged steaks (hence the bone reference). Funny enough, I had neither. I wanted to try some Florida fare so I combined two appetizers as my meal. I had the Key West shrimp cocktail served with crisp plantain chips. I soon found out they create the meal table-side and found it delightful. You definitely need the chips to help cut the richness of the avocado, though. Their cocktail sauce is house made. My second part of my meal was the Florida alligator. It was bite-sized and lightly battered. While the menu even states, “It tastes like chicken.” I wouldn’t describe it that way. It is a very dense meat, so even the bite-sized portion was something to get through. It was tasty and had just a bit of fishy-taste to it at the end. I would’ve loved to try more dishes on a return visit but it is a pricey restaurant. They were very kid friendly given that our wee one was a bit active that night. We had my birthday “cake”, a slice of key lime pie, to go as a result. It was good but very tart.
- Due to location and demands to eat from our son we ended up at the Comic Strip Cafe for lunch one day, but this turned out to be a happy accident! We were so surprised that they offered a platter that included rice. I enjoyed an “Asian BBQ half-chicken” which came with white rice and vegetables. There was plenty of chicken to share among the three of us. By this point in the trip I think we were all getting tired of fried fare.
- The “islander” dish at Taverna Yamas was a highlight. The restaurant was practically our hotel’s neighbour so we knew we’d being going at least once. This seafood pasta dish was bursting with the fruit of the sea and all perfectly cooked. It included mussels, claims, large squid rings, juicy jumbo shrimp, and succulent scallops. It also had so much pasta I couldn’t finish it all. Downsides to the meal was that the dish was expensive ($27 USD) and the service wasn’t speedy despite us being in for an early dinner without any dinner rush as company.
- Stumbling upon an all-you-can-eat (AYCE) Brazilian Steakhouse was great. We came upon Cafe Mineiro on our way to Ponderosa’s, which was the original plan for that evening’s meal. Cafe Mineiro staff encouraged us to look at the buffet first to help make up our minds, and for $16.95/person USD, with JD being free, we didn’t hesitate and passed up on our previous plan. With this price you can access four types of meats: steak, pork ribs, chicken and sausage. If you paid about ten bucks more, they would bring several more meats on long skewers right up to your table, still AYCE. The rest of the buffet was okay, but to be honest it was the white rice and the meats that I was after. While some of the meat was salty, the best way to get the most of the experience was to remember that you could ask for meat at the doneness that you desire and to pace yourself.
- We made the mistake of waiting too long to eat dinner while at Disney World. My research had suggested the best time for dinner was 4pm and we were already past 6pm. We were in Epcot being crushed by the crowd and were inevitably being pushed towards the feature country areas. It didn’t help that there was a food & wine festival going on at the time. We stopped where the line wasn’t too bad and ended up in “Mexico”, at La Cantina. D snagged a seat with the little guy while I ordered on the fly. Turned out great! I had pollo cascabel which was a decent sized portion of mexican rice, spicy chicken and sauce, with pickled onions. I had to dig around the dish for rice and chicken without the sauce that I could share with J and avoid the spice all together for him. D had cheese empanadas, and a refreshing coleslaw, which were tasty. One empanada was pretty thin, but the other three were filled nicely. Surprisingly enough food for dinner. One caution is the large pop that comes as part of the combo looks impressive until you realize the drink container is half-filled with ice.
A mmmmura tip I can share: we were lucky to have a Panda Express (self-described as Chinese gourmet food) within walking distance of our hotel, especially because our son expects rice for breakfast. For those who are trying to find ways to save on food what we did was order the family feast. This provides three entrees and two large sides at a cost averaging about $30 USD depending on type of entree you choose. By asking for extra plates and cutlery and using the fridge and microwave in our room we were able to stretch this out for three different meals for all three of us. (We didn’t mind eating Chinese food for breakfast as we often have rice for breakfast normally.)
Some stomach grumbles that I need to share:
- After a hectic and long travel day we decided to make our first day a rest day, so we took part in the buffet breakfast at our hotel. We chose this primarily for its water park and free shuttle rides to Universal Studios. Overall I enjoyed the experience there except for the breakfast. It wasn’t that it was bad or anything, it’s just that it was average. Basically the same food you would get at a Quality Inn or La Quinta, the only difference is those hotels include the breakfast for free, not charge $9.95/person. Needless to say we found other alternatives for breakfast for the rest of the trip.
- While we were under the assumption that food in the U.S. is cheaper than in Canada, when you are on-site at the theme parks that goes right out the window. We had brought snacks with us, which helped, but be prepared to fork out a lot of dough if you get the munchies while in the theme parks. Also, I found that Disney World’s park maps were much better at helping pinpoint food options compared to Universal Studios maps.