The fun doesn't have to come to a halt immediately after leaving the gates of Florida's Universal Orlando Resort. Consider Universal CityWalk to be a sort of extension of the animated atmosphere you'd find within the park. Located within walking distance to the entrance gate and hotels, this buzzy dining and nightlife district is where many park-goers end up for a beverage or a bite to eat after dark. From hot dogs to linguine and clams, Universal CityWalk seems to have something to eat for every palette and price.
Forget pizza; adventurous eaters might take this rare opportunity to try a burgushi instead. Cowfish's signature dish is all the fixings you'd expect in a typical burger uniquely packaged into a sushi roll. Here, diners can choose from one of a dozen milkshakes to wash down their truffle cheeseburgers or sashimi, although dairy products and raw fish aren't a traditional pairing. Then again, traditional isn't really Cowfish's thing. Like the name and its East-meets-West fusion menu suggest, this restaurant is rooted in contradiction.
Taco and tequila connoisseurs will be muy contenido at this Mexican eatery, where the servers wear traditional embroidered dresses and a mariachi band is known to roam around the restaurant. The guacamole is made tableside to your liking and the chile rellenos taste like they would in Mexico. Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food has an abundance of margarita options for adults and simple South-of-the-border favorites for kids, too.
Those who are looking to wind down after a busy day in the park may rather forego the high-spirited eateries and opt instead for something low-key. Vivo Italian Kitchen offers a more soothing atmosphere and something sophisticated for the palette (like squid ink seafood or lamb ragu), too.
Hard Rock Cafe is a classic and the one at Universal CityWalk is the largest in the world. With 1,000 seats, the wait list is bound to be short and there's always an abundance of entertainment, seeing as the restaurant also doubles as a pseudo-rock 'n' roll museum. The menu includes American classics such as chicken wings, nachos, steaks, salads, and 10 different burgers, but you'll hardly notice the food on your plate with all that music memorabilia (the suit Elvis wore in "Viva Las Vegas") on the walls.
Another recognizable name with an outpost at Universal CityWalk is Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffet's famed tequila and cheeseburger joint. The fish tacos and coconut shrimp on the menu might even make you forget you're in the middle of Florida and not on the coast. Kids come for the island vibe; parents come for the boozy Boat Drinks.
Inside the park is plenty of "Harry Potter" and "Jurassic Park," but at Universal CityWalk, there's an entire restaurant dedicated to "Forrest Gump." Parents can educate the little ones in a game of tabletop movie trivia while waiting for their jambalaya, shrimp po' boys, and other cajun specialties. Plaster casts of Forrest’s sneakers during that iconic scene on the bus bench make for a memorable photo op in front of the restaurant.
Even the pickiest of palettes will be satisfied with Red Oven Pizza Bakery's old-world pies. The Italian cuisine here is hand-tossed and baked using authentic methods: in a 900-degree oven for 90 seconds or less. There's even a takeout window for families on-the-go.
Save your frankfurter craving for after the park and you'll be treated to the most over-the-top version at Hot Dog Hall of Fame, a flashy staple of the CityWalk that's simply too big and brightly-lit to miss. There are wieners from every corner of the U.S. on the menu, so pick between Chicago-, Boston-, New York-, or Milwaukee-style and then load it up at the gourmet mustard bar.
There's something for the music lover, the beach bum, and the sports fan, too, thanks to NBC Sports Grill & Brew. You can bet no game will be missed with 100 HD screens and when there's nothing on, foosball tables and other arcade games keep the competitive spirit pumping throughout this place. The menu caters to carnivores—think burgers, chicken, and steaks—and the mile-long beer list features 100 different brews.
Toothsome Chocolate Factory & Savory Feast Emporium
Inside a 19th century-inspired, Steampunk-era chocolate factory, this restaurant's menu features all-day-brunch crepes and quiches, steak, seafood and pasta entrees, gourmet burgers, sandwiches, salads, and beyond. For after dinner, there's an extensive milkshake selection and artisan chocolates which you can watch being made and purchase in the retail shop.