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Guide to vegetarian dining at Universal Orlando Resort

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The Pad Thai at Mythos inside Universal's Islands of Adventure.
The Pad Thai at Mythos inside Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

Dining at theme parks is an important part of your Orlando vacation. Good planning will make sure the least amount of obstacles get in the way of enjoying yourself. First of all, no matter what you do, there’s always going to be hazards with eating meals at a theme park. You may be with picky eaters. You may have to try and figure out where you are going to be and what you want to eat 180 days away from now. In today’s column we will look at what happens when you cross that restaurant rubicon with one of the most challenging patrons they encounter – the vegetarian.

There are several types of vegetarians. The one type most people think of when they think of a vegetarian is an “lacto-ovo-vegetarian.” These are people who choose not to eat any type of animal meat (fish, beef, pork, chicken) but who include eggs and dairy products in their diet. A “Pescatarian” is a type of vegetarian who chooses to avoid eating meat with the exception of fish. A “vegan” is a vegetarian who chooses not to eat or drink any product that has any animal derived products. This means they do not eat meat, fish, cheese, or drink milk. We could parse further distinctions and classifications of veggie diets, but the vast majority of vegetarians will fit into one of the aforementioned categories.  

For our recent trip to Universal Studios, my party included one lacto-ovo-vegetarian, two pescatarians, and one vegan. (There’s a joke in there somewhere, but we’ll keep moving.) Now, if you’ve ever been out to a restaurant with a vegetarian or vegan in the real world, you’ll know that oftentimes, these diners are relegated to the salad bar as their only vegetarian option. Thankfully, vegetarian diets have become much more popular in recent years, and so restaurants and theme parks alike are expanding their menus to accommodate such guests.

Universal Orlando Resort has some decent-to-great choices for vegetarians. Please note that pretty much any sit-down restaurant on Universal property will have a choice of a salad, so those food items won’t be highlighted here for you. I’m also not including vegetarian-friendly side dishes that you can order (such as french fries, baked potatoes, or the great cheese bites at NBC Sports Grill & Brew). And lastly, I’m not including fish dishes, as the menus for Bubba Gump Shrimp Co or Pat O’Brien’s would be printed almost in their entirety (plus, we all know pescatarians aren’t real vegetarians anyway, right?).

Vegetarian options at Universal CityWalk

First let’s check out the restaurants in Universal’s CITYWALK (in alphabetical order).

ANTOJITOS AUTHENTIC MEXICAN FOOD – Chipotle corn soup. Mexican chopped salad. BBQ Jackfruit tacos. Avocado tacos. Vegetarianas enchiladas. Vegetal fajitas.

BOB MARLEY’S – Natty dread vegetable patties. Ital eats stuffed peppers. Stir it up fondue. Jammin’ chips.

BUBBA GUMP’S – Beyond burger.

BIGFIRE – Cauliflower steak. Hearth Oven-baked bread.

THE COWFISH SUSHI BURGER BAR – Goat in the Garden salad. Vegetarian sushi roll. The Tree Hugger sushi roll. The Heavenly Veggie burger.

HARD ROCK CAFÉ – Impossible burger. Moving Mountains burger. Classic nachos.

MARGARITAVILLE – Onion rings. Can substitute a Boca burger for any burger choice on the menu.

NBC SPORTS GRILL & BREW – Can substitute a veggie burger patty for any specialty burger on the menu. Grilled vegetable pasta.

PAT O’BRIEN’SVegetable jambalaya. Vegetarian black bean burger.

RED OVEN PIZZA BAKERY – White pizzas: Bianca, Spinaci, and Pesto. Red pizzas: Margherita, Mushroom, Cheese.

THE TOOTHSOME CHOCOLATE EMPORIUM & SAVORY FEAST KITCHEN – Super Foods salad. Variety of flatbreads. Vegetable Press sandwich. Fettuccine Alfredo. Vegetable Pasta. Various crepes and waffles. Broccoli cheddar quiche.

VIVO ITALIAN KITCHEN – Various pizzas. Vegan Sausage Pasta. Eggplant Alla Norma. Pasta Primavera. Puttanesca. Ravioli. Baked Eggplant Parmigiana. Summer Truffle Risotto.

Margaritaville Cafe Orlando: Volcano nachos--enough for two, for your whole meal!
Volcano nachos at Margaritaville — enough for two, for your whole meal!

Vegetarian options at Islands of Adventure

Now the restaurants (quick-service and full-service) at ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE.

Located in Jurassic Park:

  • BURGER DIGS – Spring salad platter. Vegan cheeseburger platter.
  • PIZZA PREDATTORIA– Cheese pizza. Breadsticks with marinara.
  • THUNDER FALLS TERRACE – Jackfruit rice bowl.

Located in Seuss Landing:

Located in Hogsmeade:

Located in Marvel Super Hero Island:

  • CAFÉ 4 DINER – Variety of cheese and veggie pizzas.
  • COMIC STRIP CAFÉ – Cheese pizza. Cornbread.

Located in The Lost Continent:

  • MYTHOS – Wedge salad. Tuscan tomato soup. Spinach and ricotta ravioli. Souvlaki CousCous bowl. Pad Thai. Fork, Knife, and Spoon Grilled Cheese.

Located in Port of Entry:

  • CONFISCO GRILL – Thai summer rolls. Vegetable pot stickers. Southwest salad. Udon noodle bowl. Pad thai.

Vegetarian options at Universal Studios Florida

And the restaurants at UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA.

Located in Production Central:

  • MONSTERS CAFÉ – The Mummy Combo/ The Mummy Platter (vegan jackfruit BBQ). Creepy Spice Roasted Cauliflower.

Located in New York:

  • CENTRAL PARK CREPES – Plant Based Chik’n. Sweet crepes.
  • FINNEGAN’S – Beyond Burger Vegan Shepard’s Pie. The Leprechaun’s Rainbow fruit platter. Potato and onion web. Grilled cheese (children’s menu).
  • LOUIE’S ITALIAN RESTAURANT– Fettuccini Alfredo. Spaghetti Bolognese. Garden vegetable pizza. Cheese pizza.

Located in San Francisco:

Located in Diagon Alley:

Located in Hollywood:

  • MEL’S DRIVE-IN – Plant-Based Chik’n & Avocado Sandwich. Beyond Burger.
  • THE TODAY CAFE – Egg white Florentine. Park Avenue Avocado Toast. Overnight oats. Acai Bowl. Little Italy Caprese sandwich. I Heart Vegan sandwich. Roasted Root Beets & Carrots.

Located in Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone

Finnegan's Bar & Grill at Universal Studios Florida -- this is vegetarian, right?
Finnegan’s Bar & Grill at Universal Studios Florida — this is vegetarian, right?

Universal Orlando’s on-site hotels

The on-site hotels at Universal also offer a wide arrange of choices for the vegetarian diner.

HARD ROCK HOTEL

  • THE KITCHEN – Three cheese flatbread. Margarita flatbread. Mac & cheese. Tierra Madre Burrata Salad. Spring Garden Pasta.

PORTOFINO BAY HOTEL

  • BICE – Pappardelle al telefono con pomodoro (with mozzarella cheese, fresh basil in a tomato cream sauce). Gnocchetti di patate all sorreentina (Potato gnocchi with a fresh diced tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil leaves). Tortelloni farciti con ricotta e spinaci in salsa al burro salvia e parmigiano (Spinach and ricotta filled pasta served in a butter and sage sauce with parmesan cheese shavings). Penne all’arrabbiat (Penne pasta in a spicy tomato sauce finished with extra virgin olive oil). Rissotto alla Milanese con zafferano e sauté di funghi (Tradittional saffron flavored risotto with sautéed mushrooms).
  • MAMA DELLA’S – Pasta e fagioli. Burrate e bruschetta caprese. Pecorino poleta al tartufo. Fettuccine alfredo.
  • SAL’S MARKET DELI– Margherita pizza. Primavera pizza. Picaso sandwich.
  • TRATTORIA DEL PORTO – Spinach filled arancini. Pizzarella.

ROYAL PACIFIC HOTEL

  • BULA BAR – Beyond burger. Cheese pizza.
  • ISLAND’S – Vegetable spring roll. Crunchy Thai salad. Asian Chopped Salad. Tofu & broccoli lo mein.
  • JAKE’S – Tomato mozzarella sandwich. The Beyond Burger. Cheese pizza. Vegan lasagna.
  • ORCHID LOUNGE – Edamame. Green salad. Cheese pizza (kids menu). Mac & cheese (kids menu). PB&J (kids menu).

Each of the three on-site hotels at Universal Orlando has a CLUB LEVEL. I cannot recommend this more if you are traveling with a vegetarian or vegan. Throughout the day there are high quality foods available to choose from. Breakfast has a great fruit platter and various pastries (and soy milk for coffee). Snacks at lunchtime and regularly a fruit and or veggie based platter at night. All the vegetarians in our party ate like kings in the club lounge and would consider the offerings to be just as good as almost any restaurant on property or out in the Real World.

The club level lounge at Royal Pacific Resort offers great options for vegetarians.
The club level lounge at Royal Pacific Resort offers great options for vegetarians.

The best bet overall goes to MYTHOS in Islands of Adventure. It is a restaurant that has a lot of hype and deservedly so. Not only is the atmosphere absolutely incredible, the food is top notch as well. The vegan pad thai (see the photo at the top of the post) got rave reviews from both that ordered it and the chef’s pizza was best pizza I have had in any theme park restaurant. It doesn’t take a “foodie” to tell the difference between eateries that use high quality ingredients, and those that just truck in frozen junk and reheat it. Go out of your way to try Mythos on your next trip.

[sws_author_bio user=”derekburgan” size=”105″ authorposts=”More OI posts by Derek” name_format=”About the author”] [/sws_author_bio]

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Melissa
Melissa
March 1, 2012 7:45 pm

Thanks so much for this post.  As a family of 4 vegetarians, including 2 vegans (mom and dad) and two lacto-ovo vegetarians (2 pre-teen daughters), we were wondering were to find food for the vegans.  One helpful note by each of these dishes above would be vegan, lacto-ovo, or fish based designations…for example many “veggie burgers” contain eggs, and many pad thai dishes contain fish-sauce, etc.  Being vegan is a challenge when eating out, but we are making it work, thanks in part to helpful articles like this…thanks Derek and O.I. for the tips!

derekburgan
derekburgan
March 2, 2012 4:59 pm
Reply to  Melissa

Hi Melissa. I’m hoping to do a wide array of vegetarian/vegan options in the future. My two biggest Best Bets for vegans is the ETHOS restaurant (www.ethosvegankitchen.com), which is about 15 minutes away from Disney in downtown Orlando, and the bakery BABYCAKES NYC in Downtown Disney. Both worth going well out of your way if you are traveling with vegetarians and (especially) vegans in your party. My girlfriend went vegan about a year and a half ago and hated giving up most bakery items, and BABYCAKES NYC was wonderful for her, especially their newest creation, vegan Mounds bars. The menu… Read more »

Melissa
Melissa
March 2, 2012 5:15 pm
Reply to  derekburgan

Vegan mounds bars…stop right there!  Yum!   I am going to recommend we go to both of those spots on our next trip to Orlando.  Thanks so much.

Vegancraig
Vegancraig
May 4, 2012 9:05 am

Ethos is further than 15 minutes from Disney; it is easily 30-45 minutes (it’s 26 miles from the Contemporary hotel on Disney property). That said, it is THE BEST vegan option in Central Florida. It is set to move in Summer 2012 to a new spot in Winter Park — so make sure you visit their site before you go: http://ethosvegankitchen.com/

derekburgan
derekburgan
May 4, 2012 11:25 am
Reply to  Vegancraig

Hey Craig, all I can tell you is that the weekend before I wrote that review I had gone straight from Ethos to Downtown Disney and it took me 15 minutes.

I was actually hoping that Ethos was opening a second location in Winter Park instead of moving. This is a big loss for Orlando for me as everyone I know loved the place.

Debra Robinson
Debra Robinson
November 4, 2013 3:34 am

I need to inform you that Universal Studios have no idea what vegetarian or vegan actually means, so please be very careful.  4 times Bob Burdick Executive Chef told me that all the pizzas had vegan cheese on them.  It turns out obviously that they do not.  There is some doubt if they are even vegetarian now.  Bob Burdick has now stated that the cheese is vegetarian as it has just enough milk to make it vegetarian, any more milk and it would not be vegetarian.  What the hell is he talking about?  They do not understand about animal rennet/animal… Read more »

Debra Robinson
Debra Robinson
November 4, 2013 3:36 am

One further thought the garden burgers have cheese in them, and the veggie sandwich in Liza’s treehouse of horror has butter on the roll.  I have been advised this by Michael the Customer Services Supervisor.

ChelseaBentley
ChelseaBentley
December 11, 2013 10:49 pm

Do you remember any of the specifics as to which dishes are vegan? This blog seems to be an excellent resource but with one vegetarian and one vegan traveling, knowing which is which would be helpful. Thanks.

Krissy
Krissy
July 23, 2017 1:57 am

Not sure if it’s the same there, but at universal studios Hollywood, the mac and cheese noodles are cooked in chicken stock.

About Taylor Strickland

Taylor Strickland is the owner of Orlando Informer, the internationally awarded independent resource for guests visiting Orlando. In this position, he leads the website's overall direction and day-to-day operations, working with a team of writers, editors, developers, and producers.

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