- Insider’s guide to Mardi Gras 2020’s exclusive food and drinks
- Insider’s guide to Mardi Gras 2020’s parade
It isn’t a party unless there’s tons of food (and drinks!), and it isn’t a Mardi Gras party unless there’s a plethora of “N’awlins-style food and spirits.” That’s why Universal has been steadily increasing the size, scope, and quality of its annual bayou bash’s offerings – so much so, in fact, that they deserve, for the first time in OI history, their very own guide.
For just the second year, Mardi Gras sees most of its culinary lineup served up in tasting sizes, which goes a long way to alleviating the previous guest complaints that their stomachs couldn’t keep pace with the delectable variety of treats being offered. And to make it easier to try out all of the various dishes, Universal once again has the Tasting Lanyard on hand, which is actually something that is deserving of its very own (detailed) explanation, as well.
Mardi Gras 2020 – the food
As has been the custom for many years now, a whole series of food tents located in the New York backlot’s French Quarter Courtyard comprise the bulk of Mardi Gras’s offerings (which are open every night of the annual event, from 4:00 pm onward). But 2020 throws in an added wrinkle: the brand-new Carnival around the Universe tasting tent, where cuisine inspired by carnivals from throughout the world is on hand. And even more interestingly, Universal has promised that new menu items will be rolled out bi-weekly throughout the entire Mardi Gras run, which should encourage more repeat visits than ever before.
French Quarter Courtyard food tents
The French Quarter Courtyard is home to all of the traditional Mardi Gras bites:
- Beignets – $5.99 [Tasting Lanyard]
- Cajun Twisted Tater – $7.99 [Tasting Lanyard]
- Crab Etouffee – $4.99 [Tasting Lanyard]
- Gator Bites – $6.99 [Tasting Lanyard]
- Gumbo – $4.99 [Tasting Lanyard]
- Jambalaya – $5.99 [Tasting Lanyard]
- King Cake – $4.99 [Tasting Lanyard]
- Po’boys – $6.99 – catfish, chicken and andouille sausage, and shrimp and andouille sausage [Tasting Lanyard]
- Red Beans and Rice with Shrimp – $4.99 – also available without shrimp [Tasting Lanyard]
Pro tip: if you’re an annual passholder, be sure to use your pass for a discount off of your purchase at the food tents (during certain times of the day, at least).
Carnival around the Universe
This all-new food tent, also located in the French Quarter Courtyard, has a rotating menu and some exclusive offerings. Here’s what the gastronomical lineup looks like on the food side, which features different regions or countries every two weeks:
- Trinidad and Tobago (weeks one and two, Feb. 1-15)
- Chickpea Double – $5.99 – chickpeas served on a spicy bara flatbread with micro cilantro and mango chutney (plant-based) [Tasting Lanyard]
- Grilled Pineapple Trini Chow – $4.29 – topped with kimchi seasoning and micro cilantro (plant-based) [Tasting Lanyard]
- Pholourie – $6.99 – fried spicy split-pea dough with turmeric, curry powder, and a tamarind chutney (plant-based) [Tasting Lanyard]
- Louisiana creole (weeks three and four, Feb. 16-29)
- Cauliflower Dirty Rice – riced cauliflower with Gardein crumbles, black-eyed peas, and Cajun spices (plant-based)
- Softshell Crab Slider – crispy softshell crab topped with organic vegetable slaw and served on a soft brioche roll with bayou aioli
- Brazilian carnival (weeks five and six, Mar. 1-14)
- Pao de Quiejo – traditional warm cheese bread with a guava dipping sauce
- Sugared Sweet Plantains – covered in cinnamon and sugar and served with banana poppy seed dipping sauce (plant-based)
- Germany (partial week seven, Mar.15)
- Grilled Bratwurst – served on a potato pancake with whole grain mustard, sour cream, and chives
- Sauerbraten – slow-braised beef, buttered spaetzle, and pickled red cabbage topped with a savory red wine sauce
- Warm pretzel – yum!
Mardi Gras 2020 – the drinks
For only the second year, Universal is putting a huge emphasis on beverages of all sorts – alcoholic, non-alcoholic, frozen, ice cream floats – which is something of a growing trend for the company over the past few years; it started with Halloween Horror Nights in 2017, expanded to the Holidays celebration in 2018, and arrived at Mardi Gras in 2019.
Before we break all of the sub-categories down, please be aware of one constant at every (alcoholic) drink location all throughout Universal Studios Florida: for each transaction, there is only one drink per person per ID.
For the first time ever, Schwab’s Pharmacy features a series of “over the top” ice cream floats that are inspired by each of the Mardi Gras parade floats, replete with their “treasures of the deep” theme:
- Mardi Gras Float – pineapple and lime soft-serve with grape soda, blueberry boba, and a waffle cone flag
- Shipwreck Float – pineapple and chocolate soft-serve with pineapple soda, cotton candy, and a waffle cone flag
- Sunken City of Atlantis Float – vanilla soft-serve with wild berry soda, mango boba, and a gummy shark
Each float is $7.49.
In another new twist, 2020’s cocktails are served in exclusive (and brand-new) souvenir cups. It’s important to note, however, that there’s something of a catch – again for the first time, Universal is making recommendations for which drinks pair the best with which food items, and some of these specialty cocktails can only be purchased in this specific pairing.
Here’s the full list:
- Baby Cakes – (20 oz) Three Olives Loopy Vodka, Melon Liqueur, pineapple, Rumchata
- Blue Voodoo – (20 oz) Olmeca Plata, Blue Curaco, lime, agave
- Bourbon Street Punch – (20 oz) (exclusive to the Bayou Boil)
- Cajun Bloody Mary – $11.99 – (9 oz) St. George Green Chile Vodka, Blody Mix, Bourbon Barrel Bitters, and garnished with celery salt rim and a shrimp-and-andouille-sausage skewer (paired with jambalaya exclusively) [Tasting Lanyard]
- Carnival Lane – (20 oz) Waterloo Gin, Bols Watermelon, lemon, dragon fruit simple syrup
- Coconut Water in a Coconut – $7.99 – (20 oz) non-alcoholic beverage (exclusive to the Carnival around the Universe food tent) [Tasting Lanyard]
- Girl from Ipanema – (9 oz) gin, lime, orgeat syrup, coconut water, and pineapple simple syrup (paired with Pao de Quiejo exclusively, and also exclusive to the Carnival around the Universe food tent)
- High Seas Twister – (20 oz) Panama Pacifico Rum, St. Elder Blood Orange, watermelon juice
- Hoodoo Cold Brew – $11.99 – (9 oz) Cathead Pecan Vodka, Cathead Hoodoo, New Grove Cafe, cold brew, and simple syrup (paired with beignets exclusively) [Tasting Lanyard]
- Pecan Street – (9 oz) vodka caramel drink (paired with Softshell Crab Slider exclusively, and also exclusive to the Carnival around the Universe food tent)
The cost for any of these beverages depends upon which size you get: the 20-oz. drinks are $14.29 (which includes a newly designed souvenir cup), with “souvenir refills” coming in at $10.99; the 9-oz ones, meanwhile, are $11.99 (since they’re all available only in pairings with food).
Returning from last year is the popular Mimosa and Wine Bar, which is located at Cafe La Bamba and which features eight “unique” mimosa flavors for your carnival pleasure:
- Caramel Apple
- Chambord Kir Royale
- Coconut Pineapple
- Frozen Mint Mojito
- Frozen Orange Mango
- Pineapple Mint
- Pomegranate Choco-Chili
- Raspberry Rosemary
All of these delectable drinks cost $13 and are available starting at 3:00 pm, when La Bamba opens up to Mardi Gras goers.
Frozen drinks (non-alcoholic)
Again harkening back to Halloween Horror Nights, the returning frozen drinks at Universal’s spring party are heavy on taste but light on booze (that is to say, they’re entirely nonalcoholic).
These virgin slushies consist of Bayou Bog Water (which contains gummy worms and fish, blueberry boba beads, and a lemonade-and-ginger-ale mix) and the more straight-forward flavors of King Cake Slushie, Wild Berry, Green Coconut, Lemonade, and a mix of the last three items (they’re all stacked one atop the other). And here’s an important note to keep in mind regarding these frozen treats: while all of them cost $4.99 apiece (save for Bayou Bog Water, which goes for $5.49), only the first two – Bayou Bog Water and King Cake – are eligible for the Tasting Lanyard, most likely due to the fact that they’re the only ones sold in the French Quarter Courtyard’s food and beverage tents (the other four can be found only at drink stands spread around the area).
Last but not least, partygoers can find beer spread out all throughout the French Quarter Courtyard.
Here is a list of the canned beers:
- Brooklyn Lager – $8.99
- Coors Light – $8.49
- The Crisp Sixpoint – $8.49
- Heineken – $8.99
Here are the bottled beers, all of which cost between $7.99 and $8.99:
- Angry Orchard
- Carib Lager (exclusive to the Carnival around the Universe food tent)
- Corona Premier
- High Noon Black Cherry
- Newground Hard Cafe Latte
- Sweetwater Lager
And, finally, there are several different draft beers:
- Amber Abita Lager
- Andy Gator
- Death by King Cake
- Ivanhoe Park
- Purple Haze
- South Beach
The price for these come in a couple different varieties: a nine-ounce sample size costs $5.49 (and is eligible for the Tasting Lanyard), while a normal 20-ounce pour is $10.49 in a regular cup and $13.79 in a souvenir mug (with refills priced at $10.49, as well).
One more thing
Before we move on, we wanted to point out that a number of food and drink tents located throughout the French Quarter Courtyard also serve bottled sodas ($4.49) and waters ($5.00), and these are both eligible for the Tasting Lanyard.
Speaking of which…
Mardi Gras 2020 – Tasting Lanyard
The Mardi Gras Tasting Lanyard allows guests to try out a number of different food and beverage tasting portions just for one flat price – with that price depending, of course, on how many entries the lanyard is good for:
- Five items – $30 (or $6 per item)
- 10 items – $50 ($5 per item)
- 15 items – $60 (exclusive to annual passholders) ($4 per item)
These dishes and drinks can be found in the French Quarter Courtyard, with a special icon located next to their names on the various menus. However, as something of a bonus, Universal will also allow you to use your Tasting Lanyards on a couple of normal snack items that can be found all throughout Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and CityWalk during normal park hours: soft pretzels, regular popcorn, and bottles of water. Choose wisely!
If you don’t use up all of your credits by the end of the day, worry not – they don’t expire, although, obviously, Mardi Gras comes to an end on April 2, and you would then be forced to use your lanyard only on the regular theme-park snacks. If, on the other hand, you do burn through your points and would like more tasting-size samples to munch on, you can reload your Tasting Lanyard at the same places you bought it in the first place: the French Quarter Courtyard, Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters Cafe, the Bone Chillin’ drink stand in front of the Cafe, and at the Reservation Cart, which is located at the entrance to the theme park.
Mardi Gras 2020 – CityWalk
It’s not enough to celebrate the bayou bash only in Universal Studios Florida, right? For 2020, a number of establishments in CityWalk are getting in on the festivities, too – and their offerings look to be some of the tastiest at all of Mardi Gras.
- The French Quarter Milkshake – $15.50 – king cake, cream cheese crema, and pastry cream, topped with king cake and a beignet (available at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium)
- The Jester – seasonal cocktail made with apple whiskey and “melon flavors” (available at the various food and beverage carts)
- King Cake Bon – $6.28 – a classic Cinnabon dish dressed up “in its Mardi Gras best” (available at Cinnabon)
- Mardi Gras Doughnut – $3.75 – yeast doughnut filled with cinnamon sugar and Bavarian cream and topped with vanilla glaze and sprinkles (inspired by the iconic Mardi Gras colors!) (available at Voodoo Doughnut)
- Mardi Gras Muffuletta Platter – $12.99 – footlong hot dog with traditional muffuletta dressing (available at Hot Dog Hall of Fame)
- Masquerade Martini – $12.00 – seasonal cocktail made with grape vodka, blue curacao, and “citrus flavors” (available at The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar)
- Party Gras – $12.00 – seasonal cocktail made with vodka, coconut rum, and “pineapple flavors.” Please note that this is available for annual passholders only (available at Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom)
- Roast Beef Po’boy – $10.99 – shaved roast beef and gravy with toppings (available at Bread Box)
- Taste of NOLA – red beans and rice, crawfish and andouille etouffee, and blackened chicken with creole sauce (available at Pat O’Brien’s)
- Voodoo Doctor – classic margarita with a hint of black raspberry (available at Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom)
That’s all we got for our Mardi Gras 2020 guide to food and drinks. Please keep in mind this is only one page in our Mardi Gras insider’s guide – for the most effective planning, please be sure to read through all of our pages, which you can access at any time using the navigation links at the top and bottom.