Universal Orlando introduces significant restaurant updates at CityWalk

Posted Friday, December 13, 2013 8:16 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Eight eateries — including one that touts sushi and beef — will be introduced or revamped at Universal CityWalk by June, officials said Thursday. The most visible change at this point is Antojitos, a Mexican restaurant that has a façade under construction at the former location of the Latin Quarter restaurant.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Friday, December 13, 2013 8:27 AM

Now that I think about it, this is really long overdue. The last time I did an on-property stay back in 2010, I remember being kind of bored with what was there. Didn't Pastamore and Latin Quarter open with CityWalk?

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Friday, December 13, 2013 11:13 AM

Inside the Magic has nice coverage of the announcement. The pictures and renderings of the 8 new eateries look great.
I like CityWalk, (I've stumbled back to my hotel from there many times,) but the last time we were there I noticed the place, especially the upper level, looked quite worn out and not very inviting. It was kinda slow when we were there, and maybe that accounts for some of it, but the restaurants and clubs along that upper back stretch had nary a soul around. The employees were just standing at the doors waiting.
So, IMO, this is a much needed facelift. The restaurants look like places I would actually go- (I tend to turn my nose up at the heavy hitter, touristy places like Hard Rock and Margaritaville) and seem to be the right mix of table service and casual quick fare. I like those yogurt bars that are popping up everywhere these days, but I've never tried Menchie's. (love me some Orange Leaf, though...)
One of the best fine dining experiences we've ever had was at Emeril's at Universal's City Walk. We ordered a tasting menu, with several delicious courses and a wine or beer pairing with each. Awesome. I'll never forget it that meal, or the fact that we got caught in the worst downpour on the boat ride over from the hotel. We showed up at Emeril's well dressed but soaked. They welcomed us in, regardless, helped us dry off and treated us right.

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Friday, December 13, 2013 11:31 AM

I know Latin Quarter opened with City Walk. I think Pastamore did also, but can't be sure.

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Friday, December 13, 2013 12:06 PM

I still think that NBA City is the best kept secret there. You wouldn't think it by the affiliation, but the food there is very good.

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Saturday, December 14, 2013 2:35 AM

^^ Jeff, yes. The food is shockingly not bad, and our server was very friendly. We had a decent meal there, way better than Hard Rock (though I will say HRC has gotten better over the years).

I'm glad they're working to build up the restaurant game at CityWalk. As much as I like shops and clubs and restaurants, I've always kind of felt that Pleasure Island failed and CityWalk doesn't do great because of the very thing that should keep them busy: location. Most people coming to that area aren't there to party, see movies, or shop. They're there for the parks. I'm certain there are so many other places to go to pursue other recreation and dining for the locals, and on rainy days, the crowds aren't guaranteed either because tourists of Disney/Universal are hardcore. They don't leave unless the parks kick them out, and then they're not gonna want to walk around outside in pouring rain looking for a shop or restaurant they MIGHT want to eat at...

Don't get me wrong; I want these places to do well. I like all sorts of options for my vacation recreation. I just think they tend to get lost because of all the more interesting things to do while still being a turn off for more permanent residents who don't wanna go to a hugely crowded area to eat at tourist-y restaurants and shop mostly tourist-y stores. I hope these new food choices breathe some life back into CityWalk. Definitely couldn't hurt, right?

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Saturday, December 14, 2013 1:13 PM

City Walk does just fine, but it's seasonal in nature, and influenced by the occupancy of the hotels and attendance of the parks. It was crazy busy when I was there in 2010, and that was in the slowest week of January. Went to see BMG this summer and it was also ridiculous.

I think the slow dismantling of Pleasure Island happened because people got over club hopping. They'd rather eat and shop, and the tenant list supports that theory.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013 1:27 AM

The Pleasure Island concept was interesting and rather unique at the time it opened. They treated it like another "gate", with ticketed, restricted access after a certain time of day. Tickets to PI could be purchased on the spot, or an evening there could be rolled into your resort package, or whatever. Once inside, the clubs were open to all, you could purchase drinks to carry around anywhere within, and there was a New Years Eve countdown-style outdoor show every night. We went twice, some years apart. The first time was great, we went to the jazz club for drinks and music, the country bar, the comedy club, the retro disco, and finished up the night at the street party. It was very busy and seemed like the place to be. The second time it was dismal. It was kind of cold out that night and we felt like we were the only ones there. The riotous party atmosphere that I remembered was gone and the clubs were dead.

I'm not sure what killed it. Perhaps with other entertainment options that didn't require gated admission so close by, like the restaurants and shows at the West End and Marketplace, people just weren't buying it any more. Or maybe the fact that PI occupied the middle portion of Downtown Disney turned out not to be so good. Visitors that were there just to shop or eat in the evening were inconvenienced by the long walk past the gap.

It seems in the end the CityWalk concept is the winner for night time fun. They provide a variety of venues that would appeal to most visitors, with free admission, and the customer can choose where they want to go and how much they want to pay. The theme parks are situated right there, and visitors must walk through to get to the gates. Parking is in the same place no matter where you're going in the complex. This is a bit of ingenious planning, as people can see what's there and lay plans to participate after the parks close without having to make a big production of it, or travel out of the way to get there.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013 8:40 PM

I had no idea CityWalk was ever busy, to be honest. Very interesting. Every time I've been there, it has been dead. Like spooky unoccupied. Guess I just figured it was the same all the time. Still, glad to see them making improvements.

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Monday, December 16, 2013 2:46 AM

Likewise. Although in all fairness to them, my only trip there during busy season was for HHN. Even then, the place was a ghost town on my way out of the park at closing time.

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