Gluten-Free Weekend at Universal Studios in Orlando
Orlando is quickly becoming one of my favorite cities to visit - it's only a little over an hour from where we live, and gluten-free menus are everywhere! This past weekend I put a few new places on the agenda to visit, plus my old favorite, Margaritaville. I did have some good food, but unfortunately this time there were some bad points as well. Wanted to share my experiences, both good and bad!
Hard Rock Cafe
I had read in a few blogs that the Hard Rock cafe was very accommodating to gluten free so chose to go there when we first arrived for a quick lunch before hitting the park for the evening. It did not go quite as well as I thought, although I didn't get glutened, so that's something. They don't have a GF menu, and the selection of items they do have that seemed possible was very small, but the waiter told me that he'd follow up on anything I was interested in and that the fries were done in a separate fryer, so I could have those.
I perused the menu and we went for the chicken wings as an appetizer, and decided to split a BBQ plate for the entree. The chicken wings took a good 30 minutes to arrive, and a few minutes after they finally hit the table the waiter came by to say that the BBQ entree was not an option since it had gluten. It was nice of course that he checked, just wished he'd done it when we ordered, since I would've had all that time to figure out what else to get! I ended up getting the chicken sandwich without a bun and french fries on the side, and it was really good. That, and the Red Berry Press cocktail I got was fantastic. So all in all, a decent meal, just took twice as long as we expected!
The Kitchen at the Hard Rock Hotel
On our past couple trips we have gone to Tchoup Chop at the Loews Royal Pacific for our Saturday night dinner, but since we opted to stay at the Hard Rock Hotel this time around we decided to eat on site there instead at the Kitchen. It was also a good meal, but just not what I was expecting. It was really crowded, and completely packed with kids super hyped over being in Orlando, and the noise acoustics were terrible. Normally I don't mind having kids in restaurants, and I understand that kids will be kids, but with an average entree price of about $30 I guess I wasn't expecting it to be quite so kid oriented (apparently kids ate free the night we were there).
Anyway, kids aside, they did have a gluten-free menu ready to go with a ton of delicious-sounding options, so many I had trouble deciding. I ended up going with a pan-seared corvina (fish) with a butternut squash risotto and asparagus. The fish had a nice crisp crust, and the butternut squash risotto was a nice surprise - instead of having a butternut squash puree as I expected, it had little chunks of butternut squash in it, and it was super creamy. Between that and the nice bottle of Layer Cake wine, it was a really tasty meal! Plus it quieted down a lot by the time we finished. So I definitely recommend the restaurant and the GF options, but if you're not so into kids maybe wait until later to eat.
So I've reviewed Margaritaville before, and it has been hands-down my favorite place to eat at Universal. The atmosphere, the delicious margaritas, and the gluten-free buns and fries are pretty much everything a gluten-free girl like me could want. So for our last meal before leaving, of course we had to stop in. They still have GF buns and fries, and the margaritas are still delicious, but the menu was really different. They have also changed the fries, and not for the better - they replaced the amazingly addictive shoestring fries with thick fries that were soggy and mealy. Not a fan. And the burger suddenly has a pickle slice on it, which is not mentioned on the menu - and as a person who believes even pickle residue ruins a burger, I was not pleased that I didn't know to ask to leave it off. I'm not writing Margaritaville off by any means as they are really gluten-free friendly, but I will definitely be rethinking what I order in the future!
All in all, I got to eat some tasty things and did not get glutened once, so mostly a successful weekend. And once again, had a great time in the park itself - the new expanded Simpsons area is a lot of fun!
Can't wait for next year, when Harry Potter land is getting the same treatment :)