Themed restaurants – they tend to be touristy, overpriced, and the food is never as authentic as that which you find at a great local restaurant. However, for most of us on vacation, a fun atmosphere and fantastic service typically overrides quality food and value. From Disney Springs, to Universal CityWalk, to International Drive, and even the theme parks themselves, there is no shortage of incredible themed restaurants in the Orlando region.
What better accompanies a crazy day at the theme parks than an over-the-top dining experience? Below are a handful of fun themed restaurants which offer a rare winning combo of a great ambiance, fabulous service, and yes, even decent food.
- Where: Disney Springs
- Highlight: Incredible live step dancing performances daily
- Type of Cuisine: Irish
- What to try: Fish and Chips
- Allergy Friendly Options: GF fish & chips, GF onion rings, vegan risotto
One of the country’s premier Irish pubs is surprisingly found in Florida of all places. Just outside the Magic Kingdom within the Disney Springs entertainment complex stands one of the country’s top Irish dining experiences. Here you can enjoy traditional Irish grub, authentic decor, and even a bit of step dancing. The unique name (Raglan) comes from one of the more popular streets in Dublin. Visiting this charming pub is about as close as you could get to a traditional Irish pub experience without taking the long flight over to Dublin.
Raglan Road offers a full lineup of all your favorite Irish dishes including fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and even a traditional Irish breakfast platter. They are well-known for their Irish soda bread served with a Guinness dipping sauce. The staff here is super friendly and willing to accommodate any allergies. Where else can you find gluten-free fish and chips?
Order a Guinness while sitting at a beautiful bar which was built & shipped directly from Ireland. Or, opt to take a seat in the beautiful dining room, fill up on some comfort fare like fish and chips, and take in the unique opportunity to watch year-round step dancing performances. All of the talented dancers are former Riverdance or Lord of the Dance stars. Best free entertainment in Orlando, hands down!
Hard Rock Cafe
- Where: Universal CityWalk
- Highlight: Rock n’ roll memorabilia & old school music videos
- Type of Cuisine: Comfort style American
- What to try: Twisted Mac and Cheese
- Allergy Friendly Options: Wings, Various burgers, sandwiches and steaks, and a brownie sundae are all GF. Veggie options include an Impossible Burger, spring rolls, and twisted mac and cheese (minus chicken).
Hard Rock Cafe is the perfect vacation restaurant. No matter where you are traveling, you can usually find a Hard Rock somewhere near the tourist center. Orlando is no exception. Even with a plethora of fun restaurant choices, no one really offers the pizazz of Hard Rock. The super fun Rock N Roll decor, combined with cheerful service, a lively ambiance, fun drinks, and a menu loaded with vacation approved comfort foods, makes Hard Rock the ideal way to end an exciting day at the theme parks.
Orlando’s Hard Rock is conveniently located at CityWalk, and thus, you can stroll over here for a comforting meal after a tiresome day at Universal Studios. Treat yourself to some fun apps (try the Jumbo Platter which includes wings, bruschetta, signature spring rolls, and potato skins) while you pursue the menu. The Twisted Mac and cheese is outstanding – a creamy 4 cheese blend with a spicy kick. If you have room left over, try one of their indulgent over-the-top milkshakes!
After you meal check out the rock shop and then take a stroll to view the various nostalgic rock memorabilia. Note: all of Hard Rock’s drinks can be served in a collectible souvenir glass!
- Where: Universal Islands of Adventure
- Highlight: Rated best theme park restaurant
- Type of Cuisine: Asian, Mediterranean, American
- What to try: Pad Thai
- Allergy friendly options: Pad Thai & Mushroom Risotto (GF, V), Mezze Platter (V), Various salads (GF, V), GF rolls
When we are running around all day at the theme parks, we often forget to eat. Or worse, pick up unhealthy fast food from a park stand. Do not let this be the case at Universal’s Islands of Adventure! Hidden within the park is a underwater cavern themed restaurant which has been rated the world’s best theme park restaurant. Do make a reservation as walk ins are rarely available.
Sit back, relax for a bit in the much appreciated AC, and enjoy a tasty and fulfilling meal before embarking out into the craziness again. The decor here is really unique, resembling an underwater grotto. You can still see the theme park too from the windows, so you never truly feel as if you have left the park.
The menu includes Mediterranea, Asian, and American specialties. First off, you are brought out tasty rolls while you scan the menu. Start with the mezze appetizer (consisting of various dips like hummus and baba ganoush). The Pad Thai is a wonderful dish consisting of rice noodles, chicken & shrimp, and mixed veggies in a sweet and sour peanut sauce – a perfect dish for vegetarians!
- Where: International Drive
- Highlight: Caribbean decor & salsa dancing
- Type of Cuisine: Cuban
- What to try: Black Bean soup
- Allergy Friendly Options: Black Bean soup (GF, V), Paella Vegetariana (V), Most entrees can be made gluten-free
This Cuban themed restaurant is found in a number of touristy locations including Orlando’s tourist hotspot International Drive. This makes it a great dinner choice if you will be heading out to nearby area attractions like mini golf, Icon Park, Dave & Busters, etc. The tropical Caribbean inspired design is definitely vacation approved. The beautiful architecture & vintage décor will give your eyes something to feast upon until your food arrives.
As for the food, start with a bowl of traditional Cuban black bean soup, the most delicious and filling starter on the menu. Entrees are varied with choices ranging from a Paella Vegetarian dish, to a meat lover’s Plato Gaucho Mixed Grill for 2.
As for entertainment, get ready for some late night Latin music and salsa dancing. Overall, this restaurant offers a fun, laid-back setting for the whole family to enjoy. It’s the perfect place to let loose, refuel, and recoup after a long park day.
- Where: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Highlight: Views of the resort’s savannah
- Type of Cuisine: Indian, African
- What to try: Indian Style bread service
- Allergy friendly options: GF and vegan menus on request. The majority of dishes can accommodate either diet (i.e. GF pita chips in replace of the naan bread for the Bread service app).
Sanaa is an amazing exotic restaurant located inside Disney’s deluxe Animal Kingdom Lodge resort. Even if you are not staying at this property, it’s highly worth making the trek over for the exotic ambiance and food. Not only is the decor inside unusual and exciting, but the views outside are even more exhilarating. Imagine seeing giraffes, zebras and other exotic animals up close while you feast on an exceptional meal!
At Sanaa, you will get to treat yourself to flavorful Indian and African entrees as you watch the animals roam about the resort’s Sunset Savannah. Overall, the fantastic food and eclectic setting place Sanaa near the top of incredible Orlando dining experiences – it’s one not to miss for sure, especially if you love Indian food. There are lots of great choices on the menu here. No matter which entrees you choose, do start with the incredible Indian style Bread service (Naan served with an assortment of accompaniments).
Toothsome Chocolate Emporium
- Where: Universal City Walk
- Highlight: The most outrageous desserts in Orlando
- Type of cuisine: American comfort
- What to try: Chocolate Brownie Bark sundae
- Allergy friendly options: Vegan Garganelli pasta, Vegan Milkshake (sub soy milk). Great vegetarian options include a Vegetable Press sandwich and various apps. Popular GF choices include Chicken Bercy and Flourless Chocolate Cake for dessert.
Anyone with a sweet tooth will want to satisfy their craving at Toothsome Chocolate Factory, conveniently located amidst the excitement at CityWalk. This is the place to go for over-the-top sundaes, milkshakes, and basically any other type of dessert you could possibly imagine. It’s like walking into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The design is very whimsical and the extravagant treat display out-of-this-world.
As you walk in, you are treated to the most enticing display of desserts. Macaroons, chocolate dipped strawberries, cupcakes, cake pops, truffles…it’s a tough decision to choose just one! Or opt to choose amongst a long list of decadent sundaes and milkshakes. Yes, they are loaded with sugar and calories, but hey you probably put in 10+ miles walking around Universal anyways. Treat yourself while on vacation! When else can you splurge on a Travel Channel worthy treat?
The Chocolate Brownie sundae pictured above is pure deliciousness. It’s big enough to split amongst your party, for sure. Also don’t forget about all the chocolate greatness found on the regular menu including warm chocolate almond bread, too chocolate stout beer, and coffee and chocolate stout wings. Oh, and there’s plenty of comforting dinner choices like Fettuccine Alfredo, Broccoli Cheddar soup, and Four Cheese flatbread to enjoy before you stuff yourself with sugar and chocolate!
- Where: International Drive
- Highlight: Fun Greek food & Belly dancing
- Type of Cuisine: Greek
- What to try: Gyro Pita and Fries (Falafel, Veggie, Chicken, or Pork)
- Allergy friendly options: Kabobs (GF, V option), Greek salad (GF), Various entrees can be adjusted to fit your dietary needs.
Everybody loves a fresh Greek salad, crispy falafels with tzatziki, and filling pitas. Somehow a Greek salad tastes even better after a long hot day in the Florida sunshine – it’s the perfect cooling treat. Taverna Opa is popular with tourists due to its’ convenient I-drive setting, fun ambiance, and big menu of Greek favorites.
The setting is really unique here with a big tree growing through the dining room. By day, the ambiance is quiet, whereas at night things get a bit crazy with live belly dancing and zorba line dancing.
As for the food, it’s decent enough, not totally authentic, but still hits the spot. Start with the Greek salad and their amazing falafel served with tzatziki. The spanakopita is another winning appetizer. As for entrees, you can’t beat a great gyro, which can be made with falafel, chicken, pork or veggies. Cap your meal off with a Greek coffee and baklava.
Other popular themed eateries
Margaritaville – Popular American chain featuring a tropical ambiance, fun cocktails, comfort food, a tiki bar, plus live music and late night dancing (Citywalk).
Antojitos’ – Spacious modern Mexican restaurant featuring a colorful dining room, multiple bars, and a menu of trendy Mexican dishes (Citywalk).
Voodoo Donuts – Popular Portland based donut shop known for their outrageous colorful sugar treats (Citywalk).
Three Broomsticks – Harry Potter themed British cafe serving pub fare. (Universal Islands of Adventure).
The Leaky Cauldron – Harry Potter themed restaurant in Diagon Alley serving popular British fare and butterbeer. (Universal Studios).