This post is part 6 of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Without Kids series. All photos in this post were taken by me on a Samsung Galaxy S6.
Yes, there are actually things to do outside the parks at Universal Studios Orlando! We probably didn’t do as many as we could have–for example, there was a go-kart track and a mini golf place near our hotel–but that was due to being tired and achy after long days in the park. The idea of standing up and doing stuff in the evening was sometimes the farthest thing from my mind. There’s definitely stuff like that in Orlando if you want to do it, plus a huge Ferris wheel sponsored by Coca-Cola and a smaller theme park called Fun Spot USA that looked cute.
Nevertheless, there were still some things outside the parks that we did.
On the night we got to Orlando, we went to a seafood place called Fish Bones on a recommendation. While it’s a casual sit-down restaurant, the prices are fairly high for the entrees, but they are very big on fresh seafood and whatnot. Still, be ready to possibly spend about $100 for two people to have an appetizer, entrees and a dessert.
We weren’t going to have any appetizer at all, but then Charlie spotted the words “Florida Gator” and we figured we’d give it a shot. These are nugget-sized bites of alligator, breaded and fried in Cajun spices and served with a tangy garlic aioli. That saying about alligator tasting just like chicken is true. It’s a little gamier, but just as white as chicken, too.
If I hadn’t told you this was alligator, would you think it was based solely on the photo?
I had cedar plank roasted salmon with parmesan cheese and red onion coated on it, which was amazing, incredibly rich and I could not finish it all. Blame the gator bites. Charlie got Hawaiian triggerfish, which was very tasty and a mild white fish like tilapia. He also had key lime pie because it is Florida, although they give you little chocolate chunk brownies as a thank you with your bill (also maybe to soften the blow of how much you spent), so you could easily hold off on dessert and enjoy that as a sweet treat.
I have to admit that, on two other dinner occasions, we were just too tired to imagine a sit-down meal and so we got fast food. We never went to either the Epic McDonalds (yes, they call themselves that) or a similar two-story Burger King I saw nearby. Both of those had arcades on the second floor and the Burger King even had Dance Dance Revolution, which I haven’t seen in an arcade version since I was in high school. Maybe next time.
But there was one place at City Walk that I’d read so much about and absolutely HAD to go to: The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen. That’s a mouthful. Let’s call it Toothsome. It’s located on the park side of City Walk, by the Hard Rock Cafe, and you can’t miss it.
This photo doesn’t really do it justice–the place is enormous. Unfortunately, they follow that super annoying restaurant trend of not taking reservations. It might be best to try to go at non-peak times. (Google’s graphs of peak and non-peak times might be useful!) What they will do is take your number at the hostess stand and text you when your table is ready, which for us took about half an hour starting at 6:30 on a Sunday night. It’s best to not be starving as soon as you decide to go to Toothsome or you’re gonna have a bad time.
The lobby also has what looks to be an a la carte milkshake bar with some seating if you want to bypass having a meal altogether and just enjoy a dessert. If you’re expecting a standard milkshake, don’t.
Yes, that red velvet milkshake has an actual full-size cupcake around the straw. The one on the left has an enormous marshmallow and a full-size Rice Krispie treat around the straw. We did not get any milkshakes.
There are two seating levels in the restaurant, so they can get lots of folks in and out pretty efficiently. The steampunk theme continues throughout–there’s even a guy dressed as a robot who wanders around interacting with guests, plus a woman in steampunk garb who is meant to be the founder of this establishment. Page 1 of the extensive menu details her story.
As far as I know, the menu isn’t online. I got a flatbread with mushrooms and goat cheese that was perfectly tasty and tangy, if a bit messy because stuff kept falling off the crisp bread. Charlie had an awesome risotto. We were really saving room for one of the gigantic sundaes, which is easily enough for 2 or even 3 people to share. There are photos of them in the back of the menu and we chose the peanut butter themed one.
Y’all. This was incredible. You got peanut butter ice cream with a peanut butter drizzle and crushed peanuts, two Reese’s cups, a sprinkle of Reese’s pieces, peaks of whipped cream, a portion of some sort of peanut butter and chocolate mousse pie and two pieces of peanut brittle. The bowl it’s served in reminded me of beautiful asymmetrical Chihuly glass and, while we stayed away from the sticky peanut brittle, we put a nice big dent in the rest of it.
And the bill only came to right about $40! We did just drink water and share the sundae, but still.
The lobby also features a candy shop that we visited after dinner and if it hadn’t been so crowded, I might’ve bought some stuff. Instead, I looked with my eyes.
Mother of God, macarons! In some standard flavors and then some nonstandard ones like absinthe, key lime pie, peanut butter and jelly, lavender and more.
All manner of pretty colorful jewel-like truffles.
So yeah, if you have a sweet tooth or a sweet mouth, you absolutely have to go to Toothsome. Just remember to try a non-peak time and/or a non-peak day.
On Sunday afternoon once we left Islands of Adventure at midday, we were hungry but for something not fast food. In searching Yelp for nearby places, Charlie found a New York style pizza joint that was rather adorably called NYPD Pizza. Please note that they are not an official arm of the real NYPD, lol. Their slogan should be “pizza so good, it’s arresting!” If they use that, I WANT ROYALTIES. The one nearest to our hotel was a little drive away, past the convention center, in a strip mall in a quieter and more residential area. We got a large cheese pie to go and ate it in the room while watching Scrubs (related: I am so happy Netflix lost the rights to Scrubs because now it’s back on Comedy Central, where I first saw it). It was terrific. Again, so good, it’s arresting.
In driving to one of the approximately 17 Publix locations within 5 miles of the hotel–it is Florida, after all–we also saw a small shop that immediately piqued Charlie’s interest: Hogan’s Beach Shop. Yes, like Hulk Hogan. He and his twin brother both grew up watching wrestling and so we made a note to come back for a visit. The shop is small and focuses mainly on selling clothes, beach towels, action figures and glassware, but there are multiple TVs playing different wrestling events, plus cool memorabilia like signed championship belts as well as a red and yellow Dodge Viper convertible that Hulk Hogan drove while introducing himself to the rival WCW in the 90s. I even spotted a signed hat once belonging to Macho Man Randy Savage, who might be my favorite wrestler just because of his flamboyant style.
If you like wrestling, whether the 80s-90s heyday of Hulk Hogan and the gang or the latter-day incarnation with John Cena et al, Hogan’s Beach Shop is worth a visit.
Those were the main cool non-Universal places we visited during the trip. There were some mundane places as well–Publix, for bottled water and snacks; CVS, for better sunscreen; Walgreens, in an attempt to lessen my foot pain with shoe inserts–but those aren’t as fun to write about, now, are they? 😉
That concludes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Without Kids mega-series. You’ve been a great crowd. Feel free to ask questions, let me know what you think or share what Hogwarts house you are in the comments. Share this series with any sans-children millennials you know who have been talking about making the trip to Orlando. Or pin my pictures onto your Pinterest board called “#vacationgoals.” Or do all of those things, it’s all good. Thanks!