This week we found ourselves traveling to Orlando, FL to celebrate my son Zak’s 21st birthday early (he turns 21 in May). Along the way we found some good eats and some really good BBQ! This travel and dining out post will focus on our food adventures in Florida… Eating Orlando!
When we arrived in Florida we had been travelling all afternoon and as a result we were hungry. After a snafu with the rental car (which I must say I handled gracefully) we got to our hotel and settled in to the evening. It was time for us to find somewhere to eat and as it was our first night at Universal Studios in Orlando, FL we decided to head over to CityWalk. For anyone that has been to Universal Studios you know there is no shortage of places to eat, so we grabbed a drink, surveyed the choices, and settled in on a new restaurant we had not been to before The Cowfish: Burger and Sushi Bar. And yes you read that correctly… this place had burgers AND sushi… what a combo!
The menu at The Cowfish was interesting featuring Sushi, Burgers, and something called Burgushi which was a fusion of burgers and sushi.
I took a leap of faith and ordered the Taste Explosion Roll which featured seasoned natural Angus ground beef, applewood bacon, jalapeños, spicy mayo inside, coated with tempura flakes, topped with Roma tomato and pepper jack cheese, then baked and drizzled with cashew cilantro pesto. OMG… how could I not order this?!?
Debbie ordered the Tropical Storm Roll which had Kani, avocado and cucumber inside, topped with tuna, salmon, yellowtail, Japanese mayo, sweet eel sauce, sriracha and multi-colored tobiko and served with wasabi yuzu dipping sauce. The roll in the back is the Dion’s OMG! Roll which had Tempura coconut shrimp, kani, English cucumber inside, coated in tempura flakes and was topped with fresh mango, avocado, spicy honey marmalade and coconut flakes
The Cowfish had really cool décor which reflected the fusion influences of their menu. We would say this place is worth a try next time you find yourself at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fl.
The next day we visited the parks and got to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time! Zak and his sister Jessica were quite the Harry Potter fans growing up. They read all the books and we watched all the movies. It was not long before Zak found his “Inner Harry” and got his wand on…
Oddly enough there is a foodie thing worth mentioning in the middle of all this park mayhem and that is what kind of Butterbeer to get! Well, discerning palettes need to know the answer to this timeless question. So, we forged ahead and tried them all and in our opinion the “frozen” Butterbeer is the one to get!
After a morning of rides and walking to and fro we needed a break and that break came in the form of a Pizza and a beer (wine for Debbie) at the Red Oven Pizza Bakery at CityWalk. For a chain pizza restaurant the pizza was delicious and featured a crispy, soft, and salty crust. We tried their Prosciutto and Arugula White Pizza which was fantastic!
That night Zak really wanted to go to Margaritaville and eat. You have to go and experience this place at least once if you haven’t been before. We got a kick out of seeing the kids watch the Margarita Volcano erupt for the first time!
After dinner we walked around CityWalk and found ourselves at Rising Star Karaoke. Oddly enough, I have never done Karaoke before so this was going to be a first for me. Zak’s girlfriend Alannah is an aspiring singer and wanted to get up and sing… what could go wrong with this plan… I mean it is a Karaoke bar after all.
Well, this was no ordinary Karaoke bar (from what I was told). This looked like the set at American Idol and featured a full band with professional lighting and sound. The first few singers that went onstage were very polished and we were questioning our choice of entertainment for the evening. I am proud to say Alannah and I both mustered the courage to get up there and sign a song. It was a lot of fun and set us up nicely for the following night (more on that later).
For our final day in Orlando we spent more time at the parks and then back at the hotel pool. That night we planned to do something different and try a local restaurant a friend of ours recommended for their BBQ: Yellow Dog Eats in Gotha, FL (which is 15 minutes away from Orlando). In addition, our friends Scott & Melissa (who had recently moved to that area from Northern Virginia) met us for dinner with their 3 awesome kids. This night turned out to be the best of the whole trip from the BBQ & décor to the company and entertainment this night was a blast!
Yellow Dog Eats
What can I say about this place other than it rocked! If/when we open up a restaurant this is the type of place it would be modeled after. Laid back, friendly staff, unassuming, and tucked away in a cool house setup to be a funky BBQ joint. Not to mention these guys are “heads” for sure… Jerry, Jim, and Jimi all greeted us at the door…
Once inside we passed their smoker and stack of Hickory Wood. The smell of BBQ was in the air… I knew we picked the right spot!
The guy who opened this place “Fish” Morgan is a Culinary Institute of America grad who put his focus on BBQ and deli sandwiches. It showed in all the food we ate that night from the “Holy Crap” sandwich with turkey, bacon, avocado, and goat cheese on their multi-grain “Pioneer” bread (which was awesome) to their house smoked St. Louis Style Pork Ribs. These ribs were smoked to perfection using only a dry rub and served with their “Yellow” sauce which is a version of Carolina mustard based BBQ sauce but sweeter and less vinegary.
We find Scott and Melissa waiting for us at a table out back in their courtyard. This was the ideal setting for the evening and was right next to the stage which featured (drum roll please) Karaoke!
Matt Leiva (Missing Link Entertainment) was hosting the Karaoke that night and was a lot of fun. Matt definitely knew how to get everyone involved! We all took turns at the mic singing songs and having a great time. Even Zak took a turn belting out “Yellow Submarine”!
I even got the guys at the next table to get up and sing Bohemian Rhapsody with us!
We stayed the whole night until last call drinking, singing, laughing, and making new friends. Yellow Dog Eats gets high marks from us and we recommend this place to anyone in Orlando or headed their on vacation. We will certainly go again!