A beacon of consistency in the ever-evolving Universal Studios Florida, Lombard’s Seafood Grille sits in the San Francisco area of the theme park and offers a fine-dining-esque reprieve from the hustle and bustle of a day in the theme parks.
A sit-down restaurant just a touch on the fancier side, Lombard’s offers food you would not necessarily expect to find at a theme park — say, shrimp cocktail, clam chowder, and Black Angus beef tenderloins! Not only that, it is extremely well-themed, following a backstory unknown to some of the most avid theme park fans (myself included).
So, let’s take a deep dive — because fish — into this Universal Studios classic, with some fun and meaningful stories from Lombard’s Executive Chef, Ron Cope, and Restaurant Chef, Robert Walter.
Lombard’s Seafood Grille has been serving lunch and dinner to guests for over three decades, since the opening of Universal Studios Florida.
Located by the lagoon on the San Francisco pier, the restaurant’s nautical theme has a deep backstory inspiring it. According to Chef Robert, legend has it that back in the 1880s, Luis Lombard ran an underwater laboratory that used to be at the site of what is now the restaurant. The lab apparently surfaced years later, and is now the restaurant we know and love. Once you learn about the backstory (IE, you, reading this article right now), you won’t be able to un-see its influence in everything around the building!
The restaurant is decorated with a undersea elegance, though holding onto those scientific pieces from Luis Lombard’s laboratory, such as the large fish tank in the center of a lavish dining room with ornate decor.
Further, the structure itself leans into the 1880s San Francisco vibe, according to Chef Robert: “You see stress in the brick, like there have been earthquakes … and it really has that San Francisco feel.”
The amount of detail put into the restaurant is worth mentioning, from the design on the walls to the woodworking on furniture and columns. Little stone fish line the building, and paintings and maps adorn the walls. Pay close attention to the detail in the lobby’s main table; the woodworking is so intricate that it’s easy to miss at first glance.
Additionally, what’s really neat about Lombard’s location is that you can see almost the entirety of Universal Studios Florida through the restaurant’s glass windows. You could be enjoying your meal in the center dining room, and start pointing out and dreaming up all of the places you want to go next.
The menu at Lombard’s Seafood Grille, as the name suggests, primarily features seafood. From fish to crab to everything in between, the menu offers a wide array of seafood that can transport you right into the San Francisco mealtime vibe of the restaurant.
My number one recommendation is the San Pablo Spinach & Artichoke Dip as an appetizer. The first crunch of the chip into the tasty, cheesy dip was so incredible on my recent visit, that I ended up ordering more chips before I even finished the first ones!
The Catch of the Day and Fish and Chips are both reliable choices that are wonderfully delicious, and the Presidio District Soft-Shell Crab and Cioppino Ocean Bowl also come highly recommended by the chefs. The Catch of the Day may seem simple at first glance on a menu, but the dish is full of vibrant flavor, pulled together with the rice and garnishes it comes with.
Each dish comes equipped with a story, be it why it’s included on this menu in particular, or why it’s called what it is. Take the Cioppino, a fish stew, served with a rosemary breadstick at Lombard’s, for instance.
“It’s a genuine San Francisco dish,” Chef Robert says. “You know, when you’re fishing, some days you have a boat full of fish and some days you have nothing. So if you came back to the dock and you had nothing, [the other Fishermen] would ‘cioppino’ into your bucket.” The dish’s name sounds like the noise of the food dropping into the bucket, as the other fishermen “chipped in.”
But, seafood is not exclusively what is served at Lombard’s. The Caesar Salad is another highly recommended dish with a loyal fan base, praised for its fresh and crispy romaine, wonderful seasoning, and rich dressing. Additionally, one of Chef Robert’s favorites is The Wharf Burger, which says a lot given his years spent living, cooking, and surely eating, in various countries around the world, such as Japan, Guam and Korea.
“One reason The Wharf Burger is so great is that we grind fresh beef in the production kitchen right here on property,” Chef Ron says, explaining Chef Robert’s favorite dish. “So, every day they grind fresh meat. They patty it for us, and it’s a never-frozen burger. So it’s a real high-quality of beef.”
And, of course, there is a vast dessert menu with offerings like a Caramel Cheesecake or Mocha Pyramid.
It doesn’t matter if you want to take advantage of the classic seafood, the high-quality burgers, or desserts: the beauty of Lombard’s, as Chef Robert puts it, is that “you set your own pace.” This can apply to the food, and to how you experience the restaurant itself.
“Let’s face it, people want to go to the next attraction,” Chef Robert says. “They don’t want to spend all day in a restaurant. However, if you want to take your time and enjoy yourself, we have multiple courses, we have a full bar. You don’t have to go anywhere.”
The Feel of Lombard’s
Lombard’s is a place for a reprieve that doesn’t lose the immense theming, immersion, and welcoming atmosphere you expect to find at Universal. The team members and chefs are not only accommodating, but get joy out of taking care of their guests.
“I love doing it because people are generally very happy,” says Chef Ron, who’s been managing Lombard’s for over four years, having returned to Universal Studios Florida after opening Islands of Adventure back in the day. For him, Lombard’s is “a comfort” for guests. “I would say, you know, we really provide an overall experience — with our service and our food and the theming — that people walk away with a happy experience.”
Chef Robert agrees, appreciating most the moments when he can connect with kids while they enjoy their meals. “What I really love is going to the table with the kids, and them looking up at me,” says Chef Robert, who’s fairly tall. “The mouths open, literally. The white coat speaks for itself, the white hat. It makes an impression. And the looks on their faces are just priceless.”
Have you eaten at Lombard’s Seafood Grille before? What was your favorite dish? If not, what would you like to order on your first visit? Let us know on social media, or in the comments below!