One of the main reasons I travel is to indulge in the local cuisine. My itinerary planning starts with all the places I want to eat at first, then I pepper in the sights and activities. A girl’s got her priorities.
This spring, I am excited to travel to Universal Studios Florida for the annual Mardi Gras event to sample all the mouthwatering food dishes inspired by global Carnaval celebrations—representing 17 different countries across 70 unique menu items. It’s going to take a few visits to try everything on my list, but that is a challenge I am willing to take on.
So, let’s get this party started. Here’s a roundup of some of the top foods for Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval (stomach, don’t fail me now):
Mofongo Trio Flight
Inspired by Carnaval Ponceño in Puerto Rico, this iconic dish is presented in three delectable servings. The base for each is a traditional mix of smashed green plantains, bacon, garlic, and chicharrones and topped three different ways: traditional, shrimp criolla, and crispy chicken chicharron with mayo ketchup drizzle. My favorite was the shrimp criolla topped one because of the extra kick from the Creole spices.
Pav Bhaji* (pronounced pav baa-jee)
Don’t let the name intimidate you. This popular Indian street food is a thick, vegetable stew with a medley of veggies and spices including potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, ginger and garlic with a buttery-toasted Hawaiian roll on the side. It definitely made me feel like this is one of those “like my mama used to make” comfort foods. I could feel the love in every bite. And a little tip: skip the spoon and use the bread to dip in the stew and let the warmth and fragrant spices delight your senses.
Baja Shrimp Ceviche Tostada
This light and refreshing Mexican dish features citrus-blend marinated shrimp topped with avocado crema, chopped jalapeño (not spicy), cotija cheese, shaved red onion and micro cilantro on a crispy blue tortilla. The crunch factor combined with the fresh and citrusy ingredients was such an unexpected delight.
Dirty Cauliflower Rice*
A vegan twist on the traditional New Orleans staple, this comfort food is a blend of cauliflower rice, black-eyed peas, meatless sausage crumbles, the holy trinity mix of celery, onions, and green bell peppers and authentic Cajun spices. I loved the heartiness and variety of textures in this dish.
There are so many new countries represented in this year’s food lineup and Denmark is one of them. In addition to Frikadeller meatballs served in a Danish gravy and topped with apple butter, the menu also includes Rod Polse, a chef’s favorite. This Danish red, skin-on hot dog is topped with curry remoulade, pickled cucumber, crispy onions and fresh dill and served on a toasted top-split bun. This is not your average ballpark hot dog. It’s milder in flavor and the toppings have a tanginess to them that leaves you wanting more.
Indonesian Purple Sticky Rice Pudding* (a.k.a. Bubur Ketan Hitam)
Beautiful and heavenly is how I would describe this dessert. Honestly, I could have eaten at least 2 if not 3 bowls… it was that good. Made with purple long-grain rice, sweetened condensed coconut milk, diced mango and shaved coconut, this is a light and delicious treat that will transport you to the shores of Indonesia with every spoonful.
When it comes to creating new menu items, the chefs at Universal Orlando Resort find inspiration from everywhere, including suggestions from Passholders, guests and Team Members. The vegan churros are a direct result of listening to guests’ dietary needs and desire to enjoy this sought-after treat.
These pint-sized churros are coated in cinnamon-sugar and come with two dipping sauces: chocolate and coconut agave nectar. I’m really hoping these find their way into the parks year-round. ¡Delicioso!
Brigadeiros (pronounced bri-ga-DAY-ros)
The best way I can describe this classic Brazilian dessert is a trio of chocolate fudge bombs. They’re little bites of confectionary heaven made with sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter (of course) and rolled in either hazelnuts, chocolate sprinkles or Mardi Gras color sprinkles. And yes, they are too good to share (sorry, not sorry).
Couldn’t wrap up the dessert section without giving some love to the Liège Waffle, from Belgium. The dough is fluffy, the strawberries are fresh, the whipped cream is so creamy. Make sure to take a bite with all the layers.
Even More Places to Sample Mardi Gras Eats
The Mardi Gras flavors are going beyond the gates of Universal Studios Florida, allowing even more guests to experience the International Flavors of Carnaval. In Universal CityWalk, themed kiosks will feature Tastes of the Mediterranean (Greece and France, and Belgium — the Liège Waffle is fantastic!), Tastes of the Islands and the Best of New Orleans.
Near the Port of Entry in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, guests can revel in authentic New Orleans cuisine including shrimp gumbo, jambalaya, beignets and King Cake.
And next door at Universal’s Volcano Bay, Muffuletta Long Board Pizza is on deck.
This article features the Top Foods at Mardi Gras, but there are so many other tasty menu items. To get more items for less, check out the Mardi Gras Food & Beverage Card. It’s available for purchase at the food kiosks in Universal Studios Florida and can be used at any food and beverage location in all three theme parks and Universal CityWalk. That’s eating smart.
Not available for use at Universal Orlando hotels. Premier and Preferred Passholders standard food discounts apply.
Make Every Moment Count
Staying at one of the eight Universal Orlando hotels gives you more time to explore, unwind and of course sample Cajun-inspired food like these flavorful items:
Cajun Jambalaya Pasta from Trattoria del Porto at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
A warm bowl of shrimp, smoked sausage, chicken, onions, peppers, and mushrooms mixed in a Creole sauce with fettuccine pasta is a New Orleans staple.
The N’awlins Po’ Boy Sliders from the Velvet Bar at Hard Rock Hotel
Come in for a night of live music and these sliders made with smoked andouille sausage, sautéed peppers and onions topped with a Cajun remoulade on toasted French bread.
Crawfish Etouffee from Bar 17 Bistro at Universal’s Aventura Hotel
Enjoy scenic views from this rooftop bar while enjoying this classic Louisiana dish of crawfish, the holy trinity of onions, celery and bell pepper served over a bed of rice.
Sprinkle in some Mardi Gras sweetness to round out all the New Orleans spice with the King Cake Pancakes from Islands Dining Room at Loews Royal Pacific Resort. A fluffy stack of pancakes drizzled with a lemon and powdered sugar glaze and topped with spiced walnuts.
I hope you’re hungry for more and get a chance to explore this global foodie paradise for yourself.
Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval is happening February 4 through April 16. For more information on Mardi Gras offerings at the Universal theme parks and hotels visit UniversalOrlando.com/MardiGras.
What was your favorite item on this year’s menu? Share with us in the comments below or on social media.
Will allergy information be made available?
Hi Rachel! Allergy information will be provided upon arrival – just let a Team Member know of any allergy concerns, and they’ll be happy to assist! You may also email our Food Safety team at Food.Allergy@universalorlando.com.
What a crap menu for this year! How about you try not to kill everyone with sugar and carbs? Why does every single drink have to drown in sugar and every meal have to have rice, noodles or deep fried?
Complete garbage menu!
Hi John, we are very sorry to hear of your disappointment with our menu options this year and appreciate your feedback. If you would like to provide any additional feedback about our options, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Guest Services Team at 407-224-4233. Thank you, and we hope to see you at our parks soon.
this will be my first Mardi Gras, looking forward to trying the Dishes from Japan and from Mardi Gras Favorites, I also wanted to say what a great job the Podcast did on describing the Mardi Gras Experience at Universal Orlando. you could feel the excitement That Kari, David and Courtney have for this event and I am also looking forward to being part of the celebration
Hey Duncan, we love seeing how excited you are for Universal’s Mardi Gras this year! We can’t wait to welcome you to our French Quarter and hope you enjoy the fun flavors we have around our parks!