I don’t ever want to sound like a broken record, but one of the biggest problems with Universal Orlando is dining. We were very impressed with Universal’s latest restaurant, TODAY Cafe, and we’ve been very supportive about the plant-based options popping up on property. However, the addition of plant-based options at restaurants like Mel’s Drive-In and Richter’s Burger Co. isn’t enough to elevate these old-school Universal restaurants to the level of restaurants in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter or CityWalk options like Red Oven Pizza Bakery or Bread Box. Needless to say, we were excited to see that Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters Cafe received a menu refresh and understood that it could potentially signal a change in the future for some of Universal’s not-so-great dining options. We were wrong.
Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters Cafe did receive a menu update, but it wasn’t as extensive as it could’ve been. Before, the menu consisted of ribs, rotisserie chicken, burgers, and hot dogs and it was just like the majority of the restaurants around Universal Orlando – boring. Now, the menu keeps ribs and chicken, but also adds in brisket, news sides and desserts, revamped salads, and a vegan option along with a specialty beverage. Along with the items, they’ve also themed the names of the food to the restaurant, which is one of the best themed restaurants in the entire park.
The food does have a lot to live up to when you compare it to the interior design, and there is a lot of potential in the restaurant still. While this review won’t be positive, I do have to say that our choices were probably not the best and it may require a new review with different choices, but we are confident with what we have to say in regards to the items we ordered. The sausage being served looked delicious, and like most many barbecue places, they had the option to make a meal out of only sides, which signifies that they are proud of what they are serving.
Invisible Man – $15.49
The Invisible Man is beef brisket, crunchy slaw, and bread & butter pickles on Texas toast and served with one side. I am a man who loves brisket. After walking in and seeing the slab of brisket on the counter, I knew that I had to have something with it. I considered going for one of the combo plates so I could try the brisket as well as a different meat, but something about the sandwich was calling to me. I wish I would’ve went the opposite direction.
I was expect the person I ordered the dish from to pull out the Texas toast and build the sandwich in front of me. This was not the case. After placing my order, I waited about 3 minutes and the Invisible Man was presented to me already built. I didn’t have a problem with this, but it seemed odd that the brisket wouldn’t be cut fresh off the slab that was prominently displayed.
I could tell this sandwich was a disaster with one bite. The brisket was about as dry as you could ever expect. Instead of thick moist and lean slices of brisket, the sandwich was comprised of stringy, burnt brisket. I even thought for a second that maybe they were going for burnt ends, but one more bite confirmed that they weren’t. They must be making the sandwich from leftover pieces sitting under a heat lamp too long or whatever leftovers weren’t cooked properly, because it was awful. The slaw was basic at best and the bread & butter pickles did nothing to add or subtract from the sandwich. Not recommended.
Alongside this dish, we got the Franken Mac N Cheese. There was nothing wrong with the macaroni and cheese, but it wasn’t remarkable. It was baked, so it felt like on cheese and it couldn’t used some salt or pepper, but it was better than the brisket.
The Mummy – $12.99
The Mummy is the vegan dish at the restaurant and is slow cooked jackfruit, crispy onions and crunchy slow on a kaiser roll. Jackfruit apparently was chosen for this dish, because it has a very similar texture to pulled pork.
The criticism about this sandwich is the amount of sauce that it was soaked in. There was nothing inherently wrong with the jackfruit, but it was smothered in an obscene amount of sauce. That ended up working against the not-so-crispy slaw and caused the crispy onions to become soggy. It’s not inedible, but there are better vegan items at Universal Orlando.
Alongside this dish, we got the Brussels Sprouts. The Brussels sprouts were very stringy. Flavor wasn’t bad, but it more or less comes down to preference and it would be better if they were going for a roasted, crispy dish instead of soggy and stringy.
Lavender Elixir – $5.29
Gone from Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters Cafe are the terrible Universal Orlando milkshakes. In its place are items like Phantom Peach Cobbler, Bride of Frankenstein Chocolate Cream Pie and the Crypt Cookie, but those are just straight desserts. For those who like to drink a dessert, or just specialty drinks in general, Universal has added Lavender Elixir. The drink is ordered at the register and made by the cashier.
We couldn’t see it being made, but it seemed to be a mixture of warm sprite, Lavender Monin syrup and blueberry popping boba. The drink was very refreshing and not overly sweet despite the amount of sugar from the soda and syrup and the boba flavor contrasted with the flavor of the drinking making it far more interesting. If only it could’ve been colder.
Should I eat at Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters Cafe?
Based on what we had at the restaurant, my gut instinct would be to say no. However, Universal’s rotisserie chicken and ribs aren’t terrible, the actually sliced brisket looked decent, and the sides aren’t the worst. I’m sure you could have a fine meal there with the right choices and you cant’ beat the environment. Just manage expectations.
What should I eat at Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters Cafe?
That’s a tough question, because of our experience, but I would judge the food as you walk up to the counter. You can see most of the food available in the place it is being served, so take a look at what looks good that day. If the brisket is fresh or still looking solid, give it a try! If the Franken Mac N Cheese looks overly dry, maybe opt for a different side. Let the visuals help plan the meal.