Universal CityWalk Plans Expansion; Food Lovers Will Be Pleased

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If you're a South Floridian like us, chances are you've got an annual pass to at least one Orlando attraction. The ride to middle Florida is relatively short, hotels are inexpensive, and there's always something to do. Plus, roller coasters, superheroes, and people in giant animal heads never get old -- do they?

That's why Universal Orlando's planned CityWalk expansion is such good news. The mega-attraction that caters to a slightly more adult crowd than the other "mouse-related" resort is especially exciting for food lovers.

The expansion of CityWalk, Universal's shopping/dining/entertainment complex that opened in 1999, will happen gradually throughout 2014 and will include several new restaurants chosen after a nationwide search for culinary concepts that include a mix of established national brands, up-and-coming concepts, and restaurants unique to Universal.

"We want Universal CityWalk to grow along with the rest of our destination," said Ric Florell, senior vice president and general manager of Resort Revenue Operations at Universal Orlando. "We are bringing our guests an amazing new collection of experiences that will be world-class and offer something for everyone."

The CityWalk project is part of a larger overall expansion that will include Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort, a hotel with a 1950s beach theme; and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley.

Restaurants scheduled to open at CityWalk include the Hot Dog Hall of Fame, featuring iconic hot dog creations from some of our nation's most famous ball parks; CowFish, a concept out of Charlotte, North Carolina, with a signature dish called "burgushi"; Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food, a tapas-style restaurant; Bread Box, a home-style sandwich shop; an Italian kitchen concept where guests can watch as the culinary team

handcrafts their pasta from scratch; and Red Oven Pizza Bakery, Universal's first Neopolitan-style pizza bakery, which is now open. Also scheduled to open are Cold Stone Creamery and Menchie's.

While some of these concepts sound interesting (and we're looking forward to a burgushi, which is a burger sushi roll), we always wonder why Universal doesn't open up full-service Simpsons and Harry Potter-themed restaurants. Sure, there are stands and fast-service restaurants inside the parks, but we'd love to be immersed in a dining experience that's one step beyond the character breakfasts and cute amusement park food stalls.

Follow Laine Doss on Twitter @LaineDoss and Facebook.

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