The king of tropical relaxation, Jimmy Buffet, started a chain of restaurants that stretch across the USA loosely based on his iconic song, Margaritaville. Now this humble restaurant chain has expanded across the country, including hotels and casinos. This week we look at Margaritaville at Universal Orlando, a one-part laidback surfer spot and one-part pilgrimage for Parrot Heads. Does Margaritaville offer Havanna Daydreamin’ quality food or will you want to go before the volcano blows?
Note: This post is about Margaritaville the restaurant at Universal Orlando. Margaritaville Resort is located south of the Walt Disney World Resort. For more information read our articles on the resort and book through Touring Plans Travel today.
- Location: CityWalk
- Cuisine: Causal American & Seafood
- Service: Full service
- Price: $19 – $36 plus tax for adult entrees
- Touring Plans Rating:
- Reader Rating: 75% positive
- Seating: Indoor and outdoor seating; tables, booths, and bar
Decorated like a Key West beach house on steroids, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville is located in Universal Orlando’s CityWalk, on the corner next to Islands of Adventure. The main restaurant features indoor seating, a covered outdoor deck, and a gift shop; across the promenade is The Lone Palm Airport Bar located under the nose of Jimmy’s old seaplane.
The interior is an open-concept main dining room and bar with two-story ceilings and enough tropical trinkets and decorations to furnish a Pier 1 store. Jimmy’s classic music videos and concert footage play on TVs and are projected on sails throughout the restaurant, making for a loud dining experience. If you have ever been to a Jimmy Buffet concert you should know what to expect, just way less marijuana and pencil-thin mustaches.
All eyes eventually set on the huge volcano located above the bar that takes up much of the wall space in the restaurant. Several times an hour the volcano erupts, not with lava, but with Margarita mix that cascades down into an oversized blender. We are not making this up, we swear.
Live music is a common staple at Margaritaville, with live performers outside on the cover deck most nights.
Tables, chairs, and booths feel lifted out of a beachside Key West surf shack. Nautical blues and seafoam greens complement the hardwood and painted sunsets around the restaurant. Margaritaville is maximalist in its design and atmosphere – from the palm frond-topped roofing to the copious Jimmy Buffet references around, this place is for and by Parrot Heads. Margaritaville brings Island Time to Universal Orlando in a way only Jimmy can.
The Food & Drink
Margaritaville’s food continues the trend of over-the-top offerings, embracing the large menu trends of the 1990s and early 2000s. Jimmy serves up Gulf Coast American comfort food, the sort that one would want after amending carnivorous habits for nearly seventy days, including the eponymous Cheeseburger in Paradise. Food quality is in line with mall chain restaurants like TGI Fridays or Applebees but with a focus on fresh fish, burgers, and mixed drinks.
The Volcano Nachos are the iconic appetizer of choice with a mountain of chips, cheese, sour creme, guacamole, chili, and jalapenos piled high. The seafood selections focus on prepared shrimp, salmon, and white fish so do not expect Mahi Mahi or other Gulf Coast fish. Unfortunately, the dessert menu was scaled back to a brownie sundae and key lime pie once the restaurant reopened from the COVID shutdowns and many fan-favorite options have yet to return. Sorry to everyone wishing to nibble on some sponge cake and watch some tourists bake in the sun.
Options for kids mirror the main menu, with a Jr Cheeseburger in Paradise, chicken tenders, fried shrimp, fish and chips, and more. The over-the-top atmosphere and volcanic action make Margaritaville one of the more entertaining restaurants for kids.
And don’t forget there is plenty of alcohol. The signature offering is, of course, margaritas which can be upgraded for $10 with a blender cup. Frozen concoctions that help you hang on along with boat drinks for those who want to go where it’s warm are also on the cocktail menu. You can drink some beer down there too with a large selection of draft and bottled beers, most notably Jimmy’s own Landshark beer.
Here at Touring Plans we fall into the “lava me not” side when it comes to Margaritaville. The food is not good enough to justify the crowds and the wait for a table in our eyes, similar to the Rainforest Cafe at Disney Springs. Yet Margaritaville remains popular, unmoored from time and the typical theme park audience as it draws guests despite the middling food. It’s hard to dislike Margaritaville the same way it’s hard to dislike Jimmy Buffet’s music – it’s comforting and nostalgic with a hint of all our fantasies of quitting work and operating fishing boats out of Key West. Stick to the simple options on the menu, like fish and chips, or visit for a drink and an appetizer.
It is common to find hour waits for tables at Margaritaville thanks to its location near Islands of Adventure. Avoid the restaurant the hour before and after the park closes and visit during lunch or an off time. We find the interior space rather loud, instead opt for the covered and fan-cooled patio for a more relaxing vibe. The Lone Palm Airport bar is great for a quick drink but get a table if you want to order a meal.
Are you a fan of Margaritaville? Leave your thoughts below in the comments!