The Best Food at Universal’s Mardi Gras 2023
We came, we snacked, and we conquered. Touring Plans’ Chrissy Harrison embraced the Big Easy and sampled dozens of dishes for our dear readers this past weekend. Find out which were her favorite dishes, plus we’ll cover some touring and money-saving tips for your visit. Pull out a paczki, pour a beer, and let’s cover the Top Ten food items at Univeral’s 2023 Mardi Gras celebration!
This complements our 2023 Mardi Gras Guide with more information on the food festival dishes and drinks. For info on Mardi Gras concerts, parade times, and more, check the full guide. (Blog: Universal Orlando Mardi Gras 2023 Guide)
Chrissy’s Top Ten
- Bloody Mary Wild at Bloody Marys – “I got the 12oz Single Serve for $14.50 and was almost too full to eat real food. Bacon, an olive, two kinds of peppers, shrimp, cheese, celery, lime, and a very spicy and wonderful drink. One tip – the “Wild” didn’t have enough bite for me so I would ask for more heat next time. The line was long for this booth the entire day but they seemed to be rolling quickly. 10/10 would drink again.” – Chrissy
- “The entire India booth! The food is outstanding, the lines were short all day, and the prices are some of the most reasonable at the entire festival.
- Pav Bhaji – a wonderful vegetarian dish! The veggies are all exhausted but in the best way – they melt together to make a bite so savory that you won’t miss the meat. The stew isn’t spicy but it’s so filling that the bread is superfluous. $9.99
- Onion Bhaji – this was so spicy but so good that I had to eat through the heat. This one takes a minute, but it’s worth the wait! They don’t have them sitting under a lamp, so be careful with the first bite – it’s going to be fresh out of the oil. The green chutney dipping sauce is lovely, too. The onions on the outside are a fried, crispy delight, and the strips inside are soft and sweet – perfect. $8.49
- Gulab Jamun with Rose Water Syrup – maybe this dish puts us over our fried dough limit for the month, but it’s worth it. The rose water syrup is just a hint of rose – more of a nudge to your nose than a flavor. This burst of sugar is so nice after the heat from the onion fritters!” – Chrissy
Joe Says: I want to eat this entire booth, everything looks fantastic. The Bhaji sounds amazing!
- Alcapurrias from Puerto Rico – “Pricey at $9.99, but worth it for the taste. The picadillo beef is so good! Again – anything fried is going to take a few moments so be prepared to wait and then be careful with that first bite. I’d much rather hang out for a few minutes to make sure I’m not getting heat lamp lunch.” – Chrissy
Joe Says: I’m a sucker for mofongo so the flight of three here piques my interest.
- Nikuman Bun Sampler from Japan – “This trio is so well thought out! The exterior texture is the same on all 3, but the fillings are so different and wonderful. The char sui pork is savory, the chicken is sweet, and the matcha custard is deep and mellow. Loved this and it’s worth the $10.49.” – Chrissy
- Ube Ice Cream Sesame Bubble Waffle Cone from Japan – “If ube and sesame aren’t your preferred flavor profiles, this won’t be your jam. I loved it! They make each bubble waffle to order, so again, pack your chill pants. $9.99.” – Chrissy
- Chicken Schnitzel from Germany – “You can hear the crunch from here! Granted, you’ll need to make sure you take your blood pressure meds before this and you may want to dab some of the grease off first, but this is the most indulgent dish we had. Every single picky eater in your group is going to love this, too. It’s not fancy or unusual – just a really nicely done schnitzel. $9.99” – Chrissy
- Twisted Frank with Cheddar Sauce from French Quarter Food – “I’m not proud to add this to the list, but throw something on a stick and fry it up and I’m sold. This is an entire meal for two people and is the symbol for theme park food. You get to pick from four different seasonings but we like the seasoning salt mixed with garlic parm. Brave folks will want to try the ghost peppers. I opted to leave off the white cheddar sauce simply so I would be able to show each spiral in photos, I don’t suggest that. Get the cheese. Get alllll the cheese. $14.99” – Chrissy
“Universal is a party on an average day, but they really go all out for Mardi Gras. It’s possible to spend 8 hours just wandering the park, eating, drinking, and taking in the party sights and sounds literally on every single corner and be perfectly happy without getting on a single ride.” – Chrissy
Needless to say, Chrissy was impressed with Mardi Gras. Her comment about just eating and enjoying the entertainment stood out to me, usually Universal gets panned frequently for being “just rides”. This year’s event looks fantastic, from the pictures. Also, don’t forget the big-name concerts on select weekends!
- Booths are open from 11:00 am till 30 minutes prior to park close. The booths in New York and Central remain the most popular booths – Canada, France, Spain, and Italy. India stands out in food quality and has low waits.
- The most crowded times for dining are in the evenings, before and after the parade, and evenings when there are musical acts. The least crowded times for booths are weekdays during lunch.
- To avoid lines and waits we suggest starting with the popular booths in New York at 11:00 am. Move your way toward the back of the park throughout the afternoon, heading through San Francisco and World Expo to visit those booths.
Money Saving Tips
- Universal’s Food & Beverage card comes with $75 worth of food and drinks credit for only $65, a savings of $10. Annual Passholders have the option of purchasing $150 of food and drinks credit for $120, a savings of $30. Food & Beverage cards are valid at all Mardi Gras food booths and Universal restaurants.
- Portions are much larger than Disney’s food festival offerings, consider sharing plates instead of ordering two of a dish.
- Float riding with dinner costs $85 per person, instead watch for Virtual Line reservations for the parade on the day of your trip. Virtual Line Reservations are first come, first served.
What dishes are you most excited to eat? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!