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Universal Orlando to add food venues at CityWalk

Universal Orlando announced it will open eight food venues at CityWalk in 2014 as part of a major expansion that will coincide with the widely anticipated opening of Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley.

Universal Studios

Universal Orlando announced it will open eight food venues at CityWalk in 2014 as part of a major expansion that will coincide with the widely anticipated opening of Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley.

A sushi burger bar. A Hot Dog Hall of Fame. A Mexican cantina.

Those are some of the new restaurants headed to Universal Orlando's CityWalk in 2014.

Universal announced Thursday it will open eight eateries at CityWalk, as well as upgrade the Universal Studios store and expand and relocate the existing Starbucks. The changes coincide with other additions at Universal, namely the widely anticipated Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley and the Cabana Bay Beach Resort.

"The idea is to continue to evolve the destination and grow the resort," said Mark Woodbury, president of Universal Creative for Universal Parks and Resorts. "We want CityWalk to be the place for food, entertainment and unique shopping."

The new venues came after a nationwide search for culinary concepts and include a mix of established national brands, newer concepts and Universal's own creation. Universal partnered with Steven Schussler, the creator of Rainforest Cafe, Backfire Barbeque and other restaurants, to bring his Hot Dog Hall of Fame concept to CityWalk. It will serve iconic hot dogs from the nation's top ballparks, from a Chicago dog to a Boston brat.

The restaurants will not only cater to guests of Universal Orlando's two parks, Universal Studios and the adjacent Islands of Adventure, but also area residents seeking dining and bar options, Woodbury said. Admission to CityWalk, the 14-year-old retail and entertainment complex leading into Universal's parks, is free.

Perhaps most unusual of the new offerings will be the Cowfish, a sushi burger bar serving "burgushi" — sushi rolls made with burger fixings and burgers with sushi items. The Cowfish has locations in Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C.

Other original concepts will include Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food, the Bread Box deli and a to-be-named Italian kitchen concept, where diners will watch cooks making pasta from scratch. The Red Oven Pizza Bakery, a Neopolitan-style pizza bakery, opened last month.

Menchie's yogurt and Cold Stone Creamery, which already have locations in Florida, will round out the new food options.

The venues will be phased in over the next six months to avoid as much disruption as possible, Woodbury said. Antojitos is scheduled to open next.

Universal's announcement also included tidbits for Harry Potter fans eager to learn about the expansion of the park's Wizarding World, including the Leaky Cauldron, a wizard pub that serves as a gateway between the nonwizarding world and Diagon Alley.

Woodbury said park designers had the luxury of a 360-degree experience that the filmmakers didn't have. Guests entering the restaurant will feel like they're walking into a scene from Prisoner of Azkaban.

Officials also released new renderings of Diagon Alley, which appear to closely follow the books, with grungy, tilted storefronts selling robes, strange instruments, tottering piles of spell books and potion bottles.

"I don't think anyone realized how big this would be," said Stuart Craig, the theme park's set designer. "There are more alleys, more shops. It's huge."

Diagon Alley will be at Universal Studios and not at Islands of Adventure, where Wizarding World is located. Once completed, visitors will be able to go to Universal Studios and get on the Hogwarts Express and take it to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hogsmeade.

Set to open next summer, Diagon Alley will include a London waterfront area with a Knight Bus parked out front.

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Universal Orlando to add food venues at CityWalk 12/12/13 [Last modified: Thursday, December 12, 2013 8:01pm]
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