We are back from another great Florida trip, and I have more reviews for you! First up is the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, which is one of the main 3 Universal on Site hotel options. We had an unplanned dinner at the Trattoria Del Porto. Without knowing anything about the restaurant, we wandered in and we were happy to see that they had a gluten free menu! Wonderful. While the restaurant did offer a gluten free pasta, my daughter opted for a gluten free burger and fruit, while I had a salad. Sorry, no food photos. The food here was good, and the kids had fun with the entertainment provided (a young lady doing face paints and making balloon animals). There are many upsides to dining here. The atmosphere of the hotel courtyard is beyond charming. The downside was that the staff we encountered was not trained well in dealing with allergies or even substitutions in general. Three of our orders came out wrong, with foods either containing gluten, or just the wrong food (not what we ordered). We sent them back and waiting for the correct food. They did make good on getting us fed, but it took a long time, and they did not offer any monetary compensation or future credits to make up for their multiple mistakes. I would not hesitate to try eating here if you are in this area, but ask for a manager or chef, at least. Hopefully you won't run into any problems.
BeachClub Poolside at Hard Rock Hotel:
The last bites pictured above, the poolside servers did offer a gluten free bun, but my daughter declined. They had fruit as the side for her burger. They did forget to bring out the lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles that she asked for, but they got them promptly when we asked again. This was quick and easy when you are at the pool and ready for a bite. I ordered for the kids while they swam and when they were ready, the food arrived just in time. They had salads and nachos on the menu that looked like they would be very good without gluten or dairy, as well.
The Kitchen at the Hard Rock Hotel:
We enjoyed breakfast buffet here, and while there was concern of cross contamination, the staff went back to the chef and had any foods we wanted prepared safely. We had potatoes, omelets, breakfast meats and fruits and everything was very good. We had no trouble walking in without a wait, and the kids enjoyed the rock music memorabilia and tunes. I recommend this as a nice leisurely (and filling) breakfast stop if you are staying at Universal. Just make sure you talk to your server and or chef.
We stopped here in hopes of finding some dairy free and gluten free options, and we weren't disappointed. The dairy free choice was a raspberry sorbet. Again, the staff didn't seem to understand allergies and at first I was told there were no dairy free options. When pressed to see ingredients, I showed the staff member that the sorbet was, in fact, dairy free.
They also offer a gluten free ice cream (not dairy free) that had gluten free brownies and gluten free cookie dough mixed in! Yum. We stuck with sorbet, though.
My overall review of the Universal Hotel and Citywalk options is that the food options are there, but the staff lacks the training we are used to at Disney World. So, don't be afraid to eat, but do go in armed with plans to take longer and to be very clear about your allergies! These strike me as good places to bring the allergy cards that explain what you can't eat.
The Palm is a high end restaurant for special occasions in the Hard Rock Hotel. We dined there in a group. We ordered many vegetables to share, and we were told that all the potato options we ordered were gluten free, as well as the green vegetables we ordered. My daughters split a filet, and asked for it medium. It was slightly overcooked (as were most of the steaks at the table), but otherwise, they did a very good job with our allergy restrictions. I noticed a flourless chocolate cake, but I did not inquire as we were all quite full. I opted for a salad with shrimp, avocado, and a citrus dressing. It was very good and I would choose that as my entree if I were to return to the Palm.
Margaritaville at Universal CityWal:
We finally made it! It was fun, food was good, and they had a designated gluten free frier, so Bean was happy. Udi's buns were a nice choice. The nachos were gluten free (not dairy free in background) and really we had a fun time. I had a dairy free jerk chicken with rice and veggies. I liked it quite a bit, and you can see what the kiddo ordered. This was a rare dining experience for us in Universal area...no mistakes! LOL I recommend it.