(cheers, from Hogsmeade!)
As most of you know, Fedora and I took an epic 3-day jaunt through Universal Studios Orlando, to play at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you should also do this. It was more fun than you can fit into a Gringott's Bank vault, and despite 3 full days spent entirely in their two Harry Potter-themed areas of the park we still didn't see everything.
Butterbeer. Is it worth it?
First off, I'm not a fan of sugar and sweets. I like complex flavors, and I was utterly convinced that butterbeer would be too sweet for me. And I was very wrong. It IS sweet, but not sugary. It's something like a melding of butterscotch and shortbread. I can tell you both the butterbeer base and the shortbread-flavored foam topping are made with a dairy base.
It comes in three versions and, amazingly, all three are tasty and a somewhat different experience. I'd be hard-pressed to pick which was my favorite.
(the creamy dregs of the hot version)
Hot, it tasted like a creamy sweet chai, especially getting that last mouthful of shortbread foam. YUM.
Cold, it was like a low-carbonated soda without the sugariness. Not thick, but still somehow creamy.
Frozen, it was like a milkshake slushie mix, but not heavy in the stomach.
I consumed about 2 of these each day.
Oh yeah, by the way, WWoHP has a craft brewery on site. You'll never see it (or we didn't, anyway), but they serve three proprietary beers- 2 at Diagon Alley and 1 at Hogsmeade, that you can't get anywhere else.
Wizard's Brew, at Diagon Alley, was by far my favorite. It's a creamy stout, lacking any bitterness and nicely heavy (though lighter than, say, Guinness).
Dragon Scale is a darker IPA, also at Diagon Alley. Fedora hates IPA (we both hate hoppy beers), but it was surprisingly smooth, not very hoppy at all, and more like a sharp ale.
Hogshead, at Hogsmeade, is a red Scotch Ale, and was Fedora's favorite. It's slightly creamy on the end, with no bitterness, and very refreshing.
We ate here twice, and had Toad in the Hole (delicious Yorkshire pudding with sausages), Fisherman's Pie (salmon, cod and shrimp), Fish & Chips (nice 'n' crispy), a Banger Sandwich, Otter's Fizzy Orange Juice, Peachtree Fizzy Tea, and Fishy Green Ale.
The ambience is awesome, and I love the table side service. There's plenty to look at, and somehow it felt more intimate than The Three Broomsticks.
(Like the sign says....not fishy, not ale, but surprisingly tasty- if totally weird)
The portions seemed small at first, but turned out to be perfect (not too full as to get sleepy, or feel nauseated on the rides, or weighed down while walking).
Otter's Fizzy Orange Juice was like an Orange Julius with cinnamon sugar and I LOVED IT. The Fizzy Tea was refreshing. The Fishy Green Ale was unique- not as minty as you'd expect by the description, great for a hot day, and the blueberry juice 'fish eyes' explode in your mouth in a way that's off-putting and charming at the same time.
The prices were what I'd expected for a theme park, which, after eating and drinking, were totally justified. Maybe it's because I live in a metro area on the West Coast of the USA, but I think the plates being $9-$16 were totally fair for the value.
(So tall, with staircases, we couldn't stop pining for a room above The Three Broomsticks. Dear Universal, please rent us a room above this establishment.)
The Three Broomsticks (Hogsmeade):
We ate here once (we missed our second chance, due to the park closing earlier than anticipated), savoring Shepherd's Pie and Cornish Pasties.
It's a larger restaurant with great ambience, but served cafeteria style. The Cornish Pasties were tiny, which bummed me out, but served with a fresh salad to make up for it. The Shepherd's Pie was delicious and this place is connected to the Hogs Head Inn, which is very convenient.
The Hogs Head Inn (Hogsmeade):
You can only get alcoholic beverages (and butterbeer) here, so it's definitely the bar. Our service was consistently great, but watch out for the boars head behind the bar, which can surprise you. Also keep your ears open for witches and wizards in the rooms above!
The Hopping Pot (Diagon Alley):
Strictly drinks here, though I think they had alcoholic and non (including butterbeer, which you can get everywhere). We sought refuge from the rain through Wizard's Brew here. Conveniently near the Owl Post, so you can send a drunken owl to an ex.
Florian Fortenescue's (Diagon Alley):
Save room for ice cream and soft serve, because this place is magically delicious. We tried the soft serve butterbeer ice cream (just as amazing as the drink), soft serve toffee apple, soft serve pistachio, chocolate chili ice cream (my favorite), chocolate raspberry, peanut butter and strawberry, salted caramel blondie ice cream, and sticky toffee pudding. And we still didn't try all the flavors we wanted to. The portions here are large, and you can choose two flavors for each ice cream order (or soft serve order). Next time, I can't wait to try Clotted Cream and Early Grey with Lavender!
And, of course, there were treats galore at Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes (in Diagon Alley) and Honeyduke's (in Hogsmeade). I blew $50 on candy and don't even regret it.
(they're so much larger than expected. And solid milk chocolate! Thankfully, ours didn't hop away)
The long and short of it is, expect to pay theme park prices for the food but also expect it to be worth every penny, and BETTER than the restaurants outside the theme park in greater Orlando.