My first visit to the new Universal CityWalk restaurant was a disastrous endeavor.
By Jacob Engels
Since it’s completion in late 2014, the North Carolina based burger/sushi bar – coined “burgushi” by the owners, has been on the top of our “must do” list for 2015. My mother, who is regularly in Charlotte & Raleigh on business, has raved about The Cowfish and has been pushing me to go ever since they announced their plans for an Orlando location at Universal CityWalk.
Well, our first opportunity to visit the unique restaurant that has received rave reviews for it’s large specialty martinis and diverse menu, came on Friday night – before filmmaker Jason Jack Underwood, special effects makeup artist Breanna Panto and myself were set to see the Game of Thrones IMAX special at the AMC Theater.
We arrived to City Walk at 6pm and bee-lined it to The Cowfish, looking very much forward to a menu that offered the most vegetarian/vegan options of any CityWalk locale – a big deal considering most theme park restaurants don’t even make an effort to cater to our crowd. And that’s when excitement quickly morphed into confusion…frustration…and ultimately disappointment.
Despite it being Friday evening, there was no hostess staffing the entrance and only one employee – who looked to be a barkeep, standing by the dormant outside bar area. Understanding that it might be quite busy, we elected to ask the bartender if we could sit outside and order drinks and be brought a food menu. He explained, that at 6pm, the main outside bar was not open yet, and that food was not served outside. Still wanting to give Cowfish the benefit of the doubt, we moved on and looked for someone else to assist our party. A manager then materialized and he suggested that we go to the top-floor bar and seat ourselves, so that we could have close proximity to the bar and be able to order food at the same time.
Finally, we were on our way to the famed 10oz martini’s and burgushi, or so we thought…
Upon ascending the stairs, we asked another employee to be seated and for some menus. He asked what we were doing up there, and then said he would not seat us because we did not have a reservation. I explained to him that the manager sent us up here and his response “Well, I’m not seating you. Maybe you can find a table somewhere downstairs.” The upper area had seating for 100+, and we could only spot 10 guests. It was at this point that we decided to 86 it. I mean, how many times can I practically beg the staff to be seated, it’s almost as if we weren’t there to put money in their pockets with dinner and several rounds of drinks.
With no time left to find anywhere else to eat quickly before the Game of Thrones special, we had no other choice than Moe’s – which was good, but not at all what I was looking forward to.
Ricky Ly, who runs Tasty Chomps’, Central Florida’s most widely read and respected food blog, said via Twitter, that the whole Universal CityWalk food and beverage team has been falling short of client expectations as of late.
“In general, they have been phoning it in lately – they need to step it up,” Ly said of our experience at Cowfish and CityWalk.
A restaurant expert specializing in improving staff and customer interactions, who has worked in the restaurant industry for over 25 years, said what we encountered at Cowfish was symptomatic of a lazy unmotivated staff and lax managerial practices.
It’s hard to say if we’ll have the patience to try Cowfish again, but if we do, I’d hope it proves to be a more fruitful experience.
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org