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Cafe 4: Marvel Super Hero Island Dining (Orlando, Florida)

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Cafe / diner at Universal's Islands Of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Florida.

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      31.05.2012 11:43
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      I'd eat in here again, but purely for convenience..!

      Universal Studios in Orlando is split into two separate theme parks. We have the original Universal Studios Florida alongside a separate park, namely Universal's Islands Of Adventure. Within the Islands Of Adventure, we are transported into six assorted 'worlds', suited to a range of tastes and different age groups.

      The six worlds are: Seuss Landing
      The Lost Continent
      The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter
      Jurassic Park
      Toon Lagoon
      Marvel Super Hero Island

      Within each of the worlds, there is a selection of eateries and snack bars to choose from, offering a variety of snacks and drinks, some of which are indoor, whilst others are more like 'carts' which offer take-away snacks.

      As both my husband and myself are huge fans of most of the main Marvel Super Heroes, we were keen to visit Marvel Super Hero Island within Universal's IOA and had done our research prior to visiting Orlando in May of this year. When visiting the huge array of theme parks that Orlando has to offer, in my opinion it is imperative to do some research beforehand to ensure you get to see everything that you want to see. The parks are all so huge that a little research and planning really goes a long way in ensuring you do not miss out on any 'must-have' attractions that you are keen to see. On this list of ours was the Marvel Super Hero Island, and we were not disappointed in the slightest.

      When making our plans, we decided that we would see some of the other attractions in the IOA in the morning of our visit, which meant we would arrive at the Marvel 'world' around lunchtime. This led us to research the assorted eateries and restaurants that were located within this vicinity to ensure there was something that appealed to us, as we would possibly have had to rearrange our day a little if there hadn't been somewhere suitable. This wasn't necessary however, as we discovered quite early on the apparent perfect solution to our dining needs; "Café 4" which is located right in the centre of Marvel Super Hero Island, on the main 'street' within this area.

      Café 4 gets its name from the well-known Marvel fictional super hero 'team' The Fantastic Four, which features four members with assorted super powers. Both my husband and myself are very familiar with the characters, and we thought it would be fun to have our lunch in a super hero-themed café, to help in the atmosphere and enjoyment that Marvel Super Hero Island had to offer.

      When we arrived on the day, we found Café 4 easily, situated neatly on a corner on the right hand of the main 'street' as you face the well-known and highly popular "Incredible Hulk Coaster" which is one of the main attractions within Marvel Super Hero Island, and is impossible to miss. By this time, we were both quite peckish after an early arrival at the theme park to make the most of our visit, so without much hesitation we ventured inside the Café, passing by a small outdoor eating area, situated near the entrance to the café as we did so.

      I had known before visiting that Café 4 offered pasta, pizza and salad with vegetarian choices included, but I didn't know anything else prior to our visit so wasn't sure what to expect. When I entered the café however, nothing could really have prepared me for the rather basic and quite large 'canteen' style restaurant that lay before me.

      Row upon row of long white tables were laid out alongside corresponding red plastic chairs in a pattern reminiscent of a hospital canteen. Not particularly attractive, but the gorgeous aroma of hot food did a little better in reassuring us of our choice.

      The restaurant is self-service, and is set out much in the same way that canteens or service stations in the UK are; you collect a tray and venture over to the 'counters' to see the food on offer and make your choice. The servers are waiting behind the counters and will serve your food to you over the counter, you then place it on your tray and move on to the next counter where you can select your drinks in the same way. Right at the end of the counter is an assistant sitting at a till who will tally up all of the food on your trays and you can pay by either cash or credit card.
      There didn't seem to be too much choice on offer on this particular day, although it was still a little early, being just before 12 noon. We were completely ready for our lunch however, as we had been up since around 6am to catch an early shuttle out to the Universal Parks. Anyway, as soon as we entered Café 4, we could see some large trays of what looked to be quite delicious pizza slices, and I decided on the spot that this is what I would choose for my lunch.

      I opted for the 'Vegetable' pizza which was presented in a generously-sized triangular slice with generous amounts of cheese on top, and some small pieces of assorted vegetables, mainly red onion and some small slices of peppers. There were a few other pizzas available such as a chicken option (which my husband ordered for himself) alongside a pepperoni option and a fourth which I think was basic cheese. Whilst ordering our pizza slices, we were helpfully offered salad alongside it, which is provided in a small plastic bowl and costs an extra $3 or so (approx). There were two salad options to choose from, one of which was 'Caesar' which looked to be quite fresh and had a generous amount of dressing mixed in. We both declined the additional salad, and we were then asked if we would like any breadsticks or dipping sauces, but we declined these too and they didn't appear to be on display so I can't comment too much on what they were. The whole process of choosing our meals and having them handed over to us took around thirty seconds, and I found the staff to be very helpful and friendly. They offered various 'sides' and accompaniments to our meal, but without being pushy or anything. The staff were respectful, calling my husband 'sir' and asking how they could assist him etc.

      As far as I am aware, there were two pasta options on offer on this particular day, one of which was a sort of meatball pasta, although there was no sign of this anywhere, so I can only assume it was in one of the covered 'pots' situated within the counters (which were heated), or perhaps it was behind the scenes somewhere and only produced as required, as there appeared to be a sort of kitchen area in the background. Either way, we were both adamant that we wanted the pizza, so the pasta wouldn't have been chosen by us anyway.

      I believe that the café also offers a selection of sandwiches and 'subs' such as the meatball sub, alongside a small selection of children's meals. It was also an option to have a 'full' pizza ordered rather than order by slice and I observed a table of school kids beside us ordering two large pizzas to share out among them. The 'whole' pizzas may well prove to be a more economical purchase if you are visiting the café in a crowd, although it would have been far too large for just the two of us and we found the individual slices were enough for our lunch.

      We placed our selected pizza slices on our trays and joined the very short queue to select our drinks. Being served only a moment later, we selected our beverages. I opted for a large fanta, and my husband asked for a beer. He was offered a selection of two alternative 'draft' beers and after making his selection the drinks were passed over to us and we proceeded to the till area. The female assistant was slightly less enthusiastic than some of her colleagues, but in no way was she rude or unhelpful. After handing over our cash, we were able to take our trays to the rows of seats and enjoy our lunch.

      The food was very tasty, with my pizza tasting quite delicious and being pleasantly warm which was noticeable as so many 'canteen' style restaurants and cafes seem to have inadequate heating devices and will consistently serve up food that is lukewarm at best. The chunks of vegetable on my pizza were not the most generously-sized that I have ever come across, but there were plenty of them and they tasted fresh and delicious. I don't eat poultry, so didn't get a chance to taste my husband's pizza but he commented that it tasted really nice and it looked to have a generous amount of topping on the base. Speaking of which, the base of both our pizza slices was of a very high quality, being slightly 'floury' in its make-up and giving it an authentic, home-made feel. I felt that our pizza slices were fairly priced - especially when you consider the prices at some of the other eateries throughout Orlando's theme parks! Our pizza slices cost $4.59 each, which coverts to approx £3 GBP as at the time of writing.

      The soft drink that I had was generously sized and cost around $3, which is a fairly average price where the Universal theme parks are concerned. My husband's beer (Draft Miller Lite) was much more expensive, costing $6 for a large plastic cup. The prices overall were reasonably good value in my opinion however, and our lunch still cost us less than 10 bucks each, after tax had been added to our bill.

      If this review was based purely on the food then it would be a relatively flawless report. Taking other things into consideration however, I have to confess that both my husband and myself felt slightly let-down at the lack of atmosphere and the basic design of the café. Firstly, there is little or no reference to the Fantastic Four except for the name and design of the building from the outside. Once inside, you could literally be sitting in a canteen or café anywhere in the world.... Except you are not! You are sitting in the heart of Marvel Super Hero Island, and it would have been nice if we had got the impression that the Café realised that.

      Considering that all of the shops in Marvel Super Hero Island all have 'hero themed' designs and interiors, we were both quite disappointed by the lack of any sort of real hint to the Fantastic Four and their respective characters or super powers. With the exception of a sort of 'mural' featuring our 'Fantastic' heroes that is situated at the top of Café 4 near to the ceiling (and was only noticed by us as we were finishing off our pizza, some 20 or so minutes after entering the place) and a sort of general half-hearted 'stab' at making the place look metallic and sort of 'space-age' there is literally nothing reminiscent of the characters or the comic books, and this was a bit of a let down for us.

      As far as the food goes, we couldn't really fault the place and found it to be spotlessly clean with the food on offer being very fresh and of good value. If you are looking for a super hero 'themed' restaurant however, I'd suggest trying "Captain America Diner" to see if it fares any better in this respect. This can be found adjacent to the "Amazing Adventures Of Spider-Man" ride, which is one of the main attractions in Universal's IOA, and is impossible to miss as you stroll along the main walkway of Marvel Super Hero Island.

      As is usual practice with restaurants and cafes inside larger theme parks such as the ones in Orlando, there is no toilet facilities within Café 4 itself, but there are restrooms around the corner from the café, opposite the "Hulk" coaster. I'm not sure how wheelchair users would get on using Café 4 as there were metal 'partitions' separating the queues (which were nonexistent on the day I visited) in front of the serving counters, although I noted there were no steps or difficulty in entering or exiting the café in terms of my own limited mobility.

      Café 4 is open from 11am until Park Closing, daily.

      Overall, I would recommend Café 4 and I would visit again myself, as I found the prices were reasonable for the tasty and convenient food available. As for finding a little in the way of 'super hero atmosphere'..... well, we had to get that elsewhere because it was severely lacking in this place, which is a shame.

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