Opening April 7 is the much-anticipated Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Hollywood. Sure, sure, there are rides and magic involved (that boar’s head moves around and snorts!), but we know what you’re really thinking: “What about the food??”
We were lucky enough to be among the first to try all the dishes and drinks at the Hog’s Head Pub and the connected Three Broomsticks Restaurant. Which items got an “Exceeds Expectations” on their N.E.W.T. exams? Grab your wands and follow us…
The Famous Butterbeer
This tasty (non-alcoholic) treat is just what it sounds like—a butterscotch soda with a rich, foamy head. It comes in an even-better frozen variety, too, but watch out: this beverage is so sweet that grown-ups may want to find a sipping buddy.
The Actual Beer—Hog’s Head Scottish Ale (pictured), Dragon Scale Pale Ale & Wizard’s Brew Stout
Surprisingly, these beers made special (by craft brewer Florida Beer Co.) just for the Hog’s Head Pub are not macro-garbage. The Wizard’s Brew is a well-made, deep black stout sure to scare off the more timid drinkers and the Dragon Scale Pale holds up, too, but our favorite was the amber-colored eponymous Hog’s Head—a very drinkable, malty Scottish Ale that feels right at home in the cozy faux-British environs. Granted, each beer is $11, but hey, look at that cool souvenir (plastic) mug!
Beef, Lamb & Guinness Stew
This old-school hearty, savory dish really benefits from sitting in a stew pot for an extended amount of time: The meat falls apart satisfyingly in your mouth and the veggies are just the right amount of soft. This is probably the best dish on the menu.
Fish n’ Chips
Are you sensing a theme? Another British classic, this particular plating suffered a bit for not being fresh out of the fryer, but the fish itself was not bad at all. The chips were a little unusual, tasting like slices of a baked potato that had been fried, but overall this was a good option and, like most of the menu, leagues better than most theme park food options.
Shepherd’s Pie with Garden Salad
Another UK tradition, beneath that cheesy mashed potato crust lies ground beef swimming in tomato sauce. Not bad, but nothing to send an owl home about.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Soaked in butterscotch sauce, this was undoubtedly our favorite dessert. Sans ice cream it could even double as an awesome breakfast pastry, but come on, only a Dementor would leave out the ice cream.
Theme park food can be challenging—you’ve got to be ready to serve thousands of mouths a day, and Three Broomsticks & Hog’s Head have the additional challenge of making themed food. Aside from a few bland entries (which, let’s be honest, may just be keeping with the Britishness of it all), chef Eric Kopelow and his team have really exceeded expectations, creating dishes that are not only far above the other fare at most amusement parks (including the rest of Universal), but that also won’t make all your money disappear.
Will the food alone be worth waiting in the epic lines of muggles come opening day? Probably not. But whenever you finally make your way to the perpetually snow-covered village of Hogsmeade, rest assured they’ll have a nice bowl of stew, a frozen Butterbeer and a few more whimsical surprises there waiting for you.