It’s easy to find quick service places at just about any theme park around the world, since they’re usually pretty plentiful. Finding sit-down, fine dining restaurants inside theme parks can sometimes be a little more difficult; there just aren’t very many to be had. In fact, at SeaWorld Orlando, there is exactly one – Sharks Underwater Grill. Although it’s been around for over 16 years, neither Joe nor I had ever eaten there. So when we went to the theme park for our annual visit to see their Christmas lights (for the uninformed, SeaWorld has, by far, the prettiest Christmas light of any park in Orlando) we intended to fix that. And fix that, we did…
Shark’s Underwater Grill opened in 2002. and it boasted views of the huge aquarium that lined one wall, similar to that of the Coral Reef restaurant at what was then called The Living Seas pavilion at Walt Disney World’s Epcot.
Reservations are recommend at Sharks, but we didn’t have one, since although we knew where we wanted to go, we weren’t sure of what time we would want to eat. When we got to the restaurant around 2:30pm, we thought since it was such an oddball time that getting seated wouldn’t be a problem. We were wrong – there was a 30-minute wait for walk-ins. Whoopsie. Well, I was hangry so we decided to just eat at the bar instead. Not the first time we’ve done that, won’t be the last ;-).
We passed by a waiting area that had a nice-sized oval fish tank and then took a quick glance at the main room of the restaurant, which had hardly anyone in it (but we couldn’t get a reservation for 30 more minutes? How few servers did they have?) before finding 2 seats at the full, but not really well-stocked bar.
The top of the bar itself was composed of little mini aquariums, which were interesting to look at for a little while, but with only 1 or 2 fish per seat (each mini aquarium was separate from the ones on either side), it didn’t hold interest for a very long time.
The menu was, as I said, quite “Floribbean,” with plenty of seafood, but also enough non-fishy stuff to keep a landlubber happy. The prices were on the high side (but not overly so), but really, that’s to be expected for an in-theme-park, sit-down, full service restaurant.
- Cocktails were $12.99, glasses of wine varied from $8 to $14, bottles from $26 to $64
- Appetizers ranged from $12 to $18, soup was $7 or $8, salad was $12 or $14
- Main courses varied from $29 to $34, with some “market prices” that remain unknowns
- Desserts were $9, with one $14 offering
We started with drinks – I got a beer, Joe got a martini. It’s kind of hard to mess up a beer and Joe said the martini was good.
We skipped appetizers. Joe got the Caesar salad with shrimp added to it, while I got the chicken piccata. He said that his meal was good, although paying a $9 upcharge for 3 medium shrimp was highway robbery. My chicken was yummy but the pasta that came with it was a little overdone.
We skipped desserts.
Orlando-based food critic Scott Joseph reviewed the restaurant in 2004 and again in 2009; he seemed to be pretty unimpressed on both occasions. We’ve followed and tended to agree with his reviews over the years but I’m happy to say that the restaurant seems to have improved with age; although service remained on the slower side, we thought the food was generally better than how he described it.
With all the amazing restaurants outside of the theme parks, we tend to eat at those rather than the ones on theme park property. That being said, if the timing was right and we could get a table or 2 bar stools, we’d definitely consider going back to Sharks Underwater Grill
*** Feature photo via SeaWorld
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary