Thursday, February 13, 2014

Vegan Options at Universal Studios Hollywood

Written by Sarah E. Jahier

Mister Spooky surprised me last month with an impromptu trip up to Los Angeles to visit the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. I was super-stoked to go since I hadn't been there since I was a kid! Plus, I hadn't yet been to their "House of Horrors" maze or ridden The Mummy ride yet! However, I was a little concerned about finding vegan options at Universal, since I hadn't exactly heard good things from other vegans regarding the theme park's food.

Visiting my friend Norman at the Bates Motel.
Whatcha got there, Norman?

Nevertheless, I've always loved the "behind the curtain" stuff of movies and TV, so in that aspect Universal was a lot of fun. We arrived early on a Friday morning, sprung for the "VIP" parking that puts you closer to the gate, and I even smuggled in some Luna Bars in case I could find absolutely nothing to eat. By the way, they allow NO outside food, so hide your snacks well! They do check purses, backpacks, etc. I think the no outside food rule is silly, especially for a place that doesn't go out of their way to address special dietary needs.

Universal's House of Horrors! 

We started the day by going down to the lower lot and riding The Mummy ride (or basically, 30 seconds traveling at fast speeds forwards and backwards in the dark)...meh. They didn't really have any vegan breakfast options, so I opted for coffee and gnawed on my Luna Bar. We wandered around the lower lot but didn't want to get drenched so we skipped the Jurassic Park ride (despite having fond memories of it as a child) and skipped Transformers and eventually took the bazillion steps of escalators back up to the upper lot and took the tram tour to hang out with Norman Bates, did the House of Horrors maze, met Beetlejuice and wandered around.

Hangin' with my bestie Beetlejuice

By this time we had started to get hungry, so we started searching for places with vegan options. Universal has an allergy guide on their site, and a whopping two entree items were marked as vegan. I knew that Universal wasn't very vegan-friendly, but I was still a little shocked at just how limited the vegan options were! FYI, all their veggie burgers are NOT vegan as they contain egg, so steer clear of those. The two entree items you can get that are vegan at Universal are a pre-packaged bowl of soba noodles and a grilled vegetable wrap. Yep, that's it - boring noodles and a boring wrap. Of course there are always French fries, fruit cups, side salads (just watch out for croutons, ask for no cheese, and make sure the dressing is vegan), and chips to augment their meager offerings, too.

Universal's Soba Noodles - available at the International Cafe

I tried the soba noodle bowl, which is only available from the International Cafe/French Street Bistro, located on the upper lot in the part that looks like European streets. It was in a refrigerated section with other pre-package foods. I also got a fruit cup and some chips to go with my noodle bowl. The prices weren't too bad, considering it was theme park food - I think everything came out to around $13. Plus, despite how boring it sounded, it was actually pretty tasty once I mixed up the ginger, wasabi and green onion and added a packet of soy sauce to it.

We didn't stay long enough to try the other vegan item, the grilled vegetable wrap that comes with miso dressing and fries. According to Universal's allergy guide, this menu item is more widely available and can be found at the Hollywood Grill (upper lot), Mel's Diner (upper lot), and Jurassic Cafe (lower lot). However, I've heard other people state they couldn't find this option, so you might have to ask for it.

Really, though, just two vegan meals for a whole theme park? I mean, I know Universal is small (we were done by 1PM), but it just seems so weird for them to only have these limited options for guests when other theme parks like Disneyland and even Knott's are way more vegan friendly. I had fun there, but I wish they offered more vegan options and were more animal friendly (they need to get rid of their animal actors show - ugh, I feel so bad for those poor animals forced to perform for guests and crammed into small cages between shows).

Besides the vegan food, this was the only thing I bought at Universal!

At least I got to visit Norman, Beetlejuice and the Universal Monsters, though. And I scored this sweet Bates Motel mug.

If you plan on visiting Universal Studios Hollywood and are vegan, please take into account you'll sadly only have these few options at the park. You may be able to find other options at the CityWalk outside the park, but walking around there it seemed they just have chains like Bubba Gump and crap like that (though I believe there is a Johnny Rockets, which may have vegan options). There is this cute vegan restaurant just down the hill called SunCafe (read my review) we actually ended up eating at once we left the park - if nothing else, eat there!

UPDATE 2016: Still not much improvement on the vegan options at Universal, though you may be able to find some additional vegan options at the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter - The Three Broomsticks has a veggie plate that may be able to be veganized (ask for no butter and just check with them that everything else is vegan), and it looks like you might be able to get a salad there with Italian dressing (the croutons probably aren't vegan, you may want to skip those), plus other veggie sides (just be sure to specify no butter or cheese). And their pumpkin juice is vegan, according to PETA (plus some other yummy drinks, but I care most about the pumpkin juice)! I haven't been back to Universal since The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened, but I hope to make it there soon as I adore Harry Potter and I want to see what kind of vegan goodies I can pick up in Hogwarts and Hogsmeade!

I still recommend checking out SunCafe and a new(ish) restaurant called Vegetable. Both are just down the hill from Universal Studios and have incredible food! Plus, there are a bazillion other amazing vegan restaurants in LA - go explore!


  1. Next time do Transforners! It was pretty great.

  2. Went there last Sunday hoping to get the wrap. Couldn't find it at all. On one of the sites I looked at about their food options it said that even these two items may or may not be available. We ended up leaving the park to get something I could eat. I got a lettuce wrapped Boca burger at Johnny Rockets. Not to bad. At least we didn't have to drive anywhere because we wanted to go back into the park and I'm sure they would have made us pay for parking again.

    1. That sucks! That means things have gotten worse since I went 2 years ago. :( They really need to get w/ the times, SO DISAPPOINTED with them. Tip: If you are in the area again, check out Sun Cafe or Vegetable, two amazing restaurants down the hill from Universal - you can hit them after doing the park.

  3. I am here now. The Luigi's Italian has egg free pasta. It was ok. And then I went to Jurassic cafe... the cool was so nice... he made me a pizza with no cheese or butter. Added extra sauce, veggies and corn! It was pretty great. He swore the crust was vegan. Never found the wrap.

  4. Last time I went I ended up going to the Hard Rock Cafe at Universal City Walk for dinner which has a really good veggie flatbread on the happy hour menu. Can't remember if I had to ask for it without cheese, but in any case it was cheap, vegan, and tasty!


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