Group shot of all the new menu items on a round red table

REVIEW: Full New Menu at Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous

Katie Francis

Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous, a restaurant based on Dr. Seuss’ “If I Ran the Circus” at Universal Islands of Adventure, has reopened with a new setup and a new menu. We reviewed every item.

Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous

A wide shot of the new booth seating in Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous

We also have a full photo tour showing the new setup.

Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous New Menu

Group shot of all the new menu items on a round red table

Entrées

“Popcorn” Shrimp Box – $16.99

crispy shrimp, garlic butter popcorn, with curly fries

UOR IOA Circus McGurkus popcorn shrimp 2
UOR IOA Circus McGurkus popcorn shrimp 1

Rating out of 7: 1

This had so much potential: shrimp, popcorn, and a cute, themed container? What could go wrong? So much. The shrimp were extremely fishy, like you swallowed a mouthful of ocean water. The best pieces were hollow breading. The garlic butter popcorn and fries are tainted by the shrimp. They can’t all be winners, but boy, this was bad.

Roast Beast Sandwich

mushroom meatloaf, shaved ribeye, cheddar cheese, and crispy onions on a pretzel bun with curly fries

UOR IOA Circus McGurkus Roast Beast Sandwich 1
UOR IOA Circus McGurkus Roast Beast Sandwich 2

Rating out of 7: 6

The only “returning” item is the Roast Beast Sandwich which was previously available during the Who-lidays. We loved it then and are glad it’s available all year. (Now, make those Grinch cookies available all year, too!) The tiny sandwich, again, was our favorite part. It’s like a garlic bread patty melt. It’s a solid dish and a perfect addition to the menu.

Magician Meatball Cone – $15.99

homemade meatballs and marinara cavatappi, served in a garlic bread cone

Wide shot of the Magician Meatball Cone
Closeup of the Magician Meatball Cone

Rating out of 7: 5

Originally, this was supposed to be a handheld option, but it’s like a magical top hat that’s just spilled out all the contents. It has thematic splatter, like Mel’s Meatball Mountain from Minion Cafe. The cavatappi, keeping with the Seuss theme, are not straight lines and were cooked perfectly. Theme park pasta usually disappoints, but this was great. The marinara and seasoning are very strong.

The cone wasn’t as good as it looked. It was a little tough, but that makes sense, considering the idea was originally for it to be a handheld item, and it needed to be sturdy and supportive. The garlic flavor was weak. The meatballs were excellent, though. The description says homemade meatballs, and you can tell these are not prepackaged or frozen. They’re thick and heavy and maybe even on the undercooked side.

Vegan Magician Meatball Cone – $15.99

plant based Gardein meatballs and marinara cavatappi, served in a garlic bread cone

Wide shot of the Vegetarian Magician Meatball Cone

Rating out of 7: 6

Maybe we got a bad batch for the regular cone, because this one was better. The garlic flavor was more noticeable, and it felt softer. The meatballs are Gardein meatballs that didn’t pair well with the marinara. We love the vegan meatball kebab in the Lost Continent, and would prefer that one. However, this is an excellent, simple vegan option, and the portion is plentiful.

The Big Top Burger – $15.49

fresh beef patty, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion, on a red brioche bun with curly fries

UOR IOA Circus McGurkus Big Top Burger

Rating out of 7: 4

Just like the traditional circus big top, this bun is red. With so many “different” flavors featured in these dishes, it’s nice to find a simple classic burger. The name and the color make it themed, but that’s about it. It’s a nice big burger patty with all the traditional toppings. Another solid option for those looking for quick, easy comfort food while at the park.

Red Fish, Blue Fish Poke Bowl – $19.99

blue glass noodles, ahi tuna, cucumber, edamame, mango, yuzu-honey dressing, and furikake seasoning

Wide shot of the Red Fish Blue Fish Poke Bowl and dressing ramekin
Wide shot of the Red Fish Blue Fish poke bowl
Closeup of the Red Fish Blue Fish Poke Bowl

Rating out of 7: 5

We really loved that most of the dishes are themed well. Not just the names, but the presentation, and the thought put into the dishes really shows. The blue noodles are naturally colored, and when you add the yuzu honey dressing, it makes them change from blue to purple. It’s very subtle, but the fact that somebody made an effort to be creative with something like noodles is what theme park fans really crave. We would have liked more noodles with the dish, but there’s a huge portion of ahi tuna here. If you’re a fan of Confisco’s Ahi Tuna Nachos, give this a try. The edamame, tuna, and noodles are well complemented by the sweetness of the yuzu and mango.

Tamed Dragon Salad – $11.99

red dragon fruit, red quinoa, raspberries, mandarin oranges, almonds, baby spinach, cucumber, and guava vinaigrette

Wide shot of the Tamed Dragon Salad
Closeup of the Tamed Dragon Salad

Rating out of 7: 7

We never expected a salad to be one of the most memorable dishes here, but it really impressed us. The cucumbers are like the dragon’s scales, and there’s a base of baby spinach, almonds, mandarin oranges, red quinoa, raspberries, and dragon fruit. Everything in this dish was super fresh and bursting with flavor. We couldn’t get enough of it. The guava vinaigrette is incredible. It brings the whole thing to life. It’s going to be one of our go-to’s here at Islands of Adventure.

Chicken & Biscuit – $14.99

crispy chicken tenders and peanut shaped biscuit, drizzled with hot honey, and curly fries

Wide shot of the Chicken & Biscuit platter
Closeup of the biscuit
Cross-section of the biscuit
Cross-section of a chicken tender

Rating out of 7: 7

The description says “chicken tenders,” but it should really just say “tender chicken.” If you expected run-of-the-mill theme park chicken, you’re in for a surprise. These are the most elevated and beautiful chicken tenders we’ve ever seen. They’re huge, thick pieces of chicken drizzled in an absolutely incredible hot honey. The juicy and flavorful chicken is complemented by a peanut-shaped biscuit (bonus points for the circus motif). This isn’t your ordinary biscuit, though. This is actually a Liege waffle pressed into the shape of a peanut. The consistency of the biscuit is thick and slightly sweet. The hot honey is everything here. Soak it up and enjoy. This is the best dish here.

Pizza Pasta – $13.99

baked mac and cheese cavatappi with pepperoni and marinara

A wide shot of the Pizza Pasta

Rating out of 7: 6

This is packed full of pepperoni. The bottom of the dish is layered with pepperoni, and then the pasta is baked in with a layer of cheese and a smaller “cup” of pepperoni. We liked the vegetarian one the best (review below), but this is still a solid dish. Total win and will satisfy everyone.

Vegetarian Pizza Pasta – $12.99

baked mac and cheese cavatappi and marinara

A wide side-view of the Vegetarian Pizza Pasta
A wide top-down view of the Vegetarian Pizza Pasta

Rating out of 7: 5

Before trying them, we thought both of these dishes looked like garbage, and then we were pleasantly surprised. Cavatappi pasta again here — basically baked mac and cheese with a bit of marinara and your typical pizza/Italian blend seasoning on top. There’s lots of flavor from the seasoning and the crispy baked layer of cheese on the pasta.

Contortion Corn Dog – $10.99

Italian sausage, pepperoni, and mozzarella corn dog with marinara and curly fries

A wide shot of the Contorted Corn Dog with Tom Corless in the background with an uneasy expression
A wide shot of the Contorted Corn Dog
A closeup of the Contorted Corndog and a ramekin of marinara sauce
A cross-section of the Contorted Corn Dog

Rating out of 7: 6

The corn dog is a mobile order pick-up window exclusive (Minion Cafe had a Nacho Hat that was mobile order only, too). The contortion corn dog really stays true to its name, being visibly contorted and far from your traditional corn dog. This is a similar concept to a Korean corn dog, like the Cordyceps Corn Dog or the Maggot Cheese Dog from Halloween Horror Nights.

It’s layered slices of Italian sausage and stacks of pepperoni, along with cheese, inside a corn dog batter. The batter isn’t your normal corn dog batter; it’s more bready and thoroughly cooked, with just a touch of sweetness. The sausage had a nice, zesty, seasoned flavor, and there were multiple pieces of pepperoni layered in between. You get the nice cheese pull of a Korean corn dog, too. It’s a great price for the hearty portion. It comes boxed up and in a bag, so it’s easy to take on the run. It comes with a side of marinara, but it totally doesn’t need it.

Sides

Curly Fries – $4.99

Garlic Popcorn – $5.19

Rating out of 7: 1

The small bowl you get for $5.19 is silly. You get an entire cup for $5.19 in the park; you should get the equivalent here. Drenching it in melted garlic butter is just too much. The minds that came up with this menu should have put the brakes on before this one. Everything else is just different enough to be amazing, and this is just a disappointment. We threw it away.

Desserts

Green Eggs and Ham Chocolate Cheesecake – $6.99

A wide shot of the Green Eggs & Ham Cheesecake outside the Green Eggs & Ham-shaped restaurant
A wide shot of the Green Eggs & Ham Cheesecake
A closeup of the egg decoration from the Green Eggs & Ham Cheesecake
A cross-section of the Green Eggs & Ham Cheesecake

Rating out of 7: 5

The Green Eggs & Ham cheesecake gets a lot of points for creativity and presentation, but maybe that raised our expectations too much, because it was just okay. It’s a creamy chocolate mousse/cheesecake texture with a thick Oreo cookie crumb layer at the bottom. The outside of the “ham” is absolutely adorable with the black charred “grill” marks.

The egg on top is a very dense and chocolatey cake pop, similar to those they had at last year’s Grinch and Friends character breakfast. There’s a tiny plastic fork with the dessert, which is another reason we say this gets bonus points for presentation. There was nothing wrong with it, but it wasn’t as memorable for taste as it was for looks and cute photos.

Caramel Popcorn Cupcake – $5.99

A wide shot of the Caramel Popcorn Cupcake
A closeup of the Caramel Popcorn Cupcake
A cross-section of the Caramel Popcorn Cupcake

Rating out of 7: 7

The Caramel Popcorn Cupcake might be our new favorite sweet at Universal Orlando Resort. This cupcake is simple and sweet, with vanilla cake, sweet but extra smooth buttercream frosting, and a ton of caramel. The caramel popcorn adds flavor and fun to the presentation. This will be a very frequent snack for us when we need a sweet treat. Amazing.

Drinks

Sneelock’s Pink Lemonade – $7.99

Minute Maid Strawberry Lemonade, Cold Foam Topping, and Red Stars

The front of the Sneelock's Pink Lemonade cup
The opposite side of the Sneelock's Pink Lemonade Cup
A top-down view of the red star decorations on Sneelock's Pink Lemonade
A closeup of the twisty straw

Rating out of 7: 7

Circus McGurkus and Minion Cafe have several things in common, and here’s another. The two specialty drinks at Circus come in themed plastic cups. They aren’t high quality, which keeps the price low, but are nice enough that people will rinse them out and keep them as a souvenir. These are actually themed to the restaurant with the name and are beyond cute. You can’t help but love the cup.

The strawberry lemonade is very sweet and maintains its sweetness even when mixed with the cold foam, which cuts the tartness. Of the two specialty drinks, the blue one was our favorite, but we would gladly drink them both. This one comes with the twisty straw because it’s liquid and not slushy (and Seuss Landing can’t have any straight lines).

Ringleader Rush – $7.99

Blue Raspberry ICEE, Cold Foam Topping, and Red Stars

A photo of the front of the Ringleader Rush
A photo of the opposite side of the Ringleader Rush
A closeup of the red star decorations on the Ringleader Rush.

Rating out of 7: 7

The top is even better. Bright red stars decorate the white cold foam on the top of the blue raspberry ICEE. This drink comes with a wide straw for easier drinking. The cold foam layered at the bottom and top makes this a completely smooth and drinkable option. It’s not too sweet, either. The creamy cold foam balances out the sweetness. The Minion drinks are overly iced (so many ice cubes) and have too much thick frosting, making it a couple of quick sips before it’s gone. These give you more drink overall, making them a better value.

Overall

Overall, Circus McGurkus has jumped through hoops and might possibly be the new star restaurant of Islands of Adventure. Minion Cafe set the bar higher for Universal quick service restaurants, both with food and service, and Circus has also met that standard. The mobile order-only thing might not always work as smoothly as intended, but over time, that seems to be working itself out.

The restaurant offers more space now, and it’s nice to sit and relax at a table while someone else brings you your meal. It looks like Universal is moving in the right direction with their park food offerings, and it’s nice to see such a highly themed venue like Circus becoming the star it deserves to be. The dishes are thoughtful and creative and the people working the venue are positive and happy to rhyme and fit in with the Seuss theme.

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