Food, Family, and Fun: Finnegan’s Bar & Grill in Universal Studios Florida
By: Universal Travel Partners, Daniel Pacchione
Editor’s Note: The imagery shown throughout this blog post does not represent current operational and safety guidelines at Universal Orlando Resort. Must be 21 years and older with valid identification to purchase or drink alcoholic beverages.
There’s a certain feeling of comfort and camaraderie when you think of a pub. Sitting with your friends and family, bonding over good food and drinks, good conversation, good music, and friendly staff who treat you as if you’re part of their family. That’s what Finnegan’s Bar & Grill offers. It’s the Irish pub down the street where you can break away from the everyday and enjoy a good meal and a good time…in the middle of a theme park.
Finnegan’s is a favorite place in the parks to grab a bite or mosey up to the bar for a drink. I naturally figured everyone knew about Finnegan’s since it’s been here since the park opened. However, during a lunch with a couple of Finnegan’s first-timers, I realized that a lot of people don’t know about this wonderful gem of a restaurant.
That was my cue. I set out to learn everything I could. The history. The people. The food. To find the scoop, I met with the General Manager, Gerri Ferreira; the Assistant General Manager, Charaf Siraj; and one of the well-known bartenders who’s been at Finnegan’s for over 12 years, Jan Bernhard. What I learned was Finnegan’s is one of the last O.G.s from when the park first opened, with delicious food that can only be topped by the incredible service and friendliness of the staff.
A brief history lesson for you: Finnegan’s Bar & Grill opened back in 1990 with the opening of Universal Studios Florida and found its home in the New York area across from Revenge of the Mummy. If you’re not looking closely enough, you may mistake it as another one of the store facades — it’s that well themed to the area.
“When I first started here, none of the rides or other shops were here,” says Jan. “Everything was facade and people would come in and not realize we’re an actual bar. It was crazy!”
Another fun fact I discovered was that Finnegan’s is inspired by the 1978 film “The Brinks Job” based on the Brink’s robbery of 1950. Finnegan’s was the restaurant where they planned the heist. So nifty.
The Food & Drinks
One thing I found intriguing about Finnegan’s is the menu has stayed true to the classics since it has opened. The food is so good with its traditional Irish dishes, and I’m pretty sure there would be an uproar if anything ever happened to that Potato Onion Webb.
“We try to improve things versus changing them,” explains Siraj. “Our guests have memories here. Some were kids when they first came and they are now in their 20s. They want to hold onto those memories whether it’s a dish or a drink.”
Here are a few recommendations from myself and regulars to get your mouth watering.
FAN FAVORITE: Potato & Onion Webb – thinly sliced potatoes & onions, hand dipped in beer batter, crisply fried golden brown & served with malt vinegar. Pro tip: add cheese on top with a side of ranch.
HONORABLE MENTION: Soda Bread – served with apple butter. This crispy bread is complimentary with your meal.
FAN FAVORITE: Fish & Chips – North Atlantic fresh cod fish in ale batter with wedge fries. Served with a side of malt vinegar & tartar sauce. Some of the best Fish & Chips I’ve ever had!
HONORABLE MENTION: Pistachio Crusted Salmon Salad – fillet of salmon served on a bed of baby greens, roasted root vegetables, tomatoes, onions, havarti dill cheese with homemade mustard ale vinaigrette.
VEGAN OPTION: Shepherd’s Pie – plant-based sausage crumbles, green peas, carrots, celery, onion, mushrooms baked in casserole topped with vegan red bliss mashed potatoes.
FAN FAVORITE: Guinness – enough said.
HONORABLE MENTION: Green beer! Stop by on St. Patrick’s Day and enjoy a mug of the “green stuff”.
In speaking with Gerri, Siraj and Jan, I decided the “F” in Finnegan’s is about three things: food, family, and fun. It’s the secret recipe that has made Finnegan’s a favorite for so many guests. Even as I talked to them I picked up on their camaraderie as they laughed and shared stories with me.
“It’s very much a family atmosphere,” says Gerri. “From the managers all the way down, everybody’s in it together. And they convey that to all the guests.”
There’s a commitment to offering an authentic Irish pub experience, which is rooted in the food and drinks served and the welcoming personalities of the restaurant staff. From the moment you walk in and are greeted at the host stand to the friendly bartenders and wait staff, you’ll feel as if you’ve joined the Finnegan’s family.
“What people crave is the ambiance of the Irish pub,” says Siraj. “It’s the culture, the Irish mentality that makes the food taste good. There’s love in it.”
And that’s the key to the secret recipe. A team made up of individuals who love to come to work every day.
“It really feels like home. I always joke and say that Finnegan’s is an at-home pub and a theme park grew around us,” says Jan.
I wish I could share all the stories they shared with me, from the challenge of having the bar completely redone with barely any notice to stories of guests who travel across the pond and stop by to see Jan every visit. And Jan, along with many other Finnegan’s Team Members, has become well-known because of the connections made every day with you, our guests.
“My favorite place to work is the corner of the bar,” Jan explains. “I call it connection corner, because people will sit there, and I’ll introduce this person to this person. I know one group who started a friendship back in 2007, who meet here every year during Halloween and the Holidays. It’s just family here.”
If you need any more convincing to make Finnegan’s a must-do during your Universal Orlando Resort vacation, look no further than our UOAPs (Universal Orlando Annual Passholders). Finnegan’s has become a favorite spot for UOAPs to hang out before our special events or grab lunch with friends or family.
“My favorite place to eat both in and out of the parks. Love the Guinness Beef Stew.” – Gale W.
“We loved it! The food and service were amazing. It’s definitely not your typical theme park quality food, it’s much better!” – Tanya S.
“It’s the ONLY place to eat lunch in my opinion. Great food and a great value.” – Shawn W.
If you’re ready to become a regular, or have already hit that status, check out the Finnegan’s merch down the way at Rosie’s Irish Shop. It will make everyone green with envy during your St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl.
Next time you find yourself in Universal Studios Florida, take a break from all the theme park thrills and stop by Finnegan’s for good food, drinks, and music. You may even get lucky and meet Jan at the bar!
Finnegan’s Bar & Grill
Location: New York, Universal Studios Florida
Open: 11 a.m. – Park Close (times vary to park hours)
Enjoy live music daily from 3 – 7 p.m. (subject to change)
Online Reservations Available
Universal Dining Plan – Yes!
Annual Passholder Discounts – Yes! (Premier & Preferred)