Fresh off the buzz from the Super Mario Brothers-themed Toadstool Cafe, Universal CityWalk opens a new and immersive dining restaurant called Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen on Friday, January 27. This new spot took over the former Hard Rock Cafe and feels very much like a merger of steampunk industrialism cobbled together with the Cheesecake Factory — and sprinkled with plenty of Willy Wonka vibes to boot.
This isn’t a new concept for Toothsome Chocolate Emporium, since there are locations in both Orlando and Beijing, but it is new for Los Angeles. The entire full-service space, complete with a bar area and multi-level dining room, runs with its bigger-than-life theme to extremes and even offers an extensive backstory involving two live dolled-up characters named Penelope and Jacques that’ll rove throughout the eatery to interact with the guests.
The fully revamped space is filled with reimagined Victorian-era gadgets and installations made by LA artists, including a sky mural featuring airships. The entry has a massive clock marquee and nearly 100-foot-high smokestacks, and of course, there’s a retail shop to purchase many types of house-made chocolate.
Toothsome’s steampunk and chocolate theme aren’t as prevalent on the dining menu, which instead features options from chef Carlos Garcia like pork belly sliders, nachos, and truffle fries as starters. Since this is smack in the middle of Universal CityWalk, a kid's menu is available along with salads, pastas, brisket, steaks, flatbread pizzas, fried chicken sandwiches, a Reuben, and a lengthy burger menu as well. It’s safe to say that Toothsome’s menu is designed to please a variety of diners — hence the location and the size.
For brunch (which is served all day) Garcia put together a selection of sweet and savory crepes, waffles, bananas foster, and french toast plates to enjoy. And if more sugar is needed, Toothsome has 13 types of milkshakes and sundaes, as well as chocolate mousse, pot de creme, and bread pudding for dessert.
While there’s a full bar, the cocktails go old-school and err on the sweet side, with a root beer old fashioned or espresso martini with white chocolate, Kahlua, and Bailey’s. There’s also a sugar cookie soda with spiced rum, and a cacao nut margarita with tequila, white chocolate liqueur, lime, orange juice, and simple syrup.
Universal is banking on immersive dining to bring patrons back to the other retail and restaurant areas around its park attractions. Toadstool Cafe and the Harry Potter-themed Three Broomsticks restaurants are easily big draws, while Toothsome Chocolate took three years to complete. Interestingly, though, this is also Universal’s only large-scale dining space that is unattached to a brand like Nintendo or a film franchise.
Starting Friday, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen operates at Universal CityWalk in suite 99 daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Book a reservation on the Universal CityWalk site.