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Review Posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2015
You might miss the Lakeside Panini Bistro if you're not looking for it. The small outdoor dining location is located just about opposite of "Sharks", which is one of SeaWorld Orlando's premium-level restaurants.
The seating area itself, is actually quite nice, as long as you're good with the weather. Most of the tables are umbrella covered and there are even a few with a more permanent hard-cover roofing over them, but they are… all outdoors. Sitting by the lake and watching the "dancing water fountain" (which to the best of my knowledge, is a nameless show element that happens every 10 minutes or so) show can be relaxing, as long as the air temperature and humidity levels are comfortable.
The panini sandwiches themselves however, need a bit of work. No matter where you are from, the panini has a lot of competition, and is available on many, many lunch menus. That's a good thing for the panini, because it usually means the best sandwich wins the most customers. As such, you've probably already found the "best" one near where you live. A panini that all others have to measure up to.
Technically, the Grilled Steak and Cheese Panini from Lakeside is, in fact, a panini. The bread was grilled and the meat, cheese, and one or two onion strips were hot. None of the elements seemed to have any discernible flavor at all though, other than salt. I've always thought of salt as a flavor enhancer, but when there's nothing there to enhance, I have to use it as a flavor. This panini gave you a dense, gluten and meaty-full mouthfeel, but had no flavor at all (and no sense of umami coming from the meat at all, just texture). Although it would be foodie purist no-no... slapping some pre-made sandwich spread or even (gasp) salad dressing would lend a hand creating some sort of lasting flavor memory.
There are also pre-made (in a covered plastic bowl) salads available, and I might opt for one of those if I were to try Lakeside Panini Bistro again.
This is one of those reviews that really falls into the "too bad" category for me though. At SeaWorld (Orlando) these days, you will find that many of the dining locations are serving the exact same food (from the same suppliers) at many locations. Lakeside Panini is one of the few stops that seems to offer something different, something you can't find at any of the other food locations. However, none of the offerings seem to elevate themselves beyond gas station, quick pickup, convenient store fare. A lasting vacation food memory opportunity, missed, to be sure.