I really liked the Terrace Garden Buffet. Even though it didn't seem to be a general guest favorite (probably because of it's location at the time, and relatively high price), it received pretty high marks in the Mealtrip system. However, that was years ago (2014-ish) and we can't turn back time.
The interior of the Waterway Grill has… pretty much remained the same. The space where the buffet had been, is now (more or less) a lounge for Annual Passholders.
Some of the old beer making machines are used as backdrop decor at the Waterway Grill. The center section of the location (pictured here) offers a separate register from the main restaurant, and several beers on-tap.
When you first walk into the building, you'll probably notice some draft beer pulls and a counter directly in the center of the location. This is sometimes referred to as the "Waterway Lounge" or "Waterway Bar". There's usually a couple of food items available here (including the famous SeaWorld Turkey Leg) and naturally a selection of 8-10 beers on draft, along with other beverages.
Giant Turkey Legs are usually available at the Waterway Bar... which is a separate walk-up counter located in the center of the Waterway Grill restaurant.
You'll have to look (and walk) to the far left to see the Waterway Grill food ordering and pickup location. You can't order Waterway Grill food from the Waterway Bar counter. I've actually seen the Waterway Grill food ordering system work a couple of different ways… sometimes the cash register seems to be outside. In this configuration, it was an "order and pay for your food, here's your receipt... go to the next location to pick up your food" type of system.
On my more recent visit however, you needed to wait in line first to pickup your food, and then walk it over to the register where you would pay for it.
If you're walking in the front door of the Waterway Grill, the food ordering area is located to the left. It's kind of set into a little alcove.
At peek dining times, the lines here can get very long, even if it doesn't seem like the dining rooms are that full. This new system does have the benefit of keeping everyone that's in line — in air conditioning, which is really nice. When I visited around 12:15pm for this review, it took nearly 40 minutes to work my way through the line.
Once you select and are given your food, you'll probably have to wait again, to pay for everything on your tray. This is where the system kind of falls apart. Even if there's only three or four groups ahead of you at the registers… if there's the slightest problem… it means a lengthy delay, while your food is getting cold.
On the day of this visit, one such group were standing at the register, but couldn't find everyone in their party and were only then checking to see if everyone had the chips and drinks and everything they wanted. The other register (and there's only two)… had a group that was being given their All Day Dining Deal wristbands, and trying to figure out how to put them on, and use them, etc., etc., etc. Needless to say, it took an additional 10 minutes to pay for the food I had selected. Paper bowls on plastic trays don't really hold their heat, so my hot lunch… was only lukewarm at best.
I took my tray into the Passholder Lounge (which is totally okay to do, but you'll need to show an Annual Pass)…. mostly because the lighting in there is pretty good. I wanted to make sure I had a good photo of my lunch. Even though the entire process from getting in line, to sitting down with food took nearly an hour… there was still some seating in and around the Waterway Grill building for non-passholders.
So what about the food? The Waterway Grill is said to feature flavors inspired from regions around the Amazon. That's actually a bit of a stretch. The food is loosely latin themed and not really all that authentic. There's a slow roasted pork and a churrasco steak on the menu, a chicken tenders platter, and a couple of salads.
On the official SeaWorld menu for Waterway Grill, this entrée is called "Slow Roasted Pork" and it's said to be Marinated in Tropical Juices and topped with Sauté Onions. All of the entrées on the day I visited were served with black beans and rice.
This is the Slow Roasted Pork. I think it's been roasted so slow — that all of the juices have evaporated (but I digress). It's said to have been marinated in Tropical Juices and topped with Sauté Onions. All the main entree dishes at Waterway Grill are served with Black Beans and Rice. The retail price on this item is $12.99 (circa early 2022).
I think the first thing you'll notice is, that there's no Sauté Onions — at least I don't see them. Nothing was said to me about the kitchen running out of Sauté Onions… so I can only assume that it's completely okay for things mentioned on the menu board, to be totally omitted from the dish you're given.
A Sauté (or "sautée" is also correct, as in "sautéed" onion … it's one of those gray areas) — is basically something cooked in fat, in a pan. So a little butter, olive oil, or even pork fat, in a pan with some onions until they're rendered down and cooked. Sounds great, right? I really wish they were on this dish. It's a pretty big thing to omit.
A closer look at the Slow Roasted Pork entrée from Waterway Grill. The pork meat is said to be marinated in Tropical Juices and topped with Sauté Onions. All of the entrées at Waterway Grill were being served with Black Beans and Rice on the day that I visited.
The pork itself — ideally should be marinated in some combination of orange and lime juice, with garlic and onions, along with some dry spices, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, etc.
This version, had none of that. It did have an odd, vinegar-like flavoring which I can't really attribute to natural fruit — and the meat itself was completely devoid of any roasted meat juices that something like this really needs.
Why does it need those juices? Because to the right of the pork is a big pile of rice — also devoid of any kind of moisture or flavor. The rice would be sooooo good with a little roasted pork juice and citrus marinated spice combo.
As it stands… the juiciest, most flavorful item in this bowl — were the black beans. That's really not a good sign.
I have to give this one a couple of points, because there wasn't really anything "bad" or inedible, per say, in the bowl — it just didn't match the description on the menu, it was missing components, and the parts that were in the bowl... really were not that amazing. The pork had an odd tasting vinegar profile, and the choice of textures in the bowl were either dry, pasty, or dry and pasty. I expected a little more at $12.99.
Honestly, I didn't even finish this one… and I usually finish everything because I'm constantly trying to figure out what went right or wrong with any given dish.
Fortunately, I also got a little dish of chocolate chip cookies. You'll find these little cookies at most of SeaWorld's counter service locations.
This is a cup of Chocolate Chip Cookies from the Waterway Grill. If they're the "cookie of the day" (which they usually are)... the same cup should be available at most SeaWorld counter service locations.
While they're not the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had, they're surprisingly not that bad either. The cookie itself is fairly soft (when fresh) and sweet, and the chocolate chips do taste a little like chocolate. Honestly, they were the best part of my lunch at Waterway Grill.
So, based on my first lunch here, I'd give this place a solid pass. If you're looking for meat in SeaWorld, I'd give the nod to Voyager's Smokehouse. If you're looking for Caribbean or Latin food — you're out of luck — at least for 2022. The Waterway Grill is in need of a re-theme and menu overhaul with a new focus on — something other than the lackluster state that it's currently in.