By Michelle Leifur
Over the next few months, Magically Speaking is going to be bringing a series of articles about dining at Disney with various dietary concerns. Whether you are vegetarian, gluten intolerant, lactose free, diabetic, carbohydrate or calorie counting, follow religious sumptuary laws or just want to eat more healthfully, you will find an article that will meet your particular situation.
As a vegetarian planning her first trip to Disney since I was a kid, I was concerned that I would find myself eating a ton of salads and not much else. I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was there more than salads to eat, but that the few vegetarian offerings were actually delicious. That was almost ten years ago and what I have found is that Disney has listened to its guests’ cries for alternative foods. Not only can I now find fresh salads and soups that are vegetarian, but I have found that the Disney kitchen staff is continuously striving to create original alternatives for those that choose meatless dining.
I have discovered that Disney does have vegetarian options on the menu and many of their meals can be made to be meatless. Simply ask the Cast Member taking your order if an alteration can be made. Many of the counter service restaurants that serve burgers are now starting to offer vegetarian meatless patties as an alternative offering on their menus. Although this is not available at all locations, I found on my most recent trip that “veggie burgers” were on many of the burger menus.
Of course, how many veggie burgers can a person stand in one trip? While they are tasty and filling, one soon tires of eating the same foods over and over. So I started to really venture into looking for something different and found a wonderful selection of foods which soon had me needing to loosen my belt a few notches. From the vegetarian chili at Columbia Harbor House to the vegetable sandwich at Backlot Express, I found that Disney had more to offer vegetarians off their regular menu than I had previously thought.
Most of the restaurants that serve breakfast have vegetarian offerings already on the menu: pancakes, eggs, fruit, yogurt, hash browns, bagels, oatmeal, grits and cold cereals. And most of the breakfast buffets have omelets made to order, so if you are just vegetarian (not vegan), you could get a beautiful veggie omelet full of mushrooms, onions, green peppers, olives, tomatoes and cheese.
Counter service locations are where you are going to find a more limited selection, but there are still some unique and tasty meals to be had. Some of my favorites include:
Tusker House in Animal Kingdom: They have a wonderful vegetable sandwich that is quite filling. Also, they will make you a meal from their vegetable sides. If you are Pesche, the grilled salmon here is also very good.
Backlot Express at MGM Studios: The grilled vegetable sandwich. It’s a beautiful Greek bread filled with Portobello mushrooms and grilled peppers.
ABC Diner at MGM Studios: They have a tabouleh wrap that is good although a tad bland. They also have a vegetable noodle stir fry that can be questionable; at times they use a chicken stock for the base. I always ask so that I am not disappointed. This goes the same for any of the restaurants that serve vegetable lo mien or vegetable fried rice.
Sunshine Season Food Fair: This food court at Epcot’s Future World has a Vegetable and Tofu Noodle that is very delicious. They also have a grilled vegetarian sandwich here as well as baked potatoes.
Tangierine Café at Epcot: Definitely have the Vegetarian Platter – served with Tangierine Couscous salad, hummus, and tabouleh. And get a side of olives to go with this. A definite winner without having to “sacrifice” anything!
Columbia Harbor House at Magic Kingdom: They make a hearty vegetarian chili that even my meat-loving family enjoys. This can be served in or out of a bread bowl. Seasonally, outside of this restaurant is a potato bar. I like getting a potato from outside and eat it with my chili inside. Pick up a little cheese to throw in with it and it is hot, filling and yummy!
Pinocchio’s Village Haus: This is one place where I almost always get a vegetarian burger. They will allow you to substitute mandarin oranges for the fries here as well.
El Pirata Y El Perico: While only open seasonally or as crowds permit, they will make their taco salad vegetarian and usually will knock $2 off the price.
When it comes to full service restaurants, I have found that almost all the restaurants have a single vegetarian offering and at least one offering that can be made vegetarian by requesting it at the table. However, I have had very good meals made vegetarian by calling ahead and speaking with the chef. Many times they have ideas already available and with a little conversation can recommend something that they are good at making. My family was dying to go to The Prime Time Diner but I was concerned that there was a lacking of protein in their Vegetarian Stuffed Green Pepper. I called and expressed my concern with the chef a few days prior to our reservations. I was delighted to find that he would add some sautéed cubed tofu to my pepper! Perfect.
Protein is one of the concerns that I have run into. While may of the meals can be made vegetarian by simply removing the meat, there are few substitutions for protein made. Few people realize that just making something “meatless” doesn’t necessarily make it healthy vegetarian. This is where calling and talking to the chef is a great way to assure that not only can you eat a lovely meal, but it will meet your dietary requirements. Rest assured, though, that you will be able to eat well.
If you have any questions, you can always call 1-407-WDW-DINE. The Cast Member can answer many questions or can give you information on how to contact the restaurants directly to talk with a chef.
Oh, and most desserts are vegetarian. Bon Appetit!