Jun 152016
 

By Tim Rogers

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Dining at Disney World is a lot of fun. With over 100 restaurants representing numerous styles and traditions, Disney offers guests a smorgasbord of possibilities when dining (including some literal smorgasbords).

 

But what about vegetarians? If you grew up not eating meat, like me, you might also have a ready made list of restaurants, trips, special occasions, family gatherings, and more where you found that there was nothing for you to eat, or that “vegetarian” option wasn’t actually vegetarian.

 

But at Disney World, you don’t have to worry, and with these tips, you can make the most of your trip to the World.

Tip 1: Do your homework

If you are reading this, I probably don’t have to tell you that trips to Disney World take some planning, from what tickets to buy, what resort to stay at, how to get there, and more. But especially if you are worried about or just thinking about food, part of your preparation should be to check out some Disney restaurant menus.

By perusing the options, you can get an idea of the places that might have more interesting options, what some of the options might be and more. Note that many of the menus are changed seasonally, so a specific menu item you see now might be changed in a year, but you will at least know the type of options available, and they might even make it for you anyway. That brings us to…

Tip 2: Don’t be afraid to ask

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As mentioned above, the first thing you can ask for is old menu items that might not still be listed. Depending on what it is, many restaurants are able to accommodate this request.

But Disney’s help to vegetarians does not end there. If nothing on the menu strikes your fancy, ask your server if there are any other options for vegetarians. Some restaurants have a separate vegetarian menu; others might ask the chef if he or she can use their creativity for you. It’s not guaranteed that this will happen, but if you don’t ask you won’t know.

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At many counter service locations, you can also get specific items a la carte or ask for meat to be left off, so as to not pay for non-vegetarian items you won’t eat or miss out on something that sounds great except for that one meat item.

But sometimes asking can just be a clarification. For example, every vegetarian is different and the standard what they will eat changes. Some eat fish, some won’t eat items with chicken stock or gelatin, but just by looking it can be hard to tell what is “safe.” So if you aren’t sure, just ask.

My favorite example of this is when my wife and I ate at the Biergarten, and through some miscommunication the kitchen got notified that we had a food allergy (special note, if you have a food allergy the Disney chef’s will take great care of you), so a chef came out to walk us through the buffet so we wouldn’t accidentally encounter an allergen. When he found out we were just vegetarians, he walked us through the buffet anyway, and that extra help let us know that one of the soups was made with chicken stock (which matters to me) and confirmed some items that did not have any meat. It was incredibly helpful and a great service from the Disney CMs.

 

Tip 3: Go to a buffet

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Speaking of buffets, go and eat at them. Besides often including characters or a show, buffets provide a ton of options for all palates. As an extra tip, look at the difference between lunch and dinner at buffets – many of them charge more at dinner and the only real difference is an additional meat option or two, which will do nothing for a vegetarian. You can get the same experience for less at lunch.

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While I have enjoyed several buffets at Disney World (including Biergarten, which is probably the biggest surprise), the one I would recommend to any vegetarian (or really anyone) is Tusker House. Located in the Africa section of the Animal Kingdom, Tusker House has safari themed versions of Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy, but more importantly a wide selection of African and Indian themed foods. This theme provides a wide range of vegetarian options, all of which are great. If you are looking for one buffet to try as a vegetarian, this one should be near the top of your list.

 

Tip 4: Try a signature meal

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While Disney service is great on many different levels, the signature meals take it up a notch. Signature restaurants are more likely to be able to accommodate special requests, and the food is fantastic. I have personally experienced this at Jiko and California Grill, and in both cases was able to get interesting and delicious vegetarian options with impeccable service. Signature meals are pricey, but for a special moment they are definitely worth it.

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Tip 5: Try new things

As seen above, Disney really goes above and beyond in accommodating vegetarians who visit the parks. One of my concerns growing up, and after many of the “incidents” I mentioned in the introduction, is that I stayed very much in a narrow comfort zone of items involving combinations of bread and cheese (side note, who doesn’t love some bread and cheese though). For me, a cruise was actually the experience that broke me out of that and exposed me to a whole range of cuisines. What made the difference is I knew what I was eating would be “safe” because of the level of information, service and care given by the wait staff.

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Disney does that as well. If you, or someone you know, is a little bit of a skittish vegetarian, a trip to Disney World can really open you up to a new world of culinary options. Just get out there and give it a shot.

Sep 172014
 

 

Eating Vegan at Epcot

 

 

By Teresa Pittman

“You do know this is a steakhouse, right?” The chef who had been brought to our table at Le Cellier was apparently not impressed to hear that we were vegan.

Yes, we knew. But we also knew we were in Walt Disney World, where vegans can usually count on finding food they can eat – even at Le Cellier. Sure enough, our teasing but good-natured chef prepared us seasoned tofu strips with perfectly-spiced vegetables and brought out a vegan “ice cream” for dessert.

I’ve been vegan for eight years now, and others in my family have been vegan for much longer. (Apparently, I’m a slow learner.) This change in eating has made me love WDW even more, because it’s one of the places where I know I’ll be able to find good food I can actually eat.

A few years ago, I interviewed the man who was at the time the restaurant manager of the Sci-Fi Drive-in. He described to me the extensive training the restaurant staff receive about different “special diets” (including vegan, gluten-free, etc.) as well as about food allergies. No Disney CM is going to suggest that since you are vegan, you might like the lamb dish or the cheese-covered pizza! And the chefs are usually happy to make some changes to give you the vegan meal of your dreams.

Of course, especially during busier times, it helps to know which locations have vegan items on the menu or ones that are easily adapted. Here are a few of my favorites to help you enjoy your Epcot dining experiences:

Snacks:

You may not know that many WDW snacks are vegan. Those lovely warm soft pretzels? Vegan. The somewhat-buttery-tasting popcorn? Vegan. The Kaki Gori ice treat with sweet fruity syrup (from the Japan pavilion)? Yes, vegan. And don’t forget that fruit and vegetables are also available in many counter-service restaurants and snack kiosks.

Craving more fruits and veggies? Since the kids’ meals have carrot sticks, grapes and applesauce as sides for counter-service orders, you can usually have those items added to your meal to replace French fries or another less-desirable accompaniment. They are pre-packaged, so it’s easy to take them along with you for a snack later.

Counter-service favorites:

Vegan at Sunshine Seasons

Sunshine Seasons. While the menu here changes frequently, there is usually a vegan entrée for your enjoyment. On my last trip (February 2014), we enjoyed a stir-fry made with vegetables and vegan “chicken” in a light gingery sauce. Very tasty. Also check the “special diets” snack/dessert section as you may find such treats as vegan caramel corn, vegan cookies or vegan brownies.

Tangierine Café. The vegetable platter here provides generous portions of falafel, couscous, hummus, tabouleh, lentil salad and marinated olives. It’s like a Moroccan feast on one plate for under $11! Be sure to ask about the ingredients, though, as some may contain non-vegan ingredients. Usually we have been able to substitute a larger portion of another item for the one we can’t have. Another good option here – the falafel wrap. Again, check to be sure the falafel are vegan, as this seems to change from time to time.

Table-service favorites:

Here’s the thing. The Epcot restaurants rarely have vegan options on their menus, and the vegetarian ones are often heavy with vegan no-nos like cheese and eggs. Don’t let this worry you! When you make your Advanced Dining Reservation, note that you are vegan. When you arrive at the restaurant, let your server know and ask to see the chef.

This all works better if you are eating at a less-busy time (either because the parks are not crowded anyway or because you have arrived for your meal either earlier or later than most guests), so the chefs have more time to get creative with your meal. I’ve had the best luck by asking the chef to surprise me – I let them know what I like (lots of veggies, lots of spice) and what I don’t really care for (rice and pasta). The results have almost always been amazing.

Rose and Crown: I’ve enjoyed vegan versions of the curry, the shepherd’s pie and the cottage pie as well as original dishes that the chef made up for us! The chefs here are excellent and seem to know their way around vegan cooking. The Apple and Frisee salad is also incredibly refreshing. A lovely way to end the day in Epcot is to enjoy dinner out on the Rose and Crown patio while watching Illuminations.

Tokyo Dining: I tend to avoid ordinary Japanese and Thai restaurants because not only am I vegan, I am severely allergic to shellfish. (I know, it’s a wonder anyone will even go to a restaurant with me.) At Disney, though, I know they will be careful to avoid cross-contamination, and I can enjoy the vegetable tempura and vegetable sushi offered here – a real treat for me!

Marrakesh: There are a couple of vegan salad options and vegetable couscous as an entrée here. In my experience, the food here tends to be only very lightly spiced, to the point of being bland – which is a shame because Moroccan food I’ve eaten at other places has been well-spiced with lots of complex flavor. It does help to tell your server that you’d like the spicier versions.

Via Napoli: Yay, pizza! Just ask for the toppings you want with no cheese. Simple and delicious.

While these are my top faves, don’t assume you won’t be able to get vegan options at other places. You can get a veggie burger at Electric Umbrella, for example, and a vegan “chicken breast” sandwich at Liberty Inn (at the American Adventure pavilion).

 

Vegan at Food and Wine

The Food and Wine Festival: has always been a bit frustrating for me, as few options are vegan. However, the past few years the Terra booth has offered a couple of vegan entrees and a dessert and they have been excellent. (They use the Gardein meat substitutes, if you are familiar with those.) So if you are there during Food and Wine, be sure to drop by the Terra booth and enjoy!

We’ve just scratched the surface! I’ll be back with future articles sharing details on where you can enjoy vegan dishes in the rest of the parks!

 

Jun 122013
 

By Kristi Letsinger

Be Our Guest 3

I recently had the pleasure of going to Walt Disney World for a few days for a family vacation.  We had heard all of the fuss about the new Be Our Guest Restaurant so we decided to try it.  The dinner reservations here fill up fast and we weren’t able to get one so we decided to try it as a counter service for lunch.  (Editor Note:  Kristi isn’t kidding when she says the dinner reservations fill fast.  They are full at the 180 day mark.)

We entered the park about 10 am in the pouring rain.  Florida was experiencing their first tropical storm for the year and we were in the center of it.  We raced to the line for Be Our Guest and to our surprise at 10:15 there were about 50 families already in line ponchos, umbrellas and all.  The restaurant opened at 10:30, however, at about 10:20 they began taking families inside to line up.  The line did move quickly and after a few more minutes of a torrential downpour we were able to get the lobby area.

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May 292013
 

By Teresa Pitman

 

Disney and Disney cruise with Lenore 564

I took my first cruise on the Disney Dream more than two years ago – and wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back. I’m vegan (as are most of my children) and one of the reasons I love visiting the Disney parks is that they are so good about meeting special dietary needs, whether these are because of food allergies, gluten sensitivities, or preferences such as eating vegan or vegetarian. I had hoped for the same experience on our first cruise.

Unfortunately, we were very disappointed, and the meals were (to say the least) a challenge, although we loved everything else about the cruise. Dare I say it? Disney let me down.

But I wasn’t ready to give up yet. I wrote to Disney to let them know about our experience and they promised me that if I came back, I’d have a better time.

In March of this year, I took them up on it. And once again, Disney came through.

At our first dinner, our server greeted us warmly and said “I understand you are vegan, we are ready for you!” The head server also stopped by our table to bring us some vegan bread and talk about the food that was on the menu and what could be modified for us. Already, things were looking up.

On our first trip, we found no vegan options at all on most of the menus. On this trip, there was one entree at each restaurant that was either vegan or could easily be made vegan. Not only that, but our server told us that the chef would prepare some additional meals for us so that we could have more choices. Were we thrilled? Oh, yes!

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Jan 092013
 

By Debbie Boehm

©Disney

 

With so many choices to make when planning a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort, the most important one, in my opinion, is your resort.  We are fortunate to have so many options – resorts that will satisfy your budget, space requirements plus amenities.

So how do you choose a resort?  There are several things to consider: how many people in the family, what kind of food do you like, do you like a themed pool or a quiet one, do you mind a lot of noise or prefer quiet, does anyone in your party have food allergies, are there laundry facilities, to name a few.  Resorts at Walt Disney World are also equipped to keep guests with food allergies safe and healthy.

One of the best ways I’ve found to choose my next resort is to visit other resorts while on vacation.  It’s really simple to do and a lot of fun.   Just take Disney transportation to the resort you want to visit from either a Park or Downtown Disney!  It’s a snap!

A great thing to do while you’re visiting other resorts is to try some of the food that resort has to offer.  Many offer different things that you can only get at that particular hotel.

For example, if you choose to visit one of the Magic Kingdom resorts, you have the ease of hopping on the Monorail and you can visit three very different locations in a short time.  You can have lunch at The Grand Floridian, coffee or a Dole Whip at The Polynesian and dessert at The Contemporary where you can sit outside under the Monorail tracks overlooking the Magic Kingdom.

The food served at each resort tends to correlate to the geographic area represented by the resort.  Would you like to tour the Caribbean?  Take the bus over to The Caribbean Beach Resort and enjoy the colors, the music and the food which are all representative of the area.  It’s fun and lively.  Our trip over there included a torrential downpour one August and it’s one of our family’s great memories.

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Sep 052012
 

By Teresa Pitman

Sometimes Disney makes changes that are – in my opinion – more disappointments than improvements. Journey into Imagination (oh sure, they brought Figment back but it’s not really the same) comes to mind, and removing appetizers and tips from the Dining Plan.

But other times Disney’s changes can make a good thing even better.  And that’s the case with Tusker House. I liked it when it was a quick service place because they had some tasty options you didn’t find anywhere else (like mashed potatoes and green beans). I liked it even more when it became a buffet, especially because they had lots of vegan options (yes, I’m vegan). Then they added characters at breakfast and, more recently, at lunch, yet another improvement, in my opinion. (I love to see the characters, but really hate lining up for them.)

Right in the heart of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Tusker House is located near the Kilimanjaro Safari ride and is nicely themed to match; you’ll see posters and signs on the restaurant walls reminding you about not feeding the animals, the times for the next safari and other information. The restaurant podium where you go to check in is outside in a sheltered area. On the roof above, you’ll see chairs and laundry hung to dry, and if you listen carefully you’ll hear voices talking. Often you’ll be entertained by drumming and dancing in the open area to your right. To your left is the Dawa Bar. If you manage to arrive a bit early, you can relax at the bar with a tasty drink or two while you wait for your table.

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