Oct 212015
 

By Teresa Pitman

Eating Vegan at the Magic Kingdom

It’s the heart of Disney Magic. The first place many people think of when they hear the words “Walt Disney World.” The favorite park of most kids. But what’s it like eating at the Magic Kingdom for vegans?

To be honest, it’s not always easy. As a vegan (meaning I eat no meat or fish or animal products such as eggs or milk), it’s sometimes a challenge to get a tasty and satisfying meal in the park with Cinderella Castle. However, there is good news: it’s definitely been improving in recent years. Here are some tips for hungry vegans:

Snacks:

  • Dole whip! Yes, Dole whip is now vegan! Enjoy!
  • WDW popcorn is vegan despite that rather buttery taste.
  • Soft Mickey pretzels are also vegan, and they are delicious with mustard.
  • Check the carts for popsicle-type treats and fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • The Main Street Bakery has a nice selection of fruit and vegetable snacks as well.

Quick-service:

My favorite quick-service spot used to be Columbia Harbor House. The chili is vegan and you can get steamed broccoli to go with it! You can also get the Lighthouse sandwich made vegan by leaving off the broccoli slaw. However, I also have a shellfish allergy and was told on my last visit that there is potential for contamination of ALL foods sold in the restaurant so I have stopped eating there – a big disappointment for me.

Be Our Guest offers a hearty quinoa salad during their quick-service lunch which has good reviews.

Gaston’s Tavern has Sabra brand hummus and pretzel chips to dip, as well as raw vegetables which unfortunately come with a non-vegan dip. Makes a nice light lunch if you skip the other dip. LeFou’s Brew is also vegan!

Pecos Bill’s now has a vegetable and rice bowl, Cosmic Ray’s has a rather uninspired veggie burger, and I have heard that you can get vegan pizza at Pinocchio Village Haus. Generally, not much to get excited about!

 

Full-service:

Eating Vegan at the Magic Kingdom 2

Be Our Guest wins for me here! The Seasonal Salad Trio was a wonderful appetizer with great flavour and variety, and the Ratatouille main course was also delicious. Definitely worth checking out for vegan eaters.

But after that, the choices are slim. Cinderella’s Royal Table serves a fairly plain vegetable and rice dish for vegans. Liberty Tree Tavern has a vegetable sandwich (with vegan mayo!) for lunch. However, if you go for supper, you will have to pay the full price ($32) even though you just get the sandwich and salad and other diners are having a big turkey dinner. So if you want to eat there, lunch is a much better value for your money. The Plaza restaurant can make their vegetable sandwich vegan for you. Crystal Palace is fun for the characters, but you’ll find very few vegan options on the buffet.

Vegan food can be tasty and flavorful, but I find these dishes are all pretty bland. On the other hand, if you are just trying to fill your tummy so you have the energy to do Space Mountain again, they’ll work.

Another option: nearby hotels

One of the good things about Magic Kingdom is that several hotels are quickly accessible. You can hop on a boat or the monorail and be at a resort in a short period of time, and that expands your eating options. Some of our favorites:

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Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness. Normally this buffet would not be too vegan-friendly, but the wonderful Chef TJ is working there now and making incredible multi-course meals for vegans who visit. You will leave absolutely stuffed and very happy!

Kona Café at the Polynesian. The Pan-Asian Noodle dish can be made vegan and is very tasty; we have also had the chefs make us special vegan dishes when asked. You can also buy Dole Whip at the Polynesian.

The Wave at the Contemporary has a Curry Vegetarian Stew, and Artist’s Point at Wilderness Lodge has a Vegan Lo Mein. I’ve also had some outstanding vegan meals at California Grill.

These options will give you meals with more flavor and spice than the run-of-the-mill veggie burgers.

So while I find the vegan meals at Magic Kingdom aren’t always as magical as they could be, you won’t go hungry while you’re there!

Jan 282015
 

Eating Vegan in Animal Kingdom

 

By Teresa Pitman

In the months before Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened, there were rumors that all the restaurants in the park would be vegan, out of respect for the animals that would be living in the park. You can’t imagine the excitement in my mostly-vegan family when we heard that! We dreamed about enjoying black bean burgers, lentil soups and tofu stir-fries in our favorite vacation spot…

That dream soon ran into reality: those were only rumors and the restaurants that were eventually build include mostly meat-based options.

Don’t worry, though – you’re in Walt Disney World! You will be able to find vegan options that you can enjoy as you visit the animals and prepare to flee from the Yeti.

Here are some of my favorite options:

Snacks:

Animal Kingdom has some excellent vegan snack options.

Stop first at the Gardens Kiosk near “It’s Tough to Be a Bug.” This colorful booth has both vegan and gluten-free snacks (including items from the much-missed Babycakes. Ed. note: Babycakes will be returning to Disney Springs soon, in the form of Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC.). The Cast Members there can also give you information about other dining options. The menu changes from time to time, but usually includes treats such as vegan ice cream (Tofutti), vegan doughnuts, cookies and cupcakes (from Babycakes) and hummus with vegetables. Stuff a few of the packaged items in your bag and head off to enjoy your day.

Near the entrance to the Kilimanjaro Safaris, you’ll find a fruit and vegetable cart. The foods offered do change from time to time, but you can usually find containers of grapes, apples, bananas, cut-up celery and carrot sticks, etc. This vendor also sells vegan soft pretzels with mustard sauce. So good.

My other favorite snack is available at several locations: the chocolate and nut-covered frozen banana. These are wonderful on a hot day! Some of the ice-pops are also vegan (ingredients are listed on the packages, so just ask to see them).

Counter-service:

Callista Disney trip 268

Sadly, the counter-service options in Animal Kingdom are limited. At Tamu Tamu refreshments, for example, your only option is the Fruit Salad. The Quinoa salad – which looks so promising, since it even includes tofu – actually has feta cheese mixed in so it is not vegan. And it comes pre-mixed so they can’t prepare it with the cheese left out.

And the black bean burger at Restaurantosaurus? Not vegan.

Mr. Kamal’s kiosk has recently added a vegetarian menu – so recently that I haven’t had a chance to check it out. I understand, though, that the falafel dish (minus the sauce, which contains dairy) is vegan. I would guess that the edamame is as well. I believe the samosas are the same as the ones at Tusker House and not vegan.

You can also get pizza with vegan cheese (Daiya) at Pizzafari.

So, moving on…

Table-service:

Tusker House. Let me say it again: Tusker House!! I love this place. It is like a mini-version of Boma, with great theming and characters to visit your table. The buffet menu varies, but there are generally a good number of vegan options, and I have found the chefs to be VERY accommodating and helpful in preparing vegan versions of some of the items for us. I enjoy the spicier African flavors as well. Fruit is usually the only dessert option, but the chefs can often bring out some vegan ice cream for you (and hey, didn’t you pick up some treats when you were at the Gardens Kiosk?).

disney with dexter 071

Another option is one that many people don’t think of: Rainforest Café. Located at the entrance/exit to Animal Kingdom, this restaurant has a vegan burger (they call it the Natural Burger) that isn’t anything special but will fill up your tummy after a long day in the parks. You also get to enjoy the jungle décor and occasional storms. I like the bar, too, where the stools have tails and zebra stripes.

The Yak and Yeti restaurant has a Vegetable Lo Mein that can be made with tofu. The noodles have egg in them but you can ask them to substitute rice or rice noodles. You can also ask to substitute tofu (since they have it lying around in the kitchen anyway) for meat in any of the meat dishes. The Maple Tamarind Chicken with tofu replacing the chicken is good, and I’ve heard rave reviews of some of the other dishes with tofu replacing the meat. Just make sure that the chef knows you don’t want any dairy or egg in the sauces, either.

One more possibility, if you find yourself wanting more dining options: take a quick bus ride (or drive your car) to Animal Kingdom Lodge, just a short distance away. There you can eat at Boma, Jiko or Sanaa, all excellent restaurants with an array of vegan options and chefs who will happily prepare something special for you.

As you can see, there are quite a few options that are available for vegan diners. I hope this guide helps you in your dining experience.

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!

 

Aug 102011
 

By:  Ann Dunnington

Gluten-free, vegetarian, low-carb, nut allergy, vegan, low-sodium, diabetic, lactose intolerant, Feingold Diet, kosher…I could go on and on.

Those of us who “suffer” from food allergies or special food preferences know the above terms all too well. Many of us have menu planning down to a science while we’re at home, but what do we do when we leave the comfort of our own kitchens and go on vacation? If you go to the Walt Disney World Resort, you can feel just as comfortable as you do at home!

Did you know that in March 2011, the Walt Disney World Resort was recognized with the Corporate Leadership Award from the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network? Each year, the resort gets over 400,000 special dietary requests (and we’re two of them)!

So you have some sort of dietary restriction. What do you do? Prior to the 180 day reservation mark, my husband and I scour the internet to find menus for all of the yummy restaurants we hear so much about. A quick search makes for hours of entertainment for us foodies; looking at food pictures posted by others, and reading menus and dining reviews. The hard part is actually NARROWING DOWN what restaurants to try! This is especially difficult if you’re doing this on an empty stomach. You have been warned, my friends. Continue reading »