Dining Gluten Free at Walt Disney World
By Rhoda Smith
We were at WDW November 7-14, 2009. My husband had been diagnosed with Celiac Disease just a couple of months before this trip, so we suddenly had to jump into the world of gluten-free (GF) eating at WDW! I want to reassure GF eaters that it really was an easy process, even for beginners like us! The key is to do a lot of preparation and researching before you go. The more you know before, the better prepared you are for your GF dining experiences when you arrive! Planning is essential.
Some important phone numbers/email addresses to know:
General phone number for special dietary needs (call before trip): 407-824-5967
Magic Kingdom: 407-824-5967
Animal Kingdom: 407-939-7536
email@example.com (email prior to trip)
Know that many restaurants in Epcot and all in Animal Kingdom are not Disney-owned, but still do provide GF options.
By either calling 407-824-5967 or emailing to the address above, WDW will send you an email full of information for GF dining. You want to do this as soon as possible to help with your meal planning, especially if you are using the Disney Dining Plan. There is a form to fill out with the name of the person who has the dietary restriction, contact info, restaurants with ADR’s and confirmation numbers, etc. They make sure that your dietary need is connected with each reservation. I just needs to be returned to them prior to your visit. Then they also send several lists of info regarding GF dining, including:
Guest Dietary Letter/Guest Allergy Dietary Request Form
Information on allergy-free chicken tenders
Food Allergy Dietary Reference Sheet
OP Allergy Menus for Epcot
Water Parks Menu Items
WDW Resort Dietary Sheets
We printed these off and my husband carried them with him daily.
When making ADR’s via phone, be sure to tell the Cast Member you are speaking with about your GF dietary need. They will note this on your reservation. When making online ADR’s, there is a place to “click” for special dietary needs, and “wheat allergy” is one of them. You will have to notate this with each restaurant ADR, even if they are tied to your hotel reservation.
At every table-service restaurant, the server was aware of our dietary need and the chef came to our table to discuss food options. All of the chefs were knowledgeable, some more than others, but all left us comfortable in knowing our food would be prepared GF and would be tasty! All presented the possibilities of GF options from the menu, and then offered to make something totally different if nothing sounded good. For buffet table-service restaurants, the chef took my husband around the buffet and discussed every option, declaring it either GF or not GF. (I can assure you that at all buffets, he was able to load his plate several times over!). At a non-buffet restaurant, a separate server (or the chef himself) brings out the meal on its own tray, so there is no potential for cross-contamination with the meals for the rest of the family.
At counter-service restaurants, the manager must be notified and he will review GF options with you. Then he goes back and chooses one food-preparer to prepare the food and bring it to your table, again on its’ own tray. (**know that this takes longer than the preparation of normal food, so you may want to put in your GF food order first, and then order regular food for the rest of the family, so that GF tray has a head start).
We ate at the following restaurants and had these experiences:
- Pecos Bill’s in the MK: Any sandwich can be prepared and placed on a GF bun. French Fries were made in a fryer dedicated to GF preparation (and took a good bit of time to fry). At this restaurant, the GF bun was hard, and the GF cookies provided for dessert (in a big package) were very small and average tasting.
- Tony’s Town Square in the MK: EXCELLENT for GF dining. Rice pasta can be substituted for all pasta dishes except the ravioli. The mushroom sauce on the grilled pork tenderloin is not gluten free so that must be left off. But otherwise all dishes can be made GF. Veggies (artichokes, broccoli, red peppers) and marinara sauce were substituted for pasta and mushroom sauce on the grilled pork tenderloin. GF rolls were provided for dipping in oil (these were cold and hard…in other restaurants the same rolls were heated and very good).
- Pinocchio Village Haus in the MK: GF pizza is available and was very good. French fries are baked instead of fried, yogurt cup for dessert.
- Hollywood & Vine in DHS: many options available…buffet options change so I didn’t write them all down. Caesar salad is not GF, and the only dessert is soft-serve ice cream in a dish.
- ABC Commissary in DHS: Chicken Cordon Bleu can be made on GF bun (or hamburger on GF bun). French Fries (didn’t taste like baked, may also have their own fryer) were said to be GF. Large fruit bowl for dessert. Manager stated that the salads here are pre-made and dressings are questionable as to being GF.
- Tangierine in Morocco, Epcot: EXCELLENT for GF dining. Chicken/beef/lamb mixture with onion, olive, lettuce, hummus is served on a plate (instead of in a wrap as a gyro). GF buns are provided for hummus spread. No dessert option, but side of rice was provided since there was no dessert.
- Garden Grill in Epcot: EXCELLENT for GF dining. Meals here are served family-style: fish, turkey and beef with potatoes, stuffing, veggies all on the same plate. For the GF eater, a separate plate of these foods is provided, with fish made without breading, stuffing left off, and no sauce on the steak or gravy on the turkey. Mashed potatoes and vegetables (squash, snow peas) are on the same plate. (To stay clear…the GF eater gets his own tray of meats/sides prepared GF. The rest of the family gets a normal tray of foods). There is also a salad and GF rolls that were very good warm. Fruit was provided for dessert.
- Cinderella’s Royal Table in the MK: All menu options are adaptable for being gluten-free. My husband had the salmon, rice and GF rolls. An appetizer was brought to the table, containing bruschetta, cheese, greens, Mediterranean salad…be sure to ask for a GF version for the GF diner (they just leave off the bruschetta). Sorbet for dessert.
- Columbia Harbor House in the MK: GF fried chicken and French fries, GF macaroni and cheese, big GF chocolate chip cookie (packaged) for dessert.
- Flaming Tree BBQ in AK: EXCELLENT GF dining! Either the ribs or chicken meal are GF, with baked beans and cole slaw (they use a corn-based starch). GF prepackaged brownie for dessert. **This was by far the quickest counter service meal…perhaps because no french-fries were involved?)
- Le Cellier in Canada in Epcot: EXCELLENT GF dining! Any steaks were suitable, but the chef recommended the 14 oz NY Strip Steak or the 16 oz Kansas City Strip Steak (because the accompanying sides were GF). The KC Strip was excellent, with a side of delicious cream cheese mashed potatoes. GF rolls were provided instead of the regular breadsticks. And the best…Crème Brulee for dessert!
- Cantina de San Angel in Mexico in Epcot: We didn’t get the name written down, but the chicken/corn tortilla dish that is the first option on the menu is GF (“something-pollo”). Comes with refried black beans and Mexican rice. There was no dessert option. (**This place seemed to be the least knowledgeable about GF preparation, language barrier did not help any. They did provide a notebook with labels of all their products used in preparations of food. The corn tortillas were GF).
- Cosmic Ray’s at the MK: At this restaurant, there are many options and 3 service bays. The one my husband chose was a GF chicken salad, with a large GF chocolate chip cookie (packaged).
A quick summary: Here are the counter service restaurants throughout WDW which easily provide GF meals:
- Cosmic Ray’s
- Pecos Bill’s
- Main St. Bakery
- Pinocchio Village Haus
- Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies
- Plaza Ice Cream Shop
- Sleepy Hollow
- Sunshine Terrace
Disney Hollywood Studios:
THE ULTIMATE KEY is to be sure your server and chef (in table service restaurants) or the manager (at counter service restaurants) is made aware of your dietary need. You will get personalized service, one-on-one preparation and service of your meal. WDW is better about GF dining than any restaurant we have encountered outside of WDW!
***Since this article was published, Disney World has slightly modified their Gluten Free Dining policies. Now, each dining location around the parks can accommodate common allergies such as gluten intolerance. At a table service restaurant nothing is different, a chef will still come to the table and prepare a meal you will enjoy. At quick-service restaurants there is now an available list of what is served in the restaurant that is gluten free. Often this ends up being chicken tenders and a gluten free chocolate chip cookie. See also: Dining at WDW with Allergies