I was raised a Disney baby. My whole family loves it, a lot. There is something so special about a man who had a huge dream and pursued it despite so many people telling him it wouldn’t happen. I always remember Walt when I start to doubt what I am doing trying to make it in the acting world. So, when it came time to plan our first full-family vacation since my brother has been out of the military there was no doubt we were headed back to Walt Disney World.
I am a planning (maybe also control) freak. One of the things I always research is where we are going to eat, especially being vegan. On any other vacation I stress a little more. But, like all things Disney, any special dietary requests are a breeze (and they don’t make you feel like a protein deprived lunatic…you all know what I mean)! I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite (and least favorite) places we ate at Disney in 2013.
Here are my tips for getting the best dining experience at the House of Mouse:
- First off: BE NICE!! The cast members go through training and are held under strict guidelines to treat you like royalty. But that doesn’t always mean they aren’t secretly thinking of all the ways they would love to shove a piece of raw meat in your mouth while you are telling them your dietary concerns in a not nice manner. I have heard stories. So be nice, please.
- Be patient! I will tell you now, it takes time to get a special meal sometimes. You want to know why? Because that chef is required to walk to a separate cooking space to prepare you a nice fresh meal that is free of all things animal. That is worth the wait, right?
- When you arrive at a dining location be it a walk up (quick service) or sit down (table service) advise the first person you speak to of you dietary concerns. If you are at a quick service location they will radio a manager and possibly ask you to step aside and wait while they help other guest. If you are at a table service the chef will come to your table as quickly as possible. The chef or manager will go over your dining options. If you are at a quick service they will show you a ingredients book and fill out your yellow allergy ticket once you have decided. They will then prepare your food themselves to be certain of how it was prepared and bring it to you. If you are at a table service the chef will do the same and bring it to your table and discuss dessert options. I told you, Disney is really really nice!
So without further ado..here is my 2013 Vegan Disney World report. (Please note that we were on the Disney Dining Plan, which I strongly recommend and I don’t carry a fancy camera around the park, so I’m working with what I have).
- Tortuga Tavern: Taco Salad with Black Beans, Rice (no cilantro sauce), and Corn Salsa. You can then take your shell to the bar and fill it with as much lettuce, salsa,and jalapenos as you wish. Grapes or Enjoy Life cookies for dessert.
- Columbia Harbor House: Vegetarian Chili and Fries are my favorite. You can also get chili and salad if you wish. I always get fruit for dessert since I am indulging with the fries, but I have heard rumor that the apple pie is Vegan. Don’t hold me to it, check the allergy book!
- Pecos Bills: The Veggie Burger and Bun are both vegan. (Be sure to check the allergy book though as the bun changes often). You can pile as much lettuce, pickle, onion, tomato, and mushrooms(made only in vegetable based oils) on that baby as you want!
- The Main Street Ice Cream shop also offers Tofutti and Rice Dream!
We didn’t eat any quick service here this year. But last year the veggie burgers were vegan at the Sunset Market Ranch area. Also the ice cream kiosk has a hot apple pie filling that was vegan last year and was incredible with a scoop of tofutti on top. Again, confirm with the manager on duty.
Tangerine Cafe..need I say more? Yes, I do. Tangerine Cafe is the Moroccan quick serve restaurant and the vegetarian platter is completely vegan minus the baklava, which they will substitute for fruit salad. This is one of my favorite meals on property! If you aren’t aware, there is the world showcase pavilion at Epcot which showcases 11 countries and their cultures. I am sure there are some other decadent quick service meals but I can’t get away from eating Tangerine Cafe as many times as I can get my hands on it.
New Vegetarian Fare and the Allergy Kiosk! High Fives to Animal Kingdom and to Disney. There is now a completely vegetarian quick service kiosk at Animal Kingdom called Gardens. They feature a falafel (vegan without the tazaki sauce), hummus and veggies, edamame, asian noodle salad, and Samosas. I have read that everything is vegan as long as you skip the tazaki sauce but don’t take my word on it because I didn’t have much time to investigate. I did, however, have some edamame for a quick snack.
I am usually too caught up in the parks to have any other meal besides breakfast at my hotel. But what a good breakfast it is. Mickey Waffles. That’s right, they use Bobs Red Mill Pancake mix that is completely vegan and make them on a separate waffle iron. If you ask nicely enough they might even throw in some real maple syrup (if available). So turn your inner child on and gobble those babies up with everyone else!
There is a magical little location in Downtown Disney that goes by a few names. The largest sign and most referred to is Pollo Compero. But you, my friends, will want to go to Bodies All- American and the ever loved Babycakes NYC inside. They have a falafel burger that is incredible. (The bun is not vegan, go with a lettuce wrap. It’s better that way anyways, promise!) For desert walk over to Babycakes bakery tucked away in the corner and get one of everything.
Now, here is where the fun starts. Quick service is well, quick. There isn’t usually much ability for anyone to whip you up something off menu and Disney does an excellent job of making sure there is something that can be tweaked a little to be used for every guest. But sometimes when you sit down for dinner the magic food fairies sprinkle a little extra pixie dust on your meal.
Breakfast is always a tough meal for Vegans. (Unless you’re eating with Chef TJ. But that’s another story for another day) The chef at Crystal Palace walked me around the buffet and offered me fruit, potatoes, green beans, and toasted me some ergos waffles. He asked if there was anything else he could make me but really, that was plenty. I really just wanted to drink my weight in coffee. Who decided to go to breakfast before the park actually opened anyways? haha.
Hollywood and Vine:
I have had good and “eh” here. This time it leaned more towards the later. We ate at Hollywood and Vine at lunch so my nephew could see his favorite Disney Jr. Characters which I believe had a factor in it being a little less accommodating than last trip. The chef walked me around the buffet and eased my concerns on the rumor that whey was in practically everything on their menu. There were a couple veggie dishes such as corn and green beans that were cooked with oil and spices only. There was also a salad bar with fruit. I then went to the build your own pasta bar, which I loved last year, and ordered their only egg free pasta with spinach and mushrooms. The cast member added no spice and just enough oil to keep it from burning. It wasn’t what I had expected since my trip last year was so yummy. For dessert I received a scoop of tofutti and some enjoy life chocolate cookies. Again, I was a little sad because I know they make vegan brownies in house as well as vegan “meatballs” which I wasn’t offered even after hinting. It was lunch and busy so I didn’t push the topic.
O’hana is a instance that I got that extra pixie dust. We had heard to come hungry to eat here. I had also come prepared to be fed a less than stellar meal since this was carnivore heaven. Boy was I shocked..the chef came out and advised me the bread contained some animal products and that the salad dressing contained honey but he would bring me a different dressing. That salad itself could have been my meal. But, it wasn’t. I know when the chefs get a mysterious grin on their face and say “trust me” that I am going to leave full. I was brought a few rolls with two types of delicious hummus and some Earthbalance butter. I was already full and completely unprepared for what was coming next. The chef had told me the veggies and noodles that came out together were Vegan friendly so I just expected to nibble on some of those to finish me off. Out walked the chef with a bowl of stir fried veggies similar to what everyone else gets, but he added some tofu and mushrooms. The blend of spicy and sweet was so good that I ate almost all of it. Again he comes out with desert which was tofutti, a mix of enjoy life cookies, and fresh berries. I won’t even admit how much of that I ate.
I don’t like to post negative things on the internet. There is enough of that around. So, I will keep this as sweet as possible. I highly advise not visiting Tokyo Dining without calling ahead to speak to a manager. We have been here in the past and I have had one of my favorite meals here. Unfortunately, they have changed a LOT. The only offering they had for vegans this year was steamed rice and unseasoned veggies. If that sounds like a $20 meal to you, be my guest, or theirs. My protective and loving family decided if I couldn’t have an enjoyable meal they couldn’t either and they decided to try another restaurant. I love them! So off we went…
Here is where a rough start to dinner turned for the better, way better. I really wanted to eat here because I am mildly obsessed with all things French. I had read reviews that the Vegan offerings here had been less that stellar recently so I decided not to make reservations. After leaving Tokyo Dining I thought I would give Chefs de France a try. We asked a cast member if she could help us find a new reservation. After explaining to her why we needed a new one she agreed that she wouldn’t have stayed there either (have I told you how nice cast members make us vegans feel?). She made a few calls and gave me a sneaky smile telling me to make our way over to Chefs De France and ask for the manager. We did as told and he seated us immediately at the busiest time of night, apologizing for a restaurant he had no control over. Before I tell you about the food I just have to brag about his place. It’s beautiful inside and everyone is so nice. The manager escorted our waiter over and explained that he take extra special care of us and even explained to the chef what had happened. I was feeling like royalty. The chef came out and gave me one of those “trust me” faces and scurried back in the kitchen. He brought me all of the veggies they had on a sauce that I could have eaten as my meal on a bed of mashed potatoes. It doesn’t sound like something special but it was decadent. I chose fresh berries for dessert.
Tusker House is a bit of a tradition for our family. We eat here every trip. Nothing has changed over the past few years. In years past the chef has prepared me fresh samosas but they now contain egg. I tend to eat an abundance of hummus and tabbouleh here. I can’t help it. There are about 6 veggie dishes and salads that are vegan. They of course offer tofutti and rice dream as well as enjoy life cookies for desert.
Before I say anything less than positive again, let me tell you a few things. Le Cellier is a steak house. I really love Canada. (Like, I might or might not have decided I will only marry a french speaking Canadian…Kidding..mostly! haha) This is also one of the most expensive restaurants on property and requires two meal entitlements. So we all had high expectations. It turned out to be a less than those expectations. I was practically refused anything but a pearl couscous dish that was cooked in what I assume was a flavorless squash sauce. The menu stated it came with rainbow cauliflower (2 tiny bits) and other seasonal veggies (a radish and a beet.) I was happy to leave the restaurant with my nephew who wasn’t feeling it either. So, my best advise to anyone wanting to try a Canadian Stake House as a Vegan: call ahead and then call ahead again. (note: my meat eating family wasn’t blown away by their meals either. I promise I really am not that picky!)
In effort to keep myself from writing a love letter to this meal I will tell you it was the best meal the whole trip for the whole family. Kouzinna by Cat Cora is quiet and a bit off the grid. It was a lovely way to unwind on our last night there! We had ate here in the past and loved it. When the Chef came to our table I could tell I was going to like him. His eyes had that little twinkle when I said the word “Vegan.” He offered me the Briami on the menu which is already Vegan and then, as if he could read my mind he offered to make me a special vegetable plate. Of course I went for the one with the word “special”! I ate some bread and oil until this giant came out! *sigh* A small portion of the Briami, grape leaves, baba ganoush, a soup like dish with fava beans, Brussel sprouts, and roasted fingerling potatoes. *double sigh* He then came out and offered me a long list of desserts, one of which contained the word Babycakes. I chose that. As you all know we rarely ever get dessert at a restaurant and when we do it usually isn’t some adorable display like most egg and dairy filled treats. So when this was placed on my table I nearly shed a tear and didn’t want to mess it up, but I did, duh! And that is how this Vegan does the “Happiest Place on Earth”!
Do you worry about what you are going to eat on family vacations? What and where were your best experiences?