If you are like we were a few years ago, you might not know how wonderful Disney is when dealing with food allergies. Of course, you can carry your own food in with you to the parks and thus avoid any worries over food allergies. But, what can be done if you had hoped to enjoy a restaurant experience or two with your fellow guests? In this blog, we’d like to share our discoveries with you.
We were a family of five with no food allergies, save for a short-lived, minor allergy to white chocolate with one child. Avoiding that one item was rather easy to do throughout our children’s entire childhood. In 2014, our son married a wonderful woman who followed a special diet. A year later, our youngest also experienced a health issue that required her to change her diet drastically. This began our journey into the world of trying to find a place (or even cook a meal) that we could all enjoy equally.
After we moved to central Florida in 2013, our friends and family began their trips to visit us and Walt Disney World. As Annual Passholders, we regularly accompany our house guests into the parks. When we started having visitors with special dietary needs, we realized that we knew nothing about the options available in the parks. Thus began our journey.
Stage One: Tentative Explorations
Our first experience was simplistic. We did an internet search to look at the menus of a few kiosks to find some gluten-free snacks. We also learned that our guest could request a gluten-free hot dog roll at Casey’s in the Magic Kingdom. We were happy with this barest of accommodations, but we had only begun to dip our toes into what Disney had to offer.
Stage Two: Call in the Chef!
Our next experience happened just a few weeks later with a different guest. This time our guest was not only gluten-free, but also vegetarian. That combination meant looking carefully at restaurant menus to figure out where our guest could eat. A few internet searches led to the discovery that we could ask for a chef at a quick-service restaurant to come and point out what would and would not be suitable to eat. We tried this at a quick-service in EPCOT’s Morocco pavilion with success. (Granted it did take a while for the chef to arrive and the options were somewhat limited due to the cross-contamination in cooking oils.) However, in the end, our guest had a plate full of good food to eat. Later in the visit, we ended up eating at the Plaza Restaurant in Magic Kingdom and we were thrilled to find several options on the menu already suited to our guest’s needs.
Stage Three: Anything You Want, They Got It!
Our most recent experience was this past fall. This time, our guest was very familiar with Disney and had several restaurants she hoped to experience. We learned that not only can you ask for a chef to come out and tell you exactly what you can and cannot eat, but you can also have them make you virtually any meal you need. We ate at Tutto Italia (a table-service restaurant) and marveled at the service provided. A manager came to review the menu with our guest, make substitutions, and take her order directly. That same manager then delivered her meal to her and checked back to make sure everything was fine. A couple of days later, we wanted to experience Catalina Eddie’s and Rosie’s All-American quick-service restaurants in Hollywood Studios. Emboldened by our experience at Tutto Italia, our guest walked up to the counter and politely explained her dietary needs. A manager came out and reviewed the available menu items with her. It was soon determined that there were not enough suitable items to create a full meal so the manager retrieved a large binder that contained a list of every food served in the entire park. From that book, the manager and our guest created a meal that she could eat. (We will note that it did take a while for the meal to be created, but in the end, the plate was full, the food was delicious, and the price was no higher than a normal menu item.)
If you have someone in your travel party with food allergies or other special dietary needs, Disney is the perfect place to eat! You can find pre-made, allergy friendly items at certain places. However, you can also follow the create-your-own plate from the menu’s items method under the guidance of a chef. Finally, you can rest assured that if all else fails, Disney will go above and beyond by cooking a meal just for you. The key to obtaining all of this help is to speak up and ask. For table-service restaurants, be sure to note that a guest will have an allergy issue at the time of the reservation. For quick-service restaurants, just ask the person taking your order for help. Kiosks are, of course, less able to substitute. However, a quick review of their menus will tell you whether or not they have allergy-free options.
If you’re planning a visit to any of the Disney parks in the future and find yourself with dietary concerns, we would be happy to help you plan your trip. Our personal experience with guests with food allergies will help ensure that your experience is as smooth as possible.
Note: This national food allergy website will help those looking for Walt Disney World restaurants with specific menu items already designed to avoid specific food allergies.