Disney is AMAZING when it comes to food allergies. Certainly light-years ahead of the rest of the world. As I mentioned in my previous post, ingredients for everything are readily accessible and chefs and managers are more than happy to speak with you. Since our last visit, Disney rolled out Allergy Menus in all Disney-owned restaurants at the parks and at the resorts. These are not available online or through Special Diets however. Arriving at a restaurant without knowing ahead of time that there will be safe/desirable options with young kids in tow is a risky venture, so a little advance planning can go a LONG way.
Table-service restaurants: when you make reservations online, you can usually make a note of allergies in your dining party. You can also call WDW (407-WDW-DINE) to do the same thing. You should also email Special Diets at SpecialDiets@DisneyWorld.com. They send you a form that you can fax or scan/email back to them indicating your allergies and all your dining reservations.
Quick-service restaurants: Special Diets provided me with this list of allergy-friendly offerings (also referred to as a Reference Sheet) showing which quick-service locations carry these speciality items. As you can see from the list, items like Enjoy Life cookies and Disney’s Allergy Chicken Tenders are readily available. However what I really wanted was to get my hands on the allergy menus of each restaurant so we could find out what regular food would be safe for Bubba to eat. Unfortunately, Special Diets said they couldn’t provide me with that information. Allergy problem? Solved by another Allergy Mama as usual. In particular, I found two amazing bloggers who have posted nearly all of the current (Fall/Winter 2015) allergy menus. Gluten Free in Orlando is a prolific restaurant reviewer and has posted many of the allergy menus on her site (thank you!). Gluten is safe for Bubba however, so the site is somewhat limited for us. Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free in WDW is also an amazing blogger and has this handy-dandy compilation of nearly every allergy menu. She also posted all the various versions of the Reference Sheet provided to me by Specials Diets, e.g. Corn-Friendly Dietary Guide, Vegan Product Offerings, etc. You can find all those here. How amazing is it that there are so many awesome humans willing to make life easier for other food allergy families?! Thank you both!!
Part of our plan involves bringing some food and an electric hotplate from home with us to our hotel. We will also be stopping by the grocery when we arrive in Orlando. Since we don’t use the dining plan and our kids are still so young, we’re opting to do breakfasts in our hotel room (probably oatmeal, fruit, and bagels with jam). For lunches we made reservations at The Plaza, Tusker House, Sci-Fi DIne-In Theater, and Akershus. That leaves our evenings free for spontaneity (aka adjusting our lives to meet the sleep and hunger requirements of our children). It’s hard to imagine food allergies and spontaneity going well together, right? Yeah, I don’t think they do. I find that thing sort of stressful. So I have been gathering all the information I can ahead of time to make sure I know what the ‘best bets’ are at each park, at Downtown Disney, and in our hotel. At the risk of overwhelming you with my obsessing, here are our non-plan plans. For each park, the ‘short list’ of quick-service restaurants I considered was provided to me by Specials Diets who stated these restaurants “have menu items or products that, upon request, may accommodate common food allergy or intolerance requirements.”
Quick-service restaurants with more allergy-friendly offerings: Cosmic Ray’s, Pecos Bill, Columbia Harbour House, Pinocchio Village, and Casey’s Corner. For each restaurant I reviewed the Reference Sheet, the regular menu, and the allergy menu (where available). I think Cosmic Rays will offer us the most options including (potentially): hamburger/hot dog on a bun, rotisserie chicken, and a turkey sandwich. We’ll confirm with a chef when we get there. We got confirmation from Special Diets that the Dole Whip served at Aloha Isle is dairy-free. Yay! Bubba was still allergic to pineapple on our last trip so it was a non-starter. Note that the Dole Whip served at the Pineapple Lanai at Disney’s Polynesian Village does offer a vanilla (dairy) soft serve so there is a possibility of cross contact. Of course always check the ingredients in person before ordering anything.
The top quick-service choices here are Restaurantosaurus and Flame Tree BBQ. I couldn’t find an allergy menu for Resaurantosaurus and Flame Tree looks like it has decent choices including a chicken drumstick (a Bubba favorite) and a chicken meal, so I figure that’s where we will end up if we do dinner in AK. They also carry Enjoy Life cookies and two flavors of soy milk. Again, we’ll need to confirm in person.
Unique to Animal Kingdom is the Discovery Island Allergy Kiosk that has allergy-friendly snacks and drinks as well as the allergy menus for various AK restaurants. The kiosk is located on Discovery Island near the Tree of Life and Harambe. How nice to have the allergy menus in one place instead of having to shlep from one restaurant to another! Here are great blog posts about the kiosk (with lots more information) from Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free in WDW and Gluten-Free in Orlando. We’ll definitely be stopping by.
Our best choices for restaurants look like Backlot Express, Studio Catering, and ABC Commissary. Because ABC Commissary shows potential for a safe steak, club sandwich, and turkey sandwich, I think we’ll end up there. It will at least spare Bubba the usual choices of hot dog, burger, or allergy chicken tenders.
Our three best quick-service bets look like Liberty Inn, Sunshine Seasons, and Electric Umbrella. Honestly, all three look good online. I wasn’t thrilled with Sunshine Seasons or Electric Umbrella on our last visit but that was almost two years ago and well before Allergy Menus debuted. They each have more than one (potential) option so we’ll plan to be extra *spontaneous* in Epcot.
Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney)
As far as Bubba (and probably I) am concerned, Erin McKenna’s Vegan Bakery at Downtown Disney will be the highlight of the trip. Bubba will be able to have chocolate and vanilla soft-serve with such glorious toppings as brownies, caramel, and donuts. You should have seen her eyes pop out of her head when I showed her pictures and told her about it. She can also have cupcakes, doughnuts, cookies, brownies, etc. YUM! Disney is a magical place. My goal is to find all the magical food places there that I can. It looks like Wetzel’s Pretzels (without butter or toppings) and Downtown Snow Company (snow cones) might be safe places for snack as well. For dinner options, Raglan Road gets some great allergy-reviews but may be too adult for my kiddos. T-Rex is probably more up our alley, but I need to find out more about their ability to accommodate. I read the reviews on AllergyEats and may call the restaurant. I tried contacting Rainforest Cafe but was told they couldn’t give me information ahead of time. However, I did read some promising allergy reviews of it on AllergyEats.
Ventures out from our hotel
I like the inexpensive and allergy-friendly options listed at Beaches and Cream Soda Shop and the restaurant is only a ferry-stop away from us, so that might make a fun evening adventure. It sounds like a small place, so I’ve been encouraged to get reservations. We also plan to walk along the Boardwalk and stop at the Boardwalk Bakery for some dairy-free brownie cupcakes from Erin McKenna. All the locations where her vegan products can be found are listed here.
I love this list of vegan offerings at Disney World put together by PETA. We’ll have to keep our eye out (and check ingredients) for the Mickey Pretzel and popcorn.
There are numerous grocery stores within 20 minutes of the park, including a Whole Foods which should have plenty of options for our complicated Bubba. You can also have groceries delivered right to your hotel through Orlando Grocery Express, Garden Grocer, or Amazon Pantry ($5.99 delivery fee per box for Prime members).