Sunshine Seasons, a Vegan’s Paradise

Being vegan in an omnivore world often means we’re lucky if there is one item at a restaurant for us to eat. Disney World does a great job catering to those with special dietary needs, vegan or not. One of our favorite places to grab lunch while in Disney World is Sunshine Seasons in The Land pavilion at Epcot. Not only do we have one option to eat here straight off the menu, but we have several grab and go options too.

Asian Menu
Asian Noodles Menu

When you enter The Land pavilion and head down stairs you’ll find Sunshine Seasons. There are large boards at the entrance that showcase the menu items from each station. Sunshine Seasons is set up much like a school cafeteria. Once you decide where you want to get food from you walk up to the chef and make your request.

Sandwich Menu
Sandwich Menu

Not only are there several food stations but there are two other places you should check while in Sunshine Seasons. There is a ‘Special Dietary Treats’ section that is full of vegan friendly desserts like Enjoy Life cookies and brownies. These are great additions if you are on the dining plan, or if you just want something sweet.

Special Dietary Treats
Special Dietary Treats

Located in one of the coolers near the Asian Noodles station is several grab and go vegan options such as a Taboulle Pin Wheel, Vegetable Sushi, Silk Soy Milk, Veggie Wrap and a Vegetarian Entree with Tabouleh, Hummus and Pitas.

Vegetarian Entree
Vegetarian Entree
Vegetable Sushi Roll
Vegetable Sushi Roll
Veggie Wrap
Veggie Wrap
Silk Soy Milk
Silk Soy Milk

We typically go to the Asian Noodles section and get the Tamrind Vegan Beef. When you go up and order you just simply ask for the vegan beef, this item is completely vegan as is. The other fresh food option is at the Sandwich station. Here you can get the Oak-grilled Vegetable Sandwich without the feta cheese or the hummus as it contains dairy.

Asian Noodle Station
Asian Noodle Station

When you have succesfully filled your tray with too much food you head to the cashier. Make sure your cashier is aware that it is the vegan beef and not the real beef as the beef entree is $3.50 more than the vegan entree. We were once charged for the meat entree and were able to get a refund when we noticed.

Tamrind Vegan Beef with Jasmine Rice
Tamrind Vegan Beef with Jasmine Rice

The vegan beef used in the Tamrind Vegan Beef meal is Gardein Beef-Less Tips. The beef is mildly spicy but the rice helps cool it down if you don’t like spicy foods. The Tamrind Beef is full of mushrooms, carrots, snow peas and topped with scallions.

Tamrind Vegan Beef beauty shot
Tamrind Vegan Beef beauty shot

The texture of the beef-less tips isn’t mushy but also isn’t totally firm. Many meat eaters would enjoy this dish as it is full of flavor and pretty cheap! Another benefit of this meal is it’s pretty filling, which is helpful when you’re walking 8 miles a day through the parks. This is one of our go to meals while in Epcot.

Vegetarian Entree

We recently tried the Vegetarian Entree which has pita bread, tabouleh, couscous, hummus and a roasted red pepper puree. The couscous wasn’t as good as other couscous on property, like Tangierine Cafe or Tusker House. The tabouleh was my favorite part of this platter, Corey ate pretty much all of the hummus and pitas.

Sunshine Seasons is an excellent option for vegans who want an inexpensive meal. There is plenty of meals, snacks and desserts to choose from. Make sure to check with a chef to see if the soup of the days is vegan as another option as well. When we were there in May 2014 there was a delicious seasonal vegan option at the dessert case that was a Cinnamon Raisin Rice Pudding that was also gluten free. There is also beer and fresh fruit available.

Would we go back? Always! Easy, quick and delicious!

Price: $

Cheers,
Melissa & Corey

What’s your favorite item from Sunshine Seasons?

Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria

Generally when people think about authentic Italian food they think about pizza. So naturally one of the two restaurants in Epcot’s Italy pavilion is a pizza place. We have often talked about going to Via Napoli but have heard both good and bad experiences. We decided to check it out for ourselves in November of 2014.

Italy Pavilion with Via Napoli in the back
Italy pavilion with Via Napoli in the back

We decided have lunch at Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria, the restaurant like many in Epcot opens at 11:30. We checked in around 11:20 for our 11:30 reservation and were seated a few minutes after 11:30. There were a lot of people waiting after we checked in so if you have an opening reservation make sure to check in early so you can be seated right away.

Inside Via Napoli
Inside Via Napoli

The restaurant was really interesting. and very open. The light throughout the restaurant made it feel like we were sitting in the countryside of Italy. There is a large center table that leads to the wood burning ovens for the pizzas. There is also a small patio area that would be really enjoyable in the evening. Unfortunately Via Napoli is tucked in the back of the Italy pavilion so there is no good views of Illuminations.

Once we were seated we mentioned to the waiter about our vegan diet. We ordered drinks and a few minutes later the manager came over instead of a chef. He told us we could get a pizza without the cheese and didn’t mention anything else that we could get. He then left and the waiter came back to take our order. We ordered the Capriciossa Pizza, which is topped with eggplant, artichokes, prosciutto and mushrooms. We obviously removed the prosciutto and cheese and also added olives. The pizza is $31 for a large, which serves 2-3 people, the additional topping is $3.50. Other vegan toppings you can get include broccoli rabe, onions, arugula, red peppers, zucchini and diced tomatoes.

Topping options
Additional toppings

One of the reasons we never came here before was the price, this is not a cheap pizza. You can also order a salad but it is a large family style salad. This means it is priced per person and you have to have at least 2 people who want the salad. The salad is $7 per person. We have also heard of other vegans getting pasta here, so if you prefer pasta I would ask when you speak to a chef or manager.

Aqcua Frescas
Acqua Frescas

We both ordered the Acqua Frescas for our drinks, one blood orange and one strawberry. They were very light and full of flavor. We both agreed that the strawberry was better. If you’re looking for a refreshing non alcoholic or carbonated drink you should definitely try these.

Melissa with pizza
Melissa with pizza

Since we were just eating pizza we opted for a large, this thing was huge! There is 8 slices for a large pizza.

{oizza tom
Vegan Capricossa pizza detail

The dough was really good and super soft in the right way. It was definitely thin but with a full crust on the edge. The bottom of the pizza had that smoky wood-fired pizza flavor that just adds an extra flavor boost. The sauce was obviously house made with visible tomato seeds. We felt the sauce was a bit bland, if we go again I will ask for extra sauce to make up for the lack of cheese as the pizza felt pretty dry.

Vegan Capriciossa Pizza,
Vegan Capriciossa Pizza

The vegetables on the pizza were perfectly seasoned and cooked just right. I could have just eaten a bowl of the eggplant the way it was cooked. We got about two slices in each before we realized there were no olives. It was too late at that point to say something to our waiter so we just hoped that they didn’t put it on our bill. All in all this pizza was pretty good, we just wish there had been more sauce. This was probably the most authentic Italian pizza I have had outside of pizza in Italy.

We both felt like this would be a better experience with a larger party so you can get multiple pizzas. Even though the pizza was huge we both ended up being hungry relatively soon after eating because we really just ate thin dough and a small amount of vegetables. We felt that the price of the pizza was a bit much for a cheese-less non filling pie. The olives were not added onto the bill so if you are adding specific toppings to an existing pizza make sure you confirm it with whoever takes your order before they head to the kitchen.

Would we go back?
Yes, we would probably go back if we were with other people, but for now we’re going to stick to our quick service pizza options.

Price?
$$$

Cheers,
Melissa & Corey

 

Have you eaten at Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria? What were your favorite toppings?

Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Cafe

When you’re looking for a quick service option in Disney’s Magic Kingdom park you’re most likely to pick one near where you are at the time. Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn & Cafe (Pecos Bill’s for short) is a quick service restaurant located in Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom. Pecos Bill’s offers burgers, BBQ and chicken sandwiches. Luckily they also offer a Vegetable Burger that happens to be vegan! They use a Gardenburger® Malibu burger patty which is made from organic corn, carrots, onions, green pepper and whole grains.

Menu board
Menu board

The Gardenburger®  Malibu Burger is the patty offered off the menu and is vegan as is. Unfortunetly the bun they use contains honey, so if this is something you don’t eat you can ask for the allergy free gluten free bun which doesn’t contain eggs. There are two gluten free buns and one is not vegan. Be sure to check the allergy booklet to ensure your bun is egg free. We talked to an allergy specialist when we ate here in November 2014 who offered to cook our burgers on a separate grill. It took a little longer because of this, but at least we didn’t have any beef burger juice on our patties!

Cold options at topping bar
Cold options at topping bar

Pecos Bill’s has a toppings bar to make your meal your own. There are sautéed onions and mushrooms that are cooked in oil as well as tomatoes, lettuce, raw onions, banana peppers and pickles.

Warm options at topping bar
Warm options at topping bar

Sometimes navigating the toppings bar can be a bit of an issue because of a large tray and crowds of people trying to get toppings on their plates. There is also a stand with pumps for ketchup and mustard, but if you’re going to be on the go with your food there is a stand available with packets of ketchup as well. The toppings bar is included so be sure to load up!

Veggie burger plate
Veggie burger plate

Our plates were pretty small but they loaded the fries on there. Unfortunately every time we have eaten at Pecos Bill’s our fries have been cold, like really cold. If you don’t want to get fries you can get apple slices instead. The burger is really just okay. Neither of us really like Pecos Bill’s but when Tortuga Tavern is closed we usually end up here. The burger at Cosmic Ray’s Cafe is also a Gardenburger® Malibu burger is you happen to be in Tomorrowland.

Close up of veggie burger
Close up of veggie burger

It seems like no matter what toppings we put on the burgers they just aren’t flavorful at all, burger and toppings included. Corey usually loads his burger up with all of the toppings he can and can’t differentiate any flavors while eating his burger. I was able to taste some of the veggie burger this trip but I wouldn’t buy these at home.

Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Cafe is a good option if you’re in need of a filling meal from a quick service while visiting Magic Kingdom. It isn’t one of our favorites but we still usually eat here each trip. It’s a cheap option and will keep you full for a while.

Would we go back?
Yes, reluctantly.

Price?
$

Cheers,
Melissa & Corey

Tonga Toast at Kona Cafe

Many people often forget abut eating in a resort restaurant while in Disney World. Kona Cafe is an often overlooked restaurant in Disney’s Polynesian resort. When most people think breakfast at the Poly they immediately think of the character breakfast at ‘Ohana. But Kona Cafe is not one to be skipped. It is located on the second floor of the Polynesian resort, just inside from the monorail ramp. Kona Cafe is an open wall restaurant so it’s very easy to see when you come inside.

We had heard of a Kona Cafe staple called the Tonga Toast which is why we went. Tonga Toast is french toast coated in cinnamon sugar and stuffed with bananas. Since this is such a popular item in Disney World we had heard of people getting it made vegan, so we were determined to do the same.

Inside Kona Cafe
Inside Kona Cafe

When we arrived we told our server of our vegan diet and requested to speak to a chef. When the chef came out she told us of our options which generically includes the Gluten Free Vegan Mickey Waffles and a fruit plate with a substituted item for banana bread. We mentioned something about a tofu stir-fry we had seen others get but she didn’t recommend it for breakfast, the stir-fry consists of potatoes, tofu, veggies and a gluten free teriyaki sauce (doesn’t sound too appealing for breakfast to me personally). Since she didn’t mention it, we politely asked about the Tonga Toast. She said she didn’t know if they could do it since it typically has an egg wash before being fried. She asked us to wait while she checked in the back to see if she could make it vegan.

When she returned she said she could try and make it by soaking the bread in soy milk before frying. We were so happy to hear she was going to at least try to make us Tonga Toast. Since Tonga Toast typically comes with a strawberry compote that contains sour cream, we substituted it for maple syrup. The meal also comes with a meat side so we requested potatoes. The chef left then quickly came back to ask us if we are okay with shared fryers as she was going to put ours in the same fryer as the normal Tonga Toast. If this is something you don’t do, then I don’t think you would be able to get Tonga Toast.

Joeffry's Kona Coffee Blend
Joffrey’s 100% Kona Coffee

Kona Cafe is known for their 100% Kona Coffee that is supplied by Joffrey’s coffee. We ordered some Kona Coffee with a French Press. Our server came back with it and brought us soy milk for our coffee without us even asking for it, yay!

Corey with his Tonga Toast
Corey with his Tonga Toast

Our plates came out and I did not expect the Tonga Toast to be so big!

View from above
View from above

The bread used for the Tonga Toast is sourdough and it is sliced open to be stuffed with bananas.

Beauty shot of Tonga Toast
Beauty shot of Tonga Toast

We covered our Tonga Toast’s in syrup and dug right in. The outside was so crispy from being fried and the inside was soft and absolutely delicious. The bananas were thinly sliced and added a bit of a extra sweetness to the inside of the toast. I don’t think I would have liked it as much with a strawberry compote, the syrup added some needed moisture to the dish. The cinnamon sugar on the outside added an extra crunch as well as sweet flavor to the bread.

Middle of the Tonga Toast
Middle of the Tonga Toast

The Tonga Toast was a bit hard to eat due to it’s size, but we were both willing to accept the challenge. Since the bread was so tall you had to keep cutting it down to be able to actually eat it. I was a little skeptical at first with the bread being sourdough since it typically has such a strong flavor, but you couldn’t even tell. The sweetness of the cinnamon sugar and the bananas over powered any sort of flavor the sourdough may have had.

Breakfast potatoes
Breakfast potatoes

We were given bowls of breakfast potatoes as our side and these were probably the best breakfast potatoes I’ve ever had. They had a strong flavor of rosemary and were perfectly crispy. We could have gotten fruit as our side but I wanted something savory to go with what I assumed would be a sweet dish. This was the most filling breakfast I have ever had in Walt Disney World.

Vegan Tonga Toast
Vegan Tonga Toast

Tonga Toast was everything we had ever hoped it to be and I am so thankful we were able to get it. I don’t think we would have been able to enjoy it had we not asked the chef. I have noticed that many of the items people are able to get made vegan in Disney only happen because they simply asked the chef and didn’t just eat what the chef had suggested. I can’t guarantee that you will be able to get Tonga Toast because it depends on the chef. We were lucky to have a chef willing to work with us so if you go to Kona Cafe in hopes of getting Tonga Toast just ask your chef if they can make it by soaking in soy milk instead of the egg wash. We hope you can enjoy Tonga Toast on your next trip!

Would we go back?
Yes! This was the best breakfast we have ever had in Disney World.

Price?
$$

Cheers,
Melissa & Corey

What’s your favorite breakfast from Disney World? Tell us in the comments!

Trail’s End, a Chef TJ Experience

If you’ve looked into eating vegan in Walt Disney World you may have seen the name Chef TJ pop up. If you don’t know who he is you will be very excited to find out. Chef TJ used to work at 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian but has recently (as of fall 2014) moved to Trail’s End at the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds. Chef TJ is known for creating elaborate multi course vegan meals for guests visiting Disney World. When we found out he had moved we made sure to set up a reservation so we could personally try his food. We picked an excellent day to do so, Melissa’s birthday!

Take Fort Wilderness boat from Magic Kingdom

Trail’s End is tucked away at the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds next to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ. We spent our day at the Magic Kingdom so that we could just take a boat over to Fort Wilderness for dinner. There are several boat docks outside of the Magic Kingdom so make sure you find the Resort Launch that specifies Fort Wilderness. Try to give yourself plenty of time to get to the restaurant as the boats only come every half hour. Our boat stopped at the Wilderness Lodge first which isn’t typical of the route. We gave ourselves over an hour to get there so we could check out the resort. We arrived at the boat dock around 5:00, we got on the boat by 5:15 and docked at Fort Wilderness by 5:45. If you are not at Magic Kingdom and have a reservation at Trail’s End I suggest taking a Fort Wilderness bus from where you are, once you get to Fort Wilderness you will need to take an internal bus to Settlement Depot where Trail’s End is located, or you can take a cab. According to our waitress many people are unaware of the boats and it takes them almost two hours to get there by buses.

Interior of Trail’s End

Once we checked in I made sure to remind the hostess again of our “allergy” to make sure the server was aware. Once we were seated our waitress asked about our “allergy” and we told her of our vegan diet. She then told us she would grab a chef to show us what we can eat on the buffet. After about 15 minutes Chef TJ came out from the back and we got very excited, we were worried it was one of those days he wasn’t there! He showed us the buffet, all that was vegan was a few salads, baked potato without any toppings and fruit. He assured us that we would not leave hungry and to give him a few minutes to bring out our first dish.

We decided to grab a small plate of salad because we weren’t totally sure how much food he was going to make for the two of us and we wanted to try what was offered. Chef TJ also caters to the diners Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue next door so we weren’t sure how long each plate was going to take.

Spring Rolls with Sweet and Sour Sauce
Spring Rolls with Spicy Mustard

Our first plate was Spring Rolls with Spicy Mustard and Sweet and Sour Sauce. These little spring rolls were absolutely delicious. The spicy mustard was the perfect amount of hot in your nose and the sweet and sour complimented the rolls really well. They were very crunchy and left me wanting about 10 more of them.We both felt he could have put more spicy mustard on there because we wanted more of the flavor. There was a perfect amount of sweet and sour on the other half.  In the middle was a salad with arugula that at first was very sweet then had a strong kick of spicy mid-way through.

Coconut Curry soup with Spicy Buns

Our next plate was Coconut Curry Chowder with Spicy Buns. He gave us both our own plates with a bowl of soup and two buns, we both really loved the soup. It was was very sweet from the coconut but then had a hot spice at the end. The soup was full of edamame, corn, red pepper and onion. We both would have been content with just this soup for dinner, it was that good.

Spicy Buns close up

The spicy buns were essentially hamburger buns with vegan cheese slices, caramelized onions and balsamic. I wasn’t very impressed with this item. The cheese had gotten that weird cooled texture that I never like with vegan cheese and I couldn’t really taste the balsamic. Corey seemed to enjoy his buns more than I did. There were a few spicy bites in the buns, he may have thrown some jalapeños in there. One thing we had noticed in these two dishes so far, Chef TJ likes to make it spicy!

Stuffed Poblano Pepper

After we had finished our soup and buns he came out with a third plate. This was a Stuffed Poblano Pepper with Peach Jam and Balsamic Ketchup. This dish came out with one for each of us like the soup dish before it. The peppers were stuffed with rice and black eyed peas that weren’t very flavorful. This may have been one of the spiciest dishes I have ever had! I ended up just eating the filling of the pepper and cooling down with the jam. Corey mixed his rice in with the balsamic ketchup and said his was still very spicy. There was a garnish of salted rosemary on the plate that also helped us to cool down our mouths. Chef TJ came out after this dish and I told him how spicy it was, he felt really bad for how hot he had made it and said he would tame down the other dishes. (You mean theres more?!)

Crispy Tofu with Tempura

Our fourth plate was Crispy Tofu with Tempura Vegetables. The tofu was my favorite part of this dish, it seemed to have the sweet and sour and spicy mustard sauces on it that were also part of the spring roll dish. It was nice and crispy all over, I could have eaten a whole plate of just the tofu. The tempura vegetables were really good but could have had a little less breading on it. Corey seemed to really enjoy the tempura. Neither of us ate too many of the vegetables on the plate because at this point we both felt like beach balls.

Barbacue Potatoes

While we were eating the tempura and tofu Chef TJ came out with a fifth plate, Barbecued Potatoes. At first I thought this sounded really strange but man these were delicious. The potatoes were cooked perfectly and weren’t too hard or too mushy. They seemed to have been grilled and were coated in a sweet BBQ sauce. He made sure they weren’t too spicy for us too.

Tower of dessert

After we had finally eaten as much as we could from those plates Chef TJ came back out to bring us dessert. We couldn’t help but laugh when we saw these impossible-to-eat towers sitting in front of us. The base was an apple with preserved strawberries to hold up the stick. Throughout our tower of dessert was a mini chocolate cake, strawberries, bananas, coconut ice cream and ice cream sandwiches. Some how both of us managed to have enough room to eat pretty much the entire tower, except for what had fallen off while trying to disassemble it.

All of the food we ate

This was an absolutely incredible experience. All of the food was delicious and I had never eaten so much food at once. We both really enjoy spicy food and most of these dishes were pretty hot. If you don’t like spicy food I suggest mentioning that to Chef TJ when you first meet with him.

Since this is a buffet Chef TJ didn’t let us feel left out in the stuffing our faces that a buffet provides. Our reservation began at 6:45 and we did not leave Trail’s End until 9:30. We were there so long that the table next to us seated three groups while we were there. If you plan on coming here for Chef TJ make sure you give yourself a few hours to eat. One benefit to us being there so late is that we were able to catch the Electrical Water Pageant from the boat dock.

Melissa with Chef TJ

Chef TJ told us that he does not work Friday’s or Saturday’s. Since he does the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue he said that the bad times to see him are between 4:30-5:00, 6:15-6:50 and 8:30-9:00 as these are during the seating times of the show. The buffet is reasonably priced, about $25 per adult, and I have been told that the non-vegan options are great. We both highly suggest going here and experiencing a meal from Chef TJ. Just make sure you wear some yoga pants!

Would we go back?
YES YES A MILLION TIMES YES! Can you tell we liked it? But really, go!

Price:
$$

Cheers,
Melissa & Corey