This week we have a guest post from Julie. She tells us about her recent trip, October 2016, to Disney World full of new foods for her!
A little while ago, I had the privilege of writing a guest post about my trip to Walt Disney World in July that was sadly cut quite short due to a family emergency. Before we even left the resort, however, my mom and I were already talking about reprising our trip as soon as we possibly could. We’d always wanted to go during October for the Food & Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, and so we made the reservations immediately. This was, by far, one of my most wonderful trips to the magical place on earth!
The first thing we did upon arriving on day 1 was get some lunch at Columbia Harbour House in Magic Kingdom. I ordered the chili with the oyster crackers on the side for my non-vegan mom as the crackers are not vegan. The chili is good (and oddly enough has olives in it), but if you’re not much of a snacker and wish to stay full, I would get two. They’re a little small for someone like me with a high metabolism who doesn’t snack much.
For dinner that night, we stayed in Magic Kingdom and went to Tony’s Town Square. It was very easy to just order the Primavera off the allergy-friendly menu, and yippee: the focaccia they bring for the table is vegan!
Day 2 took us to EPCOT. Tangerine Café in Morocco is my go-to lunch! They always seem to welcome vegans with enthusiasm.
For dinner, I braved one restaurant I’ve never seen any vegan mention visiting: San Angel Inn in the Mexico Pavillon. I didn’t know what to expect in a restaurant dedicated to a culture that places heavy emphasis on cheese, but I decided to go for it! Our waiter was a bit, brusque. He wasn’t very friendly and kept trying to make my dietary restrictions into simply an egg allergy. After a short wait, the manager escorted the chef out to speak to me. He was very friendly but a little stumped by my request. “No cheese?” he asked after a thoughtful pause. Nope, no cheese. But thankfully, he accepted the challenge. He mentioned a sautéed veggie dish as if it were part of some hidden menu, but he said he could sauté the veggies in soybean oil and mix those with some beans. I also inquired about the tortilla chips brought to every table, and he said the tortillas have no animal ingredients, but they’re fried in a shared fryer. What he presented for my meal was a tad different than discussed. It had the veggies but also what appeared to be refried black beans (presumably without animal fat, as he did understand I didn’t even eat the tortilla chips fried in the shared fryer). There were also two small tortillas buried under everything. If anyone else pays them a visit, it wouldn’t hurt to confirm the refried bean ingredients! The dish was very delicious, though, and I didn’t feel shortchanged at all.
Day 3 brought us to Hollywood Studios, notorious for its lack of vegan options. We snagged a table at Mama Melrose for lunch, and the chef confirmed that all the pastas and breads are vegan. So of course I devoured the bread they brought to the table! For my entrée, I had a simple bowl of pasta with marinara. Which was good, but not very exciting.
Dinner was 50s Prime Time Café, and I had the most delicious Toffuti milkshake ever! The only thing is it was very thin, so I went through it in no time. The waitress said you can get a non-dairy milkshake depending on the chef on duty; some will do it, and some won’t. Thankfully, Chef Eugene just asked if it was okay to give the equipment a little clean beforehand, and we were good to go! The chef was very stoic, but he was very open to my restrictions and said he’d give me the “Chef Special.” My waitress said she thinks he might actually be vegetarian or vegan since he whips up wonderful meatless meals. And it was delicious! A bed of noodles and veggies, topped with a grilled bell pepper stuffed with a savory mix of barley, quinoa, apple, dried fruit, and spices. It was divine. And the chef checked on me several times to see how I liked it. Now that’s service!
We went to Animal Kingdom for day 4. For lunch, I tried out Mr. Kamal’s and ordered the veggies, pita, and hummus, and the samosas. The hummus tasted kinda weird, but I ate it anyway. But the samosas are delicious (and tiny)! We also got Starbucks, iced coffee with almond milk, because it was super hot.
We stayed in Animal Kingdom for dinner and dined at Yak & Yeti Restaurant. The chef was very friendly, and she walked me through the options for me: either the vegetable lo mein with tofu, or the sweet and sour chicken with tofu. I opted for the sweet and sour tofu with brown rice, and it was sooo good! Plus, you get a fortune cookie after the meal, and all the vegan ingredients are listed on the wrapper!
Day 5, Food & Wine Festival in EPCOT for lunch! And a beverage seminar in between! The Food & Wine Festival had a few options for vegans this year. The obvious one was the Vegan Korean BBQ at South Korea. If you eat fake meat, it’s wonderful. The taste is great, and it’s a decent amount. I personally don’t like fake meat that much; I think the texture is weird. The flavor of the dish is still wonderful, though. There were also the “nachos” in Greece, which also used fake meat, with pita chips, olives, onion, tomato, and nut-based tzatziki sauce. It was a decent dish, but I probably wouldn’t get it again. But at least they’re trying!
I also got the chili edamame from Japan, which was good and drew a lot of attention from passers-by (and which was fun to eat with chopsticks!). Aside from that, there were tomatoes and Dole whips and things scattered around. I inquired with Morocco if I could get the hummus fries without the tzatziki sauce, but after a chat with the chef in Moroccan, the cast member told me the tzatziki sauce is mixed in the hummus. So that was a no-go.
One of the best parts of the trip was Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party! There are specialty foods sold during the party, but none are vegan. But never fear: you can go trick-or-treating with everyone else! Just pick up a teal bag when you start out, and at every station, they’ll give you a teal token that you redeem for candy at one of two stations. It may seem like everyone else is getting handfuls of candy and you’re only getting a measly token, but they make sure to give you handfuls of candy as well when you turn your tokens in. When you redeem your tokens, there’s a chart with five types of candy, and another box that says they also have non-food treats. For the candy, it lists the ingredients and the allergies each is safe for. However, they don’t account for vegans and vegetarians, so look out for gelatin in the lists. Three of the five candies were vegan (Smarties, Surf Sweets Organic Jelly Beans, and Enjoy Life BoomChocoBoom bars), and the cast member scooped handfuls into my bag! And I ate most of the candy that night and felt nauseous for the next 12 hours. Just like when I was a kid!
I have to describe the epicness of day 6. First, we had three FastPasses for the morning in Hollywood Studios. After we finished those, we took the boat to EPCOT. We ate at Sunshine Seasons where I got the vegan korma, which is very filling and really yummy! Then we went to Magic Kingdom, where we got three pictures taken and went on two rides. During the evening, we went to Kona at the Polynesian for dinner, and then took the bus down to Disney Springs. Purely epic day!
Anyway, dinner at Kona Cafe in Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Firstly, the bread they bring to the table isn’t vegan, but they do have allergy-friendly tapioca rolls and vegan butter. A tip for all: I never use the word vegan to describe my diet in Disney because so many don’t understand that. For example, the waiter at Kona took note of my “allergies” and started to suggest menu items, independently using the word vegan and recommending the steak in the same breath. I ordered the Pan-Asian noodles with tofu, swapping out the yakisoba noodles for rice noodles. Considering how simple the dish was, it was very flavorful and delicious. Plus, we had to get the Kona coffee. It’s expensive, but it’s smooth and sweet and heaven in a mug!
Then came Disney Springs, and I finally got to go to Erin McKenna’s! I had been dreaming about it for months! I couldn’t decide on one treat, so I got the French toastie cupcake and the Samoa donut. The donut was just okay, but the cupcake was amazing! The frosting is not like traditional frosting (it’s very dense, like cake frosting), but no less delicious! My mom got a mocha brownie cupcake also!
Day 7 brought lunch at Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom. I ordered two of the French onion soups off the allergy menu (which is easily accessible from the kiosk screen; no fuss at all). I got two since, well, it’s really just cooked onions in broth. It was fine—not very exciting or different. Just fine. If you order from the allergy menu, a manager brings your food out as well. And to console me for not being able to have the Master’s Cupcake with the grey stuff, I ordered the lemon sorbet, which is just frozen lemonade pretty much—almost too sweet, but still palatable and good.
Dinner was at Le Cellier in EPCOT. Of the breads they bring you before the meal, only the pretzel bread is vegan, so they brought me several of those, and they were very good, I inhaled them! After a talk with the chef, I was brought basically a plate of potatoes prepared in various ways. Purple potato mashed and spread across the plate, freshly fried potato chips, gnocchi, sautéed veggies, and sprouts to top it off. And it was phenomenal! I can’t tell you how good this plate of potatoes was (but for a steakhouse, I expect my food to be this delicious, whether I get a steak or not). And maple crème brulée has always been a staple dessert there, so while my mom got that, I got the strawberry-basil float, which I actually would have preferred to be just the sorbet because that was excellent by itself and unnecessary as a beverage.
The last day, we didn’t have traditional lunch because we went to a culinary demonstration, from Food & Wine, that featured vegetarian food. I could only have one of the two items prepared, as one not only had feta on top but it centered around eggplant battered in buttermilk. But the first dish was a roasted cauliflower in almond sauce, and I’m so glad they gave us the recipe, because it was so good! And there were quite a few people at this demo, and they were all asking questions and enjoying the food, and it really warmed my heart!
Dinner was Via Napoli in EPCOT. I was skeptical about eating there since I’ve seen everyone either have great or horrible experiences. When I explained my restrictions to the chef, however, I was very surprised when she said, “Basically vegan then?” She was ready to accommodate pretty much anything on the menu, but I was set on getting a pizza. So she said just to create my own and ask to leave off the cheese. Note: toppings are expensive. Like, $4 per topping. So I only got arugula and broccoli rabe. The crust was really showcased on my pizza since it had so few toppings, and it was divine! Bread has a special place in my heart.
Even though I’m not typically a snacker, I make exceptions in Disney. I had a Dole Whip for the first time! And it was heaven! I also had a Mickey pretzel for the first time! Additionally, I had an apple and Sabre hummus and pretzels in Hollywood Studios (the apple was a little over-ripe). I also grabbed some mixed berry sorbet in a waffle cone from Les Artisan de Glaces, which was alright (the waffle cone was the best part!). And I had Starbucks twice. And I got LeFou’s Brew after checking the ingredients in the allergy binder and found it’s 100% vegan!
This was absolutely one of the best trips I’ve ever taken to any Disney resort in the world (and that’s saying something!). So much great food, so many wonderful experiences, and so many amazing memories!
Thanks for sharing your experience with us Julie!
Guys just to warn you, the veggie chili at harbour house has milk powder in it 🙁 we double checked the ingredients list a couple days agold. Huge disappointment and really annoying.
Oh no! I wonder when they changed that? Are you sure it wasn’t just the crackers?
Generally I have a great experience with eating vegetarian and vegan at Disney. However, I have had three repeat bad experiences with Mama Melrose on three separate trips. I’m ready to write them off forever. I’ve tried different dishes there – either the explicitly vegetarian dish on the menu or a pasta with sauce that the server assured me was vegetarian. Every time I’ve gotten horribly sick and thrown up right afterwards. At first I thought it was a random bug but even giving them repeat visits and benefit of the doubt (and time – this is three visits in different seasons over 15 years), I’ve still had the same result. I suspect that it’s something like chicken broth in the pasta sauce or they do a very poor job of separating their pots and utensils between veg and non-veg.
I’ve not had this problem with any other restaurant in Disney. I’d encourage veg-friendly to stay away or maybe stick to the salads only.
Thanks for the thorough post!
I’d really love to have a discussion with someone(s) about Animal Kingdom. I’ve only been there twice. The first time I decided to allow myself to go, thinking as long as I didn’t go on the safari, it should be cool. The whole place was more of a zoo than I was expecting (talking about the animals, not the people.) And I was especially uncomfortable to find primates.
The second time I went I took the train up to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and along that route you can see some of the animal enclosures. They were smaller than I was hoping, and once again I felt really uncomfortable. I decided at that time to never go back.
Which for me is a shame as I love Disney so much, there are so many interesting things they are doing in that park. And Everest is my favorite ride!
I’m basically hoping someone can convince me that AK is morally acceptable. And just to be clear, I have no interest in convincing someone who is not me that it is unacceptable.
We often don’t respond to these comments as we want you to make the decision on being comfortable with animal kingdom on your own. But I will let you know that we did the Wild Africa Trek a few years ago, there is a post about it, and the cast members were very open about the animals. Not only does animal kingdom do tons of conservation work as well as education, but the animals are incredibly well taken care of. In regards to their enclosures, at night they will do the different calls for the animals, if they do not feel like going inside at night they cast members do not force them. I recommend going again and speaking with some cast members as it may help you feel better. Additionally there is a post on the Veg Disney Facebook group about a couple women who went and did the dine with an animal specialist at Sanaa and had a great experience.
Thanks for your thoughts. I will go and review the suggested articles.