The following amazing AllergyEats Blog entry was submitted by Candace Timpte, reviewing her family’s wonderful experience at Disney World. I’ve been getting a lot of inquiries about Disney World lately, so this review is incredibly timely, and Candace’s writing makes it an even more enjoyable read. Thank you Candace for taking the time to write this terrific post! [NOTE: I've taken the liberty of bolding certain parts that were of particular interest.]
Our family of four successfully spent four days in June 2013 eating at Disney with food allergies and dining at mostly quick counter meals. Our 15 year old son, M1, is allergic to milk, eggs, nuts, peanuts, fish, shellfish and sesame. Our 9 year old daughter, M2, has no food allergies. We didn’t want to be tied down to multiple restaurant reservations yet still had great success! Everyone was pleasant and happy to help us; I felt confident that the allergy food was prepared carefully and correctly at every venue. The only drawback is that we did have to wait at each venue for a manager to appear and had a short wait while the food was prepared but the wait was worth the convenience of not cooking and the joy of my son dining out with the family.
Day 1: Magic Kingdom
We arrived at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and were pleased to find that we could check in early! We chose the Lodge as each room is provided with a small refrigerator, just in case we needed to cook, and besides, we loved taking the little boats to the Magic Kingdom. We unpacked the cooler and since it was lunchtime, had a big snack in the room, then headed for the Magic Kingdom. Disney now allows all guests to bring in food and bottles of water, according to one of the security guards who searched my bags. (All bags are searched at the entrance to each Disney park. No one troubled me about the small soft-sided lunchbox stuffed with snacks, although one guard wanted to actually see the Epi-Pens.) After enjoying a couple of rides, everyone was hungry, but not for a whole meal.
We stopped at a food cart across from Pecos Bill Tavern and grabbed a smoked turkey leg, allergy safe. Here’s a tip, snag plenty of napkins too!! It’s messy but so much fun to feel like Fred Flintstone ripping meat off the giant bone. With a bag of chips and a drink, the leg was enough food to keep us happy until dinner.
Around dinnertime, we were in FutureWorld to eat at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. At the ordering register, I notified the cast member of the food allergy order and waited for a manager. Food service managers now have small yellow notebooks to record the name of the guest with a check-off sheet listing the eight major allergens (not sesame) and space for recording special orders. M1 wanted a burger and fries. The manager explained that the dedicated allergy fryer was down, so fries could not be provided. However, the other fryers are dedicated for fries but use the same filter at the end of the night for the oils used to fry other things and might have cross contamination. With that comprehensive explanation in hand, we declined on the fries. Cosmic Ray’s provides gluten dairy and egg free buns, but M1 doesn’t like them, so I had our own bun handy. After a short wait, M1 had his burger and we all enjoyed our meals.
Later, as the lights in the Magic Kingdom went on, we craved ice cream. The Plaza Tower Ice Cream shop on Main Street serves scoops of Tofutti ice cream! The manager sweetly assured me that she would put on fresh gloves and use a clean scooper to scoop M1′s double scoop of vanilla Tofutti. They had only chocolate and vanilla to choose from, but it was the first time that he had ever had a treat at an ice cream shop! Happiness. Little sister was in heaven enjoying her big scoops while her brother enjoyed his. (Note: she is always careful to wash her hands after consuming unsafe food for him. She’s an amazing little sister.)
Day 2: EPCOT
We had brought along breakfast foods to get our days off to a smooth, quick start. Here I must confess that I actually brought along a toaster to heat up bagels and waffles for the family. It worked wonderfully with everyone having their usual breakfast from home.
We caught the bus to EPCOT and enjoyed the morning at the park. Our daughter is crazy about pasta and really wanted pasta for lunch. Thus, our lunch strategy involved M2 and Dad stopping by Italy to get some pasta, then joining me and M1 at Liberty Square where they serve burgers and AllergyFree brand chicken nuggets. As I waited for the manager, M1 decided that he really wanted a burger again, so we didn’t try the chicken. However, the dedicated allergy fryer produced some lovely fries. Again, they did have an allergy free bun, but I had packed our own. As we ate, a drum and fife corps all in period costume entered the dining room and played several songs ending with a sing along of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. A surprise at every corner at Disney! Lunch was delicious and dining helped us avoid a little rainstorm.
Later, for snack, we found Edy’s Fruit bars from a vending cart.
Late in the afternoon, we returned to the Wilderness Lodge to play in the pool. We decided we were tired of counter service meals and wanted to dine at the Whispering Canyon Cafe. Reservations are recommended and we had none, but when I asked, they do seat walk-ins, even food allergy walk-ins. I checked with the desk at 5:00 and by 5:15 we were being seated. Chef Junior came to our table after much delay, because he was also working with a table with four different food allergy individuals. He and M1 quickly decided on a menu of steamed corn and herb baked chicken. M2 was thrilled with her meaty mac and cheese, so much that when Chef Junior came out to check on M1′s meal, he sent her another serving! By the way, even if you don’t need it, you need ketchup at the Whispering Canyon Cafe, trust me on this. It was a fun dining experience and I was confident that we were in good hands with Chef Junior. We had cookies from home for dessert in our room.
Day 3: Animal Kingdom
After breakfast in our room, we headed for the Animal Kingdom. Mid morning, the kids snacked on Edy’s frozen fruit bars from a snack cart. We proceeded to the Restaurantosaurus for lunch after getting a delicious Asian noodle salad from a food cart for M2, our resident pasta lover. Once again, after a slight wait for the manager and her yellow tablet, and a slight wait for food, we found careful attention to food allergies and food preparation. Although Restaurantosaurus has the AllergyFree brand chicken nuggets, M1 again requested a burger and fries, which were excellent. We left the Animal Kingdom early because we had reservations for the Hoop Dee Doo Review that night.
The Hoop Dee Doo is at the Frontier Hall at Fort Wilderness Campground and is a wild-west style musical review. Chef Jonathan came to our table to discuss menu options with M1. Happily many of the menu items were safe. M1 had a salad with vinegar and oil (I think other salads come with ranch dressing), steamed corn (no butter), and the same cowboy beans, fried chicken, and BBQ ribs as everyone else! For dessert, we had a platter of sliced strawberries instead of the shortcake with whipped cream served to other parties, but I think our strawberries were better! M1 was in heaven and chowed down on the fried chicken and ribs. We all whooped and hollered and twirled our napkins with everyone else-no food allergy restrictions there!
Day 4: Magic Kingdom
Again, breakfast in our room; toasting bagels or waffles gets everyone off to a great start. We arrived at the Magic Kingdom in time to see the opening show, which was so much fun!
We had an early lunch at Cosmic Ray’s, see day 1. M1 had his usual burger (he is a teen, after all!) with fries this time. The manager explicitly told me that the allergy fryer was working and apologized that it was not working on the previous visit. Again, I felt comfortable that the food allergy order was processed carefully. The safe food was hot and delicious! By the way, allergy safe food comes out of the window on a different color tray than regular food and is carefully watched all along. Watch for the singing and dancing trash can around the corner from Cosmic Rays!
In the afternoon, the kids snacked on frozen Minute Maid Lemonade and Strawberry from a snack cart; the adults had fresh fruit.
Once again we headed back to the Wilderness Lodge to relax by the pool and refresh for an evening return to enjoy the lights of the Magic Kingdom. We decided to try the counter service at the Lodge, the Roaring Fork Cafe. Once again, the manager using the familiar yellow tablet handled the food allergies carefully and I was confident that his dinner was safe. The food was delicious and we all wished we had dined there earlier. They have Kikkoman chocolate soy milk which we all think tastes like ice cream! M1 had this and was thrilled with his meal and the relaxed, uncrowded atmosphere.
That evening at the Magic Kingdom, we once again heard the siren call of ice cream and again had wonderful service from the manager at the Plaza Towers Ice Cream shop, wearing gloves and delivering Tofutti with a flourish.
Day 5: Checking out and leaving
Sadly this was our last morning at Disney and M1 had really wanted to try the pancakes. The night before at the Wilderness Lodge Roaring Fork Cafe, I chatted with the manager who assured me that they used Namaste pancake mix and apple juice (not even soymilk for the batter!) for their allergy guests and the cafe had a waffle maker and griddle dedicated to allergy only. In the morning, after a brief wait, the manager appeared and knew that we were coming (thanks for the good communication, night manager!) and ordered up a stack of allergy safe pancakes and bacon for my son. He was delighted when the food arrived and was gorgeous and delicious. The manager sent out real maple syrup as a little bonus. I had waffles shaped like little Mickeys-they were adorable. It was a happy last breakfast!
Dining at counter service is another option for food allergy folks at Disney. With a little advanced preparation to know what dining options are available at each venue, you can have the freedom of eating when you’re hungry and not making reservations for every meal. All together, every cast member and manager we encountered was genuinely concerned about making sure that an allergy safe meal was provided. I felt confident at each venue that the food was safe, what a joy!
Again, thank you Candace for such an amazing review and great tips! I’m of course also thankful that you shared these same reviews on our AllergyEats Disney World website.
So many of us have had great food allergy dining experiences at Disney. Anyone want to add their own thoughts and comments to what Candace shared above? Any other comments about counter service dining in particular? Please use the Reply box below. (And we’re always grateful when one of our community members wants to share their stories via a blog entry like Candace did. Feel free to contact us with a possible submission at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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