The Disney Chronicles: Dining out with 3 food-allergic children – Day 5
Allergy-Friendly Dining at Animal Kingdom and Epcot
Whether you’re taking the little ones through Dino-Land at Animal Kingdom or looking for a nice, sit-down meal at EPCOT, I’ve got two excellent recommendations to share today!
Breakfast… yada yada yada… cereal, yogurt… we’ve been through this.
We spent the morning and early afternoon at Animal Kingdom today and worked up quite an appetite. Just as my older kids were ready to break off from the pack for Everest, leaving the little ones with me in Dino-Land, we decided to stop for lunch at a nice, quick-serve restaurant called Restaurantosaurus.
Restaurantosaurus, like the Comic Strip Cafe at Universal (from Day 3), is the kind where you walk in, line up at a register, place your order and pay at the cashier, and then pick up your meals at the front as they’re delivered on trays.
As I said on Day 3, this type of restaurant doesn’t usually inspire confidence in me – but I may have to change my tune after today!
What a great experience! As soon as we walked in, I mentioned to the greeter that we had food allergies in the family. Without blinking, she asked us to go to the first lane where they would be able to answer all our questions and take care of us. The manager, Alex (from St.Louis), came out with binder in hand, ready to help immediately.
First, nuts. They are only in desserts and will not be near our food. Check. Next, the oil in the fryers. It’s canola oil and thus safe for my 2 nut-allergic children. HOWEVER, given the chance of cross-contamination with dairy from chicken nuggets, which could trigger a reaction in my middle son, Alex decided he would fry ALL our fries (in case any get mixed up) in a special “allergy” fryer. That gets 2 thumbs up!
But it gets better. My middle son wanted a kids hamburger meal. Alex immediately noted that the kids hamburger buns have dairy in them; however, the adult burger buns do not. So we agreed to have the kids burger on the adult bun. Now generally we don’t need to inquire about sesame seeds on the buns because we’ll see them, but I did ask in this case. Good thing! While there weren’t sesame seeds ON the buns, Alex whipped open the book to the ingredients and I noticed sesame seeds IN the buns. Turns out they were whole grain. (We would’ve caught this anyway, but how much better it was to find out from the start – please consider this a good lesson). However, once again Alex came to the rescue with tapioca buns that were dairy-free and I believe he said gluten-free as well.
But wait, there’s more! THIS is service! Once we worked out what my kids could eat, Alex walked over to the cashier and helped her enter the information. We then placed the rest of the family’s order. Alex quickly brought out the drinks and told us to find a table – he would take care of everything. He personally oversaw the cooking process, brought the food out to us himself (making sure we knew exactly what was what), and came back again to check that everything came out alright.
Outstanding service! And all this from a quick-serve restaurant! Alex, you get HUGE kudos from me! Show your boss this and demand a raise!
Could dinner surpass this experience? Maybe not surpass it, but we had another nice, safe meal.
We went back to EPCOT to dine at another “country.” I wasn’t about to consider our disappointing experience at “Mexico” (Day 3) the standard for EPCOT’s countries. So tonight it was “Italy” – Via Napoli to be exact.
As we were seated, we mentioned our food allergies to the host. Immediately, a manager was sent over who took good care of us. Fernando (from Westbury, NY) answered all our questions knowledgeably and confidently. There would be no nuts near our children’s food. There was plenty of non-egg-based pasta if we chose that for our baby girl (though we ended up breaking off tiny bits of pizza for her). And as for our middle son’s dairy allergy, the spaghetti was obviously fine, but the meatballs weren’t. Further, the bread was from an outside source and Fernando was not comfortable enough to assure us, so we simply kept that away. No loss.
We had an excellent meal… and our two food-allergic boys even had seconds! I would throw in one important cautionary note, however. As one AllergyEats Blog reader commented after my “Mexico” experience, a lot of the wait staff are from the foreign countries represented by the various lands in EPCOT. Tonight, our waiter was an Italian native. His English wasn’t great and, despite my Italian heritage, I had some trouble with his accent (though this was all made much more difficult by the VERY loud atmosphere in Via Napoli). We had some communications problems which led to a wrong meal being brought out and another forgotten (unrelated to food allergies). In fairness, though, I think the problem was more on my end than the waiter’s, though he was gracious to an extreme and resolved everything almost instantaneously (and yes, he got a good tip!). The bottom line here, however, is that I highly recommend you review the allergy orders more than once! Unless you speak fluent Italian, it is prudent to take the extra minute.
So there you have it – TWO positive recommendations for you! What do you think? A quick serve that can be that helpful? A safe “country” meal? I’m curious if any of you have dined at these locations and have had similar or differing experiences. Whether you have or haven’t, please share your thoughts by clicking Reply below. I believe readers of this blog are getting as much out of the fantastic and enlightening comments from fellow readers as from my own scribblings. I know I am!
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As a side note, to the woman who so enthusiastically embraced our site after seeing my father in his AllergyEats T-shirt, yes – a T-shirt is coming your way!
Tomorrow: Typhoon Lagoon midday and once again back to EPCOT for dinner and late-night fun. I won’t say which EPCOT restaurant just yet – don’t want to tip anyone there off! Find out tomorrow morning.