The Disney Chronicles: Dining out with 3 food-allergic children – Day 6
Only one recommendation today, but it’s a) another positive experience, b) another popular restaurant, and c) another place you might be surprised can be food allergy-friendly!
Once again, health took a bit of a back seat to play today (please ignore the trend here). Given an early dinner planned for 4:30, this was kind of a two-meal day. (A word to the wise, if you haven’t heard already: you must book Disney dining months in advance – we made reservations 2 months ago and still had a 4:30 dinner yesterday with an 8:20 tonight!)
After the usual in-room breakfast of cereal and yogurt, it was time to head over to Typhoon Lagoon.
Quick sidetrack, since I only have one restaurant review today. This is the 4th time I’ve been to Disney in my life. Every time I’ve gone, I’ve spent at least one day at one of the two water parks – Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach. I must say that these are the hidden gems of Disney! Sure, you don’t have the joy of waiting on 90 minute lines, running around trying to get fast passes all over the park, or bumping elbows with thousands of your best friends on Main Street every 3 seconds, but if you like water parks… you MUST try one of these! These are also, in my opinion, the best values in the entire Disney complex! A wide variety of classic and more modern water rides with 5 minute waits MAX (OK, one had a 15 minute wait yesterday, but only because Blizzard Beach has been closed while finishing a major renovation). So while the average family gets on roughly 8 rides per day at the Magic Kingdom and the other popular parks, you can get on dozens of water slides, inner tubes, and falls, as well as enjoy “water coasters,” swimming with sharks (seriously), a wave pool, a lazy river, sunbathing, and more… all for a similar price. Typhoon Lagoon also has an awesome kids area that my 3-year-old loved! Mini pool, mini water slides, mini waterfalls, a cave, water cannons, and even a mini inner tube ride. Every time I’ve come to Disney, I can’t believe these water parks are as “underutilized” as they are… but they are. I strongly recommend taking advantage of them!
Sorry for that segue, but I love sharing this Disney “secret.”
In any case, to complete the “water theme” of the day, our family dined last evening at Coral Reef, in the Sea area of EPCOT. We had a great experience there that I’m happy to share.
First, as (almost) always, we were immediately recognized as an “allergy family” when we checked in. (This is a function of booking restaurants in advance, where Disney makes a notation in their central dining system that alerts each restaurant on the day of your visit.) When we were shown to our table, a slip of paper was left there for the server with the word “ALLERGY” stamped in bold letters. While our server, Joe, was quite familiar with Coral Reef’s food allergy processes and protocols, we were still glad to be visited by Chef Kim.
Chef Kim immediately told us that there are no peanuts or tree nuts in any of their menu items with the exception of some desserts (this is a common theme around the park), which took care of my oldest son. The menu also had some decent entrees appropriate for my baby daughter (egg) and my middle son (peanut, tree nut, dairy, non-baked egg, sesame), though the listed side dishes weren’t always viable. In both cases, however, Chef Kim immediately rattled off many different sides he could make that were safe for each child, giving us plenty of options and making the ordering process much quicker than it had been elsewhere. In the end, we all had an excellent and safe dinner experience… and it didn’t have to include a hot dog or any other “compromise food.”
Above all, what stood out for me at Coral Reef was that both Chef Kim and our server, Joe, really seemed motivated to go the extra mile for us. And that alone can make all the difference in the world between a great dining experience and an uncomfortable one. Thanks Kim. Thanks Joe.
Other tidbits about Coral Reef:
- They often serve individuals with fish and shellfish allergies (like Legal Sea Foods does). They use a separate, clean cooking area and separate, clean cooking utensils, etc.
- Of the 9 entrees on their menu, 5 are fish, 1 is beef, 1 is pork, 1 is chicken, and 1 is vegetarian… so there are options for those who are allergic to, or just don’t like, fish or shellfish.
- The ciabatta bread that is brought to the table is dairy-free, thought it is “made in a facility that contains nut products” – another common park theme
- If their main dessert offerings are a problem due to food allergies, they have all kinds of options, including rice milk ice cream, Enjoy Life cookies, and more.
Coral Reef is a particularly popular restaurant, especially for kids, given the floor-to-ceiling aquarium on one wall (with turtles, sharks, sting rays, and “all those other fish”), as well as two popular kids attractions in the same building. Even so, I imagine that a lot of food allergy families shy away from this restaurant given the seafood theme. Now, while we don’t have fish or shellfish allergies in our family (so I can’t speak first-hand about those), I have to say that I was very impressed with how smoothly Coral Reef seemed to handle our particular allergy issues. Keep it on your list of possibilities when visiting Disney.
What do you think? If you have a fish or shellfish allergy, would you consider dining here? Does my description make you more willing to consider Coral Reef? Or is my one experience not enough to put this on your radar? Have you dined here? Please add whatever thoughts you’re willing to share by clicking Reply below. We want to hear your opinions and personal expertise!
Also, as a “side dish,” please take a moment to visit the main AllergyEats site (www.allergyeats.com), where you can rate your dining experiences for the benefit of our entire food allergy and intolerance community. Rating a restaurant only requires answering 3 questions and takes less than a minute. For so little effort, you can help so much! AllergyEats continues to grow, thanks to your input, and is becoming a more and more valuable guide to finding allergy-friendly (and not so friendly) restaurants each and every day. Let’s keep it going!
Tomorrow: Our last full day at Disney, including dinner at a very popular kids destination!