The Disney Chronicles: Dining out with 3 food-allergic children – Day 7

All good things must come to an end.  For a vacation that started with some unwelcome hassles and trying inconveniences, it certainly turned out to be a great one!  We ended with a very long Day 7 at the Magic Kingdom, including a late night revisit with my 3 older children – a great finish.

In addition, we made it through the whole trip food allergy-safe!  On our last day, we enjoyed our first breakfast outside the room and a late dinner at the famed Chef Mickey’s.
DAY 7:

Given a lack of early plans today, we decided to venture out of our room down to the Roaring Fork for breakfast.  The Roaring Fork is a quick-serve, cafeteria-style restaurant within the Wilderness Lodge hotel.  It’s not a place that visitors staying elsewhere are going to seek out, but I think our experience is worth sharing to help measure how far down the “food chain” Disney’s allergy-friendly policies reach.

And in this case, the reach was good.  While the cafeteria model doesn’t seem like the optimal choice for us, the staff at the Roaring Fork demonstrated the same care and concern for food allergies as other much finer dining establishments within the Disney complex.

Upon reaching the counter to place our order, we informed the server about our food allergies.  Following the Disney playbook, she immediately called over a manager.  We went through our family’s allergies with him and he addressed them one by one (unfortunately, I didn’t catch his name).  First, there are no nuts in the breakfast items, though that wasn’t a surprise.  The real trick was taking care of our dairy and egg allergies, especially given a breakfast menu rich in those foods.  Fortunately, the Roaring Fork keeps Vans waffles on hand for just such an occasion.  Okay, store-brand waffles aren’t exactly a gourmet entree, but it enabled all of us to have breakfast outside our room, and that’s much more important to my younger kids.  They don’t know, or care, that the waffles weren’t a “special Disney preparation.”

I was still worried about cross-contamination with all the eggs and dairy flying around the kitchen, but there too the Roaring Fork was ready.  The waffles were prepared separately and covered immediately with a clamshell top, so no one else’s meal would contaminate these.

Again, the Roaring Fork is not designed to be the measure of a gourmet restaurant, but we were very satisfied with how they handled our food allergies, allowing us to have a safe and relatively easy meal outside the room.

For dinner, it was finally time for us to visit the famous Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort.  This is a buffet-style, “character” restaurant that is extremely popular (causing us to have to settle for an 8:20PM reservation).  This is also the one restaurant I remember very well from our last Disney visit, five years ago, due to their amazing allergy-friendliness.  What stuck out then, more than anything else, was a chef who basically said to us “What would your son like to eat?” rather than just showing us what was safe for him and what wasn’t.  I couldn’t wait to have this same experience again and see what our chef would whip up for my kids this time!

Unfortunately, it is with great sadness that I have to admit that we came away disappointed.  Whether it was the comparison to our prior great experience, the lack of safe options for my middle son, or something else, I’m not sure.  However, this was certainly not the magical experience it was last time.

On the positive side, the experience started out like just about all of our pre-reserved Disney meals.  We show up, our allergies are recognized by the hosts, we’re seated, and a manager or chef comes to talk to us about our allergies.  In this case, we were visited by Chef Rob from Vero Beach.  After assuring us that nuts were only used in the carrot cake dessert and peanuts only in the Reese’s Pieces that are on the ice cream bar (watch out for that), we move onto our egg-allergic daughter and our son with peanut, tree nut, dairy, non-baked egg, and sesame allergies.

Here, Chef Rob did what they always do for food-allergic parties at Chef Mickey’s – he walked us through the buffet line.  Yet this is where the disappointment started.

As we walked, we heard a lot of “can’t have this, can’t have that” or “not safe for him/her.”  That wiped out virtually all the “kid-friendly” items!  Further, we really weren’t proactively offered any options that weren’t in front of us (except that the pasta could be set aside before cheese was put on it).  In any other buffet restaurant, I wouldn’t have an expectation of individualized attention… but this is Disney… and this is Chef Mickey’s… this is what they do!… usually.

So while my middle son had plenty of options – salad, chicken breast, carved turkey or beef, salmon, ribs, veggies, rice, beans – he didn’t have any of the “fun” options my other kids had.  Fortunately, he likes ribs.  We were able to add some rice to that and call it a decent dinner.

On the positive side, they did have “special” desserts for my food-allergic children.  Chef Rob brought out delicious dairy-/egg-/gluten-free cupcakes (and rice-milk ice cream was also offered), which my son and daughted wolfed down very happily.

On the negative side, and in this case I mean really negative, not just “below expectations,” I was shocked at the beginning of our “buffet tour” (in the salad area) when we were told that the Italian dressing was safe.  Why?  See the following picture.

Now, does this look safe?  Does it matter what ingredients are in the Italian dressing?  No.  There is an incredibly high cross-contamination risk here – that much is obvious.  And this is why buffets are so difficult for food-allergic individuals.  But this is Disney’s Chef Mickey’s!  They take care of everything here, don’t they?  Suffice it to say that I was really surprised when we were casually told the Italian dressing was safe.

In the end, there were plenty of food options for everyone, we all had safe meals, and we each enjoyed a satisfying dessert.  (So let me be sure to emphasize that Chef Mickey’s was certainly able to accommodate our 3 food-allergic children.) However, the experience did not live up to our expectations.  Sure, the comparisons to our prior experience and others’ stories set the bar high, but even so I had expected something closer to the usual incredibly impressive Disney level of service.  Maybe this sounds like I believe we are “entitled” in some way.  I don’t.  I am simply disappointed, given their reputation, that we didn’t “feel the love” a little more.

So did I expect too much?  Am I sounding entitled? How have your experiences been at Chef Mickey’s?  If you’ve been there, would you go back?  Given the popularity of this restaurant, I really hope your will share your thoughts and comments with the rest of our readers by clicking on Reply below.

And please remember to rate any restaurants you’ve recently dined at on our core AllergyEats site (  By spending just one minute to answer 3 questions, you can help us continue to build the largest and fastest-growing online guide to food-allergy restaurants for the benefit of our whole community!



    WOW! Shocking to me because EVERY (and we’ve been there about 8 times with our FAK), the chef at chef mickey’s will prepare whatever our son wants, FRESH. They have always offered to take us around the buffet, but in our most recent 4 experiences or so, the chef has talked to our son directly and asked what he wanted to eat, with looks to us on whether we were offering nods of approval on the items he was looking for. I will say that I think the buffet lunches/dinners are dissapointing at the character venues, and that the breakfasts are far superior…The only dinner buffet that we go nuts for is Boma at AKL. I think you should contact the execs (i don’t have the names handy) that are the special dietary needs liasions and let them know about ANY negative experiences you had with their services as I do find them very responsive–especially when it comes to finding out that the problems were regarding children (i think they are more responsive to children than adults).

    Thanks again for sharing your experiences! We’re in disneyland next month and WDW in december (can you tell we’re fans 🙂 )


    I’m surprised, too! In all of our past experiences, Chef Mickey’s has been our best food allergy experience. Personally, I think it’s one of the only redeeming qualities of Chef Mickey’s as its popularity has always, in the past, made for lackluster character and service experiences. The attention from the chef to my daughter’s food allergies has been what kept us coming back. What a disappointment to hear that they had an off night while you were there.

    Joyce L

    Wow, I am surprised too! We went to Chef Mickey’s last year with our son, who is allergic to peanuts and eggs. The staff was EXCELLENT! The chef came right to our table and asked what my son likes to eat and we were amazed because my son’s meal, which was prepared in the kitchen and was not on the buffet menu, came before we could get our meals from the buffet! They did not suggest that we take anything from the buffet. My son’s dessert also came directly from the kitchen. It makes me wonder if you were there when the regular chef was absent or if they changed their process.
    Glad you had a great trip! We have also had excellent experiences at Disney! We have gone to sit down meals and popcorn stands and cafeterias and counter service stands and all went smoothly. The staff was knowledgeable and had the ingredients information readily at hand. However, we did have a car and found it cheaper and faster to pick up some groceries so we could carry snacks in our backpack and eat simple meals in our hotel room. We were lucky to have a kitchen last year, but when we stayed in the All Star resort we requested a refrigerator for lunch meats, yogurt etc.


    Thanks for all of the helpful information. Any chance you can take your next vacation at Disneyland Resort in California, for those of us on the west coast?


      Hi Dizzymom. My kids would love that! However, my wife and I have a “policy” of not going to Disney more than once every 3 years. We want to keep it special for the kids and make sure they always appreciate the opportunity. We’re afraid we’ll lose that if we take them more often.


    We go to Chef Mickey’s about every other trip (we have well more than 10 under our belts with our FA son). Over the last couple of years we have found the chefs to be less accomodating than some other Disney restaurants (but still better than oh so many restaurants at home). This is disappointing, but as long as my son is happy with plain pasta and likes seeing the characters, we’ll keep going.


    We too were disappointed in Chef Mickey’s on our trip in Feb. 2011. The waitress and chef weren’t as detailed (concerned) with the allergy situation as our last visit (Feb. 2010).

    Our first time, Feb. 2010, they were so awesome that my daughter told everyone – all year – that it was her favorite place to eat in all the world. One year later – not sure we’d eat there again as it was just a regular dining out experience. No, “WOW!”

    Kristin H

    I had read your blog with great interest. We have had an excellent experience dinning at WDW. Some of our trips have been 14days in length and we never have had a negative experience with our daughter who has Milk Allergies. However I will add we did not get the same treatment at Disneyland in Feb 2010. We were basiclly told that there were food options on Harbor Blvd (outside of Disney Property) for us to take our daughter to eat. This was told to us at Guest Relations. We were never more surprised than hearing this comment to leave Disney Property to go eat. They were very unprepared to help us with food options within the park when I asked where would be a good choice for our daughter after we had such a poor experience dealing with the staff at one of the places to eat inside the Magic Kingdom.


    Thank you for your wonderful information! I have truly enjoyed reading every night! We took our FA son last year, and I had tears of joy in my eyes our first dinner! We rarely go out to restaurants with our milk, egg, peanut, tree nut allergies. I was very impressed with their level of training staff, and that they don’t miss a beat when you tell them you have allergies. I have to say my best experience was at crystal palace with the character dining. The chef took me around the buffet and showed me what he could make separately. This was after he asked what my 4y.o son liked to eat. I was amazed when he brought out a plate of everything! Yes, he had at least 3 plates of food. I had to take a picture of his happy face with all his favorites. I just wish we had this same feeling when we returned to restaurants at home! We will return next year, and cannot wait!

    Jennifer is Always Sick

    No one went hungry, and no one got sick, and that’s what’s important.

    I avoid most buffets, unless I’m without my kids. Even though I have food allergies, I can be careful not to get something that is likely to be cross contaminated. The salad bar, however, isn’t one of those places because of all the nuts, seeds, and dressings with all kinds of stuff that will make me sick. The cross-contamination at buffets are ridiculously bad, and understandably so considering that everyone just serves themselves.

    I’m glad your disney trip went well!


    We have a daughter with a tree nut allergy. We usually have a great experience at Disney World (have gone three times). One exception: after being advised that my daughter had a tree nut allergy at the Kona Cafe in Polynesian Village, they brought out macadamia nut butter to our table (without telling us). My daughter put some on her butter knife and asked us what the lumps in the butter were. No apologies at all from the waiter or management.


    Jennifer, from the Northern Virginia food allergy support group added the following detailed comments. (Thank you, Jennifer!)

    Here is where we dined last week:

    @ Epcot we walked-in to Coral Reef without reservations. This is behind the Nemo attraction.
    The Chef came out to the lobby and verified that he could accommodate severe life threatening allergy to Milk – Egg – Peanut and Tree Nut and assured me that he accommodates allergies about 50-60 times a day.

    The Chef came out again to the actual table, wrote down the allergies and made some suggestions.

    My daughter was able to order a kid’s menu item:
    grilled salmon, steamed carrots, and jasmine rice. They brought her a beautiful dish of berries for dessert (they recommended she skip the regular fruit cup due to cross contamination concerns).

    We sent our compliments to the Chef and he sent out Enjoy Life candy bars and cookies 🙂

    Needless to say we left more than a 20% tip.

    @ Hollywood Studios we ate at 50’s Prime Time – we made a reservation the evening before our lunch reservation.

    Again – we requested for the Chef to come out to the lobby before we were seated to verify that he can accommodate.

    Chef also came to the table and wrote down the allergies and made some recommendations. Daughter ordered Chicken Tenders and French Fries and they brought her a HUGE beautiful fruit bowl. We also ordered the Tofutti ice cream. Yumm-o! Her first time ordering “ice cream” ever!

    The service here was great and we again left a 20+ % tip and sent our compliments to the Chef.

    Last year, we ate at Downtown Disney’s Rain forest Cafe where the Chef personally made her grilled shrimp, french fries and broccoli.

    We also did the Princess Breakfast in Epcot. Buffets are tougher when it comes to allergies – but nonetheless – they prepared her similar items and brought her all of her own food straight from the kitchen – NOT the BUFFET!

    They brought her bacon and sausage, hash browns, and fruit.

    Hope this helpful!


    do you call ahead to tell them about your alleriges?

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