Ask a Disney Question: Eating Gluten-Free at Disney World.
This question comes from Arnold, who asks: “What Walt Disney World restaurants are best for gluten free diets?
Arnold, thanks for your question and for reading Chip and Co. I also want to apologize for taking so long to answer this question, but I wanted to give it the time it deserves. The good news is that with a little planning, it’s very easy to follow a gluten-free diet at Disney World. In fact, Disney World is a very accommodating place for anyone on a special diet. Table service restaurants should give you no problem at all, but counter service locations can be a bit more problematic. Let’s start with table service first.
You can look at menus ahead of time to determine whether or not something on the menu fits your needs; two sites we like with frequently updated menus are WDWInfo and AllEars. Don’t worry if you don’t see anything on the menu; even on short notice, the chef can whip up a gluten-free dish, but for added comfort, make note of food allergies when you make your advanced dining reservation (ADR). You can also call Disney’s hotline for special diets at 407-824-5967 or email at WDW.Special.Diets@disney.com and request a special diet worksheet. Fill it out and fax or email it back. Call again 72 hours before your ADR. Almost all restaurants can substitute gluten-free pasta for wheat pasta in a dish that’s already on the menu or the chef can prepare something especially for you. At buffets, the chef or a cast member will personally take you around the buffet and let you know what is safe for you to eat. Whether you go through the above steps or simply try to “wing it”, make sure you tell your server about your needs so that she can alert the kitchen to avoid contamination of your food.
I know that cross-contamination can be a big issue when eating in restaurants, but I haven’t heard any reports of people getting sick from ingesting gluten at Disney. When I called Disney to discuss how they handle the issue of cross-contamination, they assured me that Disney chefs are trained to avoid contamination of knives, cutting boards, etc., with wheat. Disney takes steps to avoid cross contamination beyond the kitchen: Your meal will be brought out separate from the other guests at your table to further reduce the risk.
Almost all counter service restaurants have gluten-free options. Most often a gluten-free bun can be substituted for a wheat bun. Veggie burgers and hot dogs are gluten free. You can even get gluten-free chicken nuggets at Backlot Express in Hollywood Studios. I won’t tell you that the bun you get with your sandwich is going to be just like a wheat bun or that the gluten-free brownie or cookie is going to the stuff of your dreams, but it’s all very acceptable. Check out this post on The Mouse for Less for lots of great information and recommendations on counter-service and table-service options.
You can find gluten-free packaged cookies and snacks in resort gift shops, but the variety is limited. If you’re worried about finding what you like and particularly if you’ll be staying somewhere with a refrigerator or full-kitchen, you may want to do some shopping off site. Super Target has a limited but very well-priced supply of gluten-free items. There’s a Whole Foods near Universal that has just about everything you could want. I generally find the prices comparable to Publix. If you don’t have a vehicle, consider using a grocery delivery service. We Go Shop will shop where you ask them for a small fee and they are a very reliable company.
Good luck. I hope this helps.
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