Category Archives: Special Dietary Requests
Making online dining reservations has made the process of booking your ADR’s much more bearable, not to mention all the time you save waiting on hold for a cast member in the dining department!
Further improvements continue to be made to the online reservation system including email reminders that are being sent out 24 hours prior to your reservation time. The confirmation number, location, date/time and party size are all included in the message; along with a link to modify or cancel your reservation.
Do you think this update will be useful?
- Disney free dining December 2011 (pixievacations.com)
- Reservations Open for Lunch at Donald’s Dining Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (chipandco.com)
Tom W. asks: Are there many dining options for Diabetics? Any specific restaurants that serve sugar free desserts?
Hi, Tom. Thanks for your question. One thing I like about doing “Ask a Disney Question” is that it really gets me thinking, especially when the topic is one that I don’t have a lot of personal experience in. This is one such topic and a useful one at that. There are plenty of dining and dessert options for diabetics at Disney World, particularly at table service restaurants. Dessert selection at counter service places is not the best, but regular dessert options at these places can be hit and miss as well. Most offer a sugar free brownie; we’ve heard reports that it “tastes great” and and that it “Could be used as a door stopper. A tasteless door stopper.” If you want to partake of this brownie of dubious reputation and don’t see it on the menu, just ask for it. You can also get all fruit bars at ice cream carts located throughout the parks.
If you’re using the dining plan, you’ll get a dessert with each meal. Obviously, this can pose something of a problem for people with diabetes. One way around this is to eat at a counter service restaurant that has fruit or sugar-free yogurt as a dessert option. You can find detailed information about what counts as a dessert alternative on the Disboards restaurants forum. I like Passporter’s restaurant forum as well. The chefs at table service restaurants usually have a house-made sugar free dessert option. Depending on the restaurant it can be as simple as a fruit sorbet to an elaborate dessert with presentation and taste worthy of the best restaurants anywhere. Here are a few places we’ve heard really good things about from people with diabetes:
- Cosmic Rays serves rotisserie chicken, a nice change from nuggets and burgers and a great source of lean protein.
- You can ask to have your Tonga Toast at Kona Cafe without the sugar coating and use a sugar free syrup.
- The Wave, which takes a fresh, healthy approach to dining, rewards you for your healthy choices by serving decadent desserts. Their sugar free choices consistently get good reviews on Disney message boards. Try the sugar free trio with creme brulee.
- Yachtsman Steakhouse has a sugar-free mango cheesecake with a chocolate sauce on the side that is the talk of many Disney message boards. The chocolate sauce that comes with it is reportedly to die for. I’ve also heard the chef occasionally makes a chocolate cake that is so good you can’t tell it’s not made with sugar.
- Even the Wishes Dessert Party has sugar-free options. Make sure when you make the reservation that you let them know what your needs are. When you check-in, let the hostess know as well and she’ll provide you with information and assistance. All the items are clearly marked, so you’ll know which are sugar free and which are verboten.
I posted some questions on Disney message forums and here are some tips that visitors with diabetes shared:
- Don’t stop testing just because you’re on vacation. It’s actually more important to test to see how your body is reacting to the sun and heat, changes in your diet, and possibly more walking than one is normally used to.
- This is a big one: Make sure when you make your ADR that you request a sugar free dessert. Call again the day before to confirm and make note of it again when you check in.
- One thing I heard a lot was to pack twice as many supplies as you think you’ll need. Put them in separate bags so that if one gets lost, you’ll still have what you need.
- If you’re staying at a value resort, you can ask for a free refrigerator for your insulin and other supplies that need to be refrigerated.
Finally, AllEars has a page for people with Diabetes who are touring Disney. They also have menus for every restaurant at Disney World, so you’ll have an idea of what’s available. Keep in mind that these menus rarely list the sugar free dessert option.
- Disney Dining Plan – A Vegetarians View (disneyonwheelsblog.com)
- Top 5 Disneyworld Quick Service Meals Spots (couponingtodisney.com)
If you’re a vegetarian, you know what it’s like to be resigned to the one dish on the menu that serves as that restaurant’s sole vegetarian entrée. In fact, in most restaurants you’ll encounter the same “vegetarian” dish over and over: Some type of pasta loaded with cheese, maybe sprinkled with a few vegetables. There’s no craft or imagination in that at all and it’s easy to feel left out of a special dining experience when that’s all you can get. The good news for those traveling to Disney World is that they’re great at accommodating guests with any number of food requests. This is true particularly at Disney table service restaurants, where you’ll find chefs who are happy to test their skills and creativity by making you a dish that’s the envy of the meat eaters at your table.
Counter service is somewhat more limited than table service, but you’ll find at least one vegetarian option in every park, sometimes more. Most Counter Service places, like Cosmic Ray’s in the Magic Kingdom, have vegan veggie burgers that can be doctored up with toppings from the fixing’s bar. The bun is not vegan, but you can request a vegan bun. All counter service locations will allow you to leave off cheese and mayo or switch out salad dressings. You can buy soy milk just about anywhere milk is sold at Disney World. We’ve had luck at the following counter service restaurants:
- Magic Kingdom, the Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station has a great tofu and rice dish. Columbia Harbor House has a healthy veggie sandwich called the Lighthouse Sandwich and vegetarian chilli. Both get high marks on Disney message boards. You can buy Rice Dream and Tofutti at the ice cream parlor on Main Street as well as at other places in on property. Pinocchio Village Haus and Casey’s Corner, popular among meat eaters, have very little for vegetarians.
- Epcot is a great choice for vegetarians all around and the park where you can find consistently good CS meals. Vegetarians will especially like the selection in the China and Morocco pavilions. Perhaps the best choice for vegetarians is Sunshine Seasons in Futureworld. This is one of the most popular CS restaurants in all of Disney World and for good reason: There’s a wide selection of food that’s consistently fresh, tasty, and at times, innovative for theme park fare, such as a salad of roasted beets and goat cheese. Finally the new Epcot spots La Hacienda de San Angel and Via Napoli have some great vegetarian meals I have yet to try.
- Disney Hollywood Studios: CS at DHS is pretty limited for vegetarians. Both Backlot Express and Studio Catering Company have a grilled veggie sandwich on a ciabatta roll that’s very good. Toy Story Pizza Planet sells cheese pizzas. It’s one of the most maligned places to eat on Disney property, but I actually don’t think it’s too bad; there’s outdoor seating if it’s too loud inside for you. Be sure to check out Anaheim Produce for healthy snacks like fruit, veggies and dips, and trail mix. There is virtually nothing for vegetarians at ABC Commissary, Fairfax Fair, and, not surprisingly, at the Toluca Turkey Leg Company. If you want to eat well on a day you’re visiting DHS, consider a table service restaurant.
- Animal Kingdom: Ironically, the worst park for a vegetarian. Try the cheese pizza at Pizzafari, the veggie burger at Restaurantosoarus the vegetarian eggroll at Safari Eggroll near Flights of Wonder. Yes, the pickings are that slim that I’m recommending a vegetarian eggroll from a cart. If you’re spending all day in AK, consider doing a table service restaurant like Tusker House, which is a buffet with a lot of vegetarian sides, or Rainforest Café. I’m not crazy about Rainforest Café because it’s loud, but kids love it and it’s wildly popular. They have a decent Portobello mushroom burger and a sweet and sour stir-fry. Prices are reasonable for dining in the parks.
- Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney has excellent vegan and vegetarian options. It’s on the dining plan.
Don’t hesitate to treat yourself to a nice table service restaurant while you’re visiting the World. All of these restaurants have something on the menu for vegetarians, although it is usually limited to one entrée, so you may want to ask for a special meal. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for meat to be removed from salads or pasta dishes. Both wdwinfo and allears have updated menus that you can check out before you make your advanced dining reservations (ADRS). Call 407-WDW-DINE or go to the official Disney website to make your reservations online.
This is probably the most important piece of information for vegetarian diners: If you don’t see something on a table service menu you like, have it noted when you make your ADR that you are requesting a vegetarian entrée. You can also email Disney at WDW.Special.Diets@disney.com and request a special diet worksheet. Fill it out and fax or email it back. For added comfort, you can call again 72 hours before your ADR. In some cases, you’ll be allowed to speak to the chef about your needs and your tastes. Almost all restaurants will provide you with something unique and different; if you’re an adventurous eater, it’s a fun opportunity for the chef to flex her muscles and try something new that fits into the theme of the restaurant. The only places I’ve heard people having problems with this are at the buffets, where there are generally enough meat-free options to satisfy most diners. If you’re worried that a buffet won’t meet your needs, it doesn’t hurt to ask for a special meal or side. Often, the chef will take you around the buffet and let you know what is safe for you to eat.
Dishes we’ve heard great things about include:
- The vegetarian sushi at California Grill. It’s not on the menu but a friend recently had this and was served a platter of sushi almost too beautiful to eat. Not only did it taste amazing, it was very reasonably priced.
- Try The Wave at the Contemporary Resort, a quick walk or ride on the monorail from the Magic Kingdom, for lunch or dinner. It’s not too difficult to get an ADR even close to your trip and the chef is trying a lot of new and innovative things. The Wave doesn’t always knock it out of the ballpark, but this place keeps getting better and better and I really respect what they’re trying to do with local foods and healthy choices.
- Artists Point is a quiet, pretty restaurant in the Wilderness Lodge. It’s one of my favorite places on site and like the Wave, it’s fairly easy to get an ADR. The potato chive pots stickers have been on the menu for a couple of years and are delicious. The smoky Portobello soup is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, but the vegetarians at our table found out the hard way it’s made from chicken stock. I’ve heard that you can call ahead and ask for this to be made with a vegetarian stock, but I haven’t tried it yet.
- All the restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge get great reviews from vegetarians. It’s worth a trip to the resort even if you aren’t staying there (plus, the resort itself is gorgeous, so give yourself time to look around). Sanaa and Jiko, one of the top rated restaurants in Disney World, both have separate menus for vegan and vegetarian guests. Boma, easily the best buffet at WDW, has plenty of vegetarian options.
- The dinner buffet at 1900 Park Fare has some great vegetarian choices such as cold soba noodle salad, so don’t hesitate to make an ADR for the character dinner there—it’s one of the best on property.
- Ohana in the Polynesian has a multi-course vegetarian option that’s reportedly delicious.
- Finally, for a real treat, the vegetarian menu at Victoria and Albert’s gets rave reviews.
Need more information? For menus, check out WDWinfo.com and allears.net. Both sites update their menus frequently although it’s likely your menu at the restaurant will have additional choices. Remember that you can make ADRs for Disney sit down restaurants 180-days before your arrival. You can make ADRs by calling 407-WDW-DINE or at the official Disney website here. To hear a first-hand account of vegetarian dining at Dsiney World, listen to the WDWToday podcast here. The restaurant boards at Disboards and Passporter have very active, friendly forums where you can read dining reviews and ask questions.
Thanks to Chip and Co. reader Carrie who inspried this question. We appreciate your input!
Photo of Sanaa courtesy OrlandoSentinel.com.
- Disney Dining Plan – A Vegetarians View (disneyonwheelsblog.com)
- Top 5 Disneyworld Quick Service Meals Spots (couponingtodisney.com)
With great eats everywhere – from luxe restaurants to fast- casual food in the theme parks, dining is a significant part of the Walt Disney World vacation experience.
With hundreds of places for a meal, guests don’t have to travel the globe to taste the world. From South African wines to Florida-sourced seafood, Walt Disney World restaurants offer a dazzling array of upscale dining. And you’ll also find micro-brews, house-made gelatis and other fast-casual tastes with big flavors.
Online dining reservations make it easy to book most Walt Disney World table-service restaurants up to 180 days in advance at www.disneyworld.com. Reservations can be made for up to 10 guests (more than 10 requires a call to Disney Dining Reservations). For booking by phone, call 407/WDW-DINE.
And each fall, more than 1 million fans head to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, a premier culinary event that has helped raise the bar on fine dining at Disney. Featuring great celebrity chefs and wine connoisseurs in the spectacular setting of World Showcase, the festival features tastes of wine, beer and food from around the world.
Even though vacation may be a time for indulgence, Walt Disney World chefs provide healthful options, serving more than 20,000 tons of fresh fruits and vegetables annually. (Every Walt Disney World table-service and quick-service restaurant offers at least one vegetarian option.) For lifestyle dining options, or for requests from guests with food allergies or intolerances, there are a wide range of choices, from kosher to gluten and sugar free. In 2009, Disney tracked nearly a quarter of a million requests for special dietary needs and allergies.
“We have a real commitment to innovative, healthy menus,” said Mahmud Dhanani, vice president of Food & Beverage Concept Development. A new culinary dietary specialist recently joined the team to focus on vitality lifestyle ideas.
Revised menus require that no more than 35 percent of calories can come from fat – saturated fat and sugar must account for no more than 10 percent of the meal’s calories. And chefs keep tinkering with recipes, such as smoothies, now made with non-fat yogurt and fresh fruit purees (now 120 calories and the former recipe was 420 calories).Kids’ menus at Disney are evolving, and changes make healthier choices the standard instead of the “alternate.” Grapes, apples, carrot sticks and unsweetened applesauce in place of french fries and 1 percent milk, or bottled water instead of soda, for instance. Guests must request fries and sodas (at no additional cost). Surveys show that 60 percent of all quick-service kids’ snacks served healthy option choices.
La Hacienda de San Angel and Cantina de San Angel. At the Mexico pavilion at Epcot World Showcase, two all-new eateries along World Showcase Lagoon recently opened. La Cantina offers quick-service and features tacos, nachos and empanadas, and a variety of frozen margaritas. La Hacienda is a table-service restaurant with contemporary Mexican fare such as mixed seafood grill, roasted pork loin and flank steak. La Hacienda has its own “tequila ambassador” and features tequila flights and a whole new line of margaritas, including a coffee margarita. La Cantina, with indoor and outdoor seating, is open daily for lunch and dinner; 250-seat La Hacienda opens daily at 4 p.m.
Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria. The lively, 300-seat restaurant that is operated by the Patina Group is full of energy with an open kitchen and three wood-burning pizza ovens that represent Italy’s three active volcanoes (Mount Etna, Mount Vesuvius and Stromboli). Those ovens crank up to 700 F with oak wood, and with a touch of Disney whimsy, the “faces” of the fiery ovens open their “mouths.” From fritto misto, an enormous platter of fried mozzarella, calamari, eggplant, asparagus, zucchini, artichoke hearts and arancini (rice balls) to the signature lasagna verde with spinach, Parmesan, béchamel sauce and a generous flourish of nutmeg, the menu is authentic. Patina Executive Chef Charlie Restivo really focuses on the pizzas, with mozzarella flown in from Italy, the water from a source in the United States that is similar to the alkaline of the water in Naples, and San Marzano tomatoes – absolutely no substitutions for a “certified” Vera Pizza Napolitana, with specific rules, including hand stretching the dough. The gargantuan “1/2 meter” to share is rolled to the table on a stainless steel cart.
Karamelle-Küche. German for “caramel kitchen,” the new shop in the Germany pavilion at Epcot is themed like an Old World German caramel shop. A show kitchen features cast members making fresh caramel popcorn, caramel apples, and caramel-covered strawberries and marshmallows. Werther’s Original candy is on the shelves, and the shop also includes gourmet caramels, cookies, brownies, fudge and cupcakes. It’s the only free-standing retail location in the world for Storck, makers of Werther’s Original Caramels, and you’ll find some goodies on the shelves that you can’t find anywhere else. The shop replaces the Glas und Porzellan shop.
Pollo Campero. The international Latin restaurant at Downtown Disney Marketplace, best known for its fried and grilled chicken, will also be offering chef-prepared salads, sandwiches, wraps, fruits and healthy snacks, as well as vegetarian, gluten-free, sugar-free, low sodium, and organic offerings. The quick-service eatery takes over the space formerly occupied by McDonald’s.
More Dining Highlights
Queen Victoria’s Room. Guests are indulged with an evening of divine tastes and plenty of pampering in the new Queen Victoria’s Room at Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. But Queen Victoria’s Room is about so much more than the feast. Behind closed doors, it’s different from Victoria &Albert’s elegant main dining room; the staff under the direction of maitre d’ Israel Perez expertly revives the European art of tableside finishes for each dish. With just four tables, diners are encouraged to savor each bite – and even to take a walk around the Grand Floridian between dinner and dessert. The restaurant has a new website, www.victoria-alberts.com. Cost for dining in Queen Victoria’s Room is $200; add wine pairings for $95. For reservations visit the website or call 407/939-3862. A jacket is required for men. Valet parking is complimentary.
Front-Row Seat for the Kitchen at New Chef’s Table at Flying Fish Cafe. Award-winning Chef Tim Keating at Flying Fish Cafe at Disney’s BoardWalk has a loyal following, and guests often ask him to create a special dinner – something that’s not on the menu. And most of the regulars love a seat at the wide granite bar facing the on-stage kitchen. Now the first six seats at the coveted Chef’s Counter are reserved for the new Chef’s Tasting Wine Dinner, a nightly affair that offers five courses paired with wine for a special evening – “a new spin on menu items,” said Keating. And there’s plenty of interaction with the well-orchestrated team of chefs. Sommelier Keith Gimbel expertly pairs delicious wines with each course. There are two seatings nightly, Sunday through Thursday, at 5:45 and 8:15 p.m. Cost is $135, $85 without wine. Make reservations at 407/WDW-DINE. There are a handful of blackout dates throughout the year (mostly around busy holidays).
Kona Island Sushi Bar at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. The 20-seat sushi bar is now open nightly, located right outside of Kona Cafe near the monorail. Mornings they serve coffee, tea, pastries and fruit. At 5 p.m., the menu morphs to sushi with about a half-dozen rolls, sashimi (fish without rice) and nigiri (fish with rice). If you prefer your fish cooked, there’s a delicious shrimp tempura roll with fresh mango or the Kona crab cake roll made with lump crab, avocado and Asian tartar sauce. Traditionalists can stick with salmon or tuna sashimi or the delicious tuna poke salad. For vegetarians, there’s a cucumber roll. Pair any pick with a classic mai tai or Kona Cool Sundown cocktail, Kona Fire Rock Pale Ale or Kona Longboard lager, wine or sake.
California Grill Celebrates 15 Years at the Top. Since May 15, 1995, the California Grill on the 15th floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort has been winning culinary accolades. Chef Brian Piasecki has been running the California Grill kitchen since January 2009, focusing on seasonal and local products when possible, and coloring outside the box with dishes such as seared bison and a lobster salad with yuzu mayo. But we know that it’s the dazzling location high atop the Contemporary with a bird’s eye view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks that really take the experience over the top. And manager and sommelier Bridget Sherren showcases a stellar wine list and runs a top-notch team in the dining room.
Kouzzina by Cat Cora. Celebrating its first anniversary, this Greek-inspired restaurant at Disney’s BoardWalk pays tribute to celebrity chef Cat Cora’s roots. Cora says that the new restaurant features “time-honored recipes passed down from my ancestors, as well as my favorite Greek and Mediterranean dishes that my family loves.” The first and only female Iron Chef on Food Network’s hit show “Iron Chef America,” Cora is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Chef Dee Foundoukis keeps the kitchen running when Cora is on the road.
Tequila Bar at Mexico. La Cava del Tequila in the Mexico pavilion in Epcot World Showcase offers 95 varieties of the popular beverage. With 30 seats, the lounge offers premium tequilas and margaritas, with light Mexican appetizers. And an official “tequila ambassador” from Tequila, Mexico. Most guests order the classic margarita, served in Mexico City since 1963, a simple trio of blanco teqila with Cointreau liquor and fresh lime juice. A half-dozen small bites are on the menu, from chicken, shrimp and blue crab tostadas to shrimp cocktail, guacamole and beef taquitos. And if guests prefer a cocktail without alcohol, the frozen piñata is a delicious blend of coconut, pineapple and strawberry juices. No reservations; hours are noon to 9 or 9:30 p.m.
The Wave…of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary Resort features a “super lounge” and upscale restaurant with “bold American cooking with flavors from all over the world.” Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, The Wave…of American Flavors offers seasonal menus featuring local and regional products when possible, organic beers and trendy cocktails such as the “antioxidant cosmo” with açai juice. The innovative wine list has a quirky claim to fame: all screw caps, no corks. Cutting- edge wines from around the globe are showcased, as well as organic draft beers.
More Attention to Nutrition
Walt Disney World Resort is committed to offering healthy snack options that are widely available. The number of fresh fruit carts at the parks is steadily increasing while other nutritious snacks like nuts and trail mix also are more readily available.
Disney is continuing to work with manufacturers to reformulate recipes for candy, packaged food and bakery items sold in the parks, or identifying replacement products to find new products that do not use partially hydrogenated oil. Portion-controlled snacks and treats and packaging to promote nutritious food are part of the changes, as well as sugar-free, gluten-free and low-calorie options.
- The Top 5 Disney World Table Service Restaurants – Name Them! (chipandco.com)
- My Top 5 Favorite World Showcase Pavilions (chipandco.com)
Food allergies are increasingly widespread and just because you are on vacation, doesn’t mean that your food allergies are. Leaving the fate of your dinner in someone else’s hands can be fatal to those with severe food allergies. This doesn’t mean you’re out of luck in the dining department, after all it’s Disney we’re talking about!
The first day of college Speech 101 my professor came into the classroom, sat on the desk and said “what do you need to know about giving a speech?” It turned out she wasn’t interested in our ideas of essential elements of speech and instead broke it down to three simple things that I have never forgotten:
#1: “Tell Em’ what you’re gonna tell em’ ”
#2: “Tell Em’ what you want to tell em’”
#3: “Tell Em’ again”
These three tips have come in handy for more than giving speeches and I’ve found it’s a really easy way to remember how to approach Disney dining if you have food allergies.
#1: “Tell Em’ what your’e gonna tell em’ “- If you are worried about getting caught up in the ADR hustle, tell the cast member about your allergies first, so you don’t forget. “Hi, i’d like to make dining reservations and I need to make a note of food allergies on my reservations as well…” If you are booking dining online, there is a section of the screen that will ask about food allergies before you confirm your reservation, so be sure to scroll all the way down and read carefully. If you have a severe or very specific allergy, it’s better to call. Restaurants request a 72 hour advance notice to best prepare for your specific needs, so if you have last minute dining changes, give the restaurant as much notice as possible.
#2: “Tell Em’ what you want to tell em’ “-Just because you made a note on your original ADR’s doesn’t mean your work is done. Don’t forget if you change a reservation to put your allergy notes on the new reservation. Do some research on the menus before you make your dining reservations, this will eliminate unnecessary frustration, cancellations and changes if you find a particular restaurant isn’t suited for your specific food needs. I’m going to add to this and say, “ask em’ what you want to ask em’ “. If you have a severe allergy and aren’t comfortable with your dining options, ask the cast member for a dietary request form or where you can find more information about your food choices.
#3: “Tell Em’ Again”-Tell your server about your food allergies when you arrive at the restaurant. If you are hesitant about ordering a particular dish, generally the chef will come out and speak with you about your specific needs and advise you accordingly. Yes, you’ve already told everyone twice already, but now you are in the home stretch and these are the people who are going to be handling and preparing your food, so don’t rely on a computer system to do it for you, better safe than sorry!
Taking these simple precautions can help guarantee that your Disney dining experience is delightful and delicious and not disastrous or dangerous.