With such an emphasis placed on dining at Walt Disney World, I’d often wondered what options were available for those with food allergies.  When a friend of mine, Clara, became a Walt Disney World local last year thanks to the Army, we had the chance to hang out at the most magical place on Earth together several times.  Between her allergies and her daughter’s, their family often can’t find enough to eat at a regular restaurant.  However, she says that Disney is the easiest place for them to eat in the area.

Note any allergies when making a reservation.

When making dining reservations at a table service restaurant, I’m usually asked if we have any special dietary needs in our party.  This option is also offered when making reservations online.  This is just the first line of defense for those with food allergies.

Get Park Wise: Once you arrive at the restaurant, let the host or hostess know of your allergies even if you noted it on the reservation.  They will pass the word along to your server, who will then refer you to the Chef.

We’ve had the opportunity to dine with Clara and see the Chefs in action.  Upon being informed of a food allergy, the Chef comes out to the table and discusses the specific allergies.  In the case of buffets, the Chef may walk the buffet with the party and point out things to stay away from and things that are safe.  If the allergies are numerous, the Chefs will often prepare safe items for the allergic diner.

Be aware that quick service locations may not be as accommodating to those with food allergies.

While some quick service restaurants can accommodate food allergies, it’s not a guarantee simply due to the set-up of the restaurants.  According to Clara, there is one quick service location in each park that is designated as the central location for food allergies and may be better able to serve patrons with dietary limitations.

ŸGet Park Wise: The designated restaurants are as follows: Cosmic Ray’s in Magic Kingdom, Sunshine Seasons in Epcot, Backlot Express at Hollywood Studios and Flame Tree BBQ in Animal Kingdom. However, all restaurants should be able to assist you!

All quick service locations do have ingredient lists available if needed.  However, they are limited to the items in their kitchens and may not have substitutions available.  Clara also noted that some restaurants have dedicated fryers for those with gluten allergies, while some do not.  For questions related to food allergies at quick service restaurants, guests can speak to a manager just as they would a Chef at a table service location.  Quick service locations have substitutes based upon their current menu offerings. The larger the menu/kitchen, the greater the offerings available for substituting.

Never fear!  Quick service restaurants in the resorts may be better equipped.

Your first friend at a quick service resort location is still the manager, but a Chef may also be able to chat about allergies, as well.  Although these restaurants on their own are still limited in how they can prepare items for their guests, they are often located near a table service restaurant.  This opens up a few more possibilities.  There are more options for substitutions in made to order food when a larger and better stocked kitchen is nearby.

ŸGet Park Wise: Clara’s family’s favorite quick service location is Contempo Cafe in the Contemporary Resort.  Chef Mickey’s is steps away and can provide substitutions, and there is a dedicated gluten-free fryer.

Indulge, allergic Disney fans, indulge!

Every table service restaurant has the means to satisfy even the most allergic sweet tooth.  In fact, according to Clara, the Chef at Cape May Cafe went out of her way to research yummy desserts for those with corn allergies.  The restaurant now offers corn product-free desserts thanks to a concerned Chef.

Again, quick service options tend to fall short here, as most dessert items are pre-made and cannot be altered to suit specific needs.  While some do offer allergy-friendly sweets, they’re not safe for all patrons.  If you don’t travel with someone with special dietary needs, go ahead and stop reading here, because this next little hint made me want to cry a little bit.  Really.  Stop.

Those delicious, sinful, yummy, gooey bites of Heaven served at the bakeries (think: Main Street, World Showcase, etc.), well, most of them are – gasp – pre-made.  I know.  I had visions of cast members in Chef hats lovingly rolling up each cinnamon roll then slathering it with icing after pulling it out of the oven just minutes before it graced my lips.  Yeah, not so.  Clara was told that these items are not made to suit, either.  However, depending on one’s specific allergies, it may be possible to eat up, so remember to check with the manager before ordering.

Get Park Wise: Don’t forget that you can always contact the Special Diets Team, especially if you have multiple allergies or need something additional ordered. Over half a million guests with allergies are served between Walt Disney World Resort and the Disneyland Resort each year.

Huge thanks to Clara Bell and her family for their insight into this side of Disney I didn’t know much about before our park trips together.

Do you or someone in your travel party have a food allergy?  How did you do at Disney?  Any problems?  Great tips?  We’d love to hear them!

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  • I’m impressed with Disney’s attempts to mitigate food allergies. Perhaps the ONLY place I’ve ever been asked about allergies is at Disney World.

    Shellfish and milk products do me in (and would ruin my vacation). if my food is even prepared near scallops (my heaviest allergy), I’ll become suddenly and violently ill upon eating. I like it that Disney World sit-down restaurants care about that.

    This is one area where Disney World surpasses all others. No where do I feel safer eating then when I’m dining at WDW table service restaurants.

    • I really was, too!! They’re not only concerned with guest safety but also their enjoyment. Each chef I encountered when dining with Clara’s family wanted to make sure that their specially prepared items were as appetizing and attractive as what the rest of us were having.

  • DannyeF

    Have also had good luck at Disneyland with a dairy allergy–Blue Bayou is awesome and the chef came out to talk with me, plus made me sherbet for dessert!

    • That’s great! Love hearing that both coast’s parks are doing their part for those with allergies.

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  • 1WaltFan

    My wife has gluten and cheese allergies and tries to stay away from dairy. When we were at Disney World for Food and Wine we were extremely impressed with how things were handled. The chef came over at every sit down restaurant and made sure she was accommodated. Even if they had to make something special. The quick service restaurants were also very helpful. Each time a manager came over with a book that had easy to use tabs to check ingredients. They even had gluten free pizza at Pizzafari in Animal Kingdom.

    Now that our kids are getting older we are considering some overseas travel which makes my Wife nervous given her food allergies. We will probably consider traveling with Adventures by Disney since she had such a good experience at Disney World.

    • Glad you’ve had good experiences with food at Disney. I’m always impressed with how they seem to go the extra mile for their guests.
      And going abroad with Adventures by Disney is a great idea!! They’ll definitely take care of you. Our clients love their level of service!

  • kymfilms

    My husband and I went to the Wave on our honeymoon and while my nut allergy isnt as severe as some when we told our server that there wasn’t a dessert without nuts available. Within a few minutes the chef came out and listened when I explained my allergy. Shortly after he came out with my husbands regular dessert and my special dessert. I have had this allergy my whole life and it was more severe when I was younger and it used to be such a pain to get anyone to care let alone a chef to come out ( I’m not talking Disney just anywhere in general) so to get that special help made me feel great and like at last allergies are acknowleged!

  • m97lrs

    I have a mild nut allergy and the response at Disney World when this was flagged on a reservation was exactly as outlined in the article – it was really impressive service. (I’m from England and I’ve never had the chef come out here!)
    Ironically I didn’t mention the nut problem at California Grill and despite normally being very careful ended up eating a desert with nuts. Luckily for me it just meant a bit of an uncomfortable night, but so easily avoided!
    Also impressive was seeing someone at our table at Teppan Edo who had a mild shellfish allergy. The chef cooked her food ahead of everyone else to ensure there could be no cross-contamination.
    Less impressive, although possibly just an off-day, was in DCA a couple of years ago at Wine Country Trattoria. I was on the World of Colo(u)r fixed menu and I think it was the appetizer that contained nuts and on asking if a substitution was possible I was told probably but the original item still came out. It was all sorted ok but there was no appearance from the chef!

  • That’s great to hear of your above and beyond service at Disney World. Hopefully it was just an off day at California Adventure. I’d hate to think that happens often. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

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