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.
Get 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.
Get 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!