Gluten Free Guests Experiences
Laura Schmitt's October 2010 Blog
Rhoda Smith, November 2009
Laura Schmitt's October 2009 Blog
A Gluten Free Vacation, Valerie Lobo March 2009
Christie, October 2008
Laura Schmitt, September 2008
Sandy Morris , February 2007
Laura Schmitt, January 2007
Roger, August 2006
Lynda Hodgins 2006
Dining Gluten-Free at WDW
by Rhoda Smith, Pittsburgh, PA
We were at WDW November 7-14, 2009. My husband had been diagnosed with Celiac Disease just a couple of months before this trip, so we suddenly had to jump into the world of gluten-free (GF) eating at WDW! I want to reassure GF eaters that it really was an easy process, even for beginners like us! The key is to do a lot of preparation and researching before you go. The more you know before, the better prepared you are for your GF dining experiences when you arrive! Planning is essential.
Some important phone numbers/email addresses to know:
-General phone number for special dietary needs (call before trip): 407-824-5967
-Animal Kingdom: 407-939-7536
–[email protected] (email prior to trip)
(Know that many restaurants in Epcot and all in AK are not Disney-owned, but still do provide GF options)
By either calling 407-824-5967 or emailing to the address above, WDW will send you an email full of information for GF dining. You want to do this as soon as possible to help with your meal planning, especially if you are using the Disney Dining Plan. There is a form to fill out with the name of the person who has the dietary restriction, contact info, restaurants with ADR's and confirmation numbers, etc. They make sure that your dietary need is connected with each reservation. I just needs to be returned to them prior to your visit. Then they also send several lists of info regarding GF dining, including:
-Guest Dietary Letter/Guest Allergy Dietary Request Form
-Information on allergy-free chicken tenders
-Food Allergy Dietary Reference Sheet
-OP Allergy Menus for Epcot
-Water Parks Menu Items
-WDW Resort Dietary Sheets
We printed these off and my husband carried them with him daily.
When making ADR's via phone, be sure to tell the Cast Member you are speaking with about your GF dietary need. They will notate this on your reservation. When making online ADR's, there is a place to “click” for special dietary needs, and “wheat allergy” is one of them. You will have to notate this with each restaurant ADR, even if they are tied to your hotel reservation.
At every table-service restaurant, the server was aware of our dietary need and the chef came to our table to discuss food options. All of the chefs were knowledgeable, some more than others, but all left us comfortable in knowing our food would be prepared GF and would be tasty! All presented the possibilities of GF options from the menu, and then offered to make something totally different if nothing sounded good. For buffet table-service restaurants, the chef took my husband around the buffet and discussed every option, declaring it either GF or not GF. (I can assure you that at all buffets, he was able to load his plate several times over!). At a non-buffet restaurant, a separate server (or the chef himself) brings out the meal on its own tray, so there is no potential for cross-contamination with the meals for the rest of the family.
At counter-service restaurants, the manager must be notified and he will review GF options with you. Then he goes back and chooses one food-preparer to prepare the food and bring it to your table, again on its' own tray. (**know that this takes longer than the preparation of normal food, so you may want to put in your GF food order first, and then order regular food for the rest of the family, so that GF tray has a head start).
We ate at the following restaurants and had these experiences:
–Pecos Bill's in the MK: Any sandwich can be prepared and placed on a GF bun. French Fries were made in a fryer dedicated to GF preparation (and took a good bit of time to fry). At this restaurant, the GF bun was hard, and the GF cookies provided for dessert (in a big package) were very small and average tasting.
–Tony's Town Square in the MK: EXCELLENT for GF dining. Rice pasta can be substituted for all pasta dishes except the ravioli. The mushroom sauce on the grilled pork tenderloin is not gluten free so that must be left off. But otherwise all dishes can be made GF. Veggies (artichokes, broccoli, red peppers) and marinara sauce were substituted for pasta and mushroom sauce on the grilled pork tenderloin. GF rolls were provided for dipping in oil (these were cold and hard…in other restaurants the same rolls were heated and very good).
–Pinocchio Village Haus in the MK: GF pizza is available and was very good. French fries are baked instead of fried, yogurt cup for dessert.
–Hollywood & Vine in DHS: many options available…buffet options change so I didn't write them all down. Caesar salad is not GF, and the only dessert is soft-serve ice cream in a dish.
–ABC Commissary in DHS: Chicken Cordon Bleu can be made on GF bun (or hamburger on GF bun). French Fries (didn't taste like baked, may also have their own fryer) were said to be GF. Large fruit bowl for dessert. Manager stated that the salads here are pre-made and dressings are questionable as to being GF.
–Tangierine Cafe in Morocco, Epcot: EXCELLENT for GF dining. Chicken/beef/lamb mixture with onion, olive, lettuce, hummus is served on a plate (instead of in a wrap as a gyro). GF buns are provided for hummus spread. No dessert option, but side of rice was provided since there was no dessert.
–Garden Grill in Epcot: EXCELLENT for GF dining. Meals here are served family-style: fish, turkey and beef with potatoes, stuffing, veggies all on the same plate. For the GF eater, a separate plate of these foods is provided, with fish made without breading, stuffing left off, and no sauce on the steak or gravy on the turkey. Mashed potatoes and vegetables (squash, snow peas) are on the same plate. (To stay clear…the GF eater gets his own tray of meats/sides prepared GF. The rest of the family gets a normal tray of foods). There is also a salad and GF rolls that were very good warm. Fruit was provided for dessert.
–Cinderella's Royal Table in the MK: All menu options are adaptable for being gluten-free. My husband had the salmon, rice and GF rolls. An appetizer was brought to the table, containing bruschetta, cheese, greens, Mediterranean salad…be sure to ask for a GF version for the GF diner (they just leave off the bruschetta). Sorbet for dessert.
–Columbia Harbor House in the MK: GF fried chicken and French fries, GF macaroni and cheese, big GF chocolate chip cookie (packaged) for dessert.
–Flame Tree BBQ in AK: EXCELLENT GF dining! Either the ribs or chicken meal are GF, with baked beans and cole slaw (they use a corn-based starch). GF prepackaged brownie for dessert. **This was by far the quickest counter service meal…perhaps because no french-fries were involved?)
–Le Cellier in Canada in Epcot: EXCELLENT GF dining! Any steaks were suitable, but the chef recommended the 14 oz NY Strip Steak or the 16 oz Kansas City Strip Steak (because the accompanying sides were GF). The KC Strip was excellent, with a side of delicious cream cheese mashed potatoes. GF rolls were provided instead of the regular breadsticks. And the best…Crème Brulee for dessert!
–Cantina de San Angel in Mexico in Epcot—We didn't get the name written down, but the chicken/corn tortilla dish that is the first option on the menu is GF (“something-pollo”). Comes with refried black beans and Mexican rice. There was no dessert option. (**This place seemed to be the least knowledgeable about GF preparation, language barrier did not help any. They did provide a notebook with labels of all their products used in preparations of food. The corn tortillas were GF).
–Cosmic Ray's at the MK: At this restaurant, there are many options and 3 service bays. The one my husband chose was a GF chicken salad, with a large GF chocolate chip cookie (packaged).
–Backlot Express in DHS: A large grilled chicken salad and large fruit bowl were the favorite GF option here.
A quick summary: Here are the counter service restaurants throughout WDW which easily provide GF meals:
Main St. Bakery
Toontown Farmer's Market
Liberty Square Market
Pinocchio Village Haus
Auntie Gravity's Galactic Goodies
Plaza Ice Cream Shop
Disney Hollywood Studios:
Studios Catering Company/Flatbread Grill
Toy Story Pizza Planet
Min & Bill's Dockside Diner
Flame Tree BBQ
Harambe Fruit Cart
THE ULTIMATE KEY is to be sure your server and chef (in table service restaurants) or the manager (at counter service restaurants) is made aware of your dietary need. You will get personalized service, one-on-one preparation and service of your meal. WDW is better about GF dining than any restaurant we have encountered outside of WDW!
A Gluten Free Family Vacation
Below is a report of our recent trip to WDW accommodating 4 celiac diners (my husband, me and our 2 daughters).
The folks at Disney World impressed us before we ever even got on the flight to head to Disney. We received an email containing restaurants that could accommodate us, the GF products carried in Disney World, and a generic food allergy form to be filled out. We were very skeptical about the generic form but we included all of our table service reservation numbers and also sent in the quick service locations we planned on visiting. From there our journey began. We were contacted directly by the chefs and sous chefs of the restaurants we planned on visiting. Yep, you read that correctly. The chefs called or emailed us to discuss menu options, etc. One of the quick serve locations we mentioned wanting to visit in Hollywood Studios would not be able to accommodate GF. They called to let us know what quick serve locations we could go to instead. It was nice to have a warm and fuzzy feeling before our trip even began.
Our first dining experience in the Magic Kingdom was at the Crystal Palace for a character dining with Winnie the Pooh and friends. When we checked in they had our reservation stating we had a food allergy. Once we were seated a chef came out to our table. Since this was a buffet, the chef walked the line with us. He informed us of what was safe and then took our order. He went to the back and got us fresh items so there was no chance of contamination. We were served Ener-g tapioca dinner rolls with our meal. I took one and broke it in half. The texture threw me since it appeared to be like tearing apart a foam cushion. However, we didn't let that deter us. One bite was all it took to get us hooked. These were absolutely fabulous! We ordered seconds of the rolls. Definitely one of the best GF rolls we've ever had. For dessert we ordered the GF brownie. I have no idea who the vendor is for this item. I would say to avoid this like the plague, though. I've never tried a worse brownie. It was a very mealy texture and tasted horrible. Let me put it this way, after that first brownie experience, we were to chicken to try brownies anywhere else in case they were the same! Overall, the dining at Crystal Palace was a wonderful experience. It was nice to know that we had our own chef to look after us.
We had our second table service at Tony's Town Square. This is a cute Lady and the Tramp themed restaurant. Everyone remembers that cute spaghetti dinner at Tony's where they kiss. The have a variety of options at this location, even boasting GF meatballs. The items we choose were chicken parmesan, shrimp scampi, and macaroni and cheese. They do carry those fabulous dinner rolls at this location. Have I mentioned you need to try them, yet? Every table service we attended had the fabulous rolls. We always ordered seconds. Overall, the food here was ho-hum. The sauces didn't have much flavor and the veggies in the shrimp scampi were odd. Instead of the traditional garlic flavor it was overpowered by sun dried tomatoes and asparagus. It reminded me of a pasta primavera and not shrimp scampi.
Our quick service meal at Cosmic Ray's was good. We had great customer service. As soon as we walked in and told the attendant we were GF, she handled our order from start to finish. So, even though it's a quick service location you are treated as thought it is table service with them bringing your meal out to you. They do carry GF rolls here and can do everything but chicken nuggets. The children's menu at this location was limited to hamburger or hotdog, though. We ordered a rib meal, bbq pulled pork sandwich, and a hotdog. I don't know if they heat the rolls differently here or what. It wasn't good, though. They fall apart and you're better off eating the meal minus the rolls. I did notice that the rolls at the table service locations were wonderful but at the quick service locations throughout Disney World it was better to eat just the meat.
Our second quick service meal was at the Columbia Harbor House. This was definitely our best quick service experience of our whole trip. Honestly, the GF selection was limited. What the menu lacked in variety the staff made up for in customer service. We had the pleasure of meeting Edward from Warren Robbins, WA. He was by far the most attentive manager we'd come across. He pulled out the books to go over safe options with us. We ordered chicken tenders, and the Garden Harvest salad substituting the chicken tenders on it, as well. He came out while our food was cooking to double check one of the items on the salad to be sure it was safe. I questioned whether they had fries at this location since he hadn't mentioned it earlier. He stated that they did. When our order came out I was surprised to see fries there since we technically hadn't ordered them. Edward brought them out since I had asked about them, though. The chicken tenders were great. Definitely one of the best GF varieties I've ever tried. The dessert options here were limited to applesauce or grapes. The kid's meal came with carrots and grapes. Edward checked on us several times during our meal. Once we done eating he came over and chatted with for quite awhile. He mentioned the training they go through to be aware of food sensitivities, etc. He spoke of his long and happy career with the Disney family. He also told us about the chefs that get assigned to each allergy family as they come into an establishment. At the end of the meal he brought out some of the trading pins to get our girls started on their own collection. If you have the good fortune of meeting Edward during your visit, consider yourself lucky!
We chose to eat at the Yak and Yeti. Numerous items could be made GF here. The flavoring would primarily be tamarind based. I was disappointed that none of the interesting tamarind or maple flavors could be used. I guess they just stock blends instead of having separate containers of the maple or tamarind. This was probably the most disappointing table service of our entire stay. The food was so bland. You can usually taste ginger and garlic in the sauces. All of the dishes had the same boring flavor. The chef essentially just made tamari gravy that he poured over the entrees. The flavor could have been so much better if some ginger or garlic were added. We ordered beef and broccoli, Mahi Mahi, and a kid's vegetable lo mein. Can you see the vegetable's in the lo mein? Neither could we. Thankfully we ordered broccoli and carrots as the sides with her meal. The fish was cooked well but the sauce didn't add anything to it. The beef and broccoli was bland. I will give them credit for having tasty sorbets for dessert. Mango, Raspberry, and lemon sorbet's to choose from. Yummy!
For dinner we ate at the Flame Tree BBQ. It was simple but yummy. We ordered ribs and chicken there. The food was well cooked, the ribs had a good smoke on them, and the chicken was nice and tender. This is an excellent GF option. If you enjoy BBQ be sure to stop by this quick service restaurant. You will not be disappointed.
Our first table service dinner was at Mama Melrose's. They carry GF pasta at this location and have numerous GF options for entrees and dessert. They can even do fried calamari, chicken parmesan, or eggplant. The chef uses a rice flour blend on them. For dessert you can have a chocolate flourless cake that's not even on the menu, creme limone with whipped cream and berries, and various gelatos. We ordered the wood grilled shrimp pasta, Fra Diavolo, and spaghetti w/ tomato sauce. This was a great meal and the calamari so very yummy.
Our second table service was at the Sci Fi Diner. The food here was fair at best. If you choose to go to this restaurant just remember that you are going for the atmosphere and not the food. We ordered a pasta primavera, steak, and a hot dog.
Our first quick service experience was at Pizza Planet. We had difficulties with the young cast member taking our order. We were already used to dealing with the managers as soon as we walked in and that is what we expected. When we stated that we are GF, the girl stated it was fine that she could take our order. So, we attempted to order. Then the girl told us that GF could NOT be accommodated on a kid's meal. I told her that our entire party is GF, though. She said, “sorry but we can't do it”. I requested to speak to the manager. The girl got an attitude and stated, “The answer is going to be the same but fine I'll go and get her”. Pizza Planet is a pizza place and a large arcade restaurant. Do you really think that we chose this restaurant? Heck no, our kid wanted this one. When the manager came out I explained that our entire party if GF. I then told her that the cast member stated GF was not possible on a kid's meal. The manager apologized and gave our daughter the GF pizza kid's meal. The manager even threw in some yummy all fruit bars for dessert that aren't even on the menu. I was thankful that the manager dealt with the situation accordingly.
Our second quick service experience was at the Back Lot Express. Not only do they have a dedicated fryer for GF, they also have a nice southwest salad with corn chip strips and a chimichurri dressing. Dessert here is limited to pudding or grapes. The only child's menu option is chicken nuggets with fries, carrots, or grapes. They do have hot dogs and burgers on the menu here but, that is not an option for the kid's meal.
Hollywood Studios is the one park that needs to be more accommodating to kid's GF requests. Pizza Planet didn't want to accommodate a GF kid's meal. At two other quick service locations (Back Lot Express and Studio Catering Company) there was only one kid's meal option. What are you supposed to do if your child doesn't want chicken?
We had a character dining at the Akershurs restaurant in Norway. The best thing about this dining experience is that the princesses are present and stop by every table. Before you are led to your table you have your picture taken with a princess. Surprisingly, you are given the picture for free. Yep, you read that correctly. You get the princess picture for free. This is a buffet setting. The chef came out and discussed our menu options with us. Since the buffet didn't look like there was much chance of cross contamination, I followed the chef's assessment and just ate from the buffet instead of getting fresh items from the back. I would love to be able to say that is was a safe dining experience. However, I cannot. I believe I was contaminated at this meal. I do appreciate the fact that they really do try hard to keep you safe, though. Unfortunately, following this meal, I got to be very familiar with the restroom. The meal was tasty and would been great aside from the probable contamination issue. The only dessert options were chocolate flourless cake and rice cream with berries.
Our second table service was at the Coral Reef. Once again the chef came out to discuss menu options and to take our order. Out of all of the menu's that we had encountered over the trip, this menu appears to have the most GF options. We ordered the pan seared catch of the day (Grouper), seared Ahi Tuna, and Mahi Mahi. The food was all cooked wonderfully. Once again we received a nice big basket of tapioca rolls. The dessert options were crcme brulee, chocolate flourless cake, and sorbet. This was our best meal of the entire trip.
Port Orlean's Riverside Resort – Riverside Mill Food Court
We had a couple of meals at our resort. It was not on the list of restaurants accommodating GF options however, Boatwright's was on the list. So, maybe they grabbed the chef from Boatwright's? As soon as the staff at the food court knows that you are GF, they get the chef for you. The chef goes over the various options with you. At breakfast we were able to order pancakes and waffles. They come with sausage, bacon, and fresh fruit. The bacon here is paper thin. Other items available at breakfast include eggs, omelets, and potato wedges.
For lunch the chef came out to go over our options again. He had me follow him over to the salad station so he could make my grilled chicken salad. The chef waved me to the front so I could tell him what I wanted on my salad.
In closing, I would just like to say, Disney World does care and goes out of their way to ensure a safe GF vacation. Be sure to make reservations at the dining locations and let them know when you'll be there. If you've been considering a Disney vacation, go for it. You won't be disappointed.
A Gluten-Free Disney Dining Experience
Christie, October 2008
We have been big Disney fans since our first visit in 1992. Since then, we've been annually vacationing with the mouse. But when I was diagnosed with celiac disease this summer, I was suddenly dreading being away from my safe gluten-free kitchen during our planned October vacation. After reading everything I could find about vacationing gluten-free, I was happy to learn that Disney has an excellent reputation for allergy awareness.
Planning in advance – With that being said, I took the advice of others on this site and made sure that all of our table seating reservations were marked with my special dietary requirement and gluten intolerance. I also emailed Disney and was sent a list of all the foods that they carried in the parks which would be safe, all the places that I could eat, and a list of all the gluten-free substitutions that they have in the restaurants (such as Ener-G tapioca rolls, Amy's pizza dough, gluten-free brownies, rice flour, etc.).
Next, I made an effort to contact all of the chefs at the restaurants where we had table seating reservations. Because of my work schedule, it was a bit hard to get in touch (I would recommend around 4PM), but I was able to speak with Chef Phillip from Citricos in advance. My phone conversation with him was wonderful. He put my mind completely at ease and told me all of the things I could eat (the list was endless). We had reservations for Citricos on my birthday so I asked if it might be possible to have a special dessert (preferably something chocolate!). He told me that would not be a problem at all, and came up with a flourless cake, while speaking with his sous-chef, Eddy.
Despite all the wonderful things I had heard and my great experience with the chefs and managers so far, I was still nervous and wanted to bring some snacks with us (just incase). I was also happy to find out that although Disney does not usually allow outside food, they do let guests with special dietary needs bring snacks into the parks. So I packed up some gluten-free granola, energy bars, and crackers, and was on my way!
Arrival – This was our first DVC trip and we stayed at Saratoga Springs. It happened to be excellent timing as it was great to have the fully equipped kitchen (fridge, microwave, stove, sink, dishwasher, etc.) and we stocked up on a few things to make dining easier. The convenience store at Saratoga carried Yoplait yogurt (labeled gluten free) in peach and berry flavor. I had that with my gluten-free granola for breakfast daily. They also had gluten free brownies and Lays Stax potato chips (made on dedicated equipment and marked naturally gluten free). However, my favorite thing was that the bar at Saratoga Springs (Turf Club Lounge) carried Redbridge gluten-free beer. This was excellent news and throughout my trip, I was able to relax near the pool and enjoy a delicious cold one!
Citricos (Grand Floridian) – My birthday dinner was amazing! As soon as we arrived, I reminded the hostess of my gluten intolerance (which I recommend doing at all restaurants). She was very friendly and said that she would make sure our server knew and that the chef would come out to meet us. For drinks, I started out with a Citricos bellini (made with champagne, peaches, and raspberries); our server checked to make sure that it was not a packaged mix and that it would be naturally gluten-free. The head chef, Phillip, came out to our table and walked me through the menu. Since everything was made fresh, there was very little that I wouldn't be able to have. I opted for the naturally gluten-free Filet Giardiniere (Filet of Beef with House-cured Vegetables, Quattro Formaggi Crushed Potatoes and Veal Glacé de Viande). It was delicious and by far, the best meal I had eaten in quite some time. For dessert, sous-chef Eddy brought me out a chocolate flourless cake that he had specially made for my birthday. It was a molten chocolate cake with a lava center and was exceptional! I almost cried because it was so wonderful and they made me feel so special. The chefs really went out of their way to create such an enjoyable experience, but they do it in such a gracious manner and act like it's no trouble at all. Truly magical!
Turf Club Lunch (Saratoga Springs) – Once again, the chef came out right away to discuss menu options with me. Since it was only lunch and I really wanted to try these Ener-G rolls, I opted for the Angus Chuck Cheeseburger – topped with cheddar cheese and applewood smoked bacon. I also had the french fries since the chef assured me that they were safe (dedicated fryer, new oil, and a guarantee that he would prepare them himself). Once again, my meal was very yummy. The bun wasn't bad at all and was basically masked by the excellent flavor of the cheeseburger. The fries were also crisped to perfection.
Flying Fish (Boardwalk) – After such a delicious and filling lunch, we were looking for something light for dinner. The chef came out to speak with me and recommended the Potato-Wrapped Red Snapper, served over a Creamy Leek Fondue, with a Veal Glace, Red Wine, and Cassis Butter Sauce. I decided to try it and wasn't disappointed. At first, I found the snapper to be a bit dry, but realized that it was really meant to be paired with the leek fondue. Eating the two in unison greatly enhanced the experience and dinner was once again, very good. We were too stuffed to even attempt dessert at this point.
Flame Tree BBQ (Animal Kingdom) – This was a previous favorite of mine and one that I was looking forward to trying gluten-free. However, I must say that the experience was not as fabulous as I had hoped. We arrived for lunch a bit early (around 11AM – I had heard that it's usually best to go before or after peak hours in order to speak with the manager). It wasn't too crowded yet and the manager came out and showed us a book with all of the ingredients for their menu choices. The St. Louis Ribs were safe, but the BBQ sauce and baked beans were questionable (due to modified food starch). Also, they are no longer serving corn on the cob and now just have a corn muffin, which I couldn't have. I ordered the ribs (listed as ribs only – allergy), but without the sauce, beans, and muffin, it was a bit plain and not so appetizing. I did however see someone with a mixed greens salad (with chicken) that looked quite good. I think I would opt for that choice next time.
Turf Club Dinner (Saratoga Springs) – Amazing! I didn't expect to enjoy this restaurant because of its fairly standard American fare, but the food was truly outstanding and the staff was exceptional! Our chef, Ron, came out to meet us right away and reviewed all of the menu choices. There wasn't a thing that I couldn't have! He offered to make rice pasta, gluten-free flat bread, crab cakes or fried calamari (with rice four), and said he could alter any menu choice accordingly. I decided to go with the Free-Range Chicken Breast – stuffed with sun-dried tomato pesto and goat cheese with roasted garlic risotto and balsamic glaze. Because the stuffing would have breadcrumbs, Ron made me two grilled chicken breasts topped with the pesto and goat cheese served alongside the risotto. I also had a mixed greens salad with a lemon-poppy vinaigrette dressing for an appetizer. And finally, Ron made me a special gluten-free brownie sundae (topped with Edy's ice cream) for dessert. I really enjoyed this meal and can't rave enough about the excellent service that I received!!
Artist Palette Lunch (Saratoga Springs) – At first, I was a little nervous about eating here because the counter service did not seem to really cater to special dietary requirements. But boy was I wrong! We once again asked to speak with a manager, but the server said that she would instead send out the chef to discuss my needs. And what do u know, Ron came out to meet us! He was just as gracious as the night before and said that he could make any sandwich, salad or PIZZA that I wanted. Since swimming was on the list for today and I had such a big meal for dinner, I chose the House Salad with grilled chicken (served with the citrus vinaigrette, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, diced apples and chopped walnuts). Ron also waited in line with us to make sure that the cashier properly submitted the allergy requirement. Our food was served very quickly and was once again delicious!
Yachtsman Steakhouse (Yacht Club) – Our waiter here was a long time Disney employee and was very knowledgeable regarding my gluten-free requirement. He brought out some Ener-G tapioca rolls right away and had the chef come out to meet me. The chef went through the menu and showed me what food I should avoid (this list here was a bit longer than other Disney restaurants and the chef did not seem to know how to alter anything that was normally made with flour, but this was OK because it was a steakhouse and the best meals were gluten free anyway – I was just happy that he knew about cross contamination and made sure that everything would be prepared safely). I started out with the Chilled Seafood Salad (Lobster, Shrimp and Jumbo Crab with Lemon Créme Fraiche and Avocado Cream – naturally gluten free). I had never had anything similar and it was excellent. For my entrée, I chose to eat the Yachtsman Filet Mignon, an 8-ounce Filet with Mashed Potatoes and a Red Wine Sauce. This was very good (although my similar meal at Citricos was admittedly better). I also had the crème brulee for dessert, which was outstanding. During dinner, the chef came out again to make sure that I was enjoying everything and that all the food was prepared to my satisfaction. I greatly appreciated this customer service and attention to detail – it really is the Disney Difference.
Snacks – I had a variety of different snacks throughout my stay. Some of my favorites were the pineapple and vanilla swirl Dole Whip at Aloha Isle in Adventureland (Magic Kingdom) and the chocolate/caramel popcorn that I had in Epcot (this was a prepackaged bag that could be found in most convenience stores).
Overall, I was able to eat well and safely throughout my entire trip. I'm very happy to say that this experience exceeded all of my expectations and I can't wait to travel back to Disney World again soon!
Sandy Morris' “GF Dining in Disney” Adventure
Cinderella's Castle for Dinner – It was unfortunate that we were REALLY hungry arriving at the castle for dinner, as it took quite a while to get to the actual food. If our tummies hadn't been so rumbly, we would have been able to enjoy the ambience of the castle, with its suits of armor and stained glass windows depicting scenes from Cinderella. We would have been more patient while we waited for Cinderella to return from her “tea break” so we could have our picture taken. I'd have rather skipped the picture and gone straight to the food, but when we attempted to storm the castle, we were promptly returned back to the queue to wait for Her Majesty.
Since I have to have a gluten-free diet, they sent a chef around to my table…eventually. To be fair, he showed up long before our actual server. Again, we were cranky from hunger and unable to properly enjoy the experience. But at last the food arrived, and all the problems magically disappeared.
The chef went over the menu with me and showed me which entrees and sides were ok for me, and allowed me to mix and match to create a safe and enjoyable meal. This is a fixed price meal with an appetizer/salad, entrée, and dessert.
I began with the BLT Salad, which sounds heavy, but was actually very light and refreshing. It was a small salad of lettuce and spinach, topped with bacon, tomato, and egg with a roasted shallot vinaigrette. This was my only safe choice among the appetizers, but it was what I would have ordered anyway, and it was delicious.
For my entrée, I had the pork tenderloin, which is normally served with orzo, but I substituted smoked corn polenta, resulting in the best meal I had inside the Magic Kingdom park. It was fabulous, and with yummy food in my tummy, my mood was definitely on an upswing.
I think the disappointment on my face must have been pretty obvious when the chef said the only dessert he had for me was raspberry sorbet, so he immediately offered to bring me strawberries with whipped cream instead. I agreed and it was delicious, though I have to admit, I later saw a server bringing a raspberry sorbet to another customer, and it actually looked really good.
The food in the castle is great, but the high price tag is really for the show. The Fairy Godmother and the two girl mice from the Cinderella movie do a floor show that is very uplifting and funny. Afterwards, everyone had the opportunity to take pictures of the characters, so it was great scrapbooking material as well.
I would highly recommend this meal for all GF adults.
Crystal Palace – Everywhere we went, my GF needs were already in the computer and the servers did not need to be made aware of it. Instead of having the server try to figure out what might be safe, they let me know as soon as I sat down that a chef would be out to talk to me. I greatly appreciate this, even though it meant I often had to wait; at home I am always encountering “helpful” servers who are certain they know what I can eat and are reluctant to let me talk to someone in the kitchen.
At the Crystal Palace , the chef walked me through the buffet line, showing me which foods were safe for me. He offered to make me a waffle or pancake, which I declined, but I accepted his offer of tapioca dinner rolls. I ate bacon, potatoes, eggs, and lots of fruit, but I was especially happy with the rolls, which I ate four of.
The Crystal Palace is a character breakfast with Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger. In addition to the picture taking at each table, the characters also lead the children on a parade throughout the restaurant, which makes a great energetic start to the day.
I recommend Crystal Palace for its fun atmosphere and quantity of food. The food quality is good, but not memorable; however, if you are not eating breakfast at Cinderella's or Chef Mickey's, this is a good choice.
Boma — Boma is a hotel restaurant located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I was really excited about Boma, but I'm afraid it didn't live up to my expectations. For starters, it's hard to get to. Animal Kingdom Lodge is located out in the middle of nowhere and to get there from the Polynesian, we had to first take a boat to the MK (believe it or not, the monorail was broken), then take a bus from the MK to Animal Kingdom, stopping at Blizzard Beach along the way.
So on to Boma! I had read that instead of a buffet line, Boma was set up in stations called “pods” throughout the restaurant, with chefs nearby to tell you about the dishes. Well, guess what… buffet line. No pods, no chefs, just a standard buffet line, with placards to tell you what you are eating. Don't know what Kofta is? Salaai? Too bad. You are going to have to go track down your server and ask him.
Of course, I had a chef to take me through and tell me what was safe, thank goodness. I would have been lost trying to make guesses on my own. However, I didn't really get a lot of information on the actual food, just if it was safe or not. The meats (salmon and beef) were not GF, but the chef offered to make me a piece of either without seasoning. I decided instead to go vegetarian for this meal and broaden my culinary horizons, which is why I was in an African restaurant to begin with.
I had Avocado, Papaya, and Grapefruit Salad, some Saffron Rice, Potatoes With “ Afritude,” and FuFu, which is a combination of white potatoes and yams, mashed together. (Really delicious!) I Googled FuFu when I got home. Apparently the term refers to a wide variety of dishes, many of which contain wheat, so I would not assume this is safe to eat without double checking, even at Boma.
I had some stir-fry vegetables, which were surprisingly spicy, like there was a hot pepper of some kind in it. There was an impressive array of desserts that I, of course, had to pass over. I was able to have rice pudding (the sticky kind with raisins) and some small flourless brownies that tasted like they were made on sugar, butter, and cocoa powder and nothing else. It was very flat, so I don't think there were any leavening ingredients in them. Very yummy.
Our server was a fabulous gentleman who was also celiac. When pressed, he admitted that he does not generally find much he can eat at Boma, as he is also diabetic and lactose intolerant. I gave him my deepest sympathies and wished him healthy eating.
Flame Tree BBQ – Flame Tree BBQ is a counter service restaurant in Animal Kingdom, which I had previously passed over as it appeared to have no seating. It actually has ample outdoor seating behind the restaurant, including tables next to a beautiful fountain (with ducks!) or by the lagoon, with a perfect view of Mt Everest. It was a lovely peaceful oasis away from the crowds.
I knew the St Louis Ribs were GF, but I wasn't sure if the baked beans were, so I skipped them. The ribs were great. My daughter and I shared a plate and devoured them quickly. She got my corn on the cob, so I can't report on that. My son's kid meal came with carrots and grapes, so I shared those with him and let her have the corn. I have eaten at Tusker House on previous trips, and I am so glad to have found a replacement. I recommend Flame Tree instead.
Victoria and Albert's – Victoria & Albert's is Disney's premier restaurant, in their Grand Floridian hotel. This is one of those Special Occasion, Once In A Lifetime kind of restaurants. Unless you think nothing of dropping $500 for dinner for two, in which case, can you please take me with you?
Let's start with the price, or else you won't read any farther. How do we get to 500 bucks? This is a fixed price menu at $115 per guest… in other words, $230 for two. Add in wine… although you can order by the glass, the full experience requires the wine pairing. This gives you a new glass of wine with each of your seven courses, each specially selected to complement that food. Wine pairing adds $60 per guest, bringing our total to 350 smackers.
But wait! There's more! Not all the items on the menu are included in the price. Some items have a surcharge. If you want to have Iranian Oestra Caviar as your appetizer, that will add $112 to your total price. We skipped the caviar, but chose to “swallow” a couple of surcharges. I added on $15 for Foie Gras, on the chef's recommendation that it was the best thing on the menu, and another $30 for Australian Kobe Beef Tenderloin, the famously pricey steak. My husband chose to add a $20 surcharge for Seared Wild Turbot, a fish that neither of us had ever heard of, let alone tasted. The chef described it as tasting more like butter than like fish, and he was right. So, now we've added $65 to our bill bringing us to $415, and now we have to tip for the best service of our life. 20% of $415 comes in just under $500.
Now, is it worth it? As a once-in-a-lifetime-special-occasion? YES! It was absolutely incredible and we ate until we were in physical pain. It was the most extravagant, sensual, incredible experience of our lives. Every serving was a work of art, visually and gastronomically.
The menu at V&A changes nightly. The server presented us each with our own personalized menu. They were the same except that mine had fewer dessert choices. Our server explained that the chef would prepare anything on my menu and ensure it was GF. I don't think I have enough adjectives to go through everything we ate, but I'll touch on the highlights. Seared Colorado Buffalo Tenderloin, Braised Fennel, Radishes, and Satsuma Tangerine Vinaigrette – incredible!
Foie Gras with Fuji Apple Tart and Mostarda di Cremona – we paid the surcharge of $15 for this one and I think it was worth it. The Foie Gras was too rich for me to take more than a couple bites, but I really enjoyed the apples which were soaked in the meat drippings. My husband finished the Foie Gras for me and was even more wild for it than I was.
The Kobe Beef Tenderloin was excellent, but I'm not sure it was worth the $30 surcharge. The fame surrounding this beef has to do with the cattle which receive regular massages and are fed beer along with their feed. I think I'd rather be a Kobe cow than eat one. The Cauliflower Puree that came with it, though, was divine.
Mark had a cheese plate that included Pierre Robert cheese, which he fell in love with. It was served with an amazing 1963 vintage Sandeman Port, which has forever changed how we view port. Mark actually got on the web to see if we could buy it, but it is rare and when available, goes for upward of $200 a bottle. I had coconut gelato with micro garden mint, which was fabulous, and it was served with a Moscato D'Asti champagne.
Mark's desert was off the menu for me, but bears mentioning simply because of its incredible presentation. A pyramid of Tanzanie Dark Chocolate Mousse was topped with a small edible gold flag. (Yes, real 24k gold.) Along the sides of the pyramid was chopped strawberries and chocolate sauce. The backdrop to this confection was a looming wafer-cookie, with a picture of Cinderella's Castle and the words “Dreams Come True.” Back in the world of the celiac, I had vanilla crème brulee, which was very good, but I couldn't eat very much at that point as I was so incredibly full.
It is incredible to me that I got to eat a meal like this and never once worry about it making me sick. It's even more incredible that I could eat off such an extensive menu without once asking “can you check to see if this is thickened with flour?” This is proof that food does not have to be tasteless to be GF. Worth every penny, even if you leave penniless.
Ohana Breakfast – Ohana was a favorite of mine BC (Before Celiac) and I was disappointed that it was off limits now (soy sauce city), but I was able to book us for a character breakfast there. The characters are Mickey, Pluto, Lilo, and Stitch. Adding to the fun, the kids get maracas to follow the characters around the restaurant in a musical parade. This was a pretty ordinary breakfast, the one exception being the Ohana Juice, a mixture of orange, guava, and passion fruit, which is pretty darn tasty.
Because the meal is served family style, with the biscuits and waffles all piled up on top of one big skillet, the chef brought me my own plate with scrambled eggs, bacon, and potatoes. The sausage was also GF, but I'm not a big sausage fan. It was hot and fresh and tasty. Still, if you are not traveling with a child under the age of 10, there is no point in stopping here. The main attraction here is the characters.
Chef Mickey's – This is probably the most fun restaurant in all of Disney, with upbeat music, a dessert buffet and make-your-own Sundae station, and most importantly, plenty of face time with the Mouse Himself.
There were plenty of things I could eat on the buffet (prime rib, mashed potatoes, veggies), although I worried about cross-contamination. The chef here did not offer to bring me food from the back, but he probably would have if I had asked. He did bring me a gluten-free “brownie” for dessert. It was a thick slice of dense, fudge-y chocolate that was more like a decadence cake than an actual brownie.
If you have children of any age, a group, or are looking for an upbeat party-atmosphere, Chef Mickey's is a must-do. Romantic couples, on the other hand, would probably do better to look elsewhere.
Chip and Dale's Harvest Feast at the Garden Grill – This character lunch/dinner is located in The Land pavilion in Epcot. The restaurant rotates (very very slowly) above the Living With The Land attraction, providing a glimpse of the ride below. Chip, Dale, Mickey, and Pluto were on hand that day, coming to each table for pictures and autographs. This meal is normally served family-style and includes flank steak, turkey, and fried catfish. However, since I needed a GF meal, they brought out our food on separate plates. There were several things on my husband's plate that I couldn't have (buttermilk biscuits, catfish, bread pudding), but my own food was delicious. The mushroom sauce normally served on the beef is not GF, so my serving was plain, but it was still great, like beef brisket without the BBQ sauce. The turkey with cranberry sauce was moist and tasty and the mashed potatoes were a great compliment to the meal. The waitress also brought me GF rolls (the same tapioca rolls I had at Crystal Palace ) and offered to make me a dessert, but I was stuffed.
This is for the Celiac page (there are three reviews there, and I hoped to add to that with this blog link that shows pictures of what we ate in Disneyworld as well as brief descriptions)
We ate Gluten free and Dairy free, so this would be useful info for those with Celiac, Autism and other dairy/wheat allergies.
We were incredibly surprised by the overwhelming support of my wife's celiac's disease. Most experiences were excellent, some were horrible.
In general, when booking a reservation, tell them you have a food allergy, and list Celiac's disease. We were told once there that buffet places are much better, because they have a very well equipped kitchen, and even if they have limited selections at the buffet, with so many ingredients in the kitchen, they can prepare lots of variety to bring out to you.
We ate at Cape May (Beach Club) – just ok overall, but they were very very accomodating, and made my wife her own salmon plate, salads, and mussels.
Hoop de Doo Review – none of the served food was Gluten Free, so they call ahead a day before and asked what you'd like. My wife asked for grilled veggies, ribs, chicken – and got mountains of it all. Her food was miles better than the rest of ours (looking back, I might be tempted to say we were all need that custom meal, cause it was awesome).
Boma – wow. The food was awesome for our tastes. It was tough to have to skip the couscous, and many breads, etc – but still crazy amounts of tasty foods that were gluten free. They also brought out a gluten free cake that was phenomenal.
Chef Mickeys / Crystal Palace – both Character dining buffets. Pretty good food, and decent gluten free selection.
Dining with Cinderella in the Castle – my wife sent her food back, and didn't eat (we got our money back for her meal). We got the impression that all food is premade, and assembled before service. She ordered the same as me, and got the meat only on the potatoes, with no garnish or sauce. It was really really pathetic. For such an expensive meal, what a disappointment.
For Counter Services – you can walk up and ask for a list of ingredients because you have a food allergy. You can have look at the menu and figure out what you can eat, and get it. That's hard-ish – because it takes some time to get that, scrub it, and then if you find that you can't eat there, you have to do it again. The wood fired oven-cooked gluten free pizza at Pizza Planet (MGM) WAS awesome. So were the ribs at Flame Tree (Animal Kingdom). The chef at the Port Orleans French Quarter was very very nice and cooked my wife a very good chicken and salad lunch, and gave her a WICKED good gluten free cheesecake. He was super, and will make stuff to order with any advance noticed (he offered gluten free pancakes for breakfast, but it was our last day).
All in all – getting the dining plan and eating at disney was wonderful.
After having been to Disney World several times with my family, we faced a new challenge in 2005, when my 8yr old daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease.
Being an avid planner, I took on the challenge of ensuring that our annual trip to Disney World would be just as wonderful, as it was each and every other time. Plus, I didn't want my daughter to feel deprived in any way, as a result of having her dining options limited. I researched our options feverishly for months, and I can honestly say, that it was well worth it in the end.
Here are some helpful tips and some information, for anyone who is traveling to Disney World with a child, (or adult), with Celiac Disease.
First and foremost, I must commend Disney's table-service restaurants, for being extraordinarily knowledgeable and accommodating to our family. They literally came and sat at our table with my daughter, and asked her what she would like, and made some suggestions. Every meal she ate was outstanding. Luckily, my daughter is not a picky eater, so that, I will admit, was very helpful. She's more inclined to eat mashed potatoes and vegetables, than French fries and chicken nuggets anyways, so that made things easier!
The one thing I do have to say is that you must indicate, if you are making Advance Reservations, that you have a member of your party who has a food allergy, (and yes, be sure to specify Celiac Disease),. When you arrive, you must again remind them of the allergy and ask to speak with the chef. The Chef usually will come to your table when you are seated, and sometimes, they will contact you in advance by phone, as you'll read below.
We dined at Cinderella's Royal Table for breakfast, and she had a wonderful breakfast provided to her. The chef came out to greet us and asked all sorts of questions as to what she liked and disliked and seemed fairly knowledgeable about Celiac. She was a little blue, however, that she couldn't have the croissants, rolls and muffins that were set out for the rest of us on the table, so we asked to have them removed, which they did, and we all abstained.
Breakfast at the Crystal Palace was great and the Chef, again, came to speak with us when we were seated. He took my daughter and I up to the buffet and pointed out what she could and couldn't have. He offered to make her some GF waffles, which we accepted, and she had a wonderful omelet made for her. You do need to let them know about any allergy, so that they can make it separately, if needed.
We also dined for breakfast at 1900 Park Fare, which was also great. The chef called us at our hotel the day before our reservation, and asked for info on what my daughter liked. When we arrived at the restaurant, we alerted our greeter that we'd need to see the chef, and she came out to walk us through the buffet, and then went to the kitchen to get her special GF waffle. Great service, once again.
We dined at Chef Mickey's for supper at the Contemporary resort on our first evening of our trip, and it was great. The chef had actually called us at home to go over her preferences, and greeted us when we were seated so that he could walk us through the buffet. Again, he offered to make her GF versions of many of the items in the buffet. Luckily, the adult buffet, with roast prime rib and mashed potatoes is right up my daughter's alley, so no special requests were necessary.
The 50's Prime Time Café was good for lunch. The chef prepared her GF chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes, and prepared all her favorite veggies as well.
And finally, on our last evening there, we went to the Hoop Dee Doo Revue. The chef called us at our hotel a few days in advance to see what she would like to eat. They made her grilled chicken and peppers, corn on the cob, and rice. For dessert, she had a huge bowl of fresh fruit. We were amazed at the amount and quality of her Gluten free meal. The only down side, was that she had no option for dessert, other than fruit. She was blue again to see all the strawberry shortcake being handed out, so again, two of us abstained, however my 4yr old, HAD to eat it!!
So, the table-service restaurants scored an A+ with regards to their service, attentiveness, and knowledge of my daughter's allergy. One minor exception being that she couldn't have strawberry shortcake with her meal at the Hoop Dee Doo Revue. That could be an easy-fix, however, as it is easy to make up GF white cake, and freeze slices of it in the freezer. Then, all that would need to be added would be the strawberries and whipped cream, (provided they are prepared separately from the rest of the strawberry shortcakes, i.e. not using the same utensils to spoon the strawberries or whipped cream on. Also, I am certain that somewhere, some company makes GF frozen strawberry shortcake, or a version of it.),. It must be stressed however, that even if you indicate, when you make your advance reservations, that you have an allergy, you still need to mention to the cast member at the podium when you check in for your reservation, that you will need to see the chef, as well as the cast member who seats you, and your waitress/waiter.
With regards to counter service restaurants, I must say, our favorites were Toy Story Pizza Planet at MGM, and Flame Tree Barbecue at Animal Kingdom. Toy Story Pizza Planet makes GF pizzas that are outstanding, but they take longer to make, as they have to be cooked at Mama Melrose's, next door. It only takes about 5-7 minutes to wait, and it's worth it. She was thrilled and it tasted great. We ate there twice during our trip. Flame Tree Barbecue was also great and she had ribs and corn on the cob, along with a delicious cup of frozen lemonade that was so refreshing on a hot October afternoon. It was a great surprise to be eating lunch and have Mickey and Goofy and a few others, float by in a boat. A cast member had alerted us that they'd be coming by, so we were prepared, and it was a great treat. Flame Tree Barbecue and Toy Story were our best counter-service experiences, though I'll admit, at Flame Tree, they had NO idea what I was talking about, when I mentioned that we had a gluten allergy. I just asked for info on their barbecue sauce for their ribs and left it at that. I would suggest that anyone else do the same, as their ingredients could change.
We went to Liberty Inn at EPCOT, and again, no one knew what we were talking about. Luckily, I carried GF crackers and cookies, etc with us, wherever we went. They did have a designated fryer for people with allergies so French fries were an option. Apparently, they have GF buns for hotdogs, though I wasn't sure if the wieners were GF, so opted against taking the chance.
We stopped for ice cream at the Plaza Ice Cream shop and, though the older gentleman who worked at the cash had no idea what Celiac or gluten was, he had a book with all the ice creams they had, and it had a listing for what was nut-free, gluten-free, suitable for diabetics, etc. So that was helpful.
And finally, as most Celiacs know, McDonald's fries are not gluten-free, so the little stands around Disney are now out for those with Celiac.
The popcorn at Magic Kingdom is Orville Redenbacher's and is GF. So is the Itzakadoozie popsicle, which is available around Disney in the ice cream carts.
The only place where we really noticed a lack of accommodations for gluten allergies was at our hotel, Pop Century. The food court was not accommodating at all, and we really had few, if any options for my daughter. We rarely ate there as a result, though we occasionally picked up fresh fruit and potato chips, and purchased milk to put on her GF cereal that we brought. We had one Caesar salad made to order, and it was quite an ordeal, as they kept trying to put croutons in it. I reiterated how important it was that the salad be made in a clean, fresh bowl with clean, fresh salad tongs. She was ill shortly thereafter, so I'm not too convinced that my request was accommodated well. I had alerted Pop Century that we would be coming in with someone with gluten allergies, and asked if there would be anything that they could provide at the food court such as GF pizza or spaghetti, but no one ever got back to me.
Here are some Disney numbers for contacts regarding dining with allergies, and attending the parks with someone who has allergies:
If you have specific inquiries or would like recommendations regarding the food served at the park restaurants, you are welcome to call the executive chefs or Food and Beverage managers for our theme parks, at the telephone numbers listed below. If no one is immediately available when you call, please be sure to leave a message and a telephone number where you may be reached.
Magic Kingdom Park: 407-824-5967
Disney-MGM Studios: 407-560-1347
Disney's Animal Kingdom: 407-939-7536 (Please note Walt Disney World Company operates no full-service restaurants in this park.)
We would also like to mention that as an exception to our standard policy, guests who have specific food allergies are welcome to bring their own small snack items with them into the theme parks.
However, picnic baskets, ice chests, and coolers are not permitted.
Another thing to note, for those on the Disney Dining Plan: We were concerned that our daughter wouldn't be able to have any of the counter service meals, given the fact that the plan stipulates that children must have a child's meal. My husband and I had visions of the two us eating cheese pizzas or chicken nuggets for our entire trip, while our daughter ate our adult meals. As you may have noticed, nearly all children's meals are overloaded with gluten, (PB & J sandwiches, breaded chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and pizzas),. I asked our travel agent, to find out for us if there was any lenience on the policy, and this is what she had to say: "After calling Disney Dining 407WDWDINE they assured me that you will be able to go to any fast food restaurant and talk to the manager if needed. You should be able to get anything suitable for gluten free meals on the menu for your daughter even if it is an adult item. "