Strategies for Vegetarian Dining at Walt Disney World

by Susan Shumaker and Than Saffel

authors of Vegetarian Walt Disney World and Greater Orlando

Here are some tried and true tips for delicious meatless dining in the Vacation Kingdom.

1) Make your Advance Reservations at the restaurant of your choice at least 72 hours in advance–we recommend at least a week's notice for vegetarian meals (and 90 days for WDW's more popular restaurants) — by calling (407) WDW-DINE (939-3463). Victoria & Albert's Chef's Table reservations can (and should) be made 90 days before.

2) If you're a vegan or on a strict low-fat diet–or would simply like an extra-special vegetarian meal–call the Walt Disney World main switchboard (407) 824-2222 and ask to be transferred to the restaurant of your choice. Once connected, ask to speak directly with a chef, and explain your dietary needs. Have fun brainstorming with the chefs about your special meal. If you give them enough advance notice (usually a week will do), most Disney chefs are more than happy to purchase special items like rice milk, kamut or seitan to make your meal memorable. Remember to get your chef's full name and to let him or her know the date and time of your visit.

3) Check in at the restaurant as soon as the park opens and tell the host that you've made prior arrangements with Chef X for a special vegetarian meal. Be sure the host verifies this before you head off to enjoy the park. If you haven't made prior arrangements, do so now.

4) Upon being seated at the restaurant, let your server know about your special dietary needs. If you've made arrangements with the chef for a meal not usually on the menu, tell the server your name and the name of the chef with whom you spoke.

5) If you have not made any special prior arrangements, a meal can often be prepared for you "on the fly" at table service restaurants. Ask your server if you can speak with a chef at your table. Find out what ingredients are on hand in the kitchen, and have fun being creative with Disney's culinary talent!

6) If you're at a quick service location and a castmember tells you that special meals and substitutions cannot be made, ask to speak with a manager. Nine times out of ten, your needs will be accommodated.

7) If you have a very strict diet and simply can't risk a goof-up with your special meal, feel free to bring a small cooler of goodies into any of the parks with you (only guests with special dietary restrictions are allowed this privilege). To avoid lugging your cooler around all day, stow it in a rental locker, located near the entrance to each park.

8) If all this advance planning and special requesting is simply not your style, just go with the flow – after all, Walt Disney World is a better place to be vegetarian than most American cities, and you're just as likely to stumble across something yummy as not.

Bon appetit! Susan and Than