My family just got back from a great vacation at Walt Disney World. The weather was perfect, our stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge was wonderful, my 5 year old met all the princesses, and my 9 year old is still talking about how awesome Rockin’ Roller Coaster is. It was really magical. What made the trip even better, was the great meals we all enjoyed at Disney restaurants. And when I say all, I mean it, because my 9 year old has a severe peanut allergy and Disney handled it better than any other place we’ve eaten at since she was diagnosed at the age of two.
When we made reservations at Disney’s table service restaurants (something we did months in advance, which is recommended), we were asked if anyone had food allergies or diet restrictions. I told them about my daughter’s peanut allergy and they made a note of it.
Our first meal after we arrived at Disney World was a super special Character dinner with Cinderella, Prince Charming and her stepmother and sisters. It was a buffet style meal at 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian resort. As soon as our waiter greeted us, he informed us the chef would be out momentarily to discuss the menu. Chef Kelly came out and, with great knowledge, went through everything on the buffet menu telling us which items were safe and which were not, including all the possible cross-contaminated problems, like all of the breads served. Most foods were fine, except for the dessert items, which is common with a peanut or tree nut allergy. But no worries, Chef Kelly said she would make my daughter a special dessert when we were ready. After we stuffed ourselves and took photos with Cinderella and the rest of her crew, it was time for treats.
Chef Kelly herself brought out a sundae platter, complete with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge sauce and Mickey Mouse shaped sprinkles. It was the first time my daughter had a dessert that special at a restaurant in her life and she was beaming. The only problem was that my five year old was jealous and didn’t want to eat her platter of brownies, cookies and cake from the buffet. She wanted the special dessert. For those who have children with food allergies, you’ll understand how the envy made my daughter so happy. Usually she’s on the opposite end.
All of our meals during our six night stay as Disney followed suit.
At Boma—Flavors of Africa in Animal Kingdom resort, we enjoyed another buffet meal and, this time, a walk through tour with Chef Jennifer. Again, the breads and desserts were problems and Chef Jennifer happily offered a special dessert. This time, it was two scoops of raspberry sorbet and a platter of Enjoy Life cookies and brownies, which are gluten free and free of the eight most common food allergens. We love Enjoy Life and buy their products at home, so I was happy to learn Disney carries them too.
At Rose & Crown Pub and Dining Room in Epcot, the Chef came out and explained everything was fine, except again—bread and dessert. My daughter ordered fish and chips, which she loved. This was not a buffet, which means dessert was an extra purchase, so we decided to enjoy a Mickey Ice Cream bar outside.
The next day we had an amazing lunch at The Hollywood Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios Park. Again, the chef came out and discussed all the foods, asked what my daughter wanted to order and gave the okay. Her meal was brought out first with an “allergy” tag on it, which she enjoyed with her first Shirley Temple.
Our last meal was at Cat Cora’s Greek restaurant Kouzzina (now Trattoria al Forno) in the Boardwalk resort. I was hoping Cat Cora would come out, but alas, another nice chef did and explained that bread (again) was off limits, but there was a dessert item that we could order—Loukoumades! These little doughnuts covered in honey were a childhood favorite of mine and I loved sharing them with my family.
Between those nice meals, we ate out at counter service places and purchased Mickey Ice Cream Bars or ice pops for desserts. Safe snacks and treats for most food allergies are available all throughout Disney, there’s even a Babycakes shop in Downtown Disney, the New York Vegan Bakery which sells gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and soy-free. Dining at Disney with food allergies is so much easier than most places. Families with food allergies or an intolerance are even allowed to bring food into any Disney theme park, you just have to let security know. Check Disney’s blog for all your allergy questions.
They say Disney World is magical, and it is, but not just for the scenery, the characters, the rides, parades and all that jazz. When you make all children feel welcome and included, that’s when the true magic happens.