Dining at Disney with Allergies

Written by Pat Neistat.

Going on vacation when you have a food allergy sucks. Half of my family has a gluten allergy. Most restaurants have adult allergy menus but hardly ever have a kids allergy menu. Generally, the menu options are limited and the employees never have a damn clue what the hell they’re talking about. The managers are equally as dumb. A typical response after asking for an allergy menu is “Is it really an allergy or is it by choice?” Before slapping the shit out of the server, I collect myself and then explain my situation to them. I also feel compelled to apologize for the inconvenience I’m causing them. Which is a bunch of elephant shit when you think about it. People can’t help their allergies. That’s something Disney cares about and understands. They made a decision to treat all their guests the same. They have options for snacks, quick meals, and table service meals. I call it giving a shit about your guests, but they call it business as usual.

Let me give you a little detail of how the magic happens at the signature/TS restaurants. Everyone who goes to WDW knows it’s wise to make advanced dining reservations over the internet to eat at any table service restaurant. There are over 70 table service restaurants to choose from at the Happiest Place on Earth. We use touringplans.com to help get the desired place and time. (Don’t be a jackass- check it out). When making dining reservations they include a list of ‘common’ food allergies, making it very easy to note yours- No bullshit. Once you arrive at the restaurant of your choice they immediately confirm your allergy and inform your server. No rolling of the eyes or any of that nonsense. Your server comes to the table and gives you a special menu; without you having to ask for it. They politely tell you that the chef will be over to speak with you to discuss the menu. That’s right- Disney takes this shit seriously. Next thing you know, the chef is at your table asking if you have any questions about the menu and going over your options. They know their stuff, too. I haven’t yet encountered a table service with limited options for a gluten allergy.

One particular moment when dining at Ohana (inside the Poly), the wrong bread was placed at our table. I didn’t know and went to try it. The chef came out of nowhere like a ninja and grabbed the bread off the table.  He said, “Sorry, you can’t have that.” He then apologized for saving my ass, literally. All my fellow GF people get that one. By the way, the only things there that weren’t made naturally gf were the dessert, noodles, and bread. They had awesome replacements for all three.
Now you must be thinking “No way that happens with quick service restaurants.” (Non Disney people know this as ‘fast food’). I’m here to tell you it doesn’t matter if it’s quick service or table service. The chef makes the same effort to make you feel comfortable eating at their restaurant. Magic Kingdom has a handful of the best GF options at WDW. Be Our Guest is a unique dining experience that also offers tasty GF food. Pecos Bill offers rice bowls with 3 choices of protein toppings. They also have a huge taco bar with unlimited toppings. My kids would be pissed if I didn’t mention Columbia Harbour House’s chicken fingers. They are cooked in a separate fryer from all the shit filled with gluten. There is also a new quick service restaurant at Animal Kingdom in Pandora- Satu’li Canteen. The menu is essentially made completely without gluten. Needless to say the options around the parks are endless. None of the bullshit “Well can’t eat here because half of us can’t have something to eat.” We were even able to find something GF at Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie in Epcot. (My wife tells me Patisserie means bakery. So you know that means there’s gluten everywhere).

Most food choices can naturally be made gluten free and this seems to be an evolving trend at WDW. Hell, even the buffet at Boma- Flavors of Africa (inside Animal Kingdom Lodge) offers a printed copy of everything available, and what allergens may be included. And they don’t even have the same food options every day- as the menu they gave us was exclusively for Wednesday and Saturday dinner.

Damn, I almost forgot the California Grill (at the top of the Contemporary). Touringplans got us the coveted 9pm dining reservation. It didn’t disappoint. The fireworks at the Magic Kingdom can be seen every night, barring weather. I repeat- 365 days a year. I ordered a filet while my wife had a pork dish. Both were fantastic. I was hard pressed to find stuff that I couldn’t eat.  

Disney makes this pretty straightforward. All of the damn restaurants at WDW have special menus!  Always remember when making an Advanced Dining reservation to make note of all the allergies in your party. If you’re overwhelmed looking at the menu, don’t hesitate to talk to the chef. They’re knowledgeable, want to help, and they don’t make you feel like shit. You will never be made to think you’re inconveniencing the cast members. They’re trained to meet your needs.  It’s the ‘Disney Way’ to treat all people as if they belong, and this is just another example of them going the extra mile to make their guests feel welcome

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