Update: Disney is no longer offering Divvies. They are currently offering bakery items from the Enjoy Life and OMG Manufacturers along with Rocky Mountain Popcorn, and Surf Sweets Jelly Beans throughout the Parks and Resorts.
Those who are vegan or who are visiting Disney World with a vegan family member or guest often have a bit of stress about how they’re going to find vegan-friendly foods in a theme park! Luckily, Disney is known far and wide for their ability in working with special diets. Click here for a few resources we’ve put together for those dining with special diets in Disney.
Recently, I interviewed Anna G., who writes the wonderful Cookie Madness blog, who headed to Disney World earlier this year with a vegan guest…who happened to be 9 years old!
Usually, the first step in dining with a special diet in Disney World is to contact Disney dining before your trip to give them a heads’ up. When Anna contacted the special diets line (407-824-5967), she was sent this email along with several attachments:
Thank you for inquiring about Vegan options at the Walt Disney World Resort.
All of our restaurants offer at least one vegetarian option and most can be modified to be vegan. We stress that you ask to speak to a Chef or Manager when you arrive at each location. They will be happy to assist with your selection and provide product labels and ingredients for menu items.
The attached documents should help you with your planning. Please check the Walt Disney World Resorts Dietary Reference Sheet and it will give you more information regarding the products we carry.
Please complete and return the “Guest Allergy-Dietary Request Form” by email to [firstname.lastname@example.org] or fax to 407-560-2992. Be sure to list the restaurant names and dates where you plan to dine. This way we can alert all the various restaurant Chefs and Managers of your upcoming visit and your meal requests.
Let us know if you need any further assistance.
Guest Communication Services
Walt Disney World
Attachments included a form to fill out indicating the dietary requests and restaurants where you’ll be dining, a letter detailing options for those dining with special dietary needs in Disney World, and a nutritional information guide.
Once Anna and her family arrived in Disney World, they were pleasantly surprised by the individual attention they received by the chefs in each restaurants. Here are some of her thoughts and experiences:
1. What were some vegan snacks and treats that were available in Disney Parks?
Vegan snacks available in the park were pretzels and popcorn. One of the popcorn stand vendors was a vegan herself and assured us that Disney used an animal free type of butter flavoring in their popcorn.
2. What were some of the common vegan items served at table service restaurants? Was there good variety, or was everything pretty much a variation on a theme?
To be honest, there weren’t a lot of “common” vegan entrees at most restaurants. I’ve heard that’s not the case at Boma, where they do have quite a few vegan dishes, but at most restaurants we had to tell the water we were dining with a vegan. The waiter would send the chef out, the chef would discuss likes and dislikes, and then the chef would prepare something that suited the diner. Being that we were with a 9 year old, our little vegan chose pasta with marinara sauce on most occasions, but on two evenings she let the chef make a stir-fry. At Chef Mickey’s and California Grill, the chefs brought out incredible looking stir-fries that made me wish I was a vegan. As for vegan desserts, they were scarce. However almost every table service restaurant served Tofutti (Editor’s Note: Magic Kingdom’s Plaza Ice Cream Parlor and Restaurant also has tofutti).
3. Was it easier to eat vegan at counter-service restaurants or table-service restaurants? Would you specifically recommend any restaurants to those with a vegan diet?
It was definitely easier to eat vegan at table service restaurants considering all of the above. A vegan will be treated nicely and have a wonderful time at just about ANY table service restaurant, based on our experience.
4. How did the chefs interact with your guest? Were they thrown when having to interact with a child about a dietary restriction, or did the communication go smoothly?
When the chefs came to the table they spoke directly to her. They were polite to the family and made eye contact with us adults, but they made it really clear that this conversation was to be with her and that she was the one running the show. Also, they didn’t call her princess or speak to her in a fun and casual manner, but rather a very friendly, sincere, and mature manner. It was very clear that the chefs did not want her to break her diet (which would be even more critical in the case of a food allergy) and respected her wishes. They also didn’t seem the least bit put out or bothered by special requests, which was admirable. What was also impressive was how the chef and the waiters timed things. In some cases, we had to wait a little longer to place our order because we’d be waiting on the chef and the waiter held off taking the rest of the family’s order until the chef had come to the table to talk to the vegan. This was a good thing because it ensured we were all served at the same time. Also, the waiter took our guest’s order as well even though she’d already ordered from the chef. So the waiter already kind of knew what she was getting, but he included her in the ordering process.
5. Was there any particular meal she seemed to enjoy, or was anything her “favorite” from the trip?
She really enjoyed all her meals but her favorite was Citricos. Along with assuring her that their artisan bread was vegan (she was hungry and very happy to hear this!), they brought her a salad of fresh fruit. She also commented that the marinara sauce at Citricos was the best she ever had. Plus, she’s 9 and liked the “fanciness” of the place.
Thanks to Anna for the opportunity to learn about her experience with special dietary requests in Disney World!
Other Tips From Pros
We were also lucky to catch up with Cheryl Perlmutter, who often dines vegan, gluten-free, and sometimes even kosher in Disney World restaurants. Here are a few of her comments regarding dining vegan:
1. What foods are your most common options when visiting Disney World with a vegan or gluten-free diet? Are there specialty products that are available?
For snacks Fruit cups is great, also there is carrots and celery (which could be lower priced). There are 2 types of special cookies, Enjoy Life and Divvies (divvies are not gluten free).
2. What are your top tips for those dining vegan or gluten-free in WDW?
Be specific, I sometimes get chefs who like to embellish. Don’t be afraid to say what you like and don’t like. (Example: “I don’t like tomato and garlic in my meals.”)
3. Are there resources in Disney World for those dining at counter service restaurants with special requests?
For counter service, every location has a nutritional book with all the ingredients.
4. What are the best vegan meals you’ve been served in Disney World?
The best meals were Citricos and Artist Point.
You can also find some of Cheryl’s vegan specialty celebration cakes in this thread about Birthday Cakes in Disney World! Stay tuned for more from Cheryl on gluten-free dining and kosher dining in upcoming posts.
Another pro we caught up with is Disney World Moms Panelist Kara B., who has spent time in Disney World while eating a vegan diet. Here are her suggestions:
In my past, I spent many years as a vegetarian, of which 6 months I went vegan. Those 6 months included a trip to WDW, and I felt like a vegan princess while there. No weird stares. No explaining why. No defining what a vegan is. Just grand service. However, I did some work up front before visiting.
When I made all of our dining reservations, I made sure to clearly note my dietary restrictions (no meat, no dairy, no eggs). With one week left before the trip, I confirmed with Disney dining that all the reservations had a note included in our reservations. I also carefully studied all the menus on line (www.allearsnet.com is my favorite source) to be prepared; however, at each of the table service restaurants the head chef came out to talk with me.
On several occasions I was given something on the menu, prepared just for me! And by far, the best place was Boma. Not only was I walked through the food selections to know which were vegan, but the chef made me a HUGE plate of goodies for my entree and the most amazing dessert: fresh pineapple, chocolate syrup, and avocado sorbet. Again, it was ginormous and delicious.
Facebook Fan Miranda Kelly says this: “My father is Vegan, and we recently spent the weekend at WDW. All if the TS restaurants we went to had a separate vegan menu. He loved it, he didn’t have to explain what his restrictions were. Best place was Sanaa, he loved the bread service and the salads.”
Have you experienced — or will you be experiencing — a visit to Disney World with a specialty dietary request? Let us know how it went or what you’re planning in the comments section below!