Join us in welcoming guest author Jennifer Harris with an informative review of allergy friendly dining at Walt Disney World. Are you on a special diet? Read on!
Oh Disney, how I love your allergen-friendly ways. Dining at Disney is half the fun for those with food intolerance/allergy while visiting its theme parks. From the very first meal, it is apparent their talented team of chefs has got your back and then some. With table and quick service, buffet, and fine dining options, the attention paid to preparing allergen-free cuisine is exemplary. The sky is the limit at Disney because serving their guests is top priority.
Preparation tables are sanitized, gloves are changed, and one chef handles the order from start to finish to ensure there is no cross contact. Disney can currently prepare meals for those allergic/intolerant to: wheat, gluten, peanuts and tree nuts, soy, eggs, corn, dairy and lactose, shellfish, and fish.
If you haven’t enjoyed gluten-free cuisine at Disney, it is easy and effortless to enjoy. Advanced arrangements are not necessary at Disney. Guests can go to any dining location on the property and indicate a food intolerance/allergy. If eating at a table-service restaurant the chef will come to the table, but if you are at a quick-service area the chef will come directly to you. This lovely chef will be armed with either a binder with options by allergen, or the knowledge of what dishes are safe. The same chef prepares the dish, which is another way Disney makes gluten-free diners feel welcome and very comfortable.
Here are some of my favorite places to grab a gluten-free meal while vacationing at Disney by park:
Animal Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Lodge
Yak and Yeti Restaurant is a table-service option serving Pan-Asian cuisine in a Nepalese-style restaurant with gluten-free options. The chef will visit the table to go over the many gluten-free options. The portion sizes are huge with the seafood curry and the lettuce cups serving as menu highlights.
Visit Sanaa in the Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village, which is part of Animal Kingdom Lodge, for an African cooking with Indian flavors fine dining experience. The separate gluten-free menu (gluten and dairy free options, too) is extensive and includes gluten-free naan, inventive salads, curry, lamb, dessert, and much more. Again, the portion sizes are generous and the tender flavorful lamb shank and naan bread service with dipping sauces are ‘must order’ dishes. This restaurant also offers guests the pleasure of watching the exotic animals roam the Sunset Savanna while dining. Reservations are highly recommended.
Rainforest Café invites guests to enjoy American cuisine in the middle of a rain forest complete with animated animals. There isn’t a separate gluten-free menu, so the chef will indicate which dishes are safe. Order a burger or sandwich on a gluten-free bun, salads, or an entree and make sure to save room for dessert.
Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC offers guests an assortment of fresh baked gluten free and vegan goodies. Cupcakes, doughnuts, cookies, scones, cake, brownies, sweet and savory breads and more line the bakery cases. The cinnamon sugar doughnuts and banana bread are my favorite.
T-REX offers a prehistoric and dinosaur-themed table-service dining experience complete with meteor showers. One of the most popular destinations for kids, it is a good idea to make reservations or get in line right as it is opening. The restaurant is huge, but it fills up fast. It is actually surprising how many dishes either are, or can be modified to be gluten free, including pasta, rotisserie chicken, steak, and ribs. Save room for dessert!
Fulton’s Crab House is the place to go for fresh seafood, which is flown in daily from ports around the world. The table-service restaurant, which is housed on board an authentic riverboat, is a fine-dining establishment with a menu full of seafood. Lobster, clams, crab, and mussels are steamed and served with potatoes and corn on the cob. Steak and ribs are on the menu too for red meat lovers. This lovely restaurant right on the water is another one where making reservations is a plus.
Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant is a great place to go and experience authentic Irish cuisine, Irish dancing, and live music. At this table-service restaurant, a chef will not visit the table, but the servers are well informed about which dishes can be prepared gluten free. They have a dedicated fryer, so fried shrimp, fish and chips, and onion rings are available and highly recommended. The shepherd’s pie is gluten free, so be sure to order a side of crushed green peas or garlic parmesan and truffle oil skinny chips to dip in the gravy. An ice cold cider washes it all down.
Cookes of Dublin is Raglan Road’s quick service restaurant and a great place to grab a lunch of fried seafood made in a dedicated fryer. Fish, shrimp, and chicken tenders can all be prepared gluten free, but the star of fried seafood is Georges Bank Atlantic scallops. The batter is crispy, stays attached, and manages to be light and flavorful without being too salty. Try one of their gluten-free cupcakes for a perfect end to a special meal.
Stop by France’s Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie for a sweet treat of French macaroons, chocolate covered meringues, crème bruele, or a berry parfait.
The Biergarten Restaurant in Germany comes complete with biergarten-style tables, a live band, sing along, and of course a large buffet of German delights. The meatloaf, hot German potato salad, applesauce, potatoes, beet salad, red cabbage, sausage, soup, carved meats, and more are all gluten free. A chef will visit the table and offer to make a plate in the back. Take them up on this offer because this buffet tends to have an issue with cross contact. The red berry compote with custard-like cream is a divine dessert and kept us coming back for more. They have an excellent selection of German wines to pair with the cuisine.
La Hacienda de San Angel in Mexico offers Mexican cuisine and lagoon views. Their menu marks all gluten free and gluten and dairy-free options, and there are many. Sadly, the chips are not prepared in a dedicated fryer. Seared snapper, marinated chicken with roasted vegetables, braised short ribs with chimichurri, steak, and pork confit with pico de gallo are all gluten free. Go for the food, but stay to enjoy one of their signature margaritas. Mango blueberry basil, lime raspberry, and avocado are made with fresh juices and sweetened with agave.
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway offers a character table-service experience inside of a medieval castle with a mix of table service, buffet, and family style dining. Their extensive gluten-free menu offers diners an authentic taste of Norwegian fare: pan-seared salmon, oven-roasted chicken breast, red wine braised beef, pork chops, cod, and a Norwegian meatball dish called Kjottkake. They also offer macaroni and cheese and pizza. The buffet is loaded with imported cheeses, cured and sliced meats, and a selection of salads and fruits. Ask the chef to prepare your buffet choices in the back to avoid possible cross contact. Sorbet, cookies, and vegan ice creams round out desserts.
50’s Prime Time Café is a table-service restaurant serving up good old American comfort food in a stylized setting complete with checkerboard floor, Formica tables, and sassy wait staff. The restaurant serves up some highly sought after gluten-free items, like meatloaf, and chicken pot pie, but it is the fried chicken on the bone with mashed potatoes and gravy and grilled vegetables that brings in the gluten-free crowd. Make a reservation or you will be waiting for a while.
ABC Commissary is a quick-service restaurant where orders are placed at the registers and then people step forward to collect their order. They offer burgers on an Udi’s Gluten Free wholegrain bun with French fries, Asian salad topped with grilled chicken or salmon, chicken tenders, steak and roasted salmon. Great quick lunch stop before heading off to enjoy the park.
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is set up like a ’50s drive-in, where diners sit in classic cars and watch sci-fi movies while enjoying all-American cuisine. Choose from burgers and sandwiches on buns with French fries, ribs, chicken or shrimp pasta, and steak. Appetizers include wings, salad, and spinach and artichoke dip with corn tortilla chips. This is the perfect atmosphere to enjoy a hot fudge sundae, brownie a la mode, or a shake. Reservations are crucial and the wait is long without one.
The Hollywood Brown Derby is my favorite place to dine when visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It offers a fine dining experience like no other. Step into this restaurant and one is transported to the golden age of Hollywood. The restaurant is gorgeous with its wood paneling, checkerboard floor, and walls adorned with caricatures of famous actors. One of the few places where warm table bread with whipped butter is a standard even for gluten-free diners. Order the Famous Cobb salad heaped with ingredients and watch as the waiter expertly cuts and chops it into a feast. The wagyu burger topped with pastrami, onions, avocado, cheese, and a fried egg is served on a gluten-free bun and comes with hand-cut fries. If you are really lucky, a well-dressed character may visit your table to bum a light, or perform a magic trick. Reservations are highly recommended.
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe offers burgers and French fries on gluten-free buns in a quick-service environment. Make sure to ask them to heat the bun for your order, otherwise it will come out room temperature and a little stiff. Fries are prepared in a dedicated fryer and served piping hot.
We always visit Columbia Harbour House to indulge in gluten-free chicken tenders and French fries. They also offer Amy’s macaroni and cheese, grilled salmon, and steamed fresh broccoli on their allergen-friendly menu. This quick-service restaurant is a great place for lunch and includes gluten-free brownies and cookies for dessert.
The Crystal Palace’s character buffet invites guests to take a load off and enjoy an extensive spread of options. The restaurant takes its inspiration from Victorian greenhouses of the late 1800s and is filled with light, topiaries of Disney characters, and tropical palms. A chef will visit the table and take guests on a tour of the buffet to point out safe items and will offer the option of preparing dishes in the back. Choose from fresh hot and cold salads, seafood, carved meats, chicken, salmon, cold meats, and more.
Grab a Dole Whip at Aloha Isle for a creamy and refreshing treat of soft serve ice cream made from Dole’s pineapple juice. Pineapple, vanilla or swirled soft serve ice cream, floats, and fresh pineapple spears are available. All of the Dole Whip flavors are free of gluten and lactose, but only the fruit flavors are vegan. The line may be long, but this sweet treat is definitely worth the wait.
Liberty Tree Tavern is an excellent place for table-service lunch or dinner. Hearty all-American style cuisine is on the menu at this patriotic restaurant. The star of their gluten-free offerings is The Pilgrim’s Feast that includes turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, dinner rolls, and gravy. Being able to dip dinner rolls into the homemade gravy is such a treat for this Midwesterner. Pot roast, salad topped with meat, and burgers and sandwiches on gluten-free buns round out their offerings. We make it a point to go every time we visit the park.
The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor offers Tofutti brand chocolate and vanilla ice cream in a cup.
No matter where guests with food allergies/intolerance dine at Disney, rest assured the chefs go above and beyond to ensure a delicious and safe experience is had by all.
Where is your favorite place to grab a gluten-free or allergy-friendly meal at Disney?
Jennifer D. Harris, based in Atlanta, is a gluten-free consultant and product specialist. After she was diagnosed in 1997 with celiac disease, Jennifer began a mission to educate businesses and consumers on the boundless possibilities of living a gluten-free lifestyle. In addition to offering keen insights on gluten-free products, Jennifer founded Gluten-Free Go-To Guide to equip businesses with the skills they need to extend their dining selections to the gluten-free consumer. Email Jennifer at: [email protected]