So we finally made it to Disney World! We've visited the home of the mouse many times, but this is the first time we've all been following a strict, allergy-free diet.
This is Part 2 of a series. Part 1 covered planning ahead for your trip (find it here), and each subsequent part will examine each park separately, then hotel restaurants and special options like room service (see links at the bottom of each post).
I won't discuss every possible place to eat in WDW. There are wonderful blogs (like Allergy Free Mouse and Disney Food Blog) that cover every restaurant in detail. Here I'll just be sharing our experience during this particular trip -- what we found and what worked for us.
|Main Street USA|
As I mentioned in Part 1, we are following a Paleo diet, which means we usually do not eat grains, dairy, sugar, or starchy vegetables (there were a few exceptions made during the trip). Additionally, several of the five members of my family are allergic to eggs, nuts, raw fruits, corn, and a few other things. This makes finding appropriate food options for the family a bit challenging, but we came prepared. We looked at all the restaurant menus ahead of time online (check here), and also brought our own "safe" snacks so we'd never be caught without an option.
Despite our obstacles, we had a really wonderful time during our week in Florida, and you'll be happy to hear that it's easier to eat in Disney with food allergies than pretty much anywhere else you could go. Every day we ate delicious, healthy food, with a minimum of fuss. The Disney cast members go out of their way to make sure their guests are happy, and matter how difficult the adaptations we required were, we were always made to feel as though there was nothing the staff wanted more than to be helping us find safe things to eat.
Breakfast at the Magic Kingdom
Many visitors to Disney World choose to eat breakfast before they arrive at the parks. Some days, we ate the foods we had brought with us in our hotel room, other days we ate at the hotel breakfast buffet (which I'll discuss in the hotel post), but on one special day -- my youngest son's 9th birthday -- we celebrated with a special breakfast out at Chef Mickey's in the Contemporary Hotel.
Technically, this restaurant is not in the Magic Kingdom, but just outside the gates. Chef Mickey's is wildly popular, because it features visits to each table by Mickey, Donald, Goofy and Pluto. Advance reservations are imperative for character dining -- typically 180 days before your visit to guarantee a table. As you wait to be seated at your table, you have the option of having your family photo taken by a professional photographer, posed against a huge dish, as a souvenir.
|How do you like my birthday ears?|
Chef Mickey's offers a view of the Monorail traveling through the open concourse inside the Contemporary, and features a huge breakfast buffet. When I made our reservations, I mentioned that we had food allergies in the group, and the hostess who checked us in confirmed this with us and passed on the information to our server.
As in all of the restaurants on Disney property, the chef came to our table to discuss our allergy-free options. In this case, he was able to make gluten-free Mickey-shaped waffles to order (a grain exception that we allowed for the boys on the occasion of my son's birthday). On the buffet, there was a wide array of fresh fruit, sausage, bacon, and several types of potatoes (which I skipped, but my rapidly-sprouting teenage son made good use of. That boy needs a lot of calories to fuel all that growing!).
Also in honor of the birthday at the table, we made a visit to the dessert selections on the buffet, and the birthday boy chose a Rice Krispy Treat. Yes, for breakfast. I know. When you have to say "no" so often, you sometimes need to say "yes" to crazy things to keep the troops happy.
The stricter Paleo eaters among us skipped the waffles and just had meats and fruits. Those who could eat eggs did so. And lots of bacon was enjoyed by all. Disney really does bacon well :)
Just to clarify, the exceptions we made during the trip were for foods that did not cause anyone any severe symptoms. The boys are sensitive to gluten, but we usually skip all grains because they cause me a lot of health issues. Keeping grains out of the house, and not having to cook them, is just more efficient for me. But on our vacation, it was a nice treat for the boys to eat just gluten-free, not all the way grain-free, once in a while. The same rules applied to sugar -- normally we don't eat it, but for special occasions, it's ok for the boys. Just in case you were wondering how a Rice Krispy Treat suddenly became Paleo.
Here is a link to the full menu at Chef Mickey’s.
Lunch at the Magic Kingdom
There are several nice sit-down restaurants in the Magic Kingdom, and several more convenient counter-service restaurants, but we made a beeline for the newest offering, the Be Our Guest restaurant at the Beast's Castle in New Fantasyland.
Be Our Guest just opened this summer, and is attracting unbelievable crowds. Reservations are available at dinnertime, but even though I called on the 180th day before our trip (the very first possible minute reservations can be made), we didn't get one. So, we opted for lunch, where there are no reservations, just a very, very long line.
It was about 100 degrees in the shade when we joined the end of the line, around 11:00am. The nice Disney cast member manning the hot end of the line told us the wait would be about an hour and a half, but I had read online that waits were running closer to 30 minutes, and I was right. Many people turned away when they heard the 90 minute figure, which I think is why they were broadcasting that. We were inside by 11:25 and eating before noon.
The Disney staff brought out umbrellas to shade the waiting crowd, and walked up and down the line with a cart of ice water with lemon slices. Love those nice Disney people!
Inside, guests are directed to kiosks where they can place their orders. Every two kiosks had a Disney cast member helping guests through the process -- whether this was because the restaurant is new was not clear, but it was very helpful to us as we tried to make allergy-free choices.
Selections are laid out in categories (sandwiches, drinks, etc), but for allergy-free choices, the cast member showed us a special "Allergy" button on the screen. This button brought up a new screen of allergy-free options, and we could order directly from that.
At first, we were a bit confused, and thought we could choose an item from the first screen, then modify it to be allergy-free on the second, but that was not the case. For example, we ordered French Onion Soup on the first screen, then saw a gluten-free version on the second and clicked that button, thinking the soup would come out with GF bread as the crouton, but we ended up getting two bowls of soup -- one regular and one GF.
Once we had placed our order, we were given a palm-sized, plastic rose that was actually a GPS unit. We could walk through the three dining rooms, choose a table, place the rose on the table, and our food was delivered to us, using the GPS locator to find us.
|Beauty & The Beast Ballroom|
The first dining room we explored is modeled after the ballroom in the Beauty and the Beast movie, where Belle and the Beast dance under a grand gold chandelier. The room is very faithful to the movie scene, and even features floor-to-ceiling windows with falling snow outside them (it really falls!). As a dining room, however, it was very loud, so we moved on.
The second dining room is patterned after the West Wing in the movie, where the Beast lets out his primal urges when he feels frustrated. This room was very, very dark, and my photos show almost nothing but silhouettes of diners heads. There are torn curtains at the windows, a ruined portrait of the Beast when he was a prince, and not a very appetizing atmosphere, so we kept walking.
|The Rose Room/Library|
The dining room we chose was the Rose room (also known as the Library), featuring a music-box-like statue of Beauty and Beast dancing at the center. It was beautifully furnished, much like a classic French restaurant, and we chose a table for six with a nice, padded bench seat. Our waitress brought our lunch on a charming covered cart, and all the allergy-free items came separately – important for those for whom cross-contamination is a worry.
The Paleo option I chose for lunch was a Roast Beef Sandwich, which I ate without the bread. It was delicious. The meat was well-seasoned and well-prepared, and it came with an elegant cream cheese and herb spread and watercress (yes, I made a tiny dairy exception). The Green Beans Almondine on the side was also very good, with fresh beans that were still crisp.
|Roast Beef at Be Our Guest|
Comparing the two onion soups was interesting. The allergy-free version came without any bread or cheese, and was very heavily peppered, probably to make up for the loss of flavor from the bread and cheese. We actually enjoyed the regular soup better, and just set the bread and cheese aside (again, not an option for those concerned about cross-contamination).
Here is a link to the full menu at Be Our Guest.
Snacks in the Magic Kingdom
Each morning, we would set up a make-your-own trail mix buffet in our hotel room. The boys would fill their plastic sandwich containers with their favorite dried fruits, seeds, and nuts (or not) and stash them in their backpacks to take to the parks, along with a reusable bottle of ice water (and a rain jacket, because it pours for 10 minutes every day in August in Florida).
These snacks came in very handy, as it seemed as though one of us was always hungry, and it wasn’t always convenient to stop and hunt down an allergy-free snack. (AIP Paleo note: I’ve been avoiding nuts and seeds, but decided to try a few in the name of convenience. It was not a successful experiment. Luckily, I had easy access to fresh fruit and nitrite-free pepperoni, and that served as my portable snack.)
In additional to our from-home snacks, we did also avail ourselves of some special Disney items during our day in the Magic Kingdom. In New Fantasyland, the circus-themed area features a large food tent. Inside, one can find ice cream, special drinks, and fun snacks like caramel apples and chocolate-covered fruit. The apples in particular are decorated to resemble Disney characters, and we decided we needed to check one out more closely.
A full list of ingredients is available on request. I took one look and wished I hadn’t! While I thought I was dealing with an apple, some sugar, and maybe butter in the caramel, I actually found a paragraph of additives, preservatives, artificial colors, and unpronounceable things. It was a little disheartening.
Two sons are allergic to raw apples anyway, so we chose to try chocolate covered strawberries and pineapples instead. They were delicious, but by no means healthy, so we just got a tiny serving and all shared it.
During a visit to one of the myriad gift shops on the property, we came across this box of “Mood Chocolate” near the Snow White and the Seven Dwarves area (the dark ride is gone, and the new roller coaster isn’t finished yet, but there is still a gift shop!). If you aren’t avoiding sugar, these chocolate-covered caramels might fit the bill for an afternoon pick-me-up!
Dinner at the Magic Kingdom
Since we had a sit-down breakfast and lunch, we chose to eat at a counter service restaurant for dinner. Located across from the entrance to the Haunted Mansion, the Columbia Harbour House is a large, colonial restaurant that features seafood and traditional New England fare.
New this month, an allergy-free printed menu was available when we arrived at the cashier (all other food choices were displayed on an electronic menu above the ordering counter). Disney policy necessitated a visit from the manager to input our allergy-free order into the cash register, which held up the line a bit, and flustered me enough that I forgot to order a few items. I also fudged taking the photo of the menu, but if you squint you can read it! The process was relatively fast, luckily, and didn’t draw too much audible ire from the guests waiting patiently behind us.
After placing our order at the cash register, we waited at the counter a few steps ahead for our food. Our allergy-free items were served on a different-colored tray, from a separate kitchen, and delivered to us at the counter by the manager. We then waited for the rest of our items (salads, drinks, etc) to come out, during which time several other people were served ahead of us. Allergy-free eating requires patience.
We chose the salmon, the GF chicken fingers, and the salad with chicken on it. All the items we tried were passable. Certainly nothing was gourmet, but we didn’t expect that at a counter service establishment. My youngest son was thrilled to have chicken fingers again – if they had tasted like dirt he would have liked them.
Overall, the Columbia Harbour House was a pleasant experience, specifically because the printed menu was easy to decipher, and there were a good number of choices on it.
Here is a link to the full menu at Columbia Harbour House.
So that was our day in the Magic Kingdom. Next I’ll tell you about our experience in the Animal Kingdom park. Just two weeks before our trip, Disney opened a new Food Allergy Kiosk in Animal Kingdom, featuring allergy-free snacks to purchase, and a person to answer questions about allergy-free food choices in the park. It was awesome! Tune in for all the details….
Other posts in this series:
Part 2: Eating in the Magic Kingdom
Part 5: Eating allergy-free in Epcot
|Can't believe the fall decorations came out in August!|
Shared with Pennywise Platter, Allergy Free Wednesday, Whole Food Friday, Anything Goes, Weekend Bloggy Reading, The Mommy Club, Mom's Library, Friday Flash, Mommy-Brain Mixer, and Gluten Free Friday.