Walt Disney World with Food Allergies

Walt Disney World with Food Allergies

Food Allergies at Disney World

Today over on MiceChat, I discussed doing Walt Disney World with food allergies after experiencing dining at Walt Disney World a few times last year with my sweet friend, Clara Bell aka CB, and her family.  Now, they have a laundry list of allergies and are WDW locals, so I’d definitely put a good amount of stock into what she has to say about dining at Disney when you or someone in your party has dietary limitations.  Between the two of them, CB and her daughter must avoid onions/shallots/chives, wheat/gluten, corn, soy, peanuts and tree nuts and, wait for it…chocolate.  You’d be surprised to see the amount of things onions are in.  That’s really what shocked me when we were chowing down at 1900 Park Fare.  Luckily the chefs at Disney are great at accommodating allergies!!

Check out the article on MiceChat and the full interview right here on Magic, Memories, Mayhem!

1900 Park Fare

CB and I happened to be wearing Anastasia and Drizella colored tees at dinner!

Magic, Memories, Mayhem: How long have you been dealing with food allergies?

Clara Bell: I was diagnosed with food allergies at age 4, so all of my life. My daughter was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy at age 12 and quite a few other food allergies at age 13.

MMM: What are the biggest challenges in general?

CB: The biggest challenge for us has been finding safe foods when we eat out. We can’t control how something is prepared so there is always a risk of cross-contamination. Some restaurants are very allergy friendly and some are not.

MMM: How does Disney address food allergies?

CB: Disney goes above and beyond to make sure that there are a variety of safe options for us to eat. When we book a dining reservation at Disney, we note on the reservation that we have food allergies. When we arrive at the restaurant, the server will make sure that the chef comes out to address our allergies directly. The chef will ask us what interests us on the menu and then will let us know if that selection is safe for us or if they can alter it in a way to make it safe. If not then they may offer alternate suggestions or even make something totally off menu.

Food Allergies at Walt Disney World

Chef TJ at 1900 Park Fare, who has a cult following, prepared this gorgeous salad for CB who had to avoid most of the appetizers due to her onion allergy.

MMM: I know you’ve mentioned that as a local, Disney is one of the easiest places to eat. Can you give us some examples of how they’ve accommodated your family?

CB: Our options [locally] for my daughter’s food allergies are pretty much limited to 3 chains – Olive Garden, Sweet Tomatoes and Chipotle. Those get old so we often venture the 15 minute trip to Disney to eat because we know that they will make sure her food is safe. At this point we know many of the chefs by name, and they go out of their way to fix us something delicious! We have the Tables in Wonderland card [available to Walt Disney World annual pass holders] which saves us 20% at most table service locations.

Food Allergies at Walt Disney World

Another onion-free appetizer for CB.

MMM: How about quick service (QS) locations? Are they as accommodating?

CB: Some quick service locations are as accommodating but not all. There is one quick service restaurant in each park that is designated as the central location for food allergies. In Magic Kingdom it is Cosmic Ray’s. In Hollywood Studios, it is the Backlot Express. At Animal Kingdom it is Flame Tree BBQ and at Epcot it is Sunshine Seasons. Each counter service restaurant has a book of ingredients for every item on the menu. They are very limited in any variations that they can prepare due to the limited items in each kitchen. There are some locations that simply can’t do much with my daughter’s allergies. There is not a single item that is safe for her at Pizza Planet, so we know to head to Backlot Express for a turkey sandwich on a gluten-free roll instead. Also, at the counter service restaurants, you don’t talk to a chef about your allergies, you speak with a manager. Some restaurants have a dedicated fryer for gluten allergies and some do not.

MMM: That’s interesting. I don’t think we’ve eaten QS with you guys often.

CB: We have learned where we can and can not go. At Columbia Harbor House, my daughter can have the steamed broccoli and nothing else.

MMM: Poor girl! How about resort QS locations?

CB: Resort QS locations are a little different. You will still speak to a manager but sometimes we have had the chef come out as well. Again, they are very limited in alternate ways of preparing dishes but they are usually located next to a table service (TS) restaurant and sometimes they can borrow ingredients from the other kitchen. Our favorite resort QS is Contempo Cafe. My daughter can have the salad there, but the manager has to go next door to Chef Mickey’s to get oil and vinegar dressing for her. She can also have the homemade potato chips since they are fried in a dedicated fryer.

Food Allergies at Walt Disney World

And sometimes the chefs get really creative! This odd-looking side dish was actually really delicious!

MMM: That’s great! Have you ever had a not-so-good experience with Disney dining?

CB: Yes. Pizza Planet was less than helpful and pretty much told us “tough luck” when we couldn’t find anything for my daughter to eat there. Teppan Edo can be quite challenging, as well, and the managers do not like to change or substitute anything without making sure to charge you extra even if you are getting less food. The chefs at Teppan Edo have always been very gracious and understanding, though, so that usually smooths things over.

MMM: What about sweets? Can someone with allergies indulge at Disney?

CB: Absolutely! At every single TS restaurant we have eaten at, the chefs have made sure to have a selection available for my daughter that is safe. The chef at Cape May was frustrated with the lack of dessert options available that didn’t contain some sort of corn (cornstarch or corn syrup), so she personally sought out these amazing cinnamon sugar doughnuts specifically for her corn allergy customers. My daughter was over the moon when she found out she could have doughnuts!

Food Allergies at Walt Disney World

Chef TJ to the rescue again! A tree nut/peanut, gluten/wheat, corn and soy-free dessert!

Food Allergies at Walt Disney World

And here’s a close-up because it’s just so pretty!

MMM: That’s awesome!!

CB: She [my daughter] is begging me to order some. It would cost almost $20 for 6 doughnuts though!!!!!

MMM: Wow!!

CB: Yeah, no kidding. Eating gluten-free is not cheap.

MMM: QS sweets options are limited, yes?

CB: Yes QS sweets are usually not an option since they are pre-made and can’t be altered or made fresh in the kitchen. Some QS locations have gluten-free options such as cookies or brownies but for us they aren’t safe because they contain one of her other allergens such as corn, soy or nuts.

MMM: How about any of the bakeries? Main Street or World Showcase?

CB: Those are all pre-made as well and not able to be ordered to suit. Personally we avoid anywhere that we know is going to be an issue. I don’t want my child having to sit there and eat nothing while we all have a tasty snack. We try to only patronize the locations where we know she can eat something she likes.

MMM: Alright, let’s end on a high note. Top three places to eat at Disney with allergies. Go!

CB: 1900 Park Fare, Cape May Cafe’, The Plaza.

 

And while I was tempted to feign an onion allergy on a later trip to 1900 Park Fare, I resisted.  There are guests who’ve faked allergies just to get these fun creations at table service restaurants.  Yeah, some people will post anything when they have a computer to hide behind.  The chefs really take time and care when looking out for guests with dietary needs, so let’s not waste their time because we want a fruity, chocolate-dripping tower of goodness, ok?  Ok!!  If you really want to have allergen-free treats at your table, CB has volunteered to join you for dinner.  She can be there in 15 minutes.  ;)

Huge thanks to CB for sharing all of this info!!

Jessica at Magic, Memories, Mayhem

9 Comments

  1. It’s TJ!! We love him!

    My boyfriend has a severe dairy allergy and we always have to go to 1900 Park Fare to get a TJ meal!

    We had problems at the new restaurant in EPCOTS Italy. He had a severe reaction probably due to cross contamination. We let them know and they gave us the whole meal for free(6 people) and was extremely apologetic. We had to rush outta there to get him medicine tho.

    Blizzard Beach was a hassle. We waited like 45 mins for those allergy chicken nuggets.

    Other then those places we really haven’t had much trouble in Disney. They are fantastic!

    Reply
    • TJ is fantastic!! Definitely a WDW legend!
      Sorry to hear about Via Napoli! That’s become a favorite for us lately, and I hate that you guys had a not-so-fun experience. So glad they tried to make it right, though. Hope it keeps them on the ball. And 45 minutes?! That’s ridiculous!
      Glad to hear you’ve had mostly good experiences at Disney! Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  2. I am so glad to have found this. We are going to Disney World in December with our 2 year old son who has a lot of food allergies (egg, peanut, dairy, wheat, corn, soy & sesame). I have a shellfish & treenut allergy. I’ve been really worried about being able to feed my son. I’m glad to know of at least a few places that can accommodate us! Thanks!

    Reply
    • So glad you found it! Disney really is great with allergies. Hope everything is magical this December!!

      Reply
    • We wish you the best of luck with your trip! We just came back from a week long trip to WDW and we had very mixed experiences with the Chefs regarding our 5 yr old daughter’s corn allergy – some (Chef Chris at BOMA, the Chef at the Luau, Chef Laura at Park Fare) were amazing, others were horrible (most notably Chef Joseph at Cinderella’s Royal Table and the Chef at Akershus breakfast buffet). She had an allergic reaction at Akershus – and they gave her a glowing Ariel for her troubles (hives all over, intestinal issues resulting, etc). We have decided the next trip we will get a place with a kitchen and just hit a few trustworthy places (and find a way to stalk Chef Chris – my 5 yr old LOVED him).

      Reply
  3. what is the brand of the cinnamon sugar doughnuts that your daughter can eat? I have a corn allergy and they’d probably work for me too.

    Reply
    • She said the doughnuts are from Kinnikinnick Foods (<–click to head to their Facebook page). Hope you’re able to find a new treat!!

      Reply
  4. I will have to contact you before our next trip – we were really NOT impressed with how many of the places (all sit down restaurants and buffets) treated our 5 yr old with a severe corn allergy. Chef Joseph at CRT was insistent that she HAD to choose from the kid’s menu of chicken or beef (despite the fact that we told him several times she can’t eat either) and then finally agreed to make her cod (and charged us an adult dinner – even though she ONLY had the fish and green beans – no appetizer, no dessert, no beverage, no rolls). It was such a change from one chef to the next (some were great, some terrible) that we don’t know if it is worth ever risking it again – especially since she reacted to food at Akershus after being told it was all safe for her. We would love to know how to plan based on where a chef is (Chef Chris at Boma, Chef Stephen that was filling in at the Crystal Palace, and a few I wish I remembered their names: chef at the Luau, chef at Coral Reef, and chef at Chip and Dale’s Harvest).

    Reply
    • Sorry to hear you had some not-so-good experiences, Joslyn. It’s one thing if a restaurant just can’t accommodate an allergy, but if a chef is refusing knowing s/he has acceptable ingredients, that’s something I’d suggest talking about with management. It’s got more impact if you do it at the time of the issue, but since you still have the name(s), you could still send an email or make a phone call. All chefs need to be aware of the severity of food allergies and their effect on how they prepare food for guests.
      Hopefully the magic overshadowed a few of the “meh” experiences during your vacation. I’d be happy to chat with you before your next trip, too! Feel free to shoot me an email anytime.

      Reply

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