We LOVE our guest bloggers here at Disneyways. Laurie Smith is no exception. I really appreciate her perspective on not only great restaurants for special diets – but also for guests who have special needs. Thank you Laurie for sharing!
My top picks for Special Diets at Disney World ~ by Laurie
Today I wanted to share with you my top picks for Disney restaurants for guests on special diets, and in wheelchairs. You will notice I also prefer quiet and well-lit dining areas so you will see some information on that as well. I decided to limit my list to those restaurants that can handle special diets beyond the top 8 allergens.
To begin, I had a long informative talk with the manager at Artist’s Point. He told me Wilderness Lodge has an extensive pantry that can meet almost every diet possible including PKU, diabetes, Atkins, low carb, low fat, no added sodium, allergies and sensitivities, religious, medical and vegan diets. Sometimes guests will have to call ahead to make sure items are in stock. I have chosen two restaurants from Wilderness Lodge because of their ability to handle special diets as well as quality of food and service.
Whispering Canyon Cafe: There are three dining areas that have good lighting and seating. The main area is where the fun happens. The middle area is next to the kitchen door and offers a bit of privacy away from the antics. I was lucky to sit next to the fireplace in this room. The third room is an indoor patio that overlooks the ramp leading downstairs and the outdoors. They started me off with gluten and soy free cornbread with real butter then came the buffalo chili, cheese dip, and fresh salsa. OMG, I have not had chili in a decade, awesome. They give you a choice of 3 meats but you can do vegan if you wish. The reason this is one of my top restaurants is the cheesecake in a glass. Sheer bliss for me as I never get to eat cheesecake but they make this without the crust.
Artist Point: The menu is based on what is available in the markets so it changes often. The seating is in well lit areas overlooking the outdoors. I like that there is good lighting and that guests are not packed in tight but instead are allowed to quietly savor their food. I started the night with quail eggs and the Smokey Portobello Soup with chive oil that rivals Napa Rose for the best mushroom soup I have ever had.
Hoop Dee Doo Review: Disabled guests can use a side entrance. I was assigned upstairs which is hard for me so they had to find me a table downstairs in the back. Seats in the last rows are on stools that may be a bit hard on some guests like sitting on a bar stool Some guests may find the ending a bit loud as people are encouraged to clang on washboards with their spoons. Sensitive folks should watch a video and exit if it gets to loud. This is a top pick for me because of service, lighting and seating as well as ability to handle special diets. They served me gluten free corn bread with honey butter, tossed salad, baked chicken with side of barbecue sauce, barbecue pork ribs, meaty baked beans, mashed potatoes, and a bowl of whipped cream slathered strawberries. I have also seen the vegan offerings – which looked delicious. They have plain items ready for special diet guests like baked chicken, plain ribs, plain corn, salad without cheese and dressing, and vegetarian beans.
Kona Cafe: Kona offers gluten and soy free sushi, delicious chorizo soup, and chocolate fondue but the one dish that shocked me was the Pan Asian Noodles. I was served gluten free rice noodles with wok fried vegetables and shrimp. That was a rare treat for me as I rarely can eat Asian food because of the soy and wheat. The comfortable seating may be is a a bit close together and adjacent to the main walkway. I love this place for the awesome food and staff. Kona Cafe is pictured below.
Portobello: Portobello seems like a small store front until you walk inside. They have good lighting and seating with an outdoor patio. I do not feel the seating is packed in but there have been online complaints online seating being too close for comfort. I had sambuca shrimp with potato slices that were set on fire at the table-side They made me gluten free penne pasta with Bolognose sauce and for dessert a heavenly panna cotta. After talking with the chef I feel that this restaurant can handle most dietary limitations.
Downtown Disney also has two restaurants with patios, good lighting, live nightly entertainment, and comfortable seating.
Bongos: Bongos Cuban Cafe offers Cuban food that is very mild compared to Mexican cuisine. They other lots of food for the dollar and can easily handle special dietary requests and disabled seating. I love their Masitas de Puerco which is a milder version of carnitas. They offer beans and white rice with grilled onions and plantains. They have a walk up window for quick service meals.
Ragland Road: Raglan Road has some private booths – but there can be a wait for those. I love their gluten free/soy free onion rings, scallops, shepherd pie, and fish with chips. They are very friendly folks who treat you like family. They have Cookes of Dublin next door for additional allergy friendly dining.
Inside the theme parks, Tusker House and Crystal Palace are outstanding buffets that have good lighting and seating with dedicated chefs who work hard to meet the special dietary needs of guests. They will make special dishes like plain meat and potatoes, batter free fish, and allergy free baked goods. These are family restaurants so talk with staff if you need a bit of privacy. They will go backstage and make dishes from scratch or get a freshly made batch of food that the public has not touched. They both have chefs that try hard to handle a wide variety of special dietary requests and both have friendly staff.
Sunshine Seasons is in the Land pavilion in Epcot – and Landscape of Flavors at the Art of Animation resort. Both are well lit, have helpful staff, and can deal with vegan, allergies, and other dietary requests. There are a few nooks but overall you will at times be packed in tight. I would never try to take my scooter to a table at either restaurant. Art of Animation carries babycakes gluten/vegan/nut/soy free cupcakes in the refrigerator section. I could spend my life eating Mongolian beef at Landscape and the pork chops with rice and beans at Sunshine Seasons.
I hope you have enjoyed my top restaurant picks for special dietary needs at Walt Disney World. What are some of yours?
About Laurie: I have lived in Kissimmee, FL since March, 2012, so that I could learn about WDW and help people enjoy WDW. I love to watch cooking shows so I can learn about food. I love exploring new places, eating out, cooking, helping people, and playing online games. I have been going to Disney parks since 1960. I cannot have wheat/gluten and soy at all. I am familiar with disabilities in Disney parks since I am disabled and I used to take my mother to Disneyland in a wheelchair.
A note from Krista – unrelated to this particular blog post – if you or someone you love has special dietary needs at Disney you may also want to check out Gluten Free and Dairy Free WDW!
Disneyways, Theme Park Concierges and Mouskejournals are proud sponsors of the 2nd Annual Special Diets Illuminations party coming October 13, 2013!
Click here for your very special invitation!