Our family loves Disney World.
(You’ll pick up on this real quick; just keep reading … )
I’d be lying if I said our late-2017 move to Florida had absolutely nothing to do with being closer to this magical place which has been the source of so many joy-filled memories. Heck, my love of all-things Disney is initially what sucked me into the Travel Agent business. (Though my love of people and love of travel also played a big part in that as well!)
We’ve been going to Walt Disney World for more than a decade. Our kids have basically grown up there. My husband and I have spent date nights and date weekends at Disney. We’ve celebrated birthdays and anniversaries there — and every other conceivable holiday and special event (“excuse”) known to humankind. We’ve met up with friends and family and other important people. Heck, we’ve even bumped into Tim Tracker and David Bromstead!
So between Disney’s four theme parks, 30+ resorts, and Disney Springs, it’s safe to say I’ve eaten more than my fair share of magical nosh. Being a vegetarian (technically pescatarian), this has, at times, been a challenge, but Disney has really stepped up their game in recent years, providing us plant-based folk with a plethora of assorted delights, from the sweet to the savory, chock full of color and deliciousness — and now Disney has announced the addition of more than 400 plant-based delights, across all of their dining establishments! So whether or not your too are a Veggie, my hope is this visual sampling of culinary goodies (presented in two parts, because there is just so. much. food. to be enjoyed!) will help and inspire you during your next trip to the most magical place on earth.
Let us begin in the Animal Kingdom theme park (not to be confused with Animal Kingdom Lodge) with its delicious flair for world cuisine. While you can absolutely find the usual Mickey Ice Cream bar at a kiosk, tracking down substantially more unique treats is just as easy. I love trying new flavors, and with Animal Kingdom’s Asian- and African-inspired areas, not to mention the new Pandora: World of Avatar, I can always bank on finding something perfect for my adventurous palette.
Here are my absolute favorites from Animal Kingdom!
- My favorite Quick Service Meal Option is at Satu’li Canteen in the Pandora: World of Avatar. The Crispy Fried Tofu seasoned with Chili-Spice and topped with Crunchy Vegetable Slaw is delicious! There are three bases to have alongside, but my fave is the black beans and rice; and you can choose a sauce too (I love the Creamy Herb Dressing). This surprisingly healthy meal can be had for around $12 (plus the cost of a drink, if you opt for something other than complimentary ice water) and counts as a Quick Service credit on your Disney Dining Plan.
- Feeling more the basic comfort food route? No problem. Head over to Pizzafari in the Discovery Island area of Animal Kingdom, and snag yourself a personal-sized pizza. A simple cheese pizza, or one loaded with veggies (mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, and olives) can be had for around $10, side Caesar salad included. You can also spring for a cup of surprisingly delicious, creamy tomato-basil soup for around $4 more. The pizza and salad counts as a Quick Service on your Disney Dining Plan, while the cup of soup counts as a snack for something light in-between meals.
- Currently there are five sit-down restaurants in Animal Kingdom, and my family’s favorite is Yak & Yeti over in the Asia area. This eatery incorporates flavors popular in Indian, Chinese, and Thai cuisine. Some dishes can be quite spicy, while others are much milder. Pictured below is their Vegetable Tikka Masala, an off-menu VEGAN item that you’ll have to ask for specifically. (Yak & Yeti actually does a fantastic job altering their dishes specifically for those with any allergies and for vegans and vegetarians too!) It’s a much soupier version than its Chicken Masala counterpart, but this $19 dish is chock-full of zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and chickpeas, absolutely divine with basmati rice and Naan bread. I also recommend the Wok-Fried Green Beans with Thai chili-dipping sauce, a $10 appetizer — and of course the sublime Mango Pie, a rich, tangy-sweet confection with a thick, buttery graham crust, just $9.
Now, let’s leave the Disney parks and talk a bit about Walt Disney World Resorts.
- Nestled between Hollywood Studios and Epcot, you’ll find Disney’s Boardwalk. I cannot recommend enough the character breakfast at Trattoria al Forno. You won’t find much (if anything) vegan here, but if you ask nicely, the chef will delight you with a gorgeous goat cheese and spinach stuffed omelette. Paired with perfectly seasoned roasted potatoes and their assortment of pastries, you won’t leave hungry. Bonus: you’ll get to meet Ariel, Eric, Rapunzel, and the dashing Flynn Rider.
- Disney has several resorts, each with their own “flavor”. One of our favorites is the Polynesian Village. As the name suggests, it’s got a very relaxed vibe, distinctly island in tone. There’s not a lot of vegetarian nosh at their more popular O’hana (which is an beach-style barbecue — lots of grilled meats and hardly a veggie in sight) — but over at Kona Cafe, you’ll find plenty to choose from! Pictured Below are three tofu dishes featured right on their menu, and the Kilauea Torte dessert, a velvety chocolate cake with a silky chocolate “lava”, served with house made vanilla bean ice cream.
- Animal Kingdom Lodge — which is a resort, and NOT the same thing as Animal Kingdom theme park (we found that out the hard way on one of our early Disney vacations) boasts two really delicious dining spots at the Lodge, one of which is Sanaa. My family absolutely adores Indian food, and while Sanaa touts itself as African, the flavors are absolutely inspired by those found in India. You’ll spend a pretty penny here if you’re not on the Disney Dining Plan, but the food is absolutely worth it; their Indian Style Bread Service is uh-maaaaazing and can be had for $13. I also love, love, love their Potjie Inspired sampler, another healthy and totally vegetarian meal.
- If you’re in the mood for something a little more “down home”, I highly recommend the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, over at the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. You’ll pay a per person fee for the meal, around $60 per adult, which is served all-you-can-eat family style with drinks (alcoholic and non-) and tip included. You’ll also get to enjoy an interactive live show that is super fun and thoroughly enjoyable. The menu (see below) doesn’t appear to offer much in the way of vegetarian selections, but you can always fill up on the vegetable of the day, stuff yourself with delicious cornbread and butter, and eat your weight in salad. BUT, tell them you’re vegan, and you’ll be served so much delicious plant-based dining they’ll have to roll you out in a wheelbarrow! Our chef created a yummy wagon wheel pasta dish and a plate full of freshly grilled veggies: portobellos, summer squash, zucchini, onion, and tomato (seen below). And if all else, fails there’s always dessert: strawberry shortcake with freshly whipped cream.
- An absolutely delicious meal awaits you at The Wave of American Flavors, Contemporary Resort. From the Caesar Salad with its housemade croutons, a bread service boasting a seedy, crusty sourdough bread, and a Wild Mushroom Gnocchi dish, you will walk away thoroughly stuffed and completely satisfied.
- If you’re looking for lighter fare, head back over to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, for a generous tropical drink and small plates. Trader Sam’s has the best adult beverages on property, and their vegan sushi and tofu lettuce cups are the perfect accompaniment!
And lastly: Disney Springs!
If you’re taking a day off (and I highly recommend building a “rest day” into your Disney stay, to enjoy your resort pool, sleep late, and generally relax — I mean, it is your vacation, after all), you’ll eventually find your way to Disney Springs. There is so much good food there, from burgers and fries to fine dining by candlelight, from pub-hubbing to family bowling and so much more! Disney Springs is basically another park to be enjoyed (minus the rollercoasters and parking fees) and among my favorite eateries are two of their newer establishments: Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ and The Edison.
- I admit there’s not a whole lot of vegetarian options on the “entrees” portion of Homecomin’s menu, but don’t let that stop you from eating like a vegetarian queen! They do offer a veggie plate for $24, which you can pile high with all manner of green things, killer mashed potatoes (avoid the gravy), to-DIE-for creamy grits, and fried green tomatoes. You can even order their Church Lady Deviled Eggs without the bacon and have a choice protein offering, for around $12. Bonus: Homecomin’ serves an extensive array of delightful Moonshine cocktails.
- Over at The Edison, you’ll find The Beyond Burger (which is actually vegan if request vegan mayo and cheese). One bite of this entirely plant-based bad boy, and you’ll think you’ve died and gone to burger heaven. At $22, it’ll cure any craving for a hearty, “meaty” burger — and their fries are basically potato heaven.
- Looking for a quick bite, snack or sweet treat? Look no further than the food trucks of Disney Springs, West Side. Edible cookie dough and cookie dough sundaes (striating at $4.95) are all the rage right now (and look how cute!), but I’m also a huge fan of decadent mac ‘n cheese; the $8 version is the cheesiest ever, with a crazy-good topping of crushed Cheetos.
That’s all for today’s installment! But we covered some serious Disney ground — and there’s more to come next week with with Part II of What Vegetarians Eat at Walt Disney World, where we’ll journey to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and my personal faaaaaavorite: Magic Kingdom.
“I’ll see you real soon!”