Monday, January 5, 2015

A little late, but here it is!

I’ve been incredibly busy since we returned from Disney World in November, but I still want to share what I found with those who are heading down there soon. This post won’t be quite as long and in depth as normal, but I hope it will still be helpful.

Gasparilla Island Grill 

We always start at Gasparilla Grill at the Grand Floridian. Their menu changes frequently so every year there’s something new to try. This is one of the most vegan-friendly counter services around, so I absolutely recommend trying to work it in at some point. 

For starters, they carry Gardein chick’n and So Delicious Coconut Milk ice cream! But this year I opted to try something new. They will make upon request (it’s not on their menu, but I think it might be next door at the Grand Floridian Café,) a nice falafel burger. It appears to be a homemade mixture that they form into a patty. They also have a special on Saturdays of small falafel on pita. Normally the burger comes on a brioche roll which of course isn’t vegan, so the chef swapped it out for this one. 

The bun is spread with hummus and tahini, and adorned with red onion, lettuce and tomato. I asked for a side of their cucumber salad that I've had in the past. All in all, a satisfying and tasty meal. I will say, the inside of the burger is a little soft and mushy, which might be due to the thickness of the patty.  I would still order it again. A promising way to start the trip! 

Coconut Milk ice cream! 

Also worth mentioning is the fact that Gasparilla brings in fantastic light rye and French white bread from Olde Hearth Breads, a small local outfit who sells their bread primarily at farmers markets and local restaurants. Both of those breads are vegan and so good my mom wanted to order a loaf to bring home. (I'm pretty certain that Gasparilla is the only restaurant on Disney property to carry it, but it would be nice if I'm wrong.)

If you’re looking for a snack to bring into the parks, this is the only place on property where I’ve found Larabars and Go Raw Live vegan granola bars! (If you’re on the dining plan, you can use one of your snacks for these too!)

Spirit of Aloha Luau 

Not much different here. The new slaw is not vegan so they gave me the old school salad with mango dressing, (my preference over slaw anyhow). Since I can't eat their bread, they were nice enough to bring in some of the Olde Hearth French bread from Gasparilla for my mom and me.

For the entrée they gave me rice instead of couscous (don’t know why this was different, but no complaints). The one thing I was disappointed with was that the tofu wasn’t grilled as much as normal, but it was still a stellar stir fry that was maybe the best I’ve had there.  For the past few months I’ve experienced intermittent cravings for those smoky grilled veggies. 

For those beer drinkers out there, the Yeungling Lager which is included with your meal is, according to, vegan. And it’s pretty tasty too! (And considering they sell it for around $7.00 a can elsewhere in the parks, a virtual steal at the Luau.)


Sadly the F&W Festival is over, so this information won’t be useful to anyone now, but I did try the crabless cakes which I really enjoyed, (and plan to make one of these days...). and the blackened chicken which I was somewhat less enthused about. For me, the chocolate orange cupcake was the best of the three offerings. 

 Crabless Cake

Blackened Chick'n

I also tried the gluten free beer, which honestly, was in no way deserving of the name. It was flat, weak and lacking any discernible zing or depth. Once was more than enough.

Sunshine Seasons

As always, a great stop for the hungry vegan. The Mongolian “beef” is still made with the Gardein Beef Tips. Their noodles are also vegan, so if you want a change of a pace from the rice, have at it! I believe their soup choices change periodically, but if you're lucky you'll be there on a day when they have vegetable soup. It’s always vegan and quite hearty by itself with a satisfying mix of beans and veggies. 

First meal

Second meal

They also carry Odwalla bars – I’d never had them before so I picked up a protein bar. It’s very… proteiny… Kind of grainy with that awful soy protein texture. They carry a second flavor without the added protein that I didn’t try. I’m assuming it’s probably more palatable. Maybe I’ll be brave and give it a go next year.  

Coral Reef

Coral Reef still has the wonderful Gardein chicken dish on the menu that’s entirely vegan as is. It’s a heavy meal consisting of portabellos, red onions, red peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, yellow tomatoes, black rice, pine nuts and eggplant. (And of course the breaded Gardein Chick’n patties.) I’ve seen other people post their pics and it seems that each chef must make it differently, which might account for why some seem to love it while others pan it heavily. 

They also carry So Delicious Coconut ice cream for dessert!

Columbia Harbor House

The chili is still vegan (like always though, ask for it without crackers since they contain dairy). Chef Stephen hooked us up at all the Magic Kingdom restaurants we ate at this year, so some of my food was not offered on the menu. He made me a nice hearty salad which I believe is just their Harvest Salad, sans chicken.

Plaza Restaurant

Beware that most of the breads here are not fully vegan. The gluten free bread contains egg. The keyser roll and the rye both contain L-Cystein, and the sub roll might be okay, but it has something called “car sorrento 6”. (I’m still trying to trying to determine whether this is vegan or not, but either way it sounds like the codename for a biological warfare agent that gets accidentally loosed on a major metropolis, turning the citizenry into drooling cheese-craving zombies…)

The multigrain bread is clean, so my only option was to plunk an undersized veggie burger on the giant slices. Not the best burger I've had at WDW, and not worth a special trip, but nice to know they’ll do it if you happen to be there with other non-vegan family members. Chef Stephen was kind enough to bring in sides of the beet and plantain salads from Crystal Palace special, so I was content.

 There's a veggie burger in there somewhere, I swear!

Even better, though, their baker Chrissie (not sure if I spelled her name right, but she's awesome!) baked me a bunch of from-scratch vegan pumpkin cookies! Soft and spongy, caramely and super sweet! Chef Stephen kept them on hand so I had them for dessert at all the restaurants we met him in. (Only in Disney...)


Still very vegan friendly. Unfortunately the samosas and tofu are still cooked in the same fryer as the chicken tenders and corn dogs, so if you really want them, ask a chef and they’ll cook a batch special. I didn’t bother this year because there was plenty of other stuff to eat. Though they weren’t my favorite, I should mention that the Garam Masala and Coconut Curry salad dressings are both vegan. Eating actual salad dressing was a treat even if I didn't love them.

Mr. Kamal’s Cart

I stopped here this year because I really wanted to try something (every other year I’m so full from Tusker that I can't bear the thought of stuffing anything more in before dinner). I perused their ingredients only to find that the bread for the falafel contains L-Cystein. This means that the only completely vegan menu item is the noodle salad, which as luck would have it, was sold out by the time I got there! Oh well, that’s why they make next years.

And I think everyone knows this by now, but the Allergy Kiosk carries Babycakes donuts (chocolate-coated and cinnamon) and a small variety pack of mini cupcakes. I bought quite a few of the donuts, but somehow never snapped any pictures of them. I guess they didn't last long enough. 

Be Our Guest

Gotta say, from the décor to the food, I really love this restaurant. We’ve only done it for counter service, but it’s so nice I have no particular desire to slash and gnaw at the competition to score one of the ultra-coveted dinner reservations. We ate there twice this trip (like always), and I got the same thing both times.

The quinoa salad and dressing is still vegan. As is the raspberry sorbet for dessert. 

The big revelation this year was that their French onion soup is vegan, except for the cheese. So when I spoke to a chef ahead, I asked if they could possibly bring in some vegan cheese from another restaurant. And they did! The chef apologized that all they could get was American. (It was either Toffuti for Go Veggie, I’m not sure.) Either way, it tasted sufficiently cheesy and totally served the purpose. 

I'll admit, I’ve never had “real” French onion soup, so I have nothing to compare this to. That said, I enjoyed it enough to order it twice. Oh, and if you’re on the regular dining plan, you can use a snack for a soup and a counter service for the rest of the meal.

 First meal

Closeup on the first soup 
(Maybe a tad too much cheese, but I'm not one to complain about such things!)

 Second Meal

 Second soup
(Note the more even cheese-to-soup ratio and improved browning. Lovely.)

View of the internals

Farmers Market at Liberty Square

They now carry big bags of Lundberg Rice Chips, a couple flavors of which are vegan and organic. I didn’t actually buy any, but the cast member told us that we could use a dining plan snack for a bag, which if it’s true, is pretty phenomenal. I believe they charge considerably more for them at the Allergy Kiosk in the Animal Kingdom. 

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café

We ate here twice. The first time I got the standard veggie burger and fries. (They cook the fries in a dedicated fryer, so no worries of cross-contamination.) 

Beware here too about the new change in rolls. The regular burger bun is not vegan. The GNI gluten free roll is okay. However their other gluten free rolls, Gold Star and Udi’s, both contain egg! 

On the topping bar, the onions and mushrooms contain artificial butter flavor, which is presumably… artificial. However they’re cooked on the same stovetop as chicken. If you really want them, they can make them in the back special. They weren’t worth it to me.

There's a veggie burger in there somewhere... I swear! 

The second time I didn’t really feel like another burger, so I mentioned it to Chef Stephen ahead of time. Being the amazing guy that he is, he whipped up this salad for me with grilled mushrooms and peppers. Awesome!

(And of course a big plate of those cookies for dessert!)

Tangerine Café

We got a lot of special treatment on this trip, and I won’t lie, I totally enjoyed it. We ate at Tangerine Café twice and Chef Samad hooked me up each time. (Though there was a bread issue with the first meal.) 

To clarify, as of November anyway, the veg platter was totally vegan (the mayo in the lentil salad has been replaced by oil), but the falafel are still fried in the same oil as chicken. (I’ve read recently on the Veg Disney page that some people have been told that the falafel now contain dairy. Things change quickly in the World, so I always ask to be safe.) As I was clarifying this with the chef, he asked if I would just like some salads from Restaurant Marrakesh. Of course I readily accepted! 

He brought me out this huge plate with all the great apps and sides from the big restaurant next door. The bread he assured me was vegan, though I did get to check the package the next time and found it contained L-Cystein like so many other bread products down there.

 First meal with the offending bread and hot mint tea. Stay away from this bread.
(Note the unintentional hidden Mickey... I swear I didn't do that on purpose.)

The second time I got the same meal, but was given the whole wheat bread (which I believe came from Spice Road) and which I was assured was vegan. I took it on faith as there was no package to check. It was coarse and a bit dry, so I suspect it was L-Cystein free.

Second meal

 Whole wheat bread (supposedly safe)

Chefs de France

I always love this restaurant. Again Chef Lauren came through with a stunning dish of asparagus, grilled zucchini and baby zucchini, carrots, sliced tomatoes with a balsamic drizzle, the buttery-est organic spinach I’ve ever had (I actually asked the server to verify that there was no actual butter in it. The chef returned to assure me it was just olive oil, but seriously, it was probably the best spinach I’ve ever eaten), and a pepper stuffed with a fantastic ratatouille.

I regret that my picture doesn't come close to doing justice to this gorgeous plate.
People at other tables were staring at it trying to figure out what I'd ordered. 

For dessert, three different sorbets and berries. As always, my favorite is coconut, but the others were beautiful as well.


Finally I was able to try the great and much lauded Sanaa! And since this was my first time, I overate to the point of illness. Not since a Chef Tj meal have I left a restaurant that violently stuffed and remorseful over my indulgence.

I started the meal with the Chana Tiki – light, flavorful, a tiny plate… All is well here. I could do this all night! 

Cue the bread sampler with 9 chutneys/sauces/pickles. Yikes. The bread is not vegan, but at least they have chips for those who are more compassionately-inclined. I’m pretty sure they use the Flamous brand falafel chips because I buy them at home and they taste identical. I only ate roughly half of each bowl and took the rest back to the room. Feeling full, but it’s still doable. This is my extremely belated birthday meal after all. I can do this! 

Cue the entrée. I tried the Vegetables and Chickpeas with Goan Curry Sauce and the Vegetable Wat along with the basmati rice. I really liked the curry, but loved the Vegetable Wat. It reminded me strongly of the Baingan Bharta from a local Indian restaurant I used to order from frequently. The portion size isn't enormous but more than sufficient, especially with an appetizer.

At the point of bursting, I proceeded to order an ill-advised dessert. Dessert takes the fullness away after all…  They’ve cut down on the vegan menu’s dessert options, but the Tapioca Pudding with Chai Spiced Berries from the regular menu uses coconut milk and is vegan. I definitely enjoyed it, though I would have liked more of the chai spice to come through. 

I was at my breaking point. It was a treat, but I didn’t feel right for the rest of the night, and though I can’t definitively say that it was from having seriously overtaxed my system, I actually ended up sick for the rest of the trip. I will be skipping at least one of the apps next time I go.

Hollywood and Vine

I was so sick the next day at Hollywood Studios that I really couldn't eat much. I skipped lunch altogether, opting instead to pick at a Mickey Pretzel. (Having also found out that the cinnamon Mickey pretzels I used to love now contain an artificial butter flavor that always worries me. It might be vegan, but I don't really know.) 

For dinner I still wasn't game for much. The chef was super accommodating and made me a vanilla shake (that just didn't sit right either... sad since I'd been looking forward to it all trip. Not his fault, just wasn't feeling it). They have Toffuti and Rice Dream ice creams and Soy or Rice milk, so you can mix and match to figure out the optimal combination.

I asked for plain pasta with spinach and mushrooms for a little nutrition. There's something soothing about plain pasta when you feel like trash. It hit the spot and made me feel considerably improved. 

My convalescent meal

Artisans de Glaces

This is always a treat, even though the sorbets are totally artificial and nothing but horrifying chemicals I would never consider consuming at home. But they have vegan cones! According to the box I scanned to read the ingredients, they’re made by Keebler. So much for French artisans…  I got mixed berry once and mango the second time.

One caveat, though. I noticed the last time that they actually use the same scoop for the different ice creams and just dunk it in a bucket of water to clean it between scoops. I found a small streak of chocolate water on the outside of my mango scoop, so I went around with a spoon and scraped off the whole outer layer before eating it. Yick.

While we’re talking about decadent treats that will slowly kill us from the inside, I had heard so many great tales of the vegan beignets at Port Orleans Riverside that I had to make a special trip down there one night to try them for myself. Gearing up for the impending onslaught of grease-laden dough, I nearly ran to Sassagoula to scope out the window from which to order the horrifying confections. 

I asked the first girl I saw behind the counter about their vegan beignets and was met with a fairly blank stare… never a good sign. 

She retrieved the chef for me, who I have to stay was extremely pleasant and forthcoming. His news, on the other hand, was none-too-welcome. He said that people on the internet say they have vegan beignets but that Disney doesn’t claim they're vegan. To be clear, the ingredients are, but they’re cooked in the same oil as chicken. Again, yick. 

The chef said that if he’d just changed the oil it would be fine, but being late at night, it was well sullied. I appreciate that he didn’t hide that from me just to sell a batch, and that he was aware enough of what matters to a vegan to even mention it at all! A lot of chefs don’t even think about cross-contamination when it comes to animal products that aren’t an actual allergy. 

Sad, but resigned, I asked if maybe they had the coconut ice cream that's starting to pop up around the parks. It turns out that they had actually brought in a few pints for a special order, but that there'd been an issue with the cooler and they’d all melted. 

I got back on the bus, no fatter than when I’d arrived.

Chef Mickey

Their buffet and salad bar both leave a lot to be desired for vegans. Literally all you can get for a salad is the lettuce. 

The chef was awesome though. He whipped me up a special meal of tofu and quinoa with mixed vegetables in a delicious tomato sauce. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

They are also carry So Delicious Coconut ice cream and blueberries.

The Wave

I’m disappointed to report that The Wave was one of my least favorite meals this trip. I ordered the vegan curry that’s on the menu. It seemed to be about half the portion size of last year, which is fine since it’s extremely rich. I had to take half of it home last time, so I understand why they cut back. The problem is that the tofu is mushy and bland, and the dish as a whole could deal with more spice, acid, or heat. Even some cilantro would help cut the richness. The tart apples help, but overall it doesn't feel balanced. The rice and lentil blend is a decent accompaniment. I don’t think we’ll be returning there.

Even though I was lukewarm on the entrée I was comforting myself with thoughts of their amazing sorbets from years past. Lo and behold, they no longer make them. They’ve replaced them with a non-vegan sugar free dessert option. Serious bummer. 

As a point of consolation, they do at least carry the So Delicious Coconut ice cream. Overall the meal was quite a letdown.

On a positive note, their bread is still vegan, and they do still carry the soy-free Earth Balance. Fill up while you can!

Well, that about wraps it up for this year. 

Like always, thanks for reading, and please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.

No comments:

Post a Comment