As any Disney fan and foodie knows, food is a theme park.
When planning a trip to Walt Disney World, I start planning our dining itinerary months in advance so that I can be ready to make ADR’s at the 180 mark for our trip. While you certainly don’t need to be as type A about it as me (the number of spreadsheets happily involved in a 7 day trip is rather embarrassing), planning for and making ADR’s for a couple of good meals during your trip is a must do. While all WDW restaurants can accommodate a vegan diet, some are much better at it than others and do so in a nicer or more interesting setting. For the purposes of this article, I’m focusing on standard table service restaurants, not dinner shows or signature (fine-dining) which will be covered in a separate article in this series. If you are on the dining plan, these restaurants should run you 1 table credit although please check before booking as Disney tinkers with the credits often. Also, even if I mention an item as vegan in this post, double check with your server or the chef as preparations can and do change. Now, without further ado, the top 5 standard table service restaurants for vegans in Walt Disney World are…
5. Restaurant Marrakesh in Epcot
Restaurant Marrakesh is probably the most under-appreciated restaurant in Epcot’s World Showcase. The restaurant is tucked back inside the winding Moroccan pavilion, which makes it feel like you are really in another country, especially at night. Last minute ADRs and even walk-up seatings are not uncommon as this restaurant is often overlooked by diners heading to some of Epcot’s more popular pavilions (Italy, Mexico, etc.). However, if you are willing to branch out a little and try a new cuisine, Restaurant Marrakesh is a hidden gem. The restaurant itself is gorgeous, with thousands of mosaic tiles and live music and a belly dancer to entertain guests at intervals during dinner.
Of course, none of that matters without good vegan food, which Restaurant Marrakesh can definitely provide. For our most recent meal at Restaurant Marrakesh earlier this month, hubby and I split the Moroccan Salad Combination For Two (already vegan) as our appetizer and the chef was able to do their Couscous with Vegetables with olive oil instead of butter for us. Simple and surprisingly flavorful. The chef was great and sent out a vegan bread with olive oil for us instead of the standard bread service. The mint tea, hot or iced, is a lovely accompaniment to the meal. I’ve never had enough room for dessert but it looks like they have some fruit options on the menu as well as the Disney-standard Tofutti option.
4. The Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom
The Crystal Palace is a buffet located at the end of Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, featuring character dining with Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet from the Hundred Acre Woods. Even as an adult, it is a lot of fun to meet with the characters and get some good photos. The Crystal Palace serves above-average standard buffet fare at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Just let your server know that you are vegan and a chef will come out to show you around the buffet and let you know what you can and cannot eat. If you see a non-vegan item that you would like to try, let your chef know and he or she can usually make you a delicious vegan version. Between the standard buffet items that happen to be vegan and the extras by the chef, I always leave here stuffed. For dessert, the chef often sends out vegan cookies or cupcakes if the kitchen has them on hand. Breakfast is the cheapest of the meals if you are looking for character dining at a good price. Reserve the 8am seating and enjoy walking into a nearly-empty Magic Kingdom before the general public.
3. Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom
Be Our Guest is the newest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom and is one of the hardest reservations to get on Disney property. Be sure to make your dinner ADR’s well before your trip or you may be shut out. The amount of detail that Disney put into creating Be Our Guest is amazing – talking suits of armor, an enchanted rose, visits from “The Master” (aka the Beast), snow falling softly outside the windows of the ball room, etc.
The menu is Americanized-French food and offers several options for vegan diners. For appetizers, I have enjoyed the Garden Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette and the Seasonal Salad Trio. The Layered Ratatouille is a unique departure from standard theme-park fare for the entree. Last time I visited (May 2014), the bread was already vegan and the chef sent me both olive oil and earth balance for the bread. Finally, Be Our Guest is the only place to get alcoholic beverages in the Magic Kingdom. Enjoying a glass of sparkling wine in a beautiful castle while watching snow fall in Florida in the middle of summer is an uniquely Disney experience.
2. 50’s Prime Time Café in Hollywood Studios
Travel back to the 1950’s where you are “one of the kids” eating in Mom’s kitchen. The kitschy decorations (think formica, chrome, and lots of knickknacks), black and white TV clips, and antics of the waitstaff all add to the fun. Your waiter (your “cousin”, “Aunt” or “Uncle”) will think nothing of telling you to get those elbows off the table and finish your veggies if you want dessert. The vegan options for entrees here will fill you up – think whole grain spaghetti with vegan ‘meatballs’ – but the dessert is the real reason 50’s Prime Time Cafe makes this list. The chef stocks a vegan, gluten-free brownie that can be topped with Tofutti and other goodies for an amazingly decadent sunday. I always get the brownie sunday, but other vegan travelers have told me that they have managed to get a vegan version of the PB&J milkshake that 50’s Prime Time Cafe is famous for is Disney circles. Add a full bar to the mix and you have got a fun, delicious, not-entirely-healthy-but-worth-every-bite experience.
1. Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge
Boma is a buffet unlike any other. Well worth the trek out to the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boma serves breakfast and dinner to hungry guests and locals alike. As usual with Disney buffets, the chef will take you around and let you know what options are vegan. With the exception of meat dishes, a large portion of the buffet is already vegan and the chef will make a vegan version of just about anything that catches your fancy on the buffet. There are enough offerings that I could happily eat here for several days in a row and not get bored. The salad selection alone is amazing (Watermelon Rind, Apple-jicama, Quinoa and cous cous salads, etc.). When it’s time for dessert, ask what vegan options they have on hand — I have had Tofutti, cookies, and other goodies each time. Come hungry. Very hungry.
Honorable Mentions: Cape May Cafe at the Beach Club, Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano in Hollywood Studios, Sanaa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Tokyo Dining in Epcot, The Wave… of American Flavors at the Contemporary, Yak & Yeti Restaurant in Animal Kingdom
What are your favorite table service restaurants for good vegan dining in Walt Disney World? Let me know in the comments!