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Disney World recently released a guide catering to folks who follow a plant-based lifestyle — and yes, you really can stick to diets or food restrictions while at The Most Magical Place On Earth, if you so choose. The guide, titled “Plant-Based Cuisine,” is available at all restaurants and quick-service counters in the Magic Kingdom. While some of the items are choices that previously existed, such as fresh seasonal vegetables at Crystal Palace, give Disney — which already has a solid reputation for working with guests with dietary needs — credit for taking it a bit further.
Skipper Canteen in Adventureland, for example, offers Perkins Thai Noodles with tofu, vegetables and rice noodles tossed in a spicy soy glaze. It also has the Falls Family Falafel, complete with toasted pumpkin seeds. Plant-based meatloaf and sloppy Joes at Liberty Square and Cosmic Ray’s are other choices you wouldn’t expect to find in a theme park. (Not all the plant-based choices fit a strictly vegan diet; you could remove the Gorgonzola cheese from the Wedge Salad at The Plaza.)
On a recent visit, my wife tried the Lighthouse Sandwich at Columbia Harbour House. Served on toasted multigrain bread, it included hummus with tomato and broccoli slaw with a side of potato chips. Columbia Harbour House was the first restaurant we dined at almost 10 years ago when we brought our daughter to Disney World for the first time, and the closest thing to vegan food available back then may have been a pickle alongside a plate of fried food.
Not all the items on Disney’s plant based menu are a resounding success. Being a bit less healthy (OK, a lot less healthy) than my wife, I contributed to this research project by sampling the Mermaid Donut at Prince Eric’s Village Market. As a guy who’s eaten many, many doughnuts in my day, I found the consistency of the Mermaid Donut … odd. It had a bit of a chewy texture I wasn’t expecting and that was different from other gluten-free doughnuts I’ve sampled.
The icing was OK, though a bit sweeter than I like. The mermaid tail was just bad (those of us who sampled it took healthy swigs of water afterward). Overall, the taste was completely off, sort of a cross between toothpaste, corn syrup and white chocolate. At a price of almost $6 when you figure in tax, it’s best to let this mermaid swim away and focus your plant-based hunger elsewhere.
However, don’t fret if you are looking for some alternative bakery options at Disney World. Head to the Erin McKenna bakery in Disney Springs to enjoy all sorts of sugary treats that are vegan, kosher and gluten-free — including a variety of doughnuts.
Disney deserves props for the evolution of its menus in the Magic Kingdom. Salads were hard to find even a few years ago, and the new plant-based menu at many locations now goes far beyond a typical salad. Being vegan in a theme park generally has meant, until now, packing your own food or being pretty hungry. Not only has Disney World broken that code for the Magic Kingdom, the menu makes it easy to track down these items across the parks.
The menus themselves are a brand-new item, so a few of the staff we came in contact with weren’t 100% sure where to locate one. That’s something I would expect Disney to improve upon relatively quickly.
If you’re in a pinch and can’t find a plant-based cuisine guide, you can always rely on my favorite vegan item. Yes, pineapple Dole Whip is vegan. You can bet I’ll be “eating healthier” at Aloha Isle and passing on the Mermaid Donut next time.
All photos by the author except where indicated.
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