During our recent trip to Walt Disney World, I planned many of our meals in advance by making dining reservations and noting my gluten-free requirements so I could be sure that one, we were able to get a table; and two, that they were prepared for me. So tackling the quick service environment felt a little bit more unpredictable since there are were no reservations made, and they are pretty packed with people wanting their food fast. Not the environment you think of as being able to serve you safely and cross-contamination friendly.
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
For our first lunch I was prepared with a list that Disney provided me ahead of time, of certain items that would be safe around the park from snack cart items to sit-down restaurants. We decided to eat at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland. I went to the counter and told them I needed to eat gluten-free and they told me a manager would be right out to speak with me. Even though it was during a busy lunchtime, the manager was out within minutes. He explained most of the sandwiches would be safe with a gluten-free bun, that the fries were not safe as they are fried with gluten-containing products and they have gluten-free brownies. I decided to get a veggie wrap, but on a gluten-free bun, rather than in a flour wrap, the Greek salad and a gluten-free brownie. The manager placed my order personally and made the kitchen aware that it was a gluten-free order. They all seemed to take it very seriously.
My husband ordered a regular veggie wrap, which was huge and looked pretty tasty. However, in comparison, my version was much smaller and my gluten-free bun – once again by Ener-G, was cold, sticky and fell apart. I can say that out of all the food I had at Disney, this was the most disappointing. The veggie wrap was full of hummus and veggies, but with a cold bun falling apart, it just became a mess. My husband really enjoyed his gluten-filled version. The salad was much more enjoyable. I ended the meal with the gluten-free brownie, which was made by French Meadow Bakery, and delicious! I did find though that nowhere in the restaurant was it noted they had gluten-free items or substitutes, you had to ask for them specifically, but thankfully, I was not charged an additional fee for the disappointing cold bun.
I think that by now, being on my third meal of having an Ener-G bun, I went from ecstatic to a bit bored with it, but all in all, I was thrilled it was an option. I also came to the conclusion that it is only enjoyable when warmed.
Sunshine Seasons Food Fair
We were in Epcot on our second day and decided to have lunch at the Sunshine Seasons Food Fair, the food seemed a lot more interesting than the quick service the day before, and I definitely wanted to order something that didn’t come with an Ener-G roll this time. We happened to get there right at the height of lunchtime, so that made me a bit weary, and there was so much available and it all looked really good, it was difficult to know where to start. I asked someone at the counter to point me in the right direction and luckily it happened to be the chef, so she stepped aside and walked me through the areas and told me what was safe and was extremely patient with me and all of my questions. I even went back to her at one point to ask her some more questions and she made sure I felt comfortable with her answers. There is a grilled foods section and I was surprised that she said it was all safe, even the gravy for the mashed potatoes, for which they use corn starch. I decided on a roasted beet salad with goat cheese and candied pecans, and the Nicoise sustainable fish (again Mahi Mahi) served with an olive dressing on top of green beans and diced potatoes topped with pine nuts. And of course a gluten-free brownie, by French Meadow Bakery, for dessert. The chef put it together personally, right in front of me. The salad normally comes with flatbread, but she was careful to use clean gloves and and to leave the bread away from my plate. This time the brownies were on display, and I didn’t need to ask for them.
I was extremely impressed by this experience and the food. My husband and I shared the two dishes and both were fresh, creative and tasty and not what I would have expected from a quick service restaurant at a theme park. I would definitely have this meal again.
For more reviews on Disney read my introduction to gluten-free eating at Disney World, my review on Kouzzina by Cat Cora, dinner at Kona Cafe at the Polynesian resort, dinner at Epcot’s Restaurant Marrakesh, our character breakfast at the 1900 Park Faire at the Grand Floridian, and my review of BabyCakesNYC at Downtown Disney.