Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Vegan's Take on Disney World

For some reason, I do not have any pictures from my good eats during last week's family vacation at Disney World.  Instead, I am going to give the highlights and a few tips of how to eat vegan at a place that may not initially seem vegan friendly.

Like last year, the two best meals that I had were at Jiko (Animal Kingdom Lodge) and Spoodles (Boardwalk).  

For New Year's Eve 2007, my meal at Jiko consisted of a dish with a whole grain pilaf and an Afrikan spiced tofu dish, which happened to be an entree on the regular menu.  This year, there was no such thing on the regular menu, much to my initial dismay.  After learning that I was vegan, our server promptly came back with a totally vegan menu. (We kept it, but I have no idea where my mum tucked it away at.)  There were about 5 appetizers (and they weren't all salads though several were vegan versions of dishes on the omni menu) but only one entree and dessert.  It would have been nice to have more than one option as an entree, but it was tasty. It was a curry with tofu, artichokes, eggplant, rice, and several other vegetables that I can't recall.  Although it was a take on an omni dish involving shrimp on the other menu, it was rounded out quite well.  My parents had also ordered an appetizer, and the server was very good about verifying which breads and such were vegan.

My other good vegan meal was at Spoodles, which is a Mediterranean inspired restaurant.  There was no separate vegan menu here, but they are very accomadating to vegans.  Once the server heard that I was vegan, he brought one of the chefs over to our table.  The chef was extremely nice and clarified with me what items I did not eat.  He quickly told me which appetizers that my party had ordered that I could eat.  Then he asked what sort of dish I wanted to eat.  I could try to veganize something already on the menu or have him make up something totally different.  I chose to have one of the two vegetarian options on the menu, but I altered the flavorings a bit.  My dish was a lemony couscous with sun-dried tomatoes, and several grilled vegetables. There was also a red pepper sauce drizzled on the top, which was absolutely amazing.  Plus, this place keeps non-diary ice cream in the back, so I was actually able to have dessert with the rest of my family, a scoop of both chocolate and vanilla, naturally.

Even though my best experiences were at nicer sit down restaurants, it does not mean that you cannot have good vegan meals at other places; you just have to look harder and be more flexible.  In a pinch, I did have to go with the default of a baked pretzel and spicy mustard, but there are places in each park where you can get some sort of fresh fruit.  For counter service, the park maps will show where vegetarian options are available. Just because there is a vegetarian option, it does not always translate as vegan.  Stay away from pizza places as they will not be accommodating.  However, you can find vegan chili, a soup with tofu (at an Asian pavilion), and sandwiches.  Usually the sandwiches would have cheese or a spread that may have diary.  I learned that all cash registers have allergen information, and this knowledge did prove to be helpful on a few occasions. Also, depending on how busy a place is, usually you can make some sort of substitution on the sandwich if need be.

Sometimes you have to be patient, but eating vegan at Disney is not impossible.  This was my second year doing it, and I learn new tricks each time.  Hopefully by next year, I will be an old pro.
And, to make up for the lack of food pictures, the above is a photo taken in a "forest" at Animal Kingdom.

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