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Old 05-24-2010, 09:50 PM   #1
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Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurant/Dining Help Thread

Hello! This is really an offshoot of a Dining Review My Girlfriend Emily and I wrote almost a year ago now:
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2270539

what started off as a review thread, with Emily and I trying to help out people who have the same dietary restrictions as us (we are vegans who try our best to stay away from High Fructose Corn Syrup and Hydrogenated Oils) traveling approximately the same time we were, grew and grew into a forum where we continued to share our resources and answer questions consistently for nearly a full year (wow!). The thread has now sadly been closed (the moderators got savvy - I imagine since the thread kept being bumped up from people talking on it - review threads are only supposed to be active for 3 months and ours has far exceeded that) but we wanted to create a new thread where we could continue to share our resources and firsthand experience with others looking to try and eat vegan at disney.

The above thread should answer MANY questions on its own, but here are a few more helpful links

First, check out Andrea's dining review threads here on Disboards-
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2180199
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2414111

then check out these great resources-
http://veganindisney.wordpress.com/
http://vegansatori.blogspot.com/
http://bashfulvegan.blogspot.com/
(We contacted both Todd and Kitty from the last two blogs personally, who were both extremely helpful in answering our questions)

Finally, if you've got more questions about something specific we wrote about, feel free to ask it right here and we'll get back to you asap! If you'd prefer to write us a private email, we are good about getting back with those as well.

I know one of the most frustrating things for Emily and I while trying to plan our dining was not getting answers from a lot of people who started threads and abandoned them (and disboards, or whatever website we were looking on). We wanted answers from people who had actually done what we were attempting and they were hard to come by, but we are always here for you

-Michael
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Old 05-24-2010, 11:53 PM   #2
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This is such a fantastic idea, especially since I have recommitted myself completely as a vegan a short while ago (not going back this time, I am in it for good). My husband is vegetarian, but still eats vegan most of the time.

I'll be travelling with another vegan couple in the fall, so I'm really excited that we'll have three vegans with us! Now, when I contacted the Disney Dietary Hotline via e-mail, I was really curious about a couple things.

- Could the smoothies at any of the restaurants offering them be made without the dairy?
- Does the Saratoga Springs Resort offer any vegan entrees? There weren't any listed on the menu.

I got a very helpful e-mail back, and I received a yes for both inquiries.

The biggest frustration I had when I attempted to do an entire vegan week in Disney was being met with less than cooperative chefs and wait staff. Some seemed to be kind of put out by it, and even disgruntled. The vegan couple that I'll be doing Disney with this fall recently just returned from their vegan honeymoon, and said that their biggest issue was having less than enthused wait staff tell them that they didn't have anything, or they couldn't make something vegan.

What should you do if you're met with less than cooperative wait staff? I can become easily intimidated, because I dislike bringing attention to myself, but I don't want to compromise my lifestyle. What do you do if you're met with those unwilling to help you out?

(Thanks for this thread, awesome!)
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Old 05-25-2010, 12:18 AM   #3
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I am so surprised to hear that the waitstaff/chefs were less than thrilled. My sister has been a vegan for years and my whole family goes to Disney every summer. My sister is the only vegan in the group, but no matter what restaurant in Disney we have been to with the exception of Liberty Tree Tavern, she has had excellent help and a great meal everywhere. (LTT refused to make anything and told her to just make a meal of the vegetable side dish. We haven't been back there in probably 5 years)

She's had meals made just for her at many of the restaurants, a chef always walks her through all of the buffets, she is able to mix and match from listed entrees to make a nice meal for herself. They will usually be willing to make something with any ingredients listed on the menu. She has called to have tofu available at TS restaurants when none is on the menu and anyplace she has called has agreed to have it available for her.

So sorry that others have had a different experience. Even at the CS places we may have to wait while something is being made minus certain ingredients, but they have always been willing to do so.
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Old 05-25-2010, 12:21 AM   #4
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I just don't know what to do in those situations, where they make me feel bad for even asking (which happened on our last trip). I will often times make a meal out of the side dishes or appetizers since I have a pretty small stomach, but if something can be done, that'd be even better!
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Old 05-25-2010, 01:30 AM   #5
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Hot tea with honey

The reason wait staff become disgruntled is because, the vegan or vegitarian meals are usually very low cost and take extra effort. In addition, many staff are unfamiliar with what actions need to be taken with the kitchen.

Wait staff would much rather have guests order high priced items. (Higher tips)

And guys, never order hot tea, it's fine for Grandma, but not you!
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Old 05-25-2010, 07:47 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MAYNARDS99 View Post
The reason wait staff become disgruntled is because, the vegan or vegitarian meals are usually very low cost and take extra effort. In addition, many staff are unfamiliar with what actions need to be taken with the kitchen.

Wait staff would much rather have guests order high priced items. (Higher tips)

And guys, never order hot tea, it's fine for Grandma, but not you!
I can understand that these meals take some added effort, but the fact that it says explicitly in the print when making a dining reservation at most restaurants that Disney can accommodate all sorts of diets, from low sodium, vegetarian, vegan and kosher, I'd at least expect to be met with some complicity.
The wait staff also aren't the ones who need to make the meal, that task falls on the chef. I definitely gave the places notice - I contacted the Disney Dietary Hotline and still ran into a few dilemmas.

And what's wrong with tea? I like tea.

ETA: Also, I don't think the price difference really made much of deal since we were on the DDP anyways.
ETA (again, sorry!): I just noticed the "hot tea with honey" in your thread title. Do all the disney teas have honey in them?
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Old 05-25-2010, 09:16 AM   #7
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Our son in law is a vegetarian and part time vegan....yah that ......depends on where and when he can get food to eat that is to his liking.....
He went to Disney with us a few years back and did have an amazing Portabella mushroom burger at Planet Hollywood....it was HUGE with lettuce and tomatoes...but after that it was salads or veggies ...the counter service restaurants were hard to get anything like tofu or soyburgers....that gets old fast....
Hope that this thread will help others "eat" when they are away from home and in Disney
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Old 05-25-2010, 09:40 AM   #8
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Just Returned

I just returned a few days ago, and while YES most of the restaurants handled the vegan request graciously and with surprising attention to taste and detail, there were a few that were 1) clueless and 2) unaccommodating. I think it's mostly the chef and not necessarily the restaurant as a whole, since some bad reviews I've read actually turned out to be great experiences for me, and vica versa!

I'll be doing a complete review starting in a few days...but I can say that sometimes I just had to grin and bear the news of "We can only offer a veggie plate and fruit for dessert," whereas other times I was able to draw from the Disboards reviews and let the chefs know of past accommodations that had been met at that restaurant.

That was actually very helpful to alot of the chefs who may not have had a vegan request before, and suggestions about what his other colleages had done with ingredients they had on hand really made both my experience, and his future knowledge for others much better!!
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Old 05-25-2010, 10:51 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vegcentric View Post
The biggest frustration I had when I attempted to do an entire vegan week in Disney was being met with less than cooperative chefs and wait staff. Some seemed to be kind of put out by it, and even disgruntled. The vegan couple that I'll be doing Disney with this fall recently just returned from their vegan honeymoon, and said that their biggest issue was having less than enthused wait staff tell them that they didn't have anything, or they couldn't make something vegan.

What should you do if you're met with less than cooperative wait staff? I can become easily intimidated, because I dislike bringing attention to myself, but I don't want to compromise my lifestyle. What do you do if you're met with those unwilling to help you out?

(Thanks for this thread, awesome!)

The first thing to do (just to cover your butt) when making Dining Requests is to make sure they list you as having an ALLERGY to dairy, eggs and shellfish - the sad truth is that some chefs will take this much more seriously than simply saying you are vegan. At each of the restaurants Emily and I went to, our reservation slip on the table was clearly marked "ALLERGY: dairy, eggs and Shellfish" AND "VEGAN DIET" so we had all our bases covered. A chef will be less prone to give someone with allergies a hard time. I struggled with doing this because I thought it was somewhat dishonest, but chalked it up to just double covering myself.

We only dealt with one uncooperative chef and wait staff the entire time we were at Disney World. We couldn't do much about it and felt uncomfortable arguing or making (obvious) suggestions ourselves. Our displeasure was reflected in the tip. In some ways, that's the only power you have.
However, I think it helps if you research the restaurants and counter service places you are going to beforehand. Both Disboards and Allears.net have menus listed for every restaurant (even if some of them are not updated regularly) and doing your homework can really go a long way towards a satisfying meal or a disappointing experience.

Next, don't 100% trust the answers you got from that website. I'll believe them about the smoothies (a lot of places have soymilk and tofutti for this very reason...the ice cream shop on mainstreet can even make everything with tofutti instead of ice cream!) but their idea of a "vegan meal" at a restaurant may be a chef salad minus the meat and eggs. Research the menu options.

I think you would probably do well to talk to Kitty
http://bashfulvegan.blogspot.com/
that is her blog, and it's called "bashful vegan" for a reason - she has the same reservations as you do about calling attention to herself, but she has been able to find ways around it. She was very courteous about answering my emails and I'm sure she'll do the same for you.

Good luck!
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Old 05-25-2010, 11:05 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mandibc11 View Post
I just returned a few days ago, and while YES most of the restaurants handled the vegan request graciously and with surprising attention to taste and detail, there were a few that were 1) clueless and 2) unaccommodating. I think it's mostly the chef and not necessarily the restaurant as a whole, since some bad reviews I've read actually turned out to be great experiences for me, and vica versa!

I'll be doing a complete review starting in a few days...but I can say that sometimes I just had to grin and bear the news of "We can only offer a veggie plate and fruit for dessert," whereas other times I was able to draw from the Disboards reviews and let the chefs know of past accommodations that had been met at that restaurant.

That was actually very helpful to alot of the chefs who may not have had a vegan request before, and suggestions about what his other colleages had done with ingredients they had on hand really made both my experience, and his future knowledge for others much better!!
Really looking forward to your reviews! I'm usually totally cool with fruit for dessert - I'm not big into cakes or sundaes or anything. I actually almost never even order dessert anyway. They brought me fruit at 'Ohana, which I liked. Thanks your advice!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plasticletters View Post
The first thing to do (just to cover your butt) when making Dining Requests is to make sure they list you as having an ALLERGY to dairy, eggs and shellfish - the sad truth is that some chefs will take this much more seriously than simply saying you are vegan. At each of the restaurants Emily and I went to, our reservation slip on the table was clearly marked "ALLERGY: dairy, eggs and Shellfish" AND "VEGAN DIET" so we had all our bases covered. A chef will be less prone to give someone with allergies a hard time. I struggled with doing this because I thought it was somewhat dishonest, but chalked it up to just double covering myself.

We only dealt with one uncooperative chef and wait staff the entire time we were at Disney World. We couldn't do much about it and felt uncomfortable arguing or making (obvious) suggestions ourselves. Our displeasure was reflected in the tip. In some ways, that's the only power you have.
However, I think it helps if you research the restaurants and counter service places you are going to beforehand. Both Disboards and Allears.net have menus listed for every restaurant (even if some of them are not updated regularly) and doing your homework can really go a long way towards a satisfying meal or a disappointing experience.

Next, don't 100% trust the answers you got from that website. I'll believe them about the smoothies (a lot of places have soymilk and tofutti for this very reason...the ice cream shop on mainstreet can even make everything with tofutti instead of ice cream!) but their idea of a "vegan meal" at a restaurant may be a chef salad minus the meat and eggs. Research the menu options.

I think you would probably do well to talk to Kitty
http://bashfulvegan.blogspot.com/
that is her blog, and it's called "bashful vegan" for a reason - she has the same reservations as you do about calling attention to herself, but she has been able to find ways around it. She was very courteous about answering my emails and I'm sure she'll do the same for you.

Good luck!
Thanks for this. I was thinking the same thing, about marking it as an allergy and feeling dishonest, but ACTUALLY...if I eat those things while on vacation, I'll probably have a reaction that could be similar to a food allergy. I know my two vegan friends had an issue where they ate dairy at one restaurant and it kinda messed up their whole day. So it's half dishonest, I guess? Haha.

Thanks for the link to the blog, will definitely check it out.

Also, I did do my research on the menus this time around and picked places that I thought would probably be the safest bets. Of course I don't really have 100% say in where we go either, because we'll be going with a bunch of omnivores too, so I just wanted to make sure I covered my bases.
I didn't really see it on the menu, but is it alright to assume that California Grill can just make me up some veggie sushi? I can be quite content with just a plate full of sushi. Not sure though, since I didn't see it anywhere >.<;

Yeah, going to avoid the Saratoga Springs restaurant IF I can help it. I might not be able to, since that's where we're staying. But I will try to go elsewhere.
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Old 05-25-2010, 12:52 PM   #11
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Quote:
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...but ACTUALLY...if I eat those things while on vacation, I'll probably have a reaction that could be similar to a food allergy.
So true. I'm not vegan because I just can't sustain it, but when I have been vegan I'm entirely allergy-free. One summer I was doing really well with it, and ate some black bean dip that I thought was safe...halfway through my snack I started sneezing like crazy. Once I got myself together (when I have a sneezing fit it can take a bit of time to stop it) I noticed that whey was on the ingredient list. augh. So just that little thing caused my allergies to hit again.


For us, the tofutti stuff is right out, thanks to their bizarre choice to use corn syrup solids in the Cuties and most of their pints, and omg I'm just now checking out their site....HFCS is in their Chocolate flavor dessert? Fainting now. Also in chocolate cookie crunch and strawberry cheesecake flavors. Guess we won't be having any tofutti while at WDW! Not a surprise since we don't eat it at home, but since the ice cream at Disney isn't safe for DS and DH either (once you turn corn into a syrup, they canNOT eat it, and the cheaper brands of ice cream tend to use the same ingredients that tofutti uses), looks like lots of fruit for dessert!
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Old 05-25-2010, 12:55 PM   #12
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last chance

Your wait staff is your last chance to be sure your meal is correct, whether the guest has an allergy, lifestyle choice or religious restrictions.

I can not tell you the number of times meals have been prepared which were incorrect, but the waiter notices and has the meal remade. This should never happen but does.

Disney's restaurants want to accommodate their guests and meet their expectations, but everyone has to understand that sometimes it "just ain't gonna happen"! Case in point, don't go to a vegitarian restaurant and expect them to have a steak to grill for you!
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Old 05-25-2010, 01:58 PM   #13
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So true. I'm not vegan because I just can't sustain it, but when I have been vegan I'm entirely allergy-free. One summer I was doing really well with it, and ate some black bean dip that I thought was safe...halfway through my snack I started sneezing like crazy. Once I got myself together (when I have a sneezing fit it can take a bit of time to stop it) I noticed that whey was on the ingredient list. augh. So just that little thing caused my allergies to hit again.


For us, the tofutti stuff is right out, thanks to their bizarre choice to use corn syrup solids in the Cuties and most of their pints, and omg I'm just now checking out their site....HFCS is in their Chocolate flavor dessert? Fainting now. Also in chocolate cookie crunch and strawberry cheesecake flavors. Guess we won't be having any tofutti while at WDW! Not a surprise since we don't eat it at home, but since the ice cream at Disney isn't safe for DS and DH either (once you turn corn into a syrup, they canNOT eat it, and the cheaper brands of ice cream tend to use the same ingredients that tofutti uses), looks like lots of fruit for dessert!
The tofutti has HFCS? Good to know, thanks.


Quote:
Originally Posted by MAYNARDS99 View Post
Your wait staff is your last chance to be sure your meal is correct, whether the guest has an allergy, lifestyle choice or religious restrictions.

I can not tell you the number of times meals have been prepared which were incorrect, but the waiter notices and has the meal remade. This should never happen but does.

Disney's restaurants want to accommodate their guests and meet their expectations, but everyone has to understand that sometimes it "just ain't gonna happen"! Case in point, don't go to a vegitarian restaurant and expect them to have a steak to grill for you!
Yes, true. When it comes to accommodating vegan and vegetarian guests, I don't really see what's so difficult about it. Omnivores eat vegetables too (at least I hope they do, lol!), so I'd be comfy with just eating the veggies that they have. Kind of surprising and disheartening that I've been given attitude, though.
Some of my experiences were just like in the Bashful Vegan's, where she said she met a chef at Crystal Palace that made her feel bad for being vegan. Actually, this isn't even so much of a vegan problem as it is a customer service problem. It happens, right? I mean no matter where you go, you're going to bump into rude staff.
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Old 05-25-2010, 04:53 PM   #14
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I am really shocked to hear that the chefs or wait staff at WDW were rude or unhelpful to Vegans/Vegetarians! We lived next to WDW for 6 years and 4 of our friends were Vegetarian and 3 were Vegan. We never had anyone be rude when we ate there and we ate there several times a week! We often ate Vegan/Vegetarian with our friends as we only eat meat once in a while. Boma is great-they always give a tour of the buffet and make special soups, desserts, etc. Jiko and Sanaa are also wonderful. Our friends all loved Crystal Palace, Kona Cafe, Columbia Harbor House, Tokyo Dining, California Grill and The Wave.
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Old 05-25-2010, 06:31 PM   #15
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I am really shocked to hear that the chefs or wait staff at WDW were rude or unhelpful to Vegans/Vegetarians! We lived next to WDW for 6 years and 4 of our friends were Vegetarian and 3 were Vegan. We never had anyone be rude when we ate there and we ate there several times a week! We often ate Vegan/Vegetarian with our friends as we only eat meat once in a while. Boma is great-they always give a tour of the buffet and make special soups, desserts, etc. Jiko and Sanaa are also wonderful. Our friends all loved Crystal Palace, Kona Cafe, Columbia Harbor House, Tokyo Dining, California Grill and The Wave.
Yay!
I have dining reservations at four of those places!

I'm glad you guys had a nice time! It sounds like something I could really get used to, living in Florida and living near WDW! (I'm in Canada. It's cold.) I have been hearing really great things about Jiko and Sanaa, especially in terms of meals for vegetarians and vegans.
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