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Old 08-29-2009, 09:00 PM   #1
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Tower of Vegan Deliciousness and Other Vegan Disney Dining Reviews (August 2009)

My boyfriend and I went to Disney August 16 - 22 on the FREE Disney dining plan. Since he is vegan and I am vegetarian, we decided to extensively plan our trip to have the best vegan Disney experience. To start off...

My name is Emily, I am from Akron, OH. I am 22 years old and (obviously) am a vegetarian, although I do lean towards veganism.
Michael, my boyfriend, is from Detroit, MI. He is 26 years old and is a vegan.
We will both be posting reviews to this thread so everyone can see our different takes on the meals and such. His username is Plasticletters.

We started making our dining plans by searching for menus and reviews, starting at www.allears.net. Here are some helpful links that Michael and I used to plan our trip:
(We contacted both Todd and Kitty from the last two blogs personally, who were both extremely helpful in answering our questions)
And thanks to Andrea for this awesome vegetarian/vegan review right here on DISboards http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2180199

We called Disney dining exactly 90 days in advance to make sure we could get everything we wanted at the times we wanted (and we STILL couldn't!). Michael talked to several cast members as we were deciding how to adjust our schedule, some were helpful, some were not. One suggested we call the special dietary request line (which we didn't even know existed). That number is 407-824-5967. When you call, the automated message will ask you to leave your name, phone number, and email. After Michael did this, he received a response through email the next day, in which he was asked to fill out a dietary request form outlining our specific dietary needs, what restaurants we had made reservations for, the reservation number, day and time. Although other sources told us to call the restaurants ahead of time to make sure they understood our dietary needs, the woman who contacted Michael assured him that if he filled out the form that Disney would contact the restaurants for us and everything would be taken care of. We were skeptical of this service and it worked at varying degrees (as you will soon find out).

Alright, back to the main Disney dining line. When Michael was making reservations, he always made sure to tell the cast member that we had "allergies" to eggs, dairy, and shellfish (as Disney seems to take allergies more seriously than dietary preference). He also made sure that each reservation was also noted "vegan" and although this was something that could clearly be noted, some cast members were willing to do this, some said this was "not possible". We would recommend asking the Disney dining cast member to note both the allergies and dietary preference, as they will both alert your server and print on your ticket for each reservation.

After several days of planning and anticipation, we were off!
(Next up, our reviews )
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Old 08-29-2009, 09:13 PM   #2
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I'm so excited for your reviews! I can't wait to see how the special dietary request line worked out. I never knew that existed!
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Old 08-29-2009, 10:47 PM   #3
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Excited for your report! We are a family of vegetarians, who lives a vegan life, and eats vegan at home. Looking forward to some more ideas
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Old 08-29-2009, 10:57 PM   #4
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Day One: Tower of Vegan Deliciousness (Chef TJ saves the day)

Alright, Michael here for our first set of reviews. If you got through all of that (or even just skimmed it) we know you're along for the ride. We want to try and be as helpful as possible to anybody trying to go Veg at disneyworld, so please do not hesitate to ask us questions (either through posting on this thread or emailing us) if you would like to know more information or want us to clarify something we glossed over.

I have to admit that I was most excited about our first day because of the legendary Chef TJ at 'Ohana (formally the head chef at Boma). Todd (http://vegansatori.blogspot.com/) wrote a great review and personally told us some awesome stories about TJ that left us greatly anticipating the meal we were about to dig into.

BUT FIRST there was a little something called the Magic Kingdom.
We arrived early and had a great time, but were unsure whether or not to have lunch because of the big dinner we were assured would make us fat that evening. We decided to share a single counter service credit (for those of you who don't know about the disney dining plan, you get one counter service credit, one table service - or "sit down" - credit, and one snack credit per night of your stay on property) at a place in Adventureland called El Pirata Y El Perico. We got the vegetarian tacos (basically just black beans in two hard taco shells), which came with a bowl of white rice and black beans. The dining plan also entitles us to a dessert with every meal (some places were more vegan friendly than others) and a drink. Since Emily was more hungry than I was (and not vegan) she got a regular chocolate chip cookie for dessert (although this was to be her only non-vegan food item the whole trip. I am very proud of her! ). An added bonus was the HUGE cup of apple juice they gave us, filled to the top with no ice, neither of us drinks soda, so we were quite glad to see that every place we visited offered juice as an option (the other cup was a free glass of water they gave us... proving once again the futility of buying h2o bottled) . There is a fixin's bar with cheese, taco sauce, salsa, onions, diced tomatoes, and lettuce (for you non vegan readers, they will also give you sour cream if you like). We must have been hungrier than we thought because we dug in to this delicious meal before we took pictures. Here's a shot of our partially devoured meal.

We both recommend this "El Pirata" even if you are NOT on the dining plan, as it probably offers the best vegan meal in all of WDW for the price ($5.49), although it is only open "seasonally".

After a terrific day at the Magic Kingdom, we hopped on the Monorail to the Polynesian Resort for our 8:40 reservation at 'Ohana. We got there around 8pm, were given a pager and waited about 15 minutes for our table while we walked around the beautiful lobby. The hostess mentioned to us right away that she had seen our dietary preference on our ticket and that the chef would come to our table. It was probably then that my knees got a little weak and I began giggling like a school girl (we were rather excited to meet Chef TJ). Our hostess stopped at an oven to grab us a loaf of "welcome bread" (which I had heard was NOT vegan) before she stopped herself and said aloud "nope, that has milk. That is our 'welcome bread' but let me welcome you anyhow!" she was very nice and made us feel at home. We were seated at a table fairly close to the windows and RIGHT on top of the "show". Our server came to the table immediately and let us know we would be talking personally with the chef, who he assured us "loves to work with dietary challenges". It wasn't long after that that Emily spotted Chef TJ (we recognized him from his many photos online) frantically running about from table to table. Eventually he got to us (though it was by no means a long wait, and we enjoyed watching Kahlua [sp?] perform on the ukulele and sing Hawaiian songs) and he let us know that the Salad we were given for a starter was indeed vegan. He also informed us that he'd be giving us a 7 course vegan feast, but that we would have to take it slowly because he had a couple of people ahead of us who had allergies. We let him know this was not a problem and he looked at his watch and said "this will work out perfect. You should have the main course right as the fireworks are going off". We then looked to our left and noticed the absolutely perfect view we had of Cinderella castle! Here's the salad (which everyone who eats at the restaurant gets, as well as "dipping sauces" for the meat. The sauces are vegan, but having nothing to dip in them were not used).

We waited a bit for our next course. During that time Kahlua lead the children in the restaurant in some games, after which he came up to our table (located about as close to the action as you could be) and asked "is this ok? I don't want to ruin a romantic evening here". We told him it was fine. It was pretty entertaining actually, and added a lot to the atmosphere. Kahlua was a very sweet man.
The next thing we know, here's TJ again, flying towards us with this tasty dish (seriously, he was running at us with a dish in each hand)

That is toasted pita bread with roasted red pepper hummus and baba ganoush. The hummus was the best I have ever tasted. Again there was a bit of a delay as Chef TJ ran about from table to table astonishing allergy prone guests with his extravagant desserts. We kept getting more and more excited and Chef TJ kept getting more and more apologetic. At one point, he sent a server (not ours!) to our table to apologize for the wait between courses (which really wasn't even that bad). Soon our next course came out. Avocado, chive, carrot and pineapple filled finger rolls in a seaweed wrap, drizzled in sweet and spicy sauces.

Chef TJ meticulously explained how the course was prepared and how best to eat it. This is when he said to us "You must eat slow...I NEED you to do this for me". I got the impression that this was both for us to enjoy the delicious creations he had specially prepared for us AND because it was a busy night. Emily assured him that he need not rush around, and to just take it easy - there was no way this man would take it easy, because he wasn't a man, but a god . Some may even call him a wizard (and now I'm out of reverent emoticons). Our server then brought us out some leis to wear (not everyone got them, so we felt special). Kahlua sang some more songs, and Chef TJ sprinted towards us, putting on the brakes right at my feet with a large pitcher (the serving apparatus, not the baseball position). He artfully placed two bowls down in front of us and poured in this delectable concoction

That's ginger soup with hot sesame oil (boy was it hot!) topped with cherry tomatoes and watercress. It was spicy, sweet and delicious. We took our time enjoying the soup and watched Kahlua teach several people how to do the hula. Soon, Chef TJ came out with our next course - bok choy and oyster mushrooms, infused with a pomegranate sauce.

This was very tangy and quite delicious (I am not even a fan of pomegranate taste, and I was licking my fingers after this). Kahlua came over to personally wish us a "magical evening" and said goodbye as the fireworks started. Here it seems 'Ohana was caught napping, someone in the back had forgotten to turn down the lights and pipe in the music for "wishes" as the show started. I heard someone in the back go "oh crap!" (or something akin to that) and the lights immediately went down as the music for the show turned on (this is not a criticism, as it did not detract from the show at all). Less than a minute after the lights went down, here's TJ again, magically appearing before us (I think he teleported this time) with THIS -

which I christened TOWER OF VEGAN DELICIOUSNESS. What you see before you is a pile of stir fried veggies under mounds of delicious white rice in a peanut sauce, skewers of marinated tofu (4 of them), crispy rice noodles, and the jewel of our meal - gigantic deep fried asparagus. It was at this point that Chef TJ stopped being as busy and started regularly visiting us to join in on our happiness, offering bits of insight on the meal and even telling us how he prepared the batter for the asparagus! Mid conversation, he asked us if we had been brought out our peanut noodles. We told him we didn't know what he was talking about. One second he was gone, the next he was in the same spot he had left us except with a plate of noodles and broccoli to share (I should mention two things here - 1: this is a dish everyone who visits 'Ohana gets to eat, TJ forgot about it because it wasn't his own special vegan creation [though it IS completely vegan] and 2: the tower and the noodles were the ONLY dishes we shared. everything else you see a picture of was brought out to us individually on our own separate plate)

Chef Tj chatted with us some more before he revealed this treat

Frozen lychee fruit soaked in coconut milk, accompanied by a mint leaf and fresh strawberry. We thought this was the end....boy were we wrong. TJ vanished to the kitchen only to return with this-

Ingredients here include a cherry, banana, pineapple, chocolate and vanilla tofutti, and vegan chocolate chip cookies. Chef TJ then drizzled the vegan chocolate sauce on right in front of us. We were very full by then, but finished the entire thing (actually, we finished more or less everything that was brought to us, check this out)

Chef TJ returned very quickly with two bags of Divvies cookies, for which he instructed "For tomorrow!".

He sat the cookies down, then sat himself down and basically joined us for the rest of our meal (we had been at 'Ohana for about 2 and a half hours at this point and the restaurant was pretty much empty), sharing with us some stories while we sang his (deserving) praises. We then asked if we could get a picture with him. "Of course!" he said. He then made a face and cleared some of the larger empty dishes off of the table (see two pictures above) letting us know that the picture would be better without them, and he had a server snap this gem

What a perfect meal. We were pretty much treated like royalty. This was one of the best meals we've ever had in our lives. We couldn't stop smiling with glee throughout the entire night - what a great way to start off our vacation!
Tower of vegan deliciousness (Dining Review)

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Old 08-30-2009, 02:44 AM   #5
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OMG!!!!! Keep it coming, I'm drooling all over myself. Now, can you confirm for me that Chef TJ does not work on Saturday's??? That's when our ADR for Ohana is and I'm sad if this is true as it's the only night we can go.

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Old 08-30-2009, 02:57 AM   #6
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Really enjoying your reviews. My DH is a vegetarian so I always enjoy veggie dining reviews.

The food Chef TJ provided at O'hana looks amazing! Every course looks delicious.

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Old 08-30-2009, 07:37 AM   #7
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Good lord! What a fantastic meal at 'Ohana!
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Old 08-30-2009, 09:27 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Twoboysnmygirl View Post
Now, can you confirm for me that Chef TJ does not work on Saturday's??? That's when our ADR for Ohana is and I'm sad if this is true as it's the only night we can go.
We were told that this is true. Chef TJ seems to have Fridays and Saturdays off (we actually abandoned our original schedule so that we could have Chef TJ, as our initial plans were to eat there on a Friday). I would still keep that ADR though (especially if you plan to use the dietary request line and let 'Ohana know you are coming ahead of time) because from what I read in Andrea's review (http://www.disboards.com/showthread....2180199&page=8) the other chef at 'Ohana treats vegans rather well too.
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Old 08-30-2009, 09:31 AM   #9
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Drats! I did read that the other chef is working hard to keep up with Chef TJ's reputation, and her review looked nice, it's just that I'm a raw vegan and was hoping Chef TJ could make a special raw dish for me...

but, my plans are set, I can get another night, but any other night really messes up the rest of our ADRs/park days to do so, so we'll have to stick with Saturday and hope for the best!
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Old 08-30-2009, 10:00 AM   #10
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Day One: Tower of Vegan Deliciousness (Chef TJ saves the day)

For my take on the food...

The food at El Pirata Y El Perico was surprisingly really good. I'm glad we shared this meal because we got a lot of food! The extra bowl of rice and beans was a nice surprise, as we thought we'd only be getting the tacos!

For 'Ohana, Michael pretty much summed everything up. Each dish was seriously amazing, and I didn't dislike any of it. My favorite part was the tower, for sure. The tofu was a perfect consistency (and I'm normally pretty picky when it comes to tofu). My second favorite dish was the red pepper hummus. It was SO GOOD! Michael and I had to slow ourselves down a bit while eating it to make sure we didn't stuff ourselves too early. Chef TJ was so incredibly nice, and we were kicking ourselves over the fact we hadn't made reservations there for every night, seeing as it was only one table service credit! Overall, the first night was absolutely perfect! Here is a picture of Michael doing a happy dance during our meal at 'Ohana...

Last edited by ehartman4; 08-30-2009 at 10:39 PM.
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Old 08-30-2009, 06:22 PM   #11
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We were there 8/25. My daughter is vegetabletarian as I call it, and we had Chef TJ also. He is the best! I tried some of her meal. The rice, tofu, noodles and deep fried broccoli were really good. I'd consider ordering that myself. My daughter also ate the noodles and broccoli/snap pea vegetables.
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Old 08-30-2009, 08:43 PM   #12
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I loved your review of Ohana! I've gone to Ohana many times with non-vegetarian family and friends. As you know, there is plenty to eat without getting the vegetarian (or vegan) options. I would just fill up on the salad and noodles and be fine!

So when I went with a friend who was also a vegetarian, we had a similar experience to yours. He was amazing! I wrote to Disney about it and they called me to let me know they got the e-mail and thanked me for sending it. I said "No, thank YOU for having someone as wonderful as Chef TJ!"

I notice that as a vegetarian people look at me like I am an inconvenience because my diet is my choice. I totally agree that allergies are more "respected" if that makes sense. A lot of servers will huff and puff when I ask them what I can eat and what I can't eat. Chef TJ was loving that we were vegetarians and almost seemed to celebrate it. He made me feel good about my choices and showed us the wonderful things we could eat despite the fact that they aren't what's on the regular menu!

I look forward to the rest of your reviews!
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Old 08-30-2009, 09:10 PM   #13
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Yay more veggie reviews!!! Thanks for posting those link I haven't seen them before.
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Old 08-31-2009, 11:35 AM   #14
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Hello Emily & Michael, Great start! Thanks for taking the time to share your experience!

After reading yours and V_gan's review of Ohana's I can't wait to try it for myself. Chef TJ sounds great.
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Old 08-31-2009, 01:17 PM   #15
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Loving your reviews so far..WHAT an amazing meal chef TJ prepared for you both...and your descriptions were wonderful! I am not a vegetarian or a vegan but I can certainly appreciate both. I certainly do try to limit my meat intake, and it looks like I certainly would not go hungry at Ohana if I did decide to become Vegan!! Looking forward to more reviews and pictures
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