Dining at the Walt Disney World Resort with Food Allergies

Dining out with food allergies can be challenging, frustrating, and sometimes impossible. There are restaurants you need to avoid and restaurants where the staff just doesn't "get it." But when you're visiting the Walt Disney World Resort, dining out with food allergies is usually less stressful and can even be a bit magical.

Dining at Disney World with food allergies can be pretty greatDining at Disney World with food allergies can be pretty great

My daughter was diagnosed with food allergies in 2011. She's allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame seeds and must have carry EpiPens with her everywhere. Last year was the first time we had visited Walt Disney World Resort as a family since her diagnosis and the experiences we had when it came to her food allergies were incredible. Chefs at both quick service and table service restaurants went above and beyond to keep her safe.

This year during our Thanksgiving week visit to the World we had some really great experiences and one not-so great experience that made us decide we'll never dine at one particular (and very popular) restaurant again.

Let's focus on the good and really good first. This year we dined at Boma for dinner and I'll admit I was a bit worried about the dinner buffet and whether there would be enough safe items for my daughter to enjoy. I didn't need to worry. Within minutes of being seated the chef came out and walked us through the entire buffet line, pointing out what was safe (nearly everything) and what wasn't safe (a few items with sesame seeds and a few peanut-based sauces).

Carving station at BomaCarving station at Boma

Of course the most allergy-unfriendly area of the buffet was the dessert section, but we've come to expect that at most restaurants. During our meal the chef checked on my daughter to make sure everything was OK and then he brought her a "special" safe-for-her dessert of vanilla ice cream, fresh berries, and Enjoy Life cookies. That was a great start to the vacation. We'll go back to Boma every time.

A happy girl with a dish of safe ice cream and cookiesA happy girl with a dish of safe ice cream and cookies

Dinner at Mama Melrose was also another successful meal, for the most part. The waitress immediately brought out the "allergy menu" which lists all the dishes and whether they are safe for specific allergies. She double checked the breading on the calamari for sesame seeds (none!) and even made sure the bread was safe from cross contact (it was).

My daughter chose the strip steak with macaroni and cheese and it might have been her favorite meal during the entire trip. The only misstep here was when the waitress assured me that no sesame seeds were present in any of the menu items but when she delivered my Chicken Parmigiana she said "Oh! Don't let her eat any of that, the breading has sesame seeds in it." Mama Melrose loses a few points for this but we'll definitely go back.

Charred Strip Steak at Mama MelroseCharred Strip Steak at Mama Melrose

Having dined at Be Our Guest last summer at lunch we knew how capable they were when it comes to food allergies. This time we were eating breakfast and once again the chef came to the ordering kiosk and walked us through the safe options. My daughter chose the waffles. The normal pastries were unsafe so chef said he'd send a plate of safe breads to the table.

The waffles were good but nothing spectacular. The allergy-friendly breads never made it to the table. And we'll choose lunch over breakfast at Be Our Guest from now on simply due to better allergy-friendly menu options. Also, the cupcakes at lunch are allergy-friendly and that's a 'win' in my daughter's eyes.

Allergy-friendly waffles at Be Our GuestAllergy-friendly waffles at Be Our Guest

When it comes to snacking at Disney World my daughter doesn't do much of it. The popcorn isn't safe (coconut oil is a main ingredient in the popping oil and we avoid that), many of the ice cream novelties aren't safe, and most of the bakery items are also off limits. However the character cookies are safe and she loves those, and the vanilla ice cream at L'Artisans des Glaces in Epcot's France pavilion is also safe. The cast members make it a point to go in the back, open a new container, and scoop it with a clean scoop. Vive la France!

While we were touring Disney's Animal Kingdom we stopped by the Discovery Island Allergy-Friendly Kiosk and my daughter was able to enjoy doughnuts! (Trust me when I say this is huge).The cast member let us look at the allergy notebook so we could see all the ingredients and while she could have picked out a bag of the new Snacks with Character items, the doughnuts won.

Cinnamon-sugar doughnut for the win!Cinnamon-sugar doughnut for the win!

So now that we've talked about the good, let's spend a few minutes on the not-so-good. For us that was 'Ohana for a few reasons. When we checked in for our reservation I told the cast member that we had food allergies in our group (I always do this even though I mention it while making reservations). He asked what they were and when I said "peanut, tree nuts, and sesame" his response was "Oh boy. That's going to be difficult."

Not the response I was hoping for.

After being seated we waited. And waited. And waited...for the chef to come by our table so we could talk about the allergies. It should be noted that the wait staff will not bring anything to your table until the chef comes by. In this case that also meant drinks. Finally the chef arrived and after going over the allergies he said he would make a special order of the dumplings without sesame seeds, and would send out safe bread.

'Ohana doesn't make my list of places to eat'Ohana doesn't make my list of places to eat

The chicken wings were safe, as were the salad and the noodles. The grilled chicken and shrimp were also safe, but the steak was not as it is marinated in sesame oil. Overall the meal was just OK. Our "cousin" seemed annoyed when I requested French fries for my daughter (who didn't feel comfortable eating the noodles or the dumplings). Despite the fact that the chef did try to make the meal safe, my daughter was left feeling uncomfortable and unhappy. So, in the end, 'Ohana has been taken off our list of restaurants at Walt Disney World.

Despite the meal at 'Ohaha, the majority of our experiences have been positive and we're still discovering where to eat and where not to eat. We have places we'll visit every time like Boma, and places we won't even try (Teppan Edo in Epcot because we avoid all Hibachi restaurants).

And maybe our experience was completely different than yours.

And when it comes down to it, I know that Walt Disney World is a safe place for my daughter when it comes to dining out. The chefs and restaurant staff at Walt Disney World go above and beyond when it comes to guests with food allergies and that makes all the difference in the world to this allergy mom.

What experiences have you had with food allergies at the Walt Disney World Resort? Let us know in the comments.

Many thanks to the Disney Food Blog for use of their photos.

Kristen K. wrote on Mon, 12/21/2015 - 21:22:

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Great article Traci!

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