Guest blogger and vegan travel writer Miriam Porter dishes on plant-based fare at theme parks in Orlando.
As a vegan travel writer, I am always on the lookout for tasty, plant-based food options when exploring new destinations and revisiting old ones — and if predictions are correct, 2019 is going to be the biggest year for vegan food yet. Fresh, exciting, plant-based fare is popping up across the nation, and Orlando theme parks are no exception.
Although my son, Noah, and I choose healthy food options as often as possible, we really can’t resist a good vegan cupcake, soft-serve ice cream, or the latest fast-food item that’s been “veganized.” Here are my tips on where to find them at Walt Disney World® Resort and Universal Orlando Resort — happy eating
Eating Vegan at Walt Disney World Resort
Dole Whip: The first time we heard about this soft-serve ice cream at Disney’s flagship theme park, we knew we had to try it. We fell in love with this pineapple delicacy, and now, our visit to Disney isn’t complete until we satisfy our Dole Whip cravings. You’ll find it in Aloha Isle, and don’t be discouraged by a long line; it moves quickly with multiple servers. Just be sure to order the pineapple float or cup only, because the vanilla flavor is not vegan.
Columbia Harbour House: We’ve visited this Liberty Square restaurant multiple times. It’s reasonably priced and delicious, with several vegan options. Noah loves the Lighthouse Sandwich; just order it without the slaw, and it’s vegan. We also get steamed broccoli, green beans and carrots (no butter), with a side of yummy and healthy couscous.
Casey’s Corner: Until our most recent visit to the Magic Kingdom, Noah had never tried a hot dog — I mean, not even a veggie dog. He’s never liked meat substitutes, possibly because he’s been veggie since birth, so never felt the need to replace meat. With the huge success of Beyond Meat burgers, he’s finally found a burger he likes, so when I heard this option carries Beyond Meat sausages, it was a priority.
Before ordering, I spoke with staff to ensure sausages were not cooked on the same grill and learned that they never come in contact with meat. Choose from two options: Plant-Based Dog with French fries or apple slices, and Plant-Based Loaded Slaw Dog with barbecue vegan aioli. Their sausages are beyond amazing, and it was so exciting to be eating vegan at a mainstream fast-food restaurant.
Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant: This location serves a Plant-Based BBQ Cheeseburger with vegan cheese and aioli, but I haven’t tried it. Next time!
Mamma Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano: For a full-service meal, check out this eatery on Grand Avenue. Although I haven’t tried it, I hear the Polenta Cake, Mushroom and Herb Cauliflower is incredible and comes with vegan cashew cheese sauce.
Mickey Pretzel: If you are traveling with young kids, it’s especially nice to discover Mickey Mouse-shaped food. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we found a pretzel kiosk and were thrilled to learn Mickey Mouse pretzels are vegan, but you can actually find these at many kiosks throughout Disney’s theme parks. We enjoyed dipping ours in mustard.
World Showcase: In this area, you can travel the world while sampling food from 11 countries — including tons of delicious vegan options — without ever leaving Orlando. Here are a few ideas:
- Mexico’s Choza de Margarita: Guacamole topped with mango and pumpkin seeds, and served with fried flour chicharron, salsa valentina and lime
- Japan’s Kabuki Cafe: Edamame
- America’s Liberty Inn: Grilled Vegetable Burger; actually vegan and uses Beyond Meat
- Tangierine Café: Vegetable Platter; swap out the falafel for extra hummus if you want to avoid eating anything cooked in a shared fryer
- L’Artisan des Glaces: Dairy-free Fruit Sorbet, including Mango, Strawberry, Lemon and Mixed Berr
Pizzafari: We went to this park solely to ride Avatar Flight of Passage — which was incredible! — but from my pre-trip research, I remembered that this eatery at Discovery Island made vegan pizza. They don’t advertise it as vegan, but rather as “allergy-friendly cheese.” I asked to read the ingredients, and it was entirely plant-based Daiya cheese — one of our favorites.
This restaurant is a great option if you are traveling with kids that have allergies, as Pizzafari has separate menus and cooking stations to accommodate nut, soy, milk, egg and gluten allergies. So, by default, it’s perfect for us vegans.
Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC at Disney Springs in Orlando
Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC: This trendy bakery is a must at Disney Springs. It is totally vegan, as well as soy-free, gluten-free and kosher. We absolutely love the cupcakes. Flavors include red velvet, brownie and vanilla.
This cute shop also serves yummy loaves, fancy cookies, donuts, muffins and creamy chocolate brownies, as well as soft-serve ice cream in vanilla and chocolate with decadent toppings such as donuts, brownies and cookies. And if you have a special occasion, they will even deliver entire cakes to most table-service dining options on Walt Disney World property.
Eating Vegan at Universal Orlando Resort
In the past year, more vegan options have popped up at Universal Orlando Resort, and they make an effort to cater to dietary needs at their parks.
The Leaky Cauldron™: Vegan Harry Potter™ fans will find plant-based options at this eatery, which is across from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes™ in the park’s Diagon Alley™ section. The authentic British cuisine reflects the themes of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ with items such as pumpkin juice and tongue-tying lemon squash. Research shows that vegan items include breakfast potatoes, baked beans, grilled tomato, root veggies and garden salads.
Lombard’s Seafood Grille: The Plant-Based Penne Genovese at this option includes Beyond Sausage, roasted broccoli, cherry tomatoes and basil oil.
Louie’s Italian Restaurant: This family-style eatery serves Spaghetti Bolognese with plant-based Gardein Italian sausage crumbles.
The Burger Digs: Despite its meat-centric name, this restaurant has two options for vegans: The Vegan Cheeseburger Platter, featuring a brown rice-and-mushroom patty with vegan cheese and fries, and the Chick’n & Avocado Sandwich Platter, made with plant-based Gardein Chick’n and Follow Your Heart American cheese.
Mythos Restaurant: The Plant-Based Tomato Pesto Cresto de Gallo is perfect for vegans with Gardein Chick’n, sundried tomato, roasted mushrooms, Kalamata olives and fresh basil.
Voodoo Doughnut: You’ll find several vegan donut options here, including Oreo Cookie, PB&J and Maple. (If you have allergies, keep in mind that all donuts are made on the same equipment.) This chain has a loyal following of donut lovers and has become quite the phenomenon over the years — and photos of vegan donuts on Instagram are definitely brag-worthy.
One final note: When dining out, it’s important to ask the chef or server if the item is vegan, and to explain that you don’t eat anything with animal byproducts. Restaurants often swap suppliers at theme parks, and ingredients can change, so use this info as a guide. If you have allergies, ask to see the ingredient list yourself.
Miriam Porter is an award-winning Canadian journalist who has published thousands of articles in newspapers, magazines and internationally syndicated websites. She currently focuses on travel, social justice issues and veganism, but has also written extensively about parenting, health and children’s rights.
All images courtesy Miriam Porter. Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh characters © Disney. SpongeBob SquarePants © Viacom International Inc.
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