Disneyland Resort offers more than 6,700 different food items, including its signature vegetarian-friendly Dole Whip. // © 2016 Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort
Feature image (above): The Rustic Bruschetta at California Adventure’s Wine Country Trattoria is a popular vegetarian option. // © 2016 Disneyland Resort
Disneyland Park hasn’t always been the happiest place on Earth for vegetarians and vegans. Luckily, the Anaheim, Calif., theme park, along with sister park Disney California Adventure, has been gradually expanding its plant-based offerings
“It is not a policy per se but, rather, our desire to continually exceed our guests’ expectations with diverse choices and options,” said John State, executive chef at Disneyland Resort.
No matter where you find yourself, you can find something meat-free — even if it’s not on the menu. Following are tips on where and how to eat at Disneyland that will make both vegetarians and vegans very happy, indeed.
Get the Facts
A few years ago, Disneyland published an official fact sheet for vegetarian and vegan dining at Disneyland Resort, which includes the two theme parks as well as Downtown Disney District. The document lists vegetarian and vegan highlights available across the Disney complex and is an essential companion for meat-free eaters looking to avoid walking from establishment to establishment in hopes of finding a specific dish.
With that said, the list is a few years old, and some cataloged items may have changed. For example, I found that the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich on multigrain bread is no longer served at Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country. The dish, which State says is a “true fan favorite,” has a new home at Cafe Orleans, and it now comes on a potato roll instead of the multigrain bread.
Chat With Staff
When I didn’t find a Fried Green Tomato Sandwich on Hungry Bear’s menu, I asked a staff member if Disney still served the sandwich. I was taken aback by how informed he was about the vegetarian dining at his restaurant as well as other restaurants. He was quick to offer modifications for a salad to make it vegan, and he even offered an off-menu veggie burger — a perfect accompaniment to Hungry Bear’s sweet potato fries. Best of all, he tipped me off to the sandwich’s new whereabouts at Cafe Orleans where I was able to enjoy the sandwich later that day.
According to State, vegetarians and vegans should always ask what the chef can do for them since all quick service and sit-down restaurants can offer plant-based options.
Embrace the Carbs, Fat and Sugar
In all my years as a vegetarian Disneyland visitor, that gooey, crispy Fried Green Tomato sandwich — along with an accompanying order of garlic frites (fries) — is probably the most delicious meal I have ever eaten at Disneyland.
Disney does sugar, fat and carbs especially well. Though the Moroccan tofu-and-grilled veggie skewers — served with a cucumber salad, brown rice, a pita and a choice of sauce —sounded great, the dish was really no taste match for the meatless pizza and veggie burgers found throughout the park as well as anything that comes in a sourdough bread bowl (I’m looking at you, vegetarian gumbo from Royal Street Veranda in New Orleans Square).
Next time at California Adventure, I’m skipping the brown rice and tofu, and heading straight to Hollywood Land’s Award Wieners for its Portobello Mushroom Philly, featuring onion and bell peppers sauteed in hefeweizen beer and topped with pepper jack cheese.
Make Reservations Ahead of Time
This shouldn’t really come as a surprise: Guests will find superior vegetarian dining at the higher-priced and higher-quality restaurants of California Adventure and Disneyland, such as Cafe Orleans and Blue Bayou Restaurant at Disneyland Park and Ariel’s Grotto and (extra vegetarian-friendly) Wine Country Trattoria at California Adventure. Though you might have some good fortune making day-of reservations for dinner, it’s a better idea to make reservations further ahead of time via the Disney website, a service available up to 60 days before the desired date.
Dole Whip, beignets and churros— these are a few of my favorite things at Disneyland Resort. But, if you’re trying to make healthful choices between meals, you’re in luck.
Many kiosks throughout the park — including a kiosk located just a few steps away from the Dole Whip line at Adventureland’s Tiki Juice Bar — offer watermelon chunks, pineapple spears, seedless grapes, pickles, Sabra hummus and chips and salsa packs and more.
Snacking at Disneyland Resort is an inevitability: Annually, guests consume about 285,000 apples, 285,000 pounds of banana, 305,000 pounds of grapes and 960,000 Dole Whip cups.
Vegans Are Welcome, Too
While it’s true that Disneyland likes using ingredients such as cheese and eggs, vegans — those who do not eat eggs, dairy and honey as well as any meat products — need only to alert cast members of their diet for a customized vegan meal.
Some options are vegan as is, such as the vegan pasta or seasonal vegetable tower at California Adventure’s Carthay Circle Restaurant on Buena Vista Street and the Chef’s Vegan Burger at Carnation Cafe on Main Street, USA. Perhaps the highest concentration of vegan options are available at Disneyland Park’s New Orleans Square, including the vegetarian gumbo in a sourdough bread boule at Royal Street Veranda; the Portobello mushroom and couscous maque choux at Blue Bayou Restaurant and the vegetable jambalaya at French Market.
In addition to these options, there are many more that can be made vegan by omitting cheese, including the soft flour tacos filled with onions, bell peppers, yellow squash, zucchini and carrots at Rancho del Zocalo Restaurant in Frontierland and the N’awlins Vegetable Ragout at Cafe Orleans, also located in New Orleans Square.
Disneyland has its own aptly named email address dedicated to special diets: SpecialDiets@Disneyland.com. John State, executive chef at Disneyland Resort, encourages guests to email Disneyland before their visit with any questions or concerns. Afterward, feel free to email with suggestions.