May 18, 2010

Where Dreams Come True for Kids with Food Allergies

Posted in Buffet, Disney World, Food Allergy, Restaurants, Traveling tagged , , , , , , at 4:10 pm by 1ElleofaWoman

Walt Disney World is a magical place. The best thing about Disney? Stress-free dining.

I have found the chefs and staff at Disney to be very allergy aware.

My husband John, daughter Jessica (who is allergic to peanuts and other legumes) and I first visited Orlando  as a family in November 2008, when teachers were at the NJEA convention and many New Jersey schools were off. We visited again in December 2009.

Our first trip was also Jessica’s  first plane ride and my first since June 2001.   I was a little nervous about flying because it has been so long since I had flown and because of Jessica’s food allergies. When you have a food allergies, simple things often become complicated, including airline flights.


Going to Orlando in 2008, the attendant at the gate initially didn’t want to let me board early to clean the seats. She insisted that the planes were cleaned thoroughly prior to each flight. I persisted until the woman working with her said that I could go on. The second attendant did not consider it an unusual request. I cleaned Jessica’s seat (which had white stains, most likely milk, not an issue for us but could be a dangerous issue for someone anaphylactic to milk) and tray table as well as my seat and my tray table (which had crumbs on it) by the time Jessica and John boarded.

When flying, ask to board early to clean the seat and surrounding area.

Delta’s policy is no peanuts served for three rows in front and three rows behind someone with an allergy. There was a second child on board with an allergy so most of the back of the plane got alternate snacks. On the way home, there were at least three families with children with food allergies so Delta decided to serve no peanuts at all. The attendant on that flight was much nicer and I had no problem getting on board early. I was also the third to ask so by that time she probably felt “Eh, what’s one more.”

In 2009 we had no trouble at all.


Disney has been touted by everyone I know in real life and online in the allergy community as being very allergy aware. I found this to be true. At

Disney's Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, the makeup was nut oil free.* (A side note unrelated to allergies, Kent Russell, the manager at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Cinderella’s Castle, was incredibly helpful to me when we went again  in 2009 and he deserves a mention.)

John made dinner reservations several months before our trip.  He made sure to mention all of Jessica’s allergies. My shellfish allergy, not so much. (To be fair, I am more focused on Jessica’s allergies too). Each time we arrived at a restaurant, the wait staff had already been alerted to Jessica’s allergy; the chef was sent to our table without our needing to ask. Each chef was very helpful in answering questions. I have heard the chefs do not do this during peak season, but during our second trip, in early December, which was the beginning of the Christmas season, they came to our table again.

We were able to eat at several buffets at Disney; we usually avoid buffets since the risk of cross contamination is so great, but since no nuts were used at all, we felt comfortable allowing Jessica to do so at a few places in Disney. Funny thing: Jessica and I were a little disappointed because we heard so many good things that we expected too much. At almost every dinner, there were cakes and other goodies for dessert that she couldn’t eat. She was able to get ice cream, but that’s pretty much what she gets at home in the few restaurants where we order desserts.

Dining at Disney is magical in many ways, such as this decorated table in the Crystal Palace.

In 2009, we had the same good experience at the restaurants, though since it was a busier time of the year we sometimes had to wait for the chef.  We ate at more counter-service type places and the desserts were not safe.  They did have safe cookies or brownies, but Jessica didn’t like them.  They were free of nuts, peanuts, wheat, dairy and egg & she wasn’t used to the taste.  I’m impressed that they included something that was acceptable to people with multiple food allergies;  too bad Jess didn’t like them.

Additionally, there were several restaurants where we could not eat the breads because they were made with nuts or cross contaminated.


We did have one issue with Ohanas at  Disney’s Polynesian Resort. John made the reservations for dinner. The Web site did not have a menu and in 2008, it described the restaurant as

“. . . family-style all-you-care-to-eat Hawaiian land of food, fun, laughter, sharing and Polynesian hospitality. Savor skewers of meats and vegetables and other uniquely flavored island specialties grilled over the expansive 18-foot wood-burning fire pit.”

John & I didn’t expect to see peanuts so endemic on the menu.  Having traveled there on our honeymoon, neither of us recalled peanuts at any of the restaurants.  We simply wondered if there would be poi. Once we were seated, we were told that most every table is served peanut sauce. The chef came out to speak to us and he told us that the breads were not safe (had nuts) and obviously neither was the sauce. He assured us that the sauce was prepared in separate section of the kitchen, put into little serving bowls and never came in contact with the other food. The standard desserts were not safe, of course, but Jessica could get fresh pineapple and ice cream for dessert. We said ok and ordered some drinks and the waitress left to get them.

John and I looked at the menu and after a moment I said, “Let’s leave, I am not comfortable here.” When the waitress returned with our drinks, we explained that we didn’t feel comfortable. She was very nice about it and we didn’t have to pay for our drinks. **

We then went to the Magic Kingdom and were lucky enough to get a table at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, modeled after Tony’s Restaurant from ‘Lady & the Tramp.’ The food was very good. I always feel safer in an Italian

Tony’s Town Square Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom

Restaurant since most don’t use nuts — except occasionally pignoli (pine nuts) — in their appetizers and entrees.  I’ve read in a FAAN newsletter that some people put peanut butter in tomato sauce. At the time I wondered if it were regional thing; no restaurateur I have spoken to in New York or New Jersey has even heard of such a thing. (Though I did eventually discover a restaurant with peanut butter pizza.) Tony’s in the Magic Kingdom was no different from the restaurants at home; the chef came out and assured us that everything (except the desserts, of course) was peanut free. It was a very good meal. I waited for a little Italian man to play the accordion and sing but one never showed. Oh well.

Jessica did not say much of anything about our dinner issue, but later that evening on the bus ride back to our hotel she said she didn’t like having allergies.


We spent a day at Sea World and were lucky enough to get dinner with Shamu.  We ate outside behind Shamu’s stadium and watched whales swim. The trainers then came out and showed us how they trained the whales.

This was before he attacked the trainer and I don’t know if they still have dinner with the whales and if they did, I am not sure if I would ever do this again.

When we arrived, the chef came out to discuss dinner. It was a buffet but no peanuts or other nuts so we were able to eat foods from the buffet  and Jessica could have bread. However, he couldn’t answer any of my questions about the desserts. I told Jessica that we would get ice cream or something after dinner, since I never let her eat anything unless we are certain of its ingredients. But then the dessert chef came to talk to us; I had never spoken to a dessert chef before. Most of the cakes were cross contaminated, but there was safe Jello and bananas Foster. Jessica loved the Jello. It was blue, she never had blue before and it was a nice break from ice cream every night. She didn’t like the bananas foster but John and I did. We usually don’t eat desserts that Jessica can’t eat. It seems so unfair to us. (It’s probably better for our waistlines anyway.) But we had the bananas Foster – new to both of us – and it was great.

Please note: Menus can change, so always ask the chef, do not rely on my experience to keep you or your child safe
* Be sure to look at the ingredients of all makeup to make sure it is safe for the person with food allergies.
** Disney’s current description of Ohanas is Polynesian-style and American

1 Comment

  1. L. Dempski said,

    I guess it’s cheaper to serve peanuts on the flight. It’s great that the airlines will let you clean the seats. I’m glad that you had a good time at Disney. Thanks for information.

Comments are closed.

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