Five years ago I went to Disneyland and ate gluten-free there for the first time. I had been when I was a kid, but back then we had to bring a cooler with food and rough it. These days things are considerably easier with Disney supplying a list of gluten-free offerings at City Hall and chefs that generally have cross-contamination procedures in place to bring safe food to their gluten-free patrons.
Last time around I had a flawless time and was extremely impressed by the professionalism of the Disney “cast members”.
I ate and reviewed our experiences at Redd Rockett Pizza Port,the Tiki Juice Bar, Storyteller Cafe and Blue Bayou on our 6th anniversary trip to Disneyland.
This time I tried a batch of new restaurants and had a variety of experiences, some great and some less great. I would still recommend Disneyland as a gluten-free destination but there were a few tiny little hiccups this time around.
First of all, our first stop was at Town Hall to pick up the much touted dining gluten-free dining guide. I was more than a little surprised when the cast member there told me that they “didn’t have the new one for the new year,” especially since it was half-way through January already. I asked for one from last month and he said that they weren’t allowed to give an outdated one out. He suggested I talk to each chef at each restaurant to figure out what I could eat. So first off there was a bit of a weird feeling to the day. Luckily, but somewhat bizarrely, I was able to find a perfectly current dining guide online using my cell phone at disboards.com that covered Disneyland, California Adventure AND the resorts, so I wasn’t completely in the dark. I would have far preferred getting a sheet of paper to easily refer to. Needless to say, having to blindly search out gluten-free options in the park did not sound like fun.
We started our first day with a meal at the Carnation Cafe, a restaurant on the main downtown part of Disneyland in the midst of the shops. The waitress brought out a chef to speak with me and he told me which menu items I could order. I ended up choosing Oscar’s Choice, but then it was a little confusing because the order had to go through the waitress and not the chef, apparently. Anyway, the food was fine when it came out- but when I was almost finished eating I noticed a clump of granola on my food. The menu clearly states that the granola isn’t gluten-free, and no one at our table ordered the dish with granola, so I’m not sure how it got there. I’m glad that I didn’t eat it accidentally! Actually, if you look really closely at the meal you can see the clump of granola. When I finally noticed it on my plate I squinted at it and picked it up with my spoon. You could clearly see the shape of an oat in the middle of the thing. I showed it to the DH and asked, “does that look like granola to you?” It looked like granola to him, too. Also, to be honest, since it didn’t come with gluten-free bread or anything, I thought they were a little stingy with the potato serving. We had a big day ahead and I was hoping to start off with a nice, filling meal. Overall, I was less impressed with the service than at other Disney Venues, and the granola thing freaked me out a bit.
After this inauspicious beginning, things improved.
For lunch time we went to Redd Rocket Pizza and I had the pizza and Planetary Pizza Salad. I was impressed with the pizza base. I think they changed it from the very white crust they used before and now it is much more tasty and has a good texture. As before, they cooked it properly and it was quite appetizing. Actually, it ended up being way too much food, and the salad was enormous. I think the latter was made larger since last time I came. But I was happy to have some veggies with my pizza. When we came in, there was a huge line snaking through the cafeteria. I told a cast member near the door that I needed to order gluten-free, and they had me go to the middle station where the chef was, and I put my order directly in with him. They have really improved wait times since last time! I think it only took about 7 minutes for him to get my order made in the back and bring it out. I was impressed with their improved efficiency.
That night we noshed on leftover goodies from Trader Joe’s including a fresh mozarella salad, Udi’s bagel and cream cheese, fruit and a treat from the divine Babycakes NYC (LA division, of course).
The next morning we decided to take Kid Yum to a character breakfast with Minnie at Plaza Inn. Some years ago when we came for our anniversary, we were tempted to try it but decided to wait until we came with kids. Fast-forward five years later, and we had Kid Yum in tow and the timing seemed perfect, especially after I read all the glowing reviews of their gluten-free training.When I arrived at the buffet I was a little intimidated but the host told me to go ask the omelet chef about gluten-free options. He seemed a little busy, but would have had some food brought for me from the back. Luckily though, someone brought a chef from the back and that chef took great care of me and was really nice and friendly. He asked me what I would like and told me he would get it together in the back and then bring it out to me at our table. Kid Yum and the DH got food and sat to eat it, but before long the chef came out with a huge plate with fresh fruit, hash browns and even the famed mickey mouse waffles. He also brought me a freshly made small omelet and later, a sample of the mexican casserole hot out of the oven.
It was lot of food and my DH laughed at me with my three dishes, but considering the price, I was happy to be so spoiled. I had no cross-contamination concerns at all and felt great. Not to mention that the second Kid Yum lit eyes on Eyore, her eyes lit up and she got a grin on her face that I have never seen before or since. There were tons of characters and they all were very sweet to my daughter and she had a great time. A few of the characters even put up with her trying to play a crazy balloon game with them. I would do it again in a heartbeat not only for the food but for the character experience. Kid Yum didn’t like seeing Captain Hook in the flesh and right and front of her at the breakfast table, despite loving him in the parade the night before. That was the only time she jumped into my arms to hide from a character. She was also deeply suspicious of the fairy godmother, but then moved from that to practically jumping into Tigger’s arms. Silly girl. Anyway, two thumbs up for the Breakfast with Minnie at Plaza Inn.
For lunch I was determined to try the mexican restaurant in frontierland that I had not made it to last time, Rancho Del Zocalo. The outside looked nice, and when you go inside it is a very cafeteria-like atmosphere. However, one of the servers got a chef for me and he was very helpful, although it seemed to confuse him that I was trying to order 2 full meals to share with my daughter (which the DH was also going to share). I ended up ordering the veggie taco meal, resembling a veggie fajita on a corn tortilla, and the veggie enchiladas.
I don’t have a good gluten-free friendly mexican food option in our area (although there is the awesome Oaxacan Kitchen for Oaxacan food) and so the idea of getting safe enchiladas sounded pretty good. In the end, I actually preferred the veggie tacos, because I found the enchiladas a tad bland, but both were nice options.
Kid Yum loved the beans and refried beans, and chomped some of the tortillas too. *Note: I didn’t think to check on the refried beans. Hopefully they were actually fully vegetarian. They were not “meaty” but ask if you are concerned.* As for dessert, it didn’t seem like we had any exciting options. I asked about the flan, but disappointingly the chef said that it was not gluten-free, either due to the ingredients or the preparation environment. Honestly, the meal was so hearty, even with sharing with the DH and Kid Yum that I wouldn’t have had room for dessert anyway. I enjoyed the charming environment in the courtyard once we left the cafeteria-type ordering area, and we had a very pleasant and relaxing lunch.
We completed our gluten-free culinary journey through Disneyland with a chocolate coated mickey ice cream. They contain no gluten-ingredients, and although they are manufactured in a shared facility, it was worth the minor risk to realize my second Mickey food dream. That morning I had enjoyed the famed Mickey Waffles, and in the afternoon Kid Yum and I said cheers (ok Kanpai, the Japanese version) over a mickey ice cream. It had been a memorable and delicious trip, and once again, I wouldn’t hesitate to come back to Disneyland and enjoy the gluten-free feast! (Next time I’d probably skip the Carnation Cafe, though.)
We stayed at a hotel in walking distance from Disneyland, and went on a few emergency Target runs. I was interested to see two restaurants with gluten-free menus across the street from Target, Outback Steakhouse and Red Robin. However, we never made it over there because we ended up spending all of our time at the park and it was just more convenient to eat on the park or in our hotel room. I did find a hotel refrigerator to be very convenient for late night snacks and a snack in the morning.
*Edited to add: I almost forgot, but I was also impressed by the fresh fruit and veggie options at Disneyland. I was especially intrigued by a pack of fresh strawberries with a little chocolate sauce cup that looked naturally gluten-free. If anyone knows where those are sold, let me know and I’ll add that info to the post. I think they MIGHT have been near the treehouse, but I don’t trust my memory.,,
Many gluten-free bloggers have written great reviews of Disneyland restaurants on a Gluten-free diet. Their posts are great resources and help you know what to expect from your gluten-free trip. Please check them out… and enjoy your trip!
Disneyland Dining with Gluten-free Frenzy
A honest rundown of one gluten-free experience at Disneyland
Gluten-free Highlights at Disneyland
disboards forum discussion of Disneyland
Gluten-free, Dairy free on a Disney CRUISE from adventures of a gluten-free mom
Debi shares her experience at Blue Bayou