My cousin was in town for about a week, and just as my family and I do for any other relative or friend visiting, we took her to Disneyland. Last time she was in town, we took her to Disney's California Adventures, which was about five years ago when i was still eating meat. Although I had been to Disney countless times before, this was the first time I went as a vegan. I was concerned that as a vegan, "The Happiest Place on Earth" would only end up being an "OK place on earth" once my hunger kicked in and I became "hangry" (hungry and angry).
I expected it would be a challenge finding something to eat other than salad and fries, so before I headed over, I ate pasta for a hearty brunch. Once I got there, I searched online for vegan food in Disneyland and was surprised and relieved to find that there were quite a few resources available for vegans in Disneyland and Disney World. (Being vegan these days is seriously so much easier than it was even 5-10 years ago ... so I hear. It seems like anything I Google these days has already been searched for or written about.) I found this article from Peta2 to be really helpful. Disneyland also posted this fact sheet on Vegetarian and Vegan Food Options at Disneyland Resort. It's a cool cheat sheet you can print out before you get to the park. That way you can map out your meals when you map out your rides and attractions for the day.
Farewell, Churros ... Hello, Vegan Mickey Mouse Pretzels
One of the things I knew I would miss the most, however, was the churros. It's usually the first thing I get once I enter the park. This was the first time I had to ignore the cinnamon-sugary scent of the churro stand as I walked right past it. I think I actually heard my heart break. I got over it though, and moved on to another piping hot, doughy goodness: Mickey Mouse salted pretzels! As you can see in the picture above, I couldn't wait to take my first bite before snapping a photo, hence the earless Mickey.
After a few rides in, we stopped to watch a bit of Mickey's Soundsational Parade featuring dancers, live musicians, characters from Disney film favorites, and of course Mickey and the gang. At this point, hunger was starting to set in so I snacked on some "buttered" popcorn, which just so happens to be vegan! It was dangerously addictive, but I split it with my mom, sis and cousin so I couldn't eat the whole thing even if I wanted to.
Vegan-Friendly Restaurants at Disneyland
Since my family and I don't really go to Disney to dine (it cuts into the time spent on rides), we didn't get to eat at any of the restaurants at the park even though there were quite a few that offered vegan-friendly dishes. Here are some of the ones that caught my eye:
Blue Bayou Restaurant (the restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in New Orleans Square) - Portobello mushroom in couscous maque choux (it's marinated in balsamic vinaigrette and served with roasted corn and bell pepper couscous and a side of sautéed spinach)
Cafe Orléans (New Orleans Square) - N’awlins Vegetable Ragoût minus the cheese
Plaza Inn (Main Street, U.S.A.) - Vegan mini Mickey waffles (plus hash browns)
River Belle Terrace (Frontierland across from Rivers of America) - Becky Thatcher's Black Bean Cakes served with pineapple relish, cucumber salad and red pepper coulis
Rancho Del Zocalo (Frontierland) - You can ask if the vegetarian items can be made vegan, like: Vegetable Soft Tacos, Burrito Sonora (veggies only and NO cheese), Tostada Salad (only veggies, NO cheese)
For quick, hearty meals:
Royal Street Veranda (New Orleans Square) - Vegan/vegetarian gumbo in a sourdough bread bowl
Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe (Main Street, U.S.A.) - Grilled Vegetables and Whole-Grain Salad is a mix of seasonal veggies, mixed greens, barley and spelt with basil vinaigrette
Redd Rockett's Pizza Port (Tomorrowland) - Order any of these without cheese:
- Mars-inara Spaghetti with Celestial Tomato Sauce
- Forest of Endor - Made with Casarecce pasta, cremini mushrooms, kale, broccolini, Cannellini beans, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts tossed in garlic oil
- Venus Vegetarian Whole Pizza - tomato sauce and roasted seasonal vegetables--leave off the cheese (**NOTE** They sell it in slices but they probably won't honor your request to get it without cheese unless you get a whole pizza)
I would've liked to try the Tiki Room's popular Dole Whip soft serve, which was reformulated a few years ago to remove the dairy ingredient, sodium caseinate. Sadly, we didn't have time for it since we didn't get to the park until 1 pm. Oh well, another time!
Late Dinner at Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney
After catching the Disneyland Forever 60th anniversary fireworks celebration, we pretty much closed the park down, which meant that I hadn't eaten a full meal for 11 hours. One of the few restaurants still open that offered a couple vegan options was Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney. I thought I read that their buns were vegan, and was excited to try their Rainforest National Burger (a vegan patty that includes mushrooms, water chestnuts, carrots, oats and red peppers), but my bubble burst when our server said none of their buns were vegan. Thankfully I had a backup, which was the Portabella Wrap stuffed with spinach, red onions, red peppers, and portabella mushroom in roasted garlic balsamic dressing and served with a side of Safari Fries.
Here are a few other items on the menu that can probably be made vegan:
- Lava Nachos - Tri-color tortilla chips that you can order with just the peppers, onions, black beans and corn. Tell them to hold the ground beef and queso sauce. For garnishes, you can get the green onions and pico de gallo and leave off the cheese and sour cream.
- Rainforest National Burger - Vegan patty made with mushrooms, water chestnuts, onion, carrots, brown rice, whole grain oats, red peppers and black olives and topped with lettuce, tomato and guacamole. If I weren't so hungry, I probably could've ordered this without the buns and just ate it like you would eat a "protein burger" from In-n-Out (swap out the buns for lettuce). Now that I think about it, that would have been really good.
- Planet Earth Pasta - Cavatappi pasta tossed with olive oil and garlic in a marinara sauce. Tell them to leave off the Italian sausage and mozzarella cheese.
- Calypso Salad - Iceberg, romaine and baby greens, dried cranberries, strawberries, red onions and caramelized pecans with balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Order it without the goat cheese and maybe even the caramelized pecans unless they know exactly what's used to make it.