When it comes to vegan dining at Walt Disney World, it is, not surprisingly, the nice sit-down restaurants where Disney really shines. However, as much as we enjoy them, our habits and pocket book have hubby and I eating most of our Disney meals at the more casual, and less expensive, counter-service places. Fortunately, while selection is limited, Disney still does a much better job than any other amusement park I've visited.
For starters, let's talk salads. Okay, so "rabbit food" won't keep you going forever during a jam-packed Disney vacation, but I still eat more than my fair share... and Disney has some very nice ones. In the "real world", I'm lucky if I can get a plate of plain iceberg lettuce. Disney's counter-service salads are definitely a cut above that. One of my old favorites, the Chicken Salad at Pecos Bill's (Magic Kingdom) has lettuce, jicama and veggies in a lime vinaigrette... which brings me to a very important note: yes, you can order a chicken salad without the chicken. In fact, I routinely ask for my salads "minus chicken, minus cheese, with dressing on the side", and usually the cast member doesn't even bat an eyelash.
Some notes about special requests, though: while I usually have no trouble getting meatless salads, there are a couple of exceptions. The last time I asked for a chicken-free salad at Electric Umbrella (Epcot - Future World), I was told that the salads were pre-made, but "I suppose we could make you one - but it might take a while". I did take them up on the offer, and they were nice enough to bring it to our table after we were seated - but it was one of the few times that I felt a little like I had been a bother (something I really try to avoid). Also, I received word from Melody that she had a bad experience at Columbia Harbour House (Magic Kingdom) - she discovered bits of chicken in what was supposed to be a meat-free salad. I sincerely hope that this was a one-time deal - I've had nice chicken-free salads there myself - but I suppose there is always a small risk involved. And if that happened to me, I confess that it would most likely be the last time I ordered that particular salad.
But onto the good stuff, like my favorite counter-service meal: the vegetarian entree at the Asian station at Sunshine Seasons (Epcot - Land pavilion). It includes garlic udon noodles, stirfry vegetables, white rice and brocolli. While not the least expensive choice, it's a sizeable meal - tasty and filling. Second favorite would probably be the grilled vegetable sandwich at the Backlot Express (Disney's Hollywood Studios). You have to special-request it without cheese, and this does add a bit to your wait-time, but I think it's worth it. Honorable Mentions go to the vegetarian chili at Columbia Harbour House (Magic Kingdom), the whole wheat veggie pita at Starring Rolls Cafe (Studios), and the new vegetarian flatbread wrap at Golden Oak Outpost (Magic Kingdom).
If you're in need of some protein, veggie burgers are available in every park. Sadly, the current offering is the very veggie Gardenburger - a fine choice for many, I'm sure, but a bit of a disappointment for those of us that enjoyed the more hamburger-like Boca burgers they used to servce. Some of the restaurants have quite an impressive toppings bar, though, which can make all the difference. (It's become a tradition for hubby and me to start our trip with a veggie burger at Cosmic Ray's - excellent toppings bar, and we get to enjoy entertainment from the "out of this world" Sonnny Eclipse!)
I also must confess that sometimes I just make do with fruit and a soft pretzel. There's a fruit stand in every park, and they tend to have a pretty good selection - more than just apples and oranges. (Sometimes they even have strawberries! A personal favorite of mine.) The plain soft pretzels, also available in every park, are vegan and pretty filling. In fact, when it comes to snacks, and even treats, there are more options than you might think - but that's a topic for another post.
I try to keep a reasonably up-to-date list on AllEars.net, for all the Vegetarian/Vegan Counter Service Meals at Walt Disney World, but feel free to ask questions. Do you have a favorite counter-service meal?
Now, this is the place where I should put a photo of Sonny Eclipse, but sadly I don't have one. In fact, I have surprisingly few photos of counter-service places in general. So, we'll just have to settle for a photo of one of my favorite "menus" at WDW:
(Okay, I realize that this menu is very UN-vegan, but I thought it was important to show that even stuffy old vegans can have a sense of humor. This menu can be found in the queue for the Jungle Cruise - just one of the little details that make the Disney parks so special.)