Friday, February 6, 2015

Best Disney Restaurants without a Park Pass

I am always surprised when my blog readers ask me for restaurant recommendations near Disney.  Nobody handles special diets better than Disney, so when I am near Disney World, that's where I eat.  Even if you do not have a park pass, there are plenty of amazing restaurants to choose from at Downtown Disney and the Disney Resorts.  You do not need to be staying at the resorts or pay for parking to dine at these restaurants.

I am going to start this list with my favorite budget-friendly quick-service restaurants, then move on to table-service options, including my favorite dinner show on Disney property.  I will include plenty of links in this post, so you can read full reviews of the restaurants I have listed.

Sassagoula is home to one of my favorite treats at Disney World, gluten free beignets.  Chef Tony, Chef Raphael, Chef Paul, and the rest of the team of chefs at Port Orleans do an amazing job with special diets.  There are plenty of gluten free options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Just ask to speak to a chef at one of the food stations when you arrive.  Some of my other favorites at Sassagoula are the gluten free Mickey Waffles, and their cheesesteak sandwich & french fries.

Landscape of Flavors at Disney's Art of Animation Resort has a wide variety of gluten free options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Their Little Mermaid themed waffles are some of the best gluten free waffles I have ever had at Disney World, and I love their turkey bacon too.  This quick service restaurant offers both international and American favorites at their various food stations.  My favorite for lunch and dinner is the World of Flavors station, that features gluten free tandoori boneless chicken thigh, tandoori shell-on-shrimp, Mongolian grill fish, Mongolian grill beef stir fry, roasted cauliflower with tomatoes, acorn squash, basmati rice, and roasted potatoes.  I haven't tried it yet, but their dinner menu includes gluten free meatloaf.

The Mara, a quick-service restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, is worth a visit just for their African Stew and gluten free Zebra Domes.  They also offer a variety of salad options, flatbreads on gluten free pizza shells, soups, and mini cupcakes from BabyCakes for lunch and dinner.  The Mara has some great allergy friendly options for breakfast as well.

Gluten free fish & chips, onion rings, fried shrimp, garlic & parmesan skinny chips (fries), and fried scallops - need I say more?  All can be enjoyed at both Raglan Road, a table-service restaurant, and Cooke's of Dublin, their quick-service counterpart, in Downtown Disney.  At Raglan Road, most menu items can be modified to meet your dietary needs.  Their strawberry & apple crumble with vanilla ice cream & fresh cream is just one of many reasons I went there for my birthday last year.  They also have a great brunch menu on Saturday and Sunday.  Cooke's of Dublin recently added a gluten free cupcake to their menu.  Sit back and relax at Raglan Road and Cooke's of Dublin, where the servers and chefs do an incredible job accommodating people with special diets.  

Splitsville Luxury Lanes - Downtown Disney

In 2013, Splitsville in Downtown Disney added 16 gluten free options to their menu, including my personal favorites, the fiesta chicken and steak fajita rice bowls.  We love to meet family and friends for bowling and dining at Splitsville.  If you're not in the mood to bowl, you can just go to enjoy the food.  You can view Splitsville's bowling prices and menu on their website here.  The newest addition to their gluten free menu - a giant gluten free cupcake!

Sanaa is one of the best restaurants at Disney World for special diets, and features African cooking with Indian flavors.  They have gluten free and dairy free menus, and an incredible team of chefs who make dishes like gluten free naan  (the best gluten free bread in Orlando), lamb shank, and slow-cooked dishes like beef short ribs and butter chicken.  Sanaa, a table-service restaurant, is open for lunch and dinner.

Boma - Flavors of Africa has been a family favorite of ours for over a decade.  Boma features African dishes at an all-you-care-to-enjoy buffet at both breakfast and dinner.  I love their wide selection of gluten free meats, vegetables, soups, salads, and desserts at dinner.  Boma is one of my favorite Disney restaurants for breakfast, mainly because of their incredible Mickey waffles with sides of bananas foster and pecan praline sauce.  

Like Sanaa, Boatwright's boasts an incredible team of chefs that take great care of people with special diets.  Chef Tony and his team serve up amazing gluten free dishes like chicken & Mickey waffles, Cajun-seasoned crawfish bites, sweet tea brined pork chop, and bananas foster served with vanilla bean ice cream.  If you're in the mood for some New Orleans specialties, you have to pay Boatwright's a visit.

Trattoria al Forno - Disney's BoardWalk

Trattoria al Forno opened in December on Disney's BoardWalk, and after eating there twice, I am happy to say that I love their breakfast options as much as I loved the food at Kouzzina, the restaurant they replaced.   Our favorites include gluten free Mickey waffles with espresso mascarpone cream, which taste like tiramisu, and the scrambled eggs with tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella, served with breakfast potatoes, bacon, and Udi's gluten free toast.  Trattoria al Forno also has a wide variety of gluten free options for dinner, including fried calamari, chicken parmesan, pasta, and gelato.  They only use gluten free breadcrumbs in the restaurant, so all of their fried items and meatballs are safe.  

Kona Cafe - Polynesian Village Resort

Kona Cafe has recently become one of favorite restaurants at Disney.  My daughters love to go to Kona for lunch and dinner, because of their Pan-Asian noodles, and the banana and chocolate creme brulee.  I prefer to go for lunch, when they serve their amazing grilled teriyaki steak with pineapple salsa. Kona also happens to have the best chocolate lava cake at Disney World.  For breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Kona Cafe has gluten free menus with plenty of great options.  

'Ohana features all-you-can-eat Polynesian specialties like grilled chicken, marinated steak, and spicy grilled peel-n-eat shrimp, that are brought to your table on huge skewers.  Make your advance dining reservations early for 'Ohana, because it is one of the toughest restaurants to get ADRs at for dinner in Disney World.  'Ohana is also open for breakfast, which features character dining with Stitch and friends.

Grand Floridian Cafe - Grand Floridian Resort 

The Grand Floridian burger with butter-poached lobster, red onion marmalade, arugula and house-made chips is reason alone to go to the Grand Floridian Cafe for lunch or dinner, but they also have some of the best Mickey waffles on Disney property, which make it worth visiting for breakfast as well.

Trail's End Restaurant - Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort

In the past year, we have enjoyed dining at Trail's End Restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  For breakfast and dinner, they serve American favorites at an all-you-care-to-enjoy buffet, which is the most affordable one at Disney World.  There have plenty of gluten free options on their allergy-friendly lunch menu, which is a la carte.  If Chef TJ is around, be sure to ask for one of his famous dessert towers.  When we have the time, and it is not too hot, we love to walk around the grounds of Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort, which has plenty of walking paths to choose from.

Flying Fish Cafe - Disney's BoardWalk

The Flying Fish Cafe on Disney's BoardWalk has long been one of my extended family's favorite restaurants, so I was excited to hear that they had introduced a gluten free menu last year.  Their crispy calamari and rock shrimp appetizer is reason alone to pay the Flying Fish Cafe a visit, but there are plenty of other great options on their gluten free menu.

California Grill - Contemporary Resort

California Grill and Flying Fish Cafe are my two favorite signature dining restaurants at Disney World. My husband and I loved the oak-fired filet of beef with Zellwood sweet corn risotto, tomato butter, grilled corn relish, and popcorn shoots we had there on our 13th anniversary.  California Grill, at the top of the Contemporary Resort, is the best fireworks dining experience at Disney World, and the food is amazing.  If you have been craving sushi, be sure to check out their special diets sushi menu.

The chefs at Disney's Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue make gluten free cornbread, served with honey butter.  If that isn't enough, you will be entertained by the Pioneer Hall Players for two hours while you dine on gluten free ribs, grilled chicken, chicken tenders, mashed potatoes, french fries, salad, baked beans and corn.  Even the sangria is included in the price of your ticket.  It has become our tradition to spend New Year's Eve at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, then watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the dock at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort.  If you have never been to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, you definitely need to add it to your Disney Bucket List.

Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC - Disney Springs (Downtown Disney)

For gluten free baked goods, you definitely want to stop at Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC in Downtown Disney.  We highly recommend the brownie cupcakes and the cinnamon sugar toastie.  Everything at Erin McKenna's Bakery, formerly known as BabyCakes, is gluten, dairy, egg, soy, and refined sugar free.

The Wave and Contempo Cafe at Disney's Contemporary Resort are also worth checking out, because they have some incredible burgers and sandwiches, like the build-your-own beef burger with candied bacon, red wine caramelized onions, guacamole, grilled mushrooms, and Black Diamond cheese at The Wave (lunch only), and the hot turkey sandwich topped with brie, apple butter, apple slices, and arugula from Contempo Cafe.

You do not need to pay for parking to dine at any of these restaurants, even the ones at the Magic Kingdom resorts.  When you get to the large Magic Kingdom gate, choose one of the right hand lanes, and tell the cast member what resort you are dining at.

What are your favorite restaurants for gluten free dining at Downtown Disney and the Disney Resorts?  


  1. I just found your blog, and can I just say thank you so much for all of these in depth reviews? I feel much better about our upcoming trip to WDW.