I was SO impressed by Disneyland on my recent visit, from the impeccable attention to detail to the helpful Cast Members, and the almost unbelievable cleanliness. And better yet, there were a TON of delicious options for me and my vegan brethren. Prior to my trip, I researched the very best eats all over the Disneyland resort and tried out as many highlights as my stomach real estate permitted. I am delighted to report that Disneyland is indeed the Happiest Place on Earth, regardless of dietary restriction!
So, without further adieu, I’ve broken down my recommendations for yummy eats and tasty treats all over the Disneyland resort, including its two theme parks (Disneyland and California Adventure), Downtown Disney (the entertainment district that feeds directly into the parks), and the Disneyland Hotel (its flagship hotel and conference center).
Plaza Inn (located on Main Street, U.S.A.)
I was drawn here with the promise of vegan Mickey waffles, which I assumed could be ordered off the a la carte menu. Something to be aware of- while the Plaza Inn does have these glorious waffles, you can only eat breakfast here from 8-11 AM as part of a “Breakfast with Minnie” character breakfast buffet (i.e. where characters will come up to your table for meet-and-greets or pictures), meaning those waffles will set you back about $32. Therefore, I would recommend coming here VERY hungry to get your money’s worth. This was my first stop at Disneyland after traveling for eight hours from St. Louis that morning, so I was STARVING and really invested in getting those damn Mickey waffles (the things I do for blogging!), so I bit the $32 bullet (alas, I later found out that you can order the Mickey waffles a la carte at the nearby Carnation Cafe, also located on Main Street, U.S.A.).
You will have to make a special request for the waffles (which are also gluten-free!) from the chef, at which time, you can also order yourself up a “hash brown omelet”, a tasty mixture of golden hash browns and sauteed veggies, like mushrooms, peppers, and onions. With a side of fresh fruit and a whole lotta coffee, it can be quite a filling breakfast.
I had just arrived to Disneyland solo (check out my tips for your solo Disneyland trip here) and at first, was pretty embarrassed to be a thirty year old woman exclusively surrounded by families with young children, giddy with excitement to meet Minnie and Goofy. Once I got over the initial uncomfortableness, though, the service at the Plaza Inn was great; the decor was charmingly vintage and feminine (perfect for a breakfast with Minnie!); and it was fun to watch the little kids gleefully shrieking over the characters. That being said, unless you’re REALLY hungry; with kiddos; or excited about meeting Disney characters yourself, I probably would recommend heading over to Carnation Cafe instead.
Red Rose Taverne (located in Fantasyland)
As a Beauty and the Beast lover, I knew I had to eat at the Red Rose Taverne, a fast casual dining option modeled to look like the tavern in the film. While I was excited to take a look around the restaurant, crammed with thoughtful nods and adorable details from the movie hidden in every corner, I was even more stoked to try their vegan lunch offering.
At the time I visited, they were offering a fried cauliflower steak sandwich, topped with fried green beans, lettuce, and tomato (you had to ask for the garlic-lime aioli that accompanied the sandwich to be omitted). The sandwich was HUGE and pretty tasty (who doesn’t love fried things?), but would’ve definitely benefited by the addition of some sort of sauce (I wound up slathering mine in mustard).
I’m pleased to report that this sandwich has now been replaced by the “Enchanted Crispy Samosa Sandwich”, which is reportedly a much tastier and filling option. It comes with a handmade “samosa” patty made with roasted cauliflower, potatoes, and peas, lettuce, tomato compote, and vegan curry mayo. Much like the sandwich I had, it is accompanied with either a side of french fries or apple slices (I opted for french fries, which were a-okay, but nothing to write home about).
Note that the fried green beans on both of these sandwiches generally contain eggs- when I went, I followed wisdom I had gleaned from the internet and asked to talk to the chef, who indicated they were able to specially prepare the green beans without eggs. It took a LONG time to get my sandwich, and I’ve since read reports that other people have had difficulty when making this request. So if you aren’t in a rush and REALLY want those green beans, try and talk to the chef about it; otherwise, just ask the cashier to leave them off. Let’s be real- who has time to wait around for green beans when there’s endless amounts of rides to be conquered!
Protip #1- If you want to troll every passing adult, order Gaston’s Brew, which is simply apple-mango juice topped with a passion fruit foam. It looks EXACTLY like beer and given Disneyland’s prohibition on alcohol (you have to hop on over the California Adventure to get any real beer!), I had no less than six people stop and excitedly inquire as to where I got my beer in the twenty or so minutes I sat outside enjoying my lunch. Gaston’s Brew is MEGA sweet, so bring your best sweet tooth game or share with a friend.
Protip #2- If you want to maximize your fun at Disneyland, you can now place an order for some fast-casual restaurants, including the Red Rose Taverne and Smokejumpers Grill (discussed below), on the Disneyland app. All you need to do is search for the restaurant in the app, select an arrival time window for pickup, choose items from the menu and place an order.
Mickey Pretzel Stands (while these are reportedly “everywhere”, I scoured the park for them and only found them in Tomorrowland by the Tomorrowland Speedway, or Fantasyland by Mickey’s PhilHarMagic)
If you’re looking for a snack, grab one of these bad boys from a vendor (if for nothing else, you gotta do it for the ‘gram). I found that mine was best with lots of mustard, so nom down on one of these while taking a quick breather.
Aloha Isle (located in Adventureland)
No list of Disneyland vegan eats would be complete without Dole Whip, a pineapple juice-based soft serve seemingly adored by all. It’s light, creamy, and super refreshing on a hot day. However, I’m not joking when I say people LOVE this stuff- midday, the line for this stand rivaled some of the actual rides, easily taking people over an hour to get their Dole Whip fix. Therefore, I’d recommend getting to the stand either earlier in the day or late at night (be sure to check the website for its closing hours; they’re inconsistent and vary by week). I went after the nightly fireworks show and was able to walk right up to the cashier.
CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE PARK:
Smokejumpers Grill (located in Grizzly Peak):
If you’re feeling guilty about all the fried food, carbs, and sugar, Smokejumpers offers a somewhat healthier option for lunch and dinner, a barbecue jackfruit sandwich with coleslaw, house-made sweet pickles and crispy onions on top of toasted ciabatta. Much like the other meals I’d eaten at Disney, the portion size was pretty massive, and the sandwich hits the right balance between savory with just a hint of sweetness. While the sandwich generally comes with waffle fries or onion rings, I requested a side of the tangy vinaigrette-based coleslaw instead, which was a welcome reprieve from fried foods overload. Grab a seat outside on the terrace and people watch as you wash down your sandwich with a cold beer (alcohol is allowed in this park!); this was probably my favorite meal out of all the parks!
Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats (located on Pixar Pier):
I initially waited in line to get a Pixar Pier Frosty Parfait, a layered concoction of non-dairy lemon soft-serve and blue raspberry swirl. The serving size for this treat is pretty substantial (probably best to be split between two people), and after my barbecue jackfruit sandwich, I thought I might literally explode if I ate the parfait as well. Admitting defeat, I abandoned ship after about ten minutes of waiting and watching millennials snap Instagrams of the sizeable treat. The tart lemon sorbet is supposed to pair really well with the sweetness of the blue raspberry swirl, so I’m coming for you next time, Pixar Pier Frosty Parfait!
Note that, similar to Aloha Isle, the line for this stand can get REALLY long during the midday through the evening, so I’d again recommend either coming early or pretty late in the day.
Protip- You might notice from my picks above that most of the parks’ options are heavy on the carbs, but pretty light on the protein. If you are religious about tracking your protein consumption or just want to save money, I’d recommend packing some Clif Bars or other protein-dense foods; one of the awesome things about the Disneyland parks is that you’re allowed to bring in outside snacks and drink (no glass bottles allowed).
If you haven’t been to the Disneyland resort before, Downtown Disney is the area that feeds from the Disneyland hotels into the parks themselves. It has a bunch of shops (my favorite was The Disney Dress Shop, which sold gorgeous rockabilly Disney-themed dresses), as well as a variety of restaurants, ranging from fast casual to date night restaurants. Downtown Disney generally has a more adult vibe to it (I was at the Disneyland resort for a work trip and one of my colleagues stayed out until 2 AM here one night!). You don’t need to a ticket to the parks to get into this area, but you do need to go through a security line, which can, at times, get pretty long (you know the drill- it’s best to get here on off hours).
If you’re looking for a quick, reasonably healthy breakfast, Jamba Juice is always a great option. Be careful to avoid any of the smoothies or bowls with Protein Boost, which contains dairy, and make sure to ask for them to leave off any honey that may be used as a topping. I ordered a Nutty Almond Butter Bowl, a super creamy and sweet bowl packed with 10 grams of protein- this would be a great option to grab on your way into one of the parks!
This sit-down Mexican eatery has a casual and party-like atmosphere- while I was here, a bachelorette party next to me must’ve downed about five margaritas apiece!
Upon being seated, you’re immediately greeted with a basket of hot chips and salsa- two thumbs up from yours truly. If you’re with a group, I’ve heard the tableside guacamole is killer (but, at $15, was a bit steep/self-indulgent by my lonesome). I opted to get the vegetarian burrito, a hefty tortilla stuffed with balls of quinoa, smashed black beans, roasted tomatoes, poblano peppers and red onion, smothered with salsa ranchera sauce, and served with cilantro rice (which, at this time, is their only vegan rice option). The portion size was generous, to say the least, and the hearty burrito was bursting with flavor.
This restaurant also offers another vegan option (which sounds awesome), the portobello mushroom fajitas, consisting of beefy portobello mushrooms and seasonal veggies, served with the cilantro rice, black beans, pico de gallo and handmade corn tortillas. With the lively ambiance and some seriously solid options, Tortilla Jo’s is a great place to end a night at the Happiest Place on Earth.
Protip- A lot of the sit down restaurants in downtown Disney get PACKED and can have a considerable wait. Unless you’re okay vying for an open seat by the bar, make sure you make a reservation on Disney’s website or through your handy dandy Disneyland app to save yourself some hangry waiting time.
If you somehow haven’t crammed something packed with sugar into your face in the last hour, make a beeline for Sprinkles and grab one of their red velvet cupcakes, topped with a luscious cream cheese frosting (make sure to request the vegan variety!). This cupcake is incredibly moist and RICH, so consider doing your arteries a favor and sharing with a friend!
If you happen to be staying at the Disneyland Hotel or, like me, attended a conference there, I’m happy to report there are some great options around this side of the resort.
Besides offering soy milk-based coffee drinks and a few really basic breakfast options, like plain bagels or bananas, this shop right outside the Disneyland Hotel pool has the ultimate secret weapon- alcoholic Dole Whip (really, it’s more like a Dole Whip float with about a quarter shot of rum in it). The TRUE secret weapon here is access to Dole Whip without the Disneyland admission price and Aloha Isle’s long wait. Anytime I went in here (which, as a coffee fanatic, was many) during my trip, I never waited more than five minutes.
I would be remiss not to mention this tiki bar (also located right by the Disneyland Hotel pool), which, by far, had the best decor of any restaurant I went into during my Disney adventure. The ambiance in here is frenetic- when certain drinks are ordered, the bartenders enthusiastically bang a gong, and random “rainstorms” pop up behind the bar. Part of the palpable energy of this place comes from its teeny size- it must fit about forty people max inside. I arrived around 4:30 pm and could barely squeeze in the place; TripAdvisor seems full of complaints of tedious lines and long waits.
It’s supposed to calm down some late at night, however, so if you’re looking for a spot for a nightcap or a midnight snack, pop in here for a tiki drink and their poke bowl (featuring cucumber, edamame, green onion, soba noodles, and marinated tofu). Make sure to end the night with an Uh Oa Bowl- trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
You may be surprised to see me include this steakhouse, located in the hotel’s lobby, on this list, but really, it’s inclusion here speaks to the impeccable customer service that permeates seemingly every Disney establishment. During my conference, I went to a fancy client dinner here, nervous about my dining options as there were (unsurprisingly) no vegan options on the menu. The chef happily came to talk to me and indicated that they could easily veganize the salad and dessert offerings and that they had a “secret”vegan menu of main courses, consisting of pasta primavera or a vegetable risotto. What followed was a truly outstanding three course meal- baby kale and beets salad, with pepitas, oranges, and balsamic vinaigrette; the most creamy risotto you can imagine; and a perfectly tart lemon sorbet topped with fresh berries. If you’re looking for an upscale date night or a fancy dinner out with some omnivore friends, I can’t recommend this spot highly enough.
I hope you have as good (and tasty) of a time as I did at Disneyland; it makes me so happy that everyone can partake in its magic, regardless of dietary preferences. Now it’s your turn to tell me about your Disneyland experience- any must-have foods that I missed? With Disney’s constantly changing menu, what’s the most special treat you’ve had there? Let me know below!