Ultimate Vegan Guide to Downtown Disney
All the magic—without the price tag. Downtown Disney allows everyone to enjoy the whimsical atmosphere without the hefty cost of a park ticket. Shop, watch the fireworks, take selfies, and embrace your inner child without going hungry. Thanks to faith, trust, and a little pixie dust, the vegan food scene of Downtown Disney has expanded well beyond the bare necessities.
Disney does an excellent job at stimulating the senses, and one of its more obvious tactics is the open window at Marceline’s Confectionery which showcases several employees dousing apples in caramel or putting the final frosted touches on the park’s elaborate candied treats. When this opulent display sparks your sweet tooth (as Disney intended), don’t be dismayed by the fact that these caramel apples are not vegan; walk just a few feet to Sprinkles and satisfy that sweet tooth with a moist vegan red velvet cupcake (or two). For now, red velvet is the only vegan option at this cupcakery, but with a little customer feedback, the company might just expand its offerings.
Salt & Straw
Let’s face it—you’re at Disneyland. There are going to be lines, especially outside of Salt & Straw. Thankfully, there’s no need to install a Fast Pass kiosk, because it moves quickly (at least in comparison to the Indiana Jones ride). While waiting, enjoy the fragrant smell of cooking waffle cones (which sadly are not yet vegan) as it wafts out of the tiny shop. Standing vegan flavors include Dandelion Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies & Cream (gf), Roasted Strawberry Coconut, and Freckled Mint TCHO-colate Chip (gf). The shop also carries seasonal vegan flavors which never fail to impress. There’s a freezer full of pints, so if you live nearby, come with a cooler bag and enjoy a scoop of this luscious frozen treat at home.
Those who dine at Uva Bar do so to see and be seen. Situated in the center walkway of Downtown Disney, this bustling outdoor lounge is the place to people watch. To secure your spot, order one of the creatively-named cocktails, such as the UVA Adios! As far as food goes, stick to the appetizers. Our favorite dish on this menu is the Trio of Mediterranean Dips which includes creamy hummus, baba ganoush, and muhammara (a walnut and red pepper-based dip that we could eat by the bowlful). Other vegan options at Uva include the guacamole (ask for no cheese), sweet potato fries, and a mixed green salad.
Bring on the tableside guacamole! This fiesta-inspired restaurant is perfect for celebrations or for those who appreciate a large margarita. Raise your glass as the mariachi band parades by (and let them know if you’re celebrating a birthday—you’ll get quite the show!). Soak up the alcohol with the generously sized Vegetarian Burrito stuffed with quinoa meatballs, beans, and veggies all topped with salsa ranchera and served with green rice. The Portobello Mushroom Fajitas and Nopales Rancheros are also decent vegan options. Whatever you order, be sure to inform your waiter that you do not eat eggs, meat, or dairy, as the kitchen tends to be liberal with the cheese.
Taqueria at Tortilla Jo’s
Can’t get a table at Tortilla Jo’s? The next-door taqueria offers a fast-casual Chipotle-style rendition of its Mexican-inspired dishes. Choose a base (tacos, bowl, or burrito) and opt for the Veggie protein option. Add on beans, onion and cilantro mix, rice, lettuce, pico de gallo, salsa, and guac for a quick but substantial meal. Other plant-based options include chips and guac and a selection of fruity agua frescas.
Ballast Point Brewing Co.
The first of two new bar restaurants in Downtown Disney (Black Tap Craft Brewing & Beer is coming later this year), Ballast Point offers a wide selection of beer, wine, and cocktails for those of us who have grown up but still love to experience the magic of Disney. For some bar snacks, the Bavarian Pretzel without the cheese sauce is vegan-friendly, but confirm with your server that they do not brush it with an egg wash or butter. Other options include the Impossible Lettuce Cups, Hot and Crispy Fries, Soyrizo and Cauliflower Tacos, and the Impossible Burger without the cheese and bun.
Would you like a boost with that? Grab a fruity lunchtime smoothie or afternoon snack to power through that 14-hour day at both parks with one of the many vegan-friendly beverages at Jamba Juice. Be sure to avoid smoothies that contain yogurt, or ask that they swap it out for plant milk.
You won’t find any vegan caramel apples (yet), but there are several packaged candies that are vegan-friendly inside of this brightly-colored candy shop. The Sully Blue Raspberry Jellies, Inside Out Lemon Drops and Sour Rainbow Belts, and giant pinwheel lollipops are just a few examples. As always, check the ingredients on the back of the package to ensure your treats are free of gelatin, whey, egg whites, and other common animal-based candy ingredients.
Among the kiosks and character buffets, Catal is on the fine-dining end of the Disney dining spectrum. The menu does not offer any vegan options, but you can ask your waiter for the secret vegetarian/vegan menu which features a vegan paella. Made with rice, tomato sauce, fresh seasonal veggies, and pickled onions, it’s an enjoyable meal—just be prepared to pay top dollar for it.
Take a break from the organized chaos of the downtown strip and sneak into the Grand Californian Hotel. You’ll find the public entrance just across from Naples Ristorante and right before you see World of Disney. Before heading to the Storyteller’s Cafe, spend some time in the public hotel lobby, designed to emulate the feeling of a ski lodge. Enjoy the soothing music from the live pianist while sitting in a rocking chair set in front of a blazing fireplace. Then, head out of the lobby to the Storyteller’s Cafe. While there are a few vegan options at the buffet dinner (think salad bar, assorted veggies, and fruit), you’ll get the most out of the breakfast menu. Tell the waiter you are vegan, and they’ll whip out the secret “allergen-friendly” menu just for you! Highlights include vegan and gluten-free pancakes, a hash brown omelet, and fresh fruit. The brunch buffet also offers fruit, bagels, cereals, and oatmeal, but honestly, you’ll get more value out of the kitchen-made pancakes and omelet rather than the over-priced buffet.
Grab a plant milk latte as you make your way toward the parks or sip on a cozy vegan hot chocolate while watching the fireworks from Downtown Disney. There are two Starbucks on the strip—one by the World of Disney and the other by the old movie theater. The one by the theater is smaller and tends to have a shorter line.
La Brea Bakery Cafe and La Brea Express
While the vegan options at this fast casual concept aren’t anything to write home about, you can find something if the rest of your group decides to drag you here. For breakfast, order the Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal. During lunch and dinner, you’re safe with the Protein Bowl Salad (without feta), Hummus Toast Trio, and Artisan Veggie Burger (without aioli).
Take a detour to downtown and explore the Paradise Pier Hotel. The Surfside Lounge offers a beachy atmosphere with decent cocktails and a vegan menu available upon request. If ordering from the standard menu, opt for the Kale & Quinoa Salad or the Build-Your-Own Poke Bowl with your choice of rice, veggies, and tofu.
Naples Ristorante e Bar
Along with Catal, Naples Ristorante is another venue on the high-end of Disney’s dining scene. Be sure to order a glass of wine (the selection is impressive) and double check that your choice is vegan by referencing barnivore.com on your phone. The dinner menu offers a few quality vegan options including the Minestrone Soup and the Della Casa Salad comprised of mixed greens, roasted red peppers, marinated mushrooms, tomatoes, and an Italian vinaigrette. For your entree, there are several vegetable-based sides such as sauteed spinach, rapini, and potatoes, as well as the Marinara e Capperi Pizza which is topped with capers, garlic, oregano, and tomato sauce. Vegans can even enjoy dessert with the kitchen’s selection of seasonal sorbets.
Like Tortilla Joe’s, Naples Ristorante also has a quick-service counter. At Napolini, you can build your own vegan pizza by skipping the cheese and piling on the vegetable toppings. There are also a few grab-and-go options such as the Spring Mix Salad, Vegetariano Sandwich (eggplant, zucchini, tomato, onions, and romaine on focaccia), and fresh fruit.
This food truck is stationed at the entrance of Downtown Disney near the musical performance stage. While not available online, a secret gluten-free and vegan batter is available, you just have to ask. Fill your crepe with bananas and peanut butter for an Elvis-style sweet treat.
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