Disneyland & Los Angeles dining with lots of food allergies
I figure this is still Disney related even if it is Disneyland instead of WDW, so this is a good place for this, right? I'm just going to do a single thread for all of these reviews. I didn't take nearly as many pictures of food this trip so some of this will just be text. You'll all survive. If you don't then I'll miss you. :lmao:
We were in Los Angeles July 10 - July 23. We were in Arcadia until July 17 at which time we moved to across the street from DL.
Here's our list of allergies. I'm not going to repeat them in each review so if you want to match up allergies to somebody's meal you'll have to look back up here.
DD15: gluten, milk, eggs, citrus (citric acid is ok), yeast, msg, peanuts (minor - cross contamination not a concern)
DD12: gluten, milk, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, ,sesame, hops, peanuts (minor - cross contamination not a concern), blueberry, cranberry, raw carrots, lima beans, raw fruit skins besides grapes, citrus (citric acid is ok), soy products other than Tofutti and Follow Your Heart (soys not the problem but we havent identified what ingredient in Silk and other soy products cause Oral Allergy Syndrome)
me: gluten, milk, sesame, hazelnut, peanuts (minor - cross contamination not a concern), pork (cross contamination not a concern)"
At DL we were celebrating DD12's 13th birthday which is this coming Saturday. I asked the dining folks to include her birthday as a celebration when I booked the ADRs as well as when I emailed the special diets department. Nobody mentioned it at or during our meals. I did mention it at check-in a couple times and they wrote it down (it wasn't in their notes so I guess the dining folks ignored my request). Just an FYI when booking ADRs.
I'll try to remember as they come back to me to update this first post to include a list of the locations at which we ate.
On with the reviews.......
Residence Inn Arcadia - post #2
Tropicana Inn & Suites - post #3
The Derby (Arcadia) - post #4
Bubba Gump Shrimp Company - post #5
Natural History Museum - post #6
In N Out Burger (Arcadia) - post #7
California Science Center - post #8
Hugo's Tacos (Glendale Blvd) - post #9
snacks - post #26
Ariel's Grotto - post #12
Storyteller's Cafe (lunch) - post #21
Steakhouse 55 - post #22
Goofy's Kitchen (brunch) - post #27
Redd Rockett's Pizza Port - post #11
Plaza Inn - post #18
Residence Inn Arcadia
Residence Inn Arcadia includes hot breakfast and light evening food Mondays - Wednesdays. I called the resort before our trip to find out if there is any way to get allergy safe food (I gave more info about what I meant when talking to the girl on the phone but you get the idea). She put me on hold to talk to her manager to find out. When she came back she said that they have no way of ensuring no cross contamination. She said that I can talk to their chef in the morning and that she may be able to do something for us but that they could not promise anything ahead of time. I expected this so I wasn't disappointed but I figured I had to ask. We had a full kitchen in the suite so it wasn't a big deal.
DH brought back some fresh fruit, coffee and apple juice for the 3 of us every morning. These are always safe options and they were a nice supplement to what I had in groceries in the room.
Something that I absolutely loved at this resort was their grocery service. As long as you give the front desk your grocery list before 9am, they will go grocery shopping for you and bring the food back to your room. Frozen items will be placed in the freezer, cold items will be placed in the fridge and everything else will be on the kitchen counter or table. The only charge is what is on the grocery store receipt. This is a free service that the resort offers. The first day they couldn't find the allergy specific brands but the next day I specified on the list if an item would most likely be in the health food section or the freezer of the health food section and they found them no problem. They were very good about not replacing brands when I specified brands and getting whatever was cheapest when I didn't specify brands (this is important with allergies). It was great! They did the shopping at Ralph's (big chain in the area) but also said they'd go to a nearby Trader Joe's if I wanted them to. I never asked. I actually emailed my grocery list to the customer service person I spoke with the day before we arrived and the food was waiting for us in our room when we checked in (we got in after midnight and wanted to be able to cook breakfast in the morning so I wanted it there already). It went perfectly.
Something I learned is that I am very glad I've got good quality frying pans. The stove was a glass top radiant heat stove. If your frying pan is not completely flat, this doesn't cook well. The first couple of days the eggs I cooked for me and DD12 were cooking really unevenly because only the middle of the pan actually touched the stove top. I got used to it and just used more Pam (something I ordered in my first grocery order, it's not there in the room) and cooked at much lower temperature. It took longer but the eggs turned out better. I really appreciate my cookware now.
Tropicana Inn & Suites Anaheim
The Tropicana Inn & Suites offers a morning continental breakfast. I knew from online reviews that it was only some baked goods so I knew there wouldn't be any food there we could eat. I was right. Knowing this ahead of time though I was prepared. I booked one of their 2 family suites which includes a full kitchen. It was great having the kitchen but boy was it an experience in that kitchen.
We ended up losing a bit of the food because there was some kind of leak in the fridge and everything was drenched. I can't believe that the eggs didn't fall when I pulled them out of the fridge since the cardboard container was falling apart it was so drenched (not an exaggeration; I had to hold it carefully for it to stay in one piece). Most of the stuff was in some kind of plastic wrapper or was fresh fruit and vegetables or was drinks so not much was affected but we did lose some leftovers (not a big deal but not something I was happy about). Luckily the fridge and freezer seemed to still keep things cold though at one point, once everything was already drenched, the fridge got colder and started freezing some things. A maintenance guy came to take a look and said he never saw anything like it and had to talk to his manager about it. We never heard anything back about it.
There was no baking sheet or cookie sheet or anything else for putting into the oven in the kitchen so my plans for cooking became more complicated. I ended up frying the french fries in small batches in a frying pan on the stove but had to do so on a small burner because the big burner didn't lie flat so the oil was pooling to one side of the pan (that's once I got the burner reconnected; it wasn't originally hooked up). I put a large pot in the oven even though I don't think the handles were oven safe just because I needed something. It didn't seem to burn the handles so maybe they were oven safe but they looked plastic to me so I doubt they were. The pot didn't say oven safe on the bottom.
I had to rewash dishes every day because I could see food still on some of them. This is a big deal when some people in the room are eating non-allergy food.
There is a small convenience/grocery store on property. The only safe things for us were a few big name drinks (no milk products but I didn't expect them to have them) and fresh fruit. They had a bunch of cereals and cereal bar types of foods but not a single one was safe for us. It's a good thing I had groceries from before we got there and hadn't planned to get anything there as that just wasn't an option for us.
I was surprised that the morning breakfast didn't have apple juice as an option. The only juice option was orange juice and since my kids are allergic to oranges that wasn't an option for them. There was apple juice for purchase. I thought that odd but I had read about this kind of thing at the Tropicana so I wasn't overly surprised. I knew that the milk they offer is something they charge for. We had drinks in our room so not a big deal for us.
The Derby, Arcadia
Since it was right next door and steak houses are usually pretty good bets for having something we can safely eat, we decided to give The Derby a try. The Derby is more of an upscale style steakhouse.
Sorry, no pictures.
When the waiter came out, we started discussing our dining options. He said that they could make just about any of the proteins without the sauces and that we could have just about any of the non-starch sides (no potatoes or rice). He confirmed this with the chef and then double checked our specific orders with the chef before the chef began preparing our food.
The meal begins with a really good looking garlic bread. DH and DSD really enjoyed it. The waiter asked if we wanted it before bringing it to the table (my first indication that he actually understood cross contamination concerns). He asked us if the location he would put it down was ok before placing it on the table. Again, really good.
DD15 and I both got the seared tuna. We asked for it really rare. It came maybe medium. It tasted good but was definitely NOT a rare tuna steak. I told the server that DD15 only likes spinach when it's only lightly sautéed so that the leaves still retain their shape (she's fussy but at least she'll eat it). It's always served with sautéed spinach and artichokes so the chef just did a simple sautée of them without the sauce. It was a bit more wilted than DD15 likes but I quite enjoyed it. We both enjoyed our artichoke hearts. It was also served with steamed broccoli. It was perfectly steamed to al-dente which is how I like it so I thought the veggies were perfect.
DD12 is not a huge steak and seafood fan. She'll eat steaks but generally that's not her first choice. She loves shell fish but only plain. She ordered an appetizer sampler which includes shrimp cocktail, steak wrapped asparagus and I think a cold seared tuna. These were served without the typical sauces. The shrimp were huge. Unfortunately she said they tasted weird. I ended up eating them. They tasted fine. It was just her. She loved the steak wrapped asparagus even though she actually expected pieces of steak wrapped in asparagus rather than thin slices of steak wrapped around asparagus spears. The tuna was just ok in her opinion. It definitely looked different than what DD15 and I got. It looked more like a typical rare tuna steak with the center looking like sushi.
DH and DSD also really enjoyed their meals which did not need any customization. DSD got a chicken dish and DH got a steak. They both said they were cooked to perfection and tasted wonderful.
They did a really good job and we wouldn't hesitate to go back. It is pricey so it's definitely not an every day type of restaurant.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Company
Before heading out to CA I tried researching dining options at Universal Studios Hollywood. I couldn't find much that looked safe until I ran across the gluten free menu at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. When I looked it up, the reviews were all pretty good. I showed to my girls and figured that there was at least one thing on there that each would eat so I figured that would be our lunch option.
Short version is that we ended up eating at another Bubba Gump later in the trip. They were AMAZING!!!
Universal Studios CityWalk location
We walked in for lunch around 12:30. The place was practically empty which is what we like. I was told on the phone that they don't take reservations but that there typically isn't a wait until later afternoon and there definitely wasn't. I asked for the gluten free menu when being seated and looked it over. I asked our server about other items on the menu like the steak to find out if that could be made safe or not. He figured they probably could but got his manager to be certain (good, no guessing). The manager was really knowledgeable about the menu and about cross contamination. She mentioned things like fresh pans and frying instead of grilling to make sure of no cross contamination (this info was offered, I didn't even have to ask so I was feeling pretty good).
DD12 was being fussy and didn't like the look of the menu at the moment. She ended up deciding on a shrimp coctail. They did make a mistake and put a lemon on the plate but she can handle tiny amounts of lemon so I didn't bother saying anything. Lots of places mess up with the lemon on the plate but I just always confirm that they didn't put any in or on the food and it's fine. Like at The Derby, she said the shrimp tasted funny. They didn't, it was her. I ate them and enjoyed them. She later ended up ordering a steak which was cooked perfectly. It came with jasmine rice which she gobbled up.
DD15 is usually pretty easy to please. If there's a steak on the menu then she'll usually order it. This meal was no exception. Her steak was also cooked perfectly and she loved the rice. The sliced green onion on it really pleased her. She ordered a second helping of the rice as she liked it that much.
I ordered directly from the gluten free menu. I got the Accidental Fish & Shrimp without the lemon butter sauce. The mahi mahi was cooked absolutely perfectly (moist and flaky) with light but complimentary seasoning and the shrimp had a nice little kick to it. I agreed wiht the kids that there was something really good about the rice.
DH and DSD ordered directly from the regular menu and also really enjoyed their meals. DH ordered the Shrimper's Heaven while DSD ordered the pear & berry salad. They both got a lot of food and were really happy with what they orded.
The waiter was really friendly and knew the menu well as did the manager. The waiter joked around with us a lot and we had a lot of fun with the Forest Gump trivia and even juggled for us. My kids love the movie so they really enjoyed trying to answer the questions. They got most of them right. The atmosphere was fun as well. There's all sorts of Forest Gump movie stuff all over the restaurant. The music is from the time range in the movie. When you want your waiter to come to the table to you flip a sign on the table from RUN FOREST to STOP FOREST (made from blue and red license plates) and the general atmosphere is made to feel like I guess Louisiana crab shack (I'm guessing but that's what it was like to me and my lack of knowledge of Louisiana crab shacks).
Long Beach location across the street from the aquarium
Like I said, we enjoyed Bubba Gump so much the first time that when we were at the aquarium and saw it across the street we decided to go there for lunch that day.
The biggest difference between the two restaurants was the volume. This one was much louder. DH was getting a headache so this was bothering him. Otherwise it was just as good.
The manager came over to discuss our options with us. She was just as knowledgeable about allergies and the menu as the manager at the other location. She told me that they could cook up any of their proteins to be safe. YAY!! Even the stuff that was normally steamed with beer and/or other stuff could be steamed with water and whatever seasonings we wanted.
By this point in the trip, DD15 was getting tired of steak. She really wanted shrimp but with her autism she can be fussy. She HATES to have to peel shrimp and will go hungry rather than do it. They were able to use some of the already peeled shrimp and sautee them with some tasty seasonings and served it with a couple sides of rice. She was really happy with this and ordered more shrimp and then also ate some of my rice.
DD12 is a huge shellfish fan. Her favourite is lobster claws but will eat crabs, clams, shrimp, etc. I noticed the steamed shellfish on the menu and discussed that with her. She really liked the idea of the lobster claws. I figured it sounded good to me too so we both ordered this and I gave her my lobster. The manager gave us an extra order of rice each since we couldn't have the bread that came with it. I thought that was really nice since most restaurants don't give something to make up for bread not being served to us. I did give her my lobster claw which she loved. They steamed it all with water that had a bunch of garlic and fresh herbs. It was really tasty. There was I think around a half dozen shrimp, half dozen mussels, half dozen clams and a half pound of snow crab plus two small bowls of that yummy jasmine rice. I barely got any of my rice by the time the girls each took one of my bowls but I got plenty to eat since I had my bucket of shellfish minus the lobster plus DD12's clams, mussles and half her crab. She just didn't feel like eating them, there was nothing wrong with them.
Our waitress was just as much fun as the one at the other restaurant and was very happy with how we did on the trivia. She couldn't stump us. She got talking a lot with DD15 about DD15's art (her area of obsession) and DD15 shared her deviantart.com info with her so the waitress could see more of her art as it seems that she has a passion for art herself and finding new artists. I don't know if this was true or not but she really had us convinced and really made DD15's day.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Company has now been added to my list of restaurant chains that I feel good about when we travel. I love having places like this that I can find in cities all over the country. I sure wish they had one in my neck of the woods. It'll be somewhere special to eat when we travel. They do have one in Orlando.
Natural History Museum
I hadn't been able to find out info before our trip about dining at this museum though I really didn't look hard. How unlike me. I knew that there weren't any restaurants that seemed to be able to handle our kinds of allergies really close by so I figured we'd give the cafeteria at the musuem a try. I figured if nothing else they'd have some snack foods that could tide us over until dinner. We ate a late breakfast before heading off and planned to leave by 2:30 to beat the rush hour traffic heading back to the hotel.
Boy was that a mistake (the cafeteria, not the departure time).
The girls and I ended up eating chips. That's it. Chips. There wasn't a single hot food item we could eat. Almost all of the packaged snack foods were unsafe. There was limited fruit but it looked like it was sitting around for a long time and wasn't appetizing to look at. So we ate chips.
If anybody with allergies plans to visit the Natural History Museum (great museum BTW) then definitely pack some food.
In N Out Burger
I've read a lot of people who have talked about how great the burgers are at In N Out Burger so I decided to look up their allergy info before our trip. It's always nice to have a fast food place as a backup plan when travelling.
It seems that the only thing they fry in their fryers is french fries and the fries are free our our allergens so I was excited by the knowledge that we'd be able to safely eat the fries. YAY!! The burgers are 100% beef. Another good thing. I did read some mixed allergy reviews regarding cross contamination depending on location so I was prepared with questions should we decide to eat there.
There was an In N Out Burger a couple minutes from our hotel. Of course we ate there.
My first reaction to the place was that I was shocked there was no indoor seating. I don't know if they all work that way or not but this one in Arcadia sure did. We decided to just get our food to go and bring it back to the hotel. We were tired and it was later than we normally eat so DD15 was starting to melt down. The comfort of our hotel was our best bet.
When I got up to the window to order, I started off by asking about where they cook the buns. They have separate grills for the buns and meat so that was a good thing. I explained about our allergies and asked that whomever prepared our food to please change gloves. The person ringing in our order had called his manager over already to answer my question about cooking surfaces so he's the one who agreed about the glove change. Great. I placed all of our orders and waited.
When our number was called I went up to get our food. Keep in mind that DD15 was bordering on total meltdown so I probably made some bad decisions here. When I checked the food, they had placed DH's regular burger with a bun in the same box as our allergy burgers (DSD wanted a bunless burger too so his was the only one with a bun). The burgers are only wrapped half way so that means the bun could have easily touched other burgers. If she wasn't melting down I would have sent them back but it didn't look like it was actually touching the other burgers so I made the stupid move of just asking for another bag to put it in and took it out myself so I could do it carefully and not touch the other burgers. REALLY stupid, I know. I was tired, DD15 was melting down. I plead insanity.
The fries were all in a separate bag so I know those were safe.
When DD15 went to start eating her burger, she saw something at the very edge of the patty. She's rather paranoid about anything that looks a bit off so I figured it was just a piece of fat. I took a close look and realized it was cheese. It must have been touching a cheese covered patty on the grill. UGH!!!! Here comes stupid move #2. I tore off the bit with cheese and let her eat it. Yes I'm INSANE and it was VERY VERY WRONG. Gluten and milk are not life threatening allergies for us. They'll just make us sick. I don't normally do these kinds of things. I'm admitting to a lot of bad parenting here. Please don't judge me too harshly but I thought I should let people know about the reality of the cross contamination concerns and figured full disclosure was better.
My burger was the only one with the "sauce". They don't put ketchup on but rather just give you ketchup packets. They don't put mustard on and it wasn't something I had thought to ask for. It did all taste good but honestly, I don't know what the hype is all about. I've had better burgers and the fries tasted like frozen fries to me. It was just eh and IMO not worth the cross contamination risk. If we're travelling and pass an In N Out Burger I may go through the drive through for some fries as a snack but I won't try the burgers again.
In case you were worried, nobody got really sick. I'll avoid TMI but it's a good thing there were 2 bathrooms in the suite but that's the worst we dealt with. It's also good that we were already treating DD12 for pain so her cramps weren't too bad. DD15 has a high pain tollerance (it's an autism thing) so for her it was just discomfort. She was already melting down so it's not like she wouldn't have without the burger (one of her many gluten symptoms). Sigh.....
California Science Center
After our experience at the Natural History Museum, you would think that I wouldn't take a chance at a museum, right? Wrong. Yes, I was totally out of character this trip and didn't do my usual planning. Thank goodness the California Science Center had some food options.
In the CSC they have McDonald's (we don't eat there), Taco Bell (we can't eat there) and a small in-house cafeteria. We checked out the cafeteria.
The place was pretty empty when I walked so I was able to just walk up to the hot food counter to talk to the girl back there. She seemed to know a lot about the food. We discussed several of the dishes and she knew exactly which of our allergens made certain dishes unsafe. She assured me that the lentil soup didn't have any kind of stock as the base and was vegetarian so no pork and no thickeners. They also had a vegetable mixture and a rice with fava bean mixture that were safe for us. I decided to get 2 plates of the vegetables and rice and 2 large soups for the 3 of us to split. That was a LOT of food. We must have thrown out a full plate worth of the rice and vegetables plus maybe half a soup. They all tasted pretty good. Even my fussy DD12 ate a bit of each of them. I was nervous about just how good her knowledge was but we had absolutely no problems later.
For dessert, they had rainbow dippin' dots which my kids LOVE. It was nice being able to get dessert for them. That was definitely a huge bonus to the day.
Hugo's Tacos (Glendale Blvd)
The day we were switching hotels we went to see DSD and DSSil's apartment. I took a look online for some places nearby that could handle our allergies and I came up with Hugo's Tacos over on Glendale Blvd. It was by no means walking distance but it wasn't far. All of us like tacos so I figured we'd give it a try.
The menu is VERY clearly marked with what is gluten free, what's vegetarian, and what's vegan as well as what can be modified to be any of these. They also serve Daiya cheese. Sounds good so far. My biggest concern at this point was citrus since that can have some pretty nasty results (not anaphylactic but not pleasant and potentially lasting up to 2 weeks). There's a lot of citrus in mexican food.
When I got up to the counter I started asking questions about the marinades for the different meats. All that was safe for my kids was one of the porks and the fish. They're definitely more pork people so I ordered them both a 3 pack of pork tacos. They fry the shells in oil that only fries the corn tortillas so they had a choice between the soft and hard shells. They both decided to try both. I got the fish tacos, all hard shells. The tacos were really good. Let me tell you, this was no Taco Bell taco. This was a real taco. I also got the pico de gallo with it though I'm the only one who tried it. It's pretty hard to mess up pico de gallo so it was as expected.
The corn chips were also safe but unfortunately the guacamole had citrus so they couldn't try it. I did try it and it was nice though much milder than I like (I make it with LOTS of garlic at home).
Since the fries were also safe, I got the kids some fries to make their meals bigger and also because so many places they have to skip the fries so I knew they'd like being able to get them. They were pretty good fries.
DH got the burrito and it was huge. He enjoyed it though he said there wasn't actually much steak. DSD wasn't very hungry so she just got an order of guacamole. She didn't actually finish it so that's how I ended up trying it.
They actually have vegan, gluten free desserts. I was shocked. I considered going back to the counter to get some for us to try but I didn't. I was kind of nervous with them being soy based since I never know which soy milk based products will cause a reaction in DD12 and which won't. I just conveniently forgot to remind the girls about it and they didn't remember until we were waaaaaay to far away to go back.
This was definitely a hit. The only thing to consider when eating here is that the seating is all outdoors at little tables on the side of the building in the parking lot. There's not much seating. They have mist coming down along the side of the awning that covers the eating area and ordering area so it's comfortable in the heat.
DL: Redd Rockett's Pizza Port
The day we switched over to our Disneyland area resort, we had no dinner plans. I wasn't sure what time we'd get into our hotel so the plan was to just go into DL and/or DCA and do some filler activities and for dinner just get some CS food. I talked to everybody about what they felt like eating from the safe options I had come up with before our trip and we agreed that Redd Rockett's Pizza Port would do the trick.
We walked in around 4:00 and there weren't many people like I would have expected. I didn't realize that it was set up in stations (salad, pizza, pasta, something else I don't remember). I walked up to the first station and asked to speak with somebody about allergies (standard practice for me at WDW). I was surprised when the CM asked what allergy giving the impression he could help us if it was a common one. When I responded that we've got several lists among us and showed him my pre-printed card, he said he'd get a chef and escorted me over to a spot between 2 stations over by the door to the kitchen.
It was only a couple minutes max before the chef came out. We started talking about options as he looked over our lists. I had been told by some wonderful people on the DIS (since the special diets department won't give out info) that they carry gluten free pasta and gluten free pizza crusts. I knew from a chef at another restaurant that the restaurant's brand of pizza crusts was safe for DD12 but I also had been told that different restaurants carry different brands (something that I find odd since it's cheaper to buy in quantity for the whole resort area) so I wasn't positive she could eat this one. I asked the chef about the brand as well as the pasta sauce and marinara sauce and since he wasn't sure off the top of his head if they were safe for us or not, he went back to the kitchen to grab his ingredient book.
It turned out that the pizza crust was safe for DD12. They don't carry any non-dairy cheese (nowhere in DL does) but DD12 said she'd have a cheeseless pepperoni pizza with only crust, marinara sauce and pepperoni (which we confirmed was safe for her). Once it was cooked, the chef actually showed me the clean spatula and pizza cutter that he used (he said the pizza cutter was only used for the allergy pizzas which is good since it's hard to get stuff out of the nooks and crannies of those things) which gave me even more confidence in his understanding of cross contamination and the seriousness of allergies. She quite enjoyed her pizza though would have liked it more with cheese.
DD15 had been talking for weeks about having pasta this trip so it wasn't any surprise when she said she wanted the pasta. If I remember correctly, the only safe sauce was the marinara. She really just wanted plain pasta so that's what she got. It was a really big plate but the chef wrote down on the slip for the cashier to charge us or a side of pasta since she wasn't getting sauce. I thought that was really nice. The pasta was angel hair rice pasta. It tasted good but stuck together in a giant clump. Since it tasted good and it was safe and the texture was otherwise good, she didn't care.
I didn't want cheeseless pizza and my only other option was pasta. I don't think any of the proteins were safe for me. Guess what I got? Right, pasta. I chose to get the marinara sauce. My pasta was the same angel hair pasta and also stuck together but the sauce did help a bit. I had read online that the sauce wasn't very good but I thought it was ok. It certainly wasn't any kind of gourmet sauce but it was a decent basic mass produced marinara sauce.
The procedure for paying and getting our food was different than at WDW. The setup with multiple stations was like I'm used to at Sunshine Seasons so I had expected it to work the same way. Silly me. The chef wrote up a slip for us and gave it to me to show the cashier. He said I had to go and pay and when our food was ready I had to show him the slip and receipt showing that I paid for what he wrote down. In a way it was better this way because when the food was ready we could go straight to our table without having to stop at the cashier meaning we got to eat our food while it was still really fresh.
The chef had told me it would take 20 minutes to make our food (I always ask so we can try to time the non-allergy meals to be eaten at the same time as the allergy meals) and he was right on about the time. This was another nice change since it always seems at WDW like the places that give us a time so we can try to coordinate, it takes at least 10 minutes longer than they say.
While we didn't have many options, we did have a good experience and would go back.
DCA: Ariel's Grotto
Our first TS restaurant at DLR was Ariel's Grotto in DCA. I had read a couple decent allergy reviews so I was hopeful that there would be some nice options for us.
We checked in around 10 minutes before our ADR time and only had to wait a couple minutes before being told our table was ready. I did confirm that the allergy note was on our ADR. The check-in is upstairs but the restaurant and bathrooms are all downstairs. Since DD12 was in a wheelchair, she and I were directed to the elevator behind the check-in desk while the rest of our group met us at the bottom of the stairs (the elevator was small and wouldn't have fit the rest of us).
I don't have my PhotoPass pictures yet and I can't find my install disc for my scanner (new computer 2 months ago and the printer is too old for the downloaded drivers to work so I need the disc) so I can't share the Ariel picture, but I will say that this was the most lifeless princess we've ever met. She barely even said hello.
DD12 is able to easily transfer so she did so and our server moved the chair out of the way over near the elevator/bathroom/bottom of the stairs (they're all close together. We were in a half circle booth. There are regular tables that can handle a wheelchair but this was fine for us.
Our server came over asking about drinks. There really wasn't much the girls could have so they chose water and I chose lemonade (not an option for them). When taking the drink order I mentioned our allergies and she said she'd send out the chef. Right after bringing out our drinks, she delivered the 3 tier appetizer tower. As she put it down I reminded her of our allergies since it was really obvious this wasn't safe (one layer is mostly cheese so really obvious. The look on her face was kind of "oh yeah, I forgot" but she said that she had already told the chef and that he would be out to speak with us. The tower had lots of food and was likely enough for the 5 of us so she probably did ring it in for 5. IMO this doesn't actually matter other than the wasted food, as long as we get to speak with the chef.
DH and DSD had already been digging in for a good 5 minutes at least before the chef came out. We discussed our allergies after I gave him one of our pre-printed cards and he said he could put together plates with fruits, vegetables and salad with oil & vinegar. Well that's nowhere near as interesting as the platters the others got with various seafood things, lots of cheeses, olives, and some other really good looking things plus a great looking sourdough bread. Oh well. I asked if the capicola (or was it prosciutto? I can never remember the differnce) was safe for the girls (I can't eat it but they can) and he said it was. I asked if they could get some on a separate plate from the other stuff and he said they could. It was probably another 5 minutes at least before our stuff came out but there was plenty. The ham wasn't there so I asked about it and he said he'd bring it out. Here's what we got for our appetizer tower.
While discussing our appetizer, the chef also wanted to discuss our entrees. There were only 2 entrees that were safe or could be made safe which I found disappointing. We could choose between the tri-tip and the chicken breast cooked plain. We all opted for the tri-tip. For sides he offered us rice and the seasonal vegetables. We had no other options. That's fine since the girls LOVE plain rice and I'm always open to trying vegetables and I do like rice. I didn't think of it at the time but when the server asked what we ordered so she could ring it in, she asked if we wanted our beef medium, medium well, or well done. It seems those are the only typical options. I asked if it was possible to get it less cooked than that and she said she'd see what the chef could do. DD15 and I asked for as rare as they could do and DD12 asked for medium rare. They came medium rare and medium so not bad considering medium was the least cooked we were supposed to be able to get. The rice was, well, rice. The girls were happy with it. I did get them to try the vegetables and they did like them but didn't eat much. I on the other hand LOVED them. I ate mine and most of DD12's and let them have some of my rice. I think they were the best prepared zucchini and summer squash I've ever had. Yes, they were that good.
Once we discussed our appetizers and entrees, the chef also wanted to discuss the dessert right away. He said all that he had was sorbet and more fruit. OK, fine. Compared to WDW that was disappointing to hear but I had already prepared the kids for this likelihood before the trip so it was to be expected. This is what the chef brought out for each of us. Isn't it pretty? Luckily DD12's blueberry allergy is only if she actually eats them and cross contamination isn't a problem so I didn't bother sending hers back because of the blueberries. She was pretty full anyway and only picked at it. I'm not sure how I was still hungry after the appetizers and entrees but I managed to polish off my dessert as well as DD12's. I'm such a pig.
Summary of the character interaction was that there was a good number of princesses but they did the basic "hello, aren't you a pretty princess, lets take a picture, good bye". Oh well. My girls are old enough that this is totally fine. I will say that a booth is a bit of a pain in the butt at a character meal.
No mention was made of DD12's birthday despite listing her birthday as a celebration on our reservation and her wearing her birthday button. I forgot, the princesses included "happy birthday princess" among the other standard things. It happens. It's not why we go to WDW and she gets lots of attention without it. I'm just including this as info.
The decor in the restaurant was really nice.
Overall, it was a good experience. I realized that I definitely need to NOT think about WDW when at DL because they just don't compare, but the chef did prepare a lot of food and we enjoyed our meal which really is what matters.
Great dining report! Sorry about your experience at In and Out, but if you ever give them another chance I always order my burger protein style so that it's wrapped in lettuce. I don't eat the lettuce but it protects the burger from touching any other burgers in the box. The downside to this is that the burger gets colder faster so if you don't eat it right away it's meh. Almost all In and Outs have indoor seating. I have been to quite a few in both Northern and Southern California and Nevada and have yet to see one that didn't have indoor seating. I also have never gotten sick from one since going GF. I also hate when I don't research and have a plan in place for eating-it has caused disagreements because I get cranky when hungry and then I beat myself up when I don't know where to eat and end up with just chips. It must be incredibly difficult with 3 that you have to plan for!
We have a few by us with only outdoor seating but the protein style does work.
All but one of the burgers was ordered Protein Style with the explaination of our allergies. They were wrapped in lettuce but they only wrapped them maybe 2/3 of the way up. The one regular burger was placed in the middle of the rest plus we ended up with a tiny bit of cheese on the edge of one of the protein style burgers.
If we had them in our area I might consider trying another location but I'd question them a lot more before ordering and make sure that they understand about cross contamination and I'd be prepared to walk away based on the conversation, and I'd be prepared to carefully inspect all the food before leaving and send it back if I don't feel comfortable.
I've read lots of really good reviews but I have also read some other reviews like mine so I should have known to be more careful and just sent the food back to be remade. From everything I've read, location makes a huge difference as some seem to really "get" cross contamination while others don't.
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