There have been members of the Islamic faith vacationing at Walt Disney World for decades, but the growing number of adherents to Islam in the United States, along with increased accessibility from the Middle East (including non-stop flights from Orlando International Airport to Dubai, UAE) means that more Islamic guests than ever are visiting the parks.
Like many Jewish guests, Islamic guests often have special dietary restrictions that they maintain while on vacation. In the past, many guests have reported that when it comes to halal meals, you had to create your own solution. Some people have suggested selectively ordering kosher meals, even though not all kosher meals are halal. Others have had luck visiting Restaurant Marrakesh in Epcot’s Morocco pavilion and talking with the chef to see what could be put together on that particular day.
Thankfully Disney has started to realize that with the large number of guests requesting and having a preference for halal food, better accommodations need to be made. In correspondence with the Special Diets Team at Disney, I have learned that there are a few solutions for eating halal at Walt Disney World.
Here’s the summary of accommodations:
- Vegetarian dishes are available at all table service restaurants, and many locations also offer a fish option as well.
- A few halal meats can be ordered in advance, such as lamb, beef, chicken, and goat, and then be prepared by the chefs at the different restaurants. Because of the special nature of these orders, only one form of halal meat can be ordered per table for each meal. This means that if one person in your party absolutely wants a halal lamb dish, every member of your party who wants halal meat will also need to have lamb. (Of course they can also still order a vegetarian dish or fish dish instead.)
- For these halal meat options: once you have table service advance dining reservations, e-mail the Special Diets Team at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a Guest Allergy Dietary Request form. On this form, list the date, time, reservation number, and restaurant where you will be dining. Your request must be made at least two weeks in advance. The Special Diets Team will then notify the chefs and managers at the different restaurants to ensure that food is available for your reservation.
If you plan to eat foods off the standard restaurant menu, such as vegetarian or fish dishes, you may still want to inform the server that you prefer your food be made without any alcohol used in the cooking process. Some dishes are often prepared with cooking wine, beer, or other alcoholic ingredients used for flavoring.
Finding pre-packaged snacks that are labeled as halal can be a bit tricky, as many foods that are halal do not always carry a halal seal. This is a case where reading the ingredients list before you buy can be helpful. For quick-service foods, you can always ask to see the special dietary book kept at every quick-service location, which includes ingredient lists for the items served. Many quick-service locations will have a dietary specialist, however training about halal food requirements is inconsistent. Likewise, there is also the potential for cross-contamination at quick-service restaurants. In that case a kosher meal would be a viable option, as they come pre-packaged and sealed, eliminating the potential for cross-contamination.
Another option to keep halal on vacation is to eat off-site at one of the many halal restaurants in the Orlando area, or order in halal groceries or take-out.
By far, the best resource for halal dining outside of Walt Disney World is Zabihah.com, or its Zabihah app. On the Zabihah web site, there are more than a 100 halal restaurants listed in the Orlando metro area, with more than a dozen of them within a short drive of Walt Disney World.
When it comes to groceries, a short distance from Downtown Disney is Halal Market at 12125 South Apopka Vineland Road (State Road 535) in Orlando. This is the closest place to find a wide assortment of halal groceries, including ready-to-cook food and an on-site butcher. Major chain grocery stores such as Publix or grocery delivery services such as Garden Grocer do not offer halal meats, but may offer other foods that are halal. No halal foods are listed on their web sites, so it would be a case of being a savvy shopper to find foods and brands that meet halal criteria. Whole Foods in Dr. Phillips, a short drive from Walt Disney World, and some Walmart locations in the Orlando area do offer some halal options, but again it is a case of being an educated consumer.
Like adhering to any specialized diet, it takes a bit of research and preparation to ensure that the food that you eat meets your specific needs, but overall, Disney is one of the most accommodating places on earth for specialized diets. With a little preparation, it is possible to eat well, and eat halal, at Walt Disney World.