When you think about tracking down vegan food options while visiting Disney World, the first idea to come to mind is not going to be your seemingly traditional, stick-to-your-sides, barbecue buffet. And this seemed to be the case when first walking into Trail’s End Restaurant. The buffet is situated within eye shot when entering the restaurant and at first glance, these are some of the things you’ll first get a glimpse of: fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, potatoes, and some green stuff on the end section of the buffet. Things are definitely not looking much like a vegan paradise.
I did my research beforehand though, and thankfully knew going into this that Chef TJ was very accommodating and known for making specials dishes for those with various dietary restrictions.
First up during my 5 course meal with artisan Chef TJ, who just so happens to be incredibly happy and humble, were miniature samosas with tater tots and a spicy ketchup sauce. Second was a stack of tortilla chips covered in Chef TJ’s homemade vegan cheese, onions and jalapenos and adorned with a balsamic glaze, (Pictured Above!) making the perfect vegan nachos.
Third up was an arugula and beet salad, and then heading up the rear in fourth and fifth position during the festive feast were two unbelievable masterpieces.
For my fourth, and main course, Chef TJ bestowed upon me a a vegan dream platter. Vegetables, like zucchini, broccoli and squash lined the bottom outside of the plate. Then those were topped off with tofu, and right in the middle of all of that, were noodles, tomato and onion all doused in a a delicious Asian style sauce.
Then last, but certainty not least, Chef TJ came out with a huge, and I literally mean huge, surprise. A vegan dessert mountain held together with kebob sticks, a banana, and a melting caramel apple, and composed of cookies, ice cream, cotton candy, fruit and chocolate sauce.
In addition to Chef TJ, I also have to mention the greatness of our waiter Kevin from Tallahassee and the restaurant manager Tony from Manorville (Woo Long Island!). Although he was very busy the night I visited the restaurant, and made even busier by a disgruntled table adjacent to us, Kevin was nothing but cordial, and he treated me and my family like we were part of his own family. That just might be part of why our dinner ended up turning into a 3 hour event!
Tony, the restaurant manager, was also fantastic. He came up to us after we were finished with our meal, said wonderful complimentary things about his employees Kevin and Chef TJ, and told me about and some of the impressive ideas that he has for the restaurant, ideas that he and I (And hopefully you!) would like Disney to consider adopting and giving a try. One of his ideas was that instead of having Chef TJ craft a surprise meal of whatever it is he is thinking of for each vegan customer, why not get a static vegan menu going so that vegans can choose the things that they want to eat, the process will be less time consuming, and other chefs there can then learn how to make the vegan meals for those days when Chef TJ isn’t working (A lot of crestfallen vegans have gone to eat there on days when he wasn’t there – now that’s sad stuff!). Another thing Tony wanted the restaurant to do is to host nights where groups of vegans can get together, sit at a big table and share all of the vegan-friendly food family-style. It’d be a great way to promote the vegan options at the restaurant and available within the Disney resorts, and a great chance for vegans to meet one another and together talk over a cruelty-free meal. With innovative and inclusive ideas like that, it sure sounds to me like Tony belongs in a higher position in the company than he is right now!
If YOU would like to see some of these ideas start to take shape, please contact them! Reach out to them on Social Media, tell them about Tony’s ideas, and if you’re not Social Media savvy, you can always send them a letter to:
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S.
PO Box 10000
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830