My daughter has Celiac Disease — along with 2 million others in the United States and about 1% of people around the world. People with Celiac must eat a strict gluten-free diet. Question is, how can I explore one of my favorite places in the world (Universal Orlando Resort, of course) with one of my favorite people in the world?
Pretty easily, actually.
I talked to Tyler Blankenship MS, DTR, a Nutritionist Specialist to learn more about how Universal Orlando Resort accommodates guests with Celiac or those on a strict gluten-free diet. (And keep reading. Because afterwards, I’m going to share some of our favorite gluten-free meals at the resort.)
ROB: Tyler, how are chefs, managers, and wait staff trained to accommodate guests with Celiac or a gluten allergy?
TYLER: Our Allergy Trained Team Members go through an ANSI accredited class with a five-year certification. This class involves discussions around what allergies/intolerances and Celiac Disease are, as well as discuss the differences. We also go into detail on what the responsibility and expectations are for the Front of House and Back of House Team Members when they encounter a Guest asking about dietary accommodations. Topics include how to prepare the food in a safe manner, how to discuss the accommodations appropriately, the importance of a clean workspace and what to do in an emergency situation should one arise. There is also ongoing training that I provide to our allergy-trained Team Members.
ROB: What measures are taken to prevent cross contact?
TYLER: Cross contact is very important to us and we pride ourselves on being able to ensure a safe meal for our guests. We will change our utensils, wash our hands, and put on a new pair of gloves. Additionally, we will provide a barrier from other meals when delivering the food. This could be in the form of a manager bringing the food on a separate tray or safely covering the dish during delivery.
ROB: What measures are taken to keep guests with Celiac or gluten allergies safe?
TYLER: We regularly audit our allergy information and foodservice environments to ensure that we are providing a safe experience for the guests. This includes doing spot checks of our warehouse, restaurant venues and production kitchen to verify appropriate production methods.
ROB: What advice do you have for a Guest with Celiac or a gluten allergy who is anxious about visiting?
TYLER: Make sure to reach out to Food.Allergy@universalorlando.com to get the most up-to-date and personalized responses for a safe visit. We will provide them with a list of options at our Quick Service locations that are gluten-free. We currently do not provide a listing of all dishes that are gluten-free with modifications, but we are happy to discuss any adjustments you would like on a specific dish. For Table Service locations, we ask that you speak to a Chef prior to ordering. Doing so will ensure that you have the most choices while dining. Their ability to adjust almost any meal on the menu to make it gluten-free is something we take pride in. Our Team has access to our database of ingredients and can research anything above and beyond looking at a label in their venue and they can also reach out to my Team for further information. For special events, we have incorporated a gluten-free icon on most menus that shows a menu item is gluten-free without modification. We feel that this is important to showcase our safe foods while also saving you time at our park. We accomodate a large amount of guests who have allergies every day and our allergy-trained Team Members are no strangers to gluten-free offerings.
I want to thank Tyler for taking the time to speak to me and for sharing this information. My wife and I have had wonderful experiences navigating Universal Orlando Resort while keeping our daughter safe.
And with that, I now present:
The Unofficial Official List of Some of The Awesome Gluten-Free Eats at Universal Orlando Resort According To My 9-year-old Daughter
EDITOR’S NOTE: All recommendations listed are based on the gluten-free offering of that specific menu item, please ensure you specify your dietary restrictions when speaking with an Allergy Trained Team Member.
- Mel’s Drive-In – “Really awesome burgers and fries! Plus, you can see all the cool cars outside.” (Be sure to request a gluten-free bun.)
- Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters Cafe – “The pulled pork and BBQ sauce are gluten-free and really good! You can get a gluten-free bun if you want for the pulled pork.”
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley – “All the Butterbeer is gluten-free! Hot, regular, and frozen! Even the Butterbeer ice-cream is gluten-free but you have to ask for it in a plastic cup instead of a cone. Oh, and then there’s the Leaky Cauldron. I’m a big fan of the chicken sandwich (with the gluten-free bun, of course!) and, guess what, the fries are made in a dedicated fryer so you can eat them!”
- TODAY Cafe – “I recommend the Avocado Toast. They can make it on gluten-free toast and it’s delicious. Also, when it’s colder outside, the hot chocolate here is delicious!”
- The Burger Digs – “I’ve had the cheeseburger on a gluten-free bun and also fries! The chocolate milkshake was especially delicious.”
- Thunder Falls Terrace – “The ribs and BBQ are incredible. Lots of flavor!”
- Green Eggs and Ham Cafe – “This is one of my favorite places to eat at Islands of Adventure. I absolutely love the pizza tots!”
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade – “The Three Broomsticks is great! You can even eat breakfast there and they have gluten-free pancakes!” (Be sure to specifically order the gluten-free pancakes.)
- Mythos Retsuarant – “This place was incredible! The chef came out to our table and talked to us and told me he would keep me safe. I got to try Pad Thai for the first time and it was wonderful!”
- The Feasting Frog – “The tacos are really good! Just remember to order them on a corn tortilla. But they have a lot of flavor and are really tasty.”
- Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club– “I recommend the coconut curry chicken. Coconut. Chicken. It’s awesome.”
- Whakawaiwai Eats – “Try the Island Chicken Salad. Get this, it’s chicken with apples, almonds, and grapes with dressing that tastes like coconut.”
- Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville – “They have a huge gluten-free menu! Lots of choices. I like the nachos and the brownie sundae the best.”
- VIVO Italian Kitchen – “The pizza was really great. Next time, I’ll try the pasta.” (Be sure to request the gluten-free crust and pasta.)
Please keep in mind that this is, by no means, an exhaustive list of gluten-free options. Chances are, whichever restaurant you visit at Universal Orlando Resort, you’ll find plenty of safe options, as well as Team Members who are more than willing to accommodate. Also, keep in mind that gluten-free breads, buns, and pasta are often available at locations that serve the regular gluten-containing products.
If you have Celiac or a gluten allergy, I’d love to know about some of your favorite places to eat and favorite dishes at Universal Orlando Resort. Share your top picks in the comments below!
NOTE: The information in this blog is accurate at time of posting and menu options may change without notice. Always be sure to notify a Team Member about your dietary needs and they will do their best to accommodate you safely.