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Eating vegetarian

When you think of food at Walt Disney World, most people think of burgers and chicken nuggets (or more likely strips) or perhaps a nice steak at one of the premier restaurants around property, however, the landscape of dining in Walt Disney World is always changing and one of the newer trends we're seeing develop in the parks is the introduction of vegetarian options to th menu. We're not talking about spaghetti with some red sauce, but rather, some interesting options for vegetarians to indulge on while in the park. For vegetarians and healthy eaters a like, there is refuge from the onslaught of burgers and other unhealthy indulgences.

I, myself, am not a vegetarian but I am trying to eat healthier and when I'm in the parks, I like to avoid eating unhealthy if I can. That isn't to say having meat is unhealthy, but I probably could benefit from not eating another burger or some other fried meat product. I often seek out the vegetarian options because they tend to be healthier options and more importantly for me, they are rather tasty. I fancy myself a somewhat adventurous eater and so I like to try new items and I've found that the vegetarian options on the menu tend to really have some interesting flavor because of all the vegetables that are often used in these options. When we're talking about eating vegetarian in the parks, we're not just talking about the salad option on the menu, but real meals that offer a fulfilling entree while often avoiding a lot of the unhealthy elements that plague other dishes.

In the Studios, I took it upon myself to look for specifically the dishes that stood out to me as good options for vegetarians. As I mentioned, I've often eaten many vegetarian options in the Studios before, but I wanted to go back over some of the menus in the Studios and pick out the winners that I've enjoyed over the years. For this article, we'll focus on the quick service (aka counter service) options that I've run across. These are all normally available options that do not require special requests or extra effort to muster together.

The first dish you ought to try out is the whole wheat veggie pita wrap at Starring Rolls bakery. This is a generous serving of mediterranean veggies in a whole weat pita bread with I believe some hummus thrown in for good measure. You get two wraps per serving (or is it one wrap cut in half?) that prolly comes out to about 6 inches long if you put them together. I found the wrap to be filling and had some interesting flavor to it, especially with the fresh cut vegetables stuffed together that sort of "meld" together for a real nice taste. Best yet, you also get either a choice of potato chips or fresh fruit, all for $6.99. It's a real deal and I love to be able to eat something like this and not feel guilty (or as guilty) afterwards.

I had mentioned earlier this would not be a parade of salads, but there are some good salad options to have in the Studios and at ABC Commissary, you can find a nice one. There used to be an Asian stiry-fry option that was quite good but it has since been removed from the menu. Instead, we have an Asian salad that has a very distinct Asian flavor to it that I really enjoy. Often I find I like to take a break from "the usual fare" and eat something a little more ethnic. Like the pita wrap earlier, I found this Asian salad to evoke a distinct flavor, this time of the Asian food that I generally enjoy. Like most salads, I suspect they aren't freshly made and are made somewhere else, packaged, refridgerated and shipped off to the Studios until someone orders it. I've never found the salad to be bad due to age, but unlike the veggie wrap, you can tell it was not made freshly earlier in the day. Nonetheless, it's a tasty option and not bad for $6.49.

While I really liked the veggie wrap when I had it last (it inspired the idea for this column), the truth is my all time favorite vegetarian option has to be over at Backlot Express in the form of the grilled vegetable sandwich. I know the picture you see is never as good as what you get but the truth is that I really enjoyed this sandwich and it is as good as it looks. There's a lot of great veggies in here (not just lettuce) including red peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini and topped off with cheese on a great tasting hard roll. The flavors of all the veggies and the cheese really coalesce and I highly recommend this option. I should also mention the black bean salad that comes with it that is great to have as well. If you're smart, you'll spread some of the salad on your sandwich to really accentuate the sandwich. Putting it over the top is the fact that the sandwich is $6.99. Definitely try it out on your next trip.

One conclusion I can draw from my experience is these vegetarian options almost always end up being the cheaper entree when compared to the other entrees that have meat on the menu. I suspect it comes down to meat costs more than veggies more often than not and perhaps there's even a little marketing involved in Disney pricing these options a bit lower to drive up demand for them, but in any case, an interesting side effect of eating vegetarian in the Studios was the bills I accrued for eating around was not very much (relatively speaking). I was glad to side step a $9 or $10 meat packed entree in favor of a $7 vegetarian dish. While I can't necessarily recommend going vegetarian to save some extra cash, I can say that it's a nice side effect of avoiding some of the unhealthier options out there.

So there you have it; my recommendations for good vegetarian options around the Studios and even if you're not a vegetarian (like me), you can find some great tasting foods here that wont leave you feeling guilty afterwards. I would definitely try the grilled sandwich at Backlot Express if you only try one of the options here. Don't forget you can also get fresh fruit to eat at Starring Rolls as well as at Anaheim Produce on Sunset Boulevard. All of these are great and I'm looking forward to seeing some more healthy options on the menus around the Studios. If I left out a great vegetarian dish, let me know by posting a comment below.

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A regular look into Disney's Hollywood Studios, both past and present, with commentary and analysis from Matt Hochberg.


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Posted: Wednesday, August 06, 2008 by