Satu’li Canteen is a unique fast casual dining option found in Pandora: The World of Avatar in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. In the setting of an old RDA mess hall, now a peaceful dining facility, Guests can feast on healthy and delicious options with an out this world taste. However, for families like ours who have to manage food allergies, unique options sometimes bring a higher level of apprehension. I admit, it’s been difficult to let our son, who has multiple severe food allergies, give it a try. It wasn’t until I heard a friend in a similar situation tell us about their great allergy-safe experience at Satu’li Canteen that we decided to give it a go.
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~ Eating Out Can Be Daunting ~
My son has a personal requirement when it comes to eating out of the house with his food allergies. He has to meet the manager / chef face to face and gain the confidence to know that his food is going to be prepared safely by that person. This is done because the consequences of not doing so could be dire. No one wants to end a Disney visit or any kind of vacation with a trip to the emergency room…or worse.
~ First things first ~
So, with that in mind, we arrived at Satu’li Canteen and immediately asked the Cast Member sending Guests into the appropriate ordering lines if we could speak to the manager directly. No issues ~ she smiled and called for the manager on the spot and sent us into a line to wait for her.
When Kim arrived, we asked to step back and discuss the situation. Unfortunately, our son’s allergies are more than just a matter of making sure the actual allergen is not on his plate. Cross contamination or foods with any kind of disclaimers on their packaging indicating the potential can lead to life-threatening consequences and we need to make sure the person preparing his meal knows that. We knew the conversation would take a few minutes and we didn’t want to delay anyone else from ordering, so we stepped over to the side.
~ Explaining The Process ~
Kim was fantastic! She made eye contact, was patient, demonstrated understanding and talked us through their particular restaurant’s process. I say this because it seems that the process is evolving with nearly every visit. To be honest, this is a good thing! I can honestly say that, since 2007 when we first visited Walt Disney World as a food allergy family, we have watched Disney’s compassionate understanding and dedicated management of special dietary requests grow and improve on a rapid and consistent basis. They are truly focused on making their meals safe and magical for everyone.
The first thing Kim did was show us the allergy-friendly menu. This was a new design for us and I have to say I liked it. One side of the menu had all the options available and for which allergies they were safe. It was organized very nicely. On the other side, the menu had a structured list of all the options for the “Build-Your-Own” bowls and which foods were safe for which allergies.
~ Making His Choices ~
From there, Kim helped us build my son’s bowl, which is what he had hoped to do in the first place. We then went to check the iPad. On the iPad, she was able to show us the list of ingredients for the choices he made. I loved this because we were able to see photos of the actual ingredients used, brands and everything.
I then asked Kim if she would be preparing the allergy-safe meal herself. She said she most certainly would. She then mentioned that these foods would be taken right from their packaging and not from the line, where the potential for cross contamination is increased exponentially. Whether it was her intent or not, she was giving us (especially my son) the confidence that she understood how careful she needed to be.
So far ~ all great news!! Want to know what my son picked? Now, remember, we are managing allergies to eggs, peanuts and tree nuts. These choices may not be the ones you can choose safely.
My son chose the slow roasted sliced grilled beef for his meat. For his starch, he was having a hard time with his selection, as he was able to have both the red and sweet potato hash, as well as the black beans and rice. To that, Kim offered to give him a little bit of both so he could figure out which he liked for the next time. For his dressing, there were only two options for his particular allergies. Once he found out there was fish paste in one of them, he chose the charred green onion vinaigrette without hesitation.
To our surprise, we found out that the (vinegar-based) slaw served with most of the dishes at Satu’li Canteen is safe and we decided to let him try that, too.
For those with peanut or tree nut allergies, as well as a sensitivity to foods that may be manufactured on equipment that processes peanuts and tree nuts, you may want to avoid the Boba Balls. As of the timing of this post, the ingredient label does display this disclaimer. NOTE: You may be able to see the disclaimer in the picture above. Thank you, Kim, for bringing that to our attention!
~ Delivered with Pixie Dust~
Once we finalized my son’s allergy-safe meal, Kim took care of our entire order herself, both at the register and behind the scenes. She sent us away with a number stand to display on our table, so she could find us, and encouraged us to find ourselves a comfy seat. She had anticipated it being about a five to ten minute wait time.
We grabbed some utensils for me, as well as my sweet tea, and found ourselves a nice place to sit. We were actually waiting for friends to meet us there, so we found a great table that could accommodate five. To our surprise, Kim and another wonderful Cast Member brought out my son’s lunch before our friends even arrived to the table!
OH ~ EM ~ GOODNESS! I mean, we usually order a kid’s portion because:
- My son doesn’t have a HUGE appetite and….
- We are always cautious with new foods.
But what he received was a generous portion of his choices and enough to almost feed the entire table!! We could not thank Kim enough for providing him such variety, too! She had purposely separated each of the foods so that he had a chance to try it and see how he wanted to mix it up. She brought grilled beef, the red and sweet potato hash, the slaw, the black beans and rice and a side of the vinaigrette. He was in heaven and loved it!! He created his own “bowl” right there at the table and devoured as much as he could!
~ Note about Utensils ~
Utensils can be a tricky thing for those with food allergies. Pre-wrapped utensils are always a go-to preference for us. However, at quick service restaurants, you often find the utensils in an open container for anyone to grab. Well, for someone with severe food allergies, this can be dangerous. You don’t know what utensils may have been touched and/or then put back by hands that may have been harboring particles of an allergen on them. Right?
In light of the above, we asked Kim if we could obtain a set of utensils from the back. She went and did us one better. She said they have a designated set of utensils, called “kosher” utensils. These are prepackaged and ready for Guests in need of “untouched silverware”. She went right to the back and returned with a set for my son within minutes. It was PERFECT!!
Oh, and they were disposable, too!
~ Magical SUCCESS ~
In the end, we had a great lunch with our friends and an uneventful, amazing allergy-safe experience at Satu’li Canteen. A tremendous amount of thanks goes to the wonderful understanding and help from Cast Member, Kim. It’s once again comforting to know that Disney has the ability and desire to provide a safe and magical dining experience to those managing dietary restrictions.
ONE MORE THING!!!!
I CANNOT FORGET THIS PART!! Engaging in conversations with Cast Members is a part of the magic when you visit Walt Disney World. Find a Cast Member who likes to chat and just enjoy the conversation! You never know what you might learn. We not only had the most amazing encounter with Kim, but we also had a fun conversation with Solaine at Satu’li Canteen, who now calls my son her “bestie”. After lunch, we made a quick trip over to Windtraders. There, we had a fun and entertaining conversation with Cast Members, Tracy and Kelly. Seriously, Disney Cast Members rock!!
DID YOU KNOW that, if a Cast Member goes above and beyond to make your day or vacation magical, you can reward them with a cast compliment? There are many ways to send compliments and accolades, but I enjoy sending a tweet off to @WDWToday using the hasthag #CastCompliment. When you send a tweet, mention the Cast Member’s name and where you met. You can also give a brief description of how they made your day magical. In time, we usually see that they were notified of your compliment and it goes into their employee files. It does go a long way. Even if we don’t see the benefits, they will in time. It really does distinguish who is there to really help make the magic happen!
While the above is one of many positive experiences we have had, I would never and will never promote or encourage the ingestion of foods that could be dangerous to one’s health. I am not a medical professional, nor claim to be one. It is important that you make well-informed decisions on your own regarding whether this place is a safe dining option for you or your family member dealing with dietary restrictions. My goal here was to show that speaking to Cast Members and being thorough in explaining your medical scenario is both critical and beneficial when attempting to ensure food allergy safety. Hope you found it helpful!
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