Before becoming hyper-aware of everything I eat thanks to the constant vigilance of maintaining a gluten and dairy free diet, I couldn’t tell you the difference between veganism, vegetarianism, and all of the varying strands of each dietary faction.
Classic veganism consists of avoiding all foods and ingredients derived from animal products. Some items such as meats, cheeses, eggs, and dairy are clearly not in accordance to vegan guidelines, but others such as beeswax and honey are not as obvious. Few would guess that such a restricted diet could lead to a colorful and varied culinary culture, but most would be surprised to find that veganism has become mainstream and even has a place at the table at the “Happiest Place on Earth”- Walt Disney World. Enter the Babycakes NYC bakery.
Tucked inside a multi-restaurant building in Downtown Disney’s Marketplace section, Babycakes NYC shares a space with Pollo Campero and Bodie’s All American Grill. Based off of a highly successful New York City based vegan bakery, the Disney expansion of the bakery offers guests treats that are gluten, dairy, egg, soy, refined sugar, and wheat free as well as kosher.
Though the bakery’s presence is kind of hard to find and tucked away in the restaurant complex, it’s mind-boggling to look at multiple bakery cases filled with treats that are safe for me eat. After all, in a typical bakery, anything one looks at would be considered poison to a person with gluten and dairy intolerance. Before I visited the bakery, I reviewed the menu of typically available treats, and didn’t quite know what to order. After all, since going gluten and dairy free, my tolerance for sweet items such as cookies, brownies, or other “sugary” creations has dwindled to the point where natural sugars are pretty much all I can handle. Nevertheless, I decided to venture out and try a non-sugary item that I heard could be special ordered in advance- bagels!
After emailing with the Babycakes NYC staff, I pre-ordered 6 bagels (the minimum amount one has to pre-order since they are not normally available) with half being plain and half being the poppyseed variety. Bagels are among my favorite foods with my gluten-free gold standard being Udi’s Whole Grain Bagels. However, I am always in search for a fresh-baked bagel in the likeness of the Panera ones I so fondly remember from my pre-gluten free days.
My dad and I picked up the bagels and upon seeing the kaleidoscope of treats on display, he couldn’t resist the colorful donuts calling out from the top of the case. He ate one before leaving the store and offered the assessment that they were good but “dense.” Not normally gluten or dairy free, I chalked this up to the unusual texture of allergy friendly items. I wrapped them in aluminium foil upon getting home due to their short shelf life, but set one out for the following morning’s breakfast.
I have to say that although I really wanted to enjoy the bagels, I couldn’t muster eating one. They had a unusual sweetness to them that contrasted with my expectation of a chewy, hearty bagel. Dense due to the lack of eggs in them, I found it hard to slice it in half because they just crumbled. I was disappointed, but I’ve heard from other people who have visited the bakery that the cookies, cupcakes, and loaves are absolutely delicious. I hope that I can sneak in another trip there to give them a second chance before they close. (See update below)
It’s sad to see such an accessible option for special diets close after such a short time, especially since Walt Disney World is known for their accommodating stance towards any and all food allergies. I hope their partnership can continue through the resorts and that further opportunities arise for a stand-alone bakery in the future with the development of Disney Springs.
Update 3/8/14: Inspired by reviewing the restaurant from a previous visit, I decided to pay Babycakes NYC another visit to give them the benefit of the doubt in light of their pending closing in the Downtown Disney location. Boy am I glad that I did! I arrived mid-morning and eagerly scanned the bakery cases to see the day’s flavors. After deliberation, I decided to go for the banana chip slice and lemon poppy slice. I tried the banana chip slice before leaving Downtown Disney and fell in love with it. The cake was rich and flavorful, but not too sweet. The spiced flavor perfectly complemented the dark chocolate chips which helped to bring out the banana flavor. The slice was dry, but this didn’t take away from the flavor. I promptly bought two more slices before leaving the bakery. I’m happy to report they won me over as a fan, and left me eager to come back before even leaving Downtown Disney. I’m keeping my ears pealed for any news and will share it if and when it comes my way.
1674 East Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Website: The bakery’s website and facebook.
Cuisine: Vegan baked goods (cookies, brownies, muffins, cupcakes, loaves, cakes, etc.)
Ideal For: Breakfast, snacks, dessert
Price: About $3-$5 per treat (The bagels were $3.25 each)
Accessibility: Venue was indoors and very accessible via wheelchair. Higher counter-tops might require assistance.
Special Features: They will deliver to any Disney restaurant where a patron holds a reservation, any Walt Disney World resort, and to local addresses.
Disclaimer: Restaurant reviews are based upon the information I have at the time of the review and do not reflect changes in supplier or availability of items. Please contact the restaurant directly for up-to-date information and feel free to to contact me with any questions or comments. I was not compensated for this review and it is a reflection of my personal opinion.