*This gluten free dining experience took place in October 2019. It includes information about dairy free options, as well as fish/shellfish, peanut, and chicken & turkey allergies.
Dinner at Coral Reef
Coral Reef, located in The Seas with Nemo & Friends pavilion in Epcot, is a table service restaurant that serves seafood and steak options for guests with views of a living coral reef. Brandon, his mom, and I recently had dinner at Coral Reef one evening while we were picking up our annual passholder coasters and magnets during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.
Coral Reef is inspired by the living seas and features views of the coral reef located in the pavilion.
When you arrive at the restaurant, you’ll notice lots of bright vibrant colors to set the stage as you begin your journey “under water” into the restaurant.
Once you enter the restaurant’s lobby, you can see that it resembles the ocean floor. I have to admit that the restaurant’s interior does feel a bit dated — though the lobby portion is less so than the actual interior.
While we all agreed that you can get nice views of the coral reef & aquariums from anywhere in the restaurant, since this was Brandon’s mom’s first visit to the restaurant, we requested a table near the front.
You can request this when you check-in to the restaurant — though there may be a bit of a wait. We were also told by the cast member during check-in that they would try their best to honor this request, but that’s it’s not always a guarantee. Thankfully, the restaurant was a bit slow when we dined there, and we had no issues getting a table near The Seas marine life.
On our previous visit, we sat at a table near The Seas and found the chairs to be really uncomfortable. This time we were seated in a much more comfortable booth. We all agreed this was far more comfortable and relaxed way to experience the restaurant and would actually request a booth straight away the next time we go.
As you can see, the interior of the restaurant features lots of blues, purples, and other sea-inspired colors. I do hope that someday they refresh the restaurant’s decor because it really is a bit outdated.
Of course, the main reason we came to Coral Reef was dinner! Because it is owned and operated by the Disney Company, Coral Reef does have an allergy-friendly lunch and dinner menu. You can also always ask to speak with a chef directly whenever you dine there.
Before our meal, we were brought out bread service. I was served Ener-G gluten free and allergy-friendly rolls, which are also dairy free, vegan, and free of the top common allergens. These were well-heated on this visit — making them a nice way to start the meal. If you’re just gluten free, you’ll be served butter with the rolls. If you’re dairy free, be sure to ask for some Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread.
Brandon was also served the house rolls, which looked like pull-apart Parker House style rolls. Both Brandon and his mom didn’t think they were very good and said they were pretty bland.
On my previous visit, I ordered the Mahi-Mahi which is a gluten free and dairy free dish. But, on this visit, I was leaning towards trying the Shrimp & Grits because I’d heard such great things about it from Alexis’s Gluten Free Adventures.
The Shrimp & Grits includes Sauteed Shrimp, Cheddar Cheese Grits, Local Corn Succotash, Andouille Sausage, Creole Spice Emulsion and is marked safe for gluten/wheat, fish, peanut/tree nut, and soy allergies. This does contain dairy and cannot be modified.
Overall, I was really impressed by the shrimp & grits entree. It wasn’t my favorite version of the dish, but it was really good. Everything was really flavorful, and I was shocked at how big the dish was. The amount of shrimp in it was excellent. If you like seafood and enjoy a bit of spice, this might be a good dish for you. I would definitely order the shrimp and grits from Coral Reef again.
Because the menu is heavy on the seafood and Brandon is allergic to both fish & shellfish, his options were pretty limited. Thankfully, he’s a big steak fan, so he ordered the Grilled 10-oz Top Sirloin Steak. On the allergy menu, it comes with Olive Oil-Mashed Potatoes and Seasonal Vegetables and is marked safe for gluten/wheat, egg, fish/shellfish, milk, peanut/tree nut, and soy allergies.
But, Brandon did ask if he could order swap the olive oil-mashed potatoes for the loaded mashed potatoes on the regular Coral Reef menu. He was able to do this with no issues for his special dietary needs. Overall, he said the dish was really good — and like my shrimp & grits, he had a huge portion of steak.
Brandon’s mom also ordered the Caesar Salad for her starter, which included Romaine Lettuce, Parmesan Cheese, and Caesar Dressing. It was marked safe for gluten/wheat, peanut/tree nut, and shellfish allergies. Although I didn’t try it, Brandon’s mom did say it was a really good version of Caesar Salad. So, if you’re a fan of this type of salad it might be worth ordering.
For dessert, Brandon couldn’t pass up the chance to get a chocolately dessert. He’s not a big dessert fan, but he loves chocolate flourless style cakes. And, the Chocolate Wave dessert at Coral Reef is one he really enjoys. This includes chocolate curls and raspberry cream and is marked safe for gluten/wheat, fish/shellfish, and peanut/tree nut allergies. If you love chocolate cake, this is definitely one to try. It’s very rich and a perfect way to end a meal.
While we wouldn’t say the food is anything fancy, we have been pleasantly surprised by the food at Coral Reef. On both of our recent visits, we have found delicious and tasty options that cover our special dietary needs and leave us satisfied. Even better? We really enjoy the atmosphere and spending a leisurely dinner watching the marine life at The Seas. If you seafood that isn’t super pricey, this may be a good option to dine at when you’re in Epcot.
Have you been to Coral Reef? What did you enjoy when you dined there?