Dining out as a vegan can sometimes be a challenge, but with more restaurants starting to offer vegetarian and vegan options to their menus, and/or being more tolerant about food allergies, it is a lot easier to find vegan options than it was say, 10 years ago. With that being said, the more demand there is for something, the more change there will be in the future. In the meantime, we vegans just have to do what we can to make eating out work. But I personally look forward to the day when vegan options on a menu are the norm. For now, here are some tips and tricks to make dining out vegan a little easier.
Get Vegan Smart Phone Apps
One of the easiest and most convenient ways to find what restaurants are vegan friendly, or what types of meals they serve is to download vegan apps to your smart phone. Most of these apps are free or $1.00 to $3.00 and allow you to search and see which restaurants are vegan friendly. Some apps even offer reviews and contact information.
One of the best ways to make eating out as a vegan easy and stress free is to plan ahead. In addition to downloading smart apps to your phone, another option is searching the restaurant’s website online, to take a look at their menu. Usually you will be able to find which meals are obviously vegan right away, and if not a few menus will often have a vegetarian section that can be modified to vegan by simply leaving out an ingredient or two. (i.e. asking for no cheese, etc.). Sometimes if a menu doesn’t offer any of these options or isn’t very clear, calling ahead and asking the restaurant whether or not they can accommodate a vegan is another good idea. Especially since some restaurants prefer to have a heads up about this type of thing. Another good reason to call ahead or ask about accommodating a vegan diet, is because some restaurants actually offer a vegetarian or vegan menu, but don’t hand it out unless you ask. It can really be a hit or miss depending on the restaurant and the chef, but usually most places will try their best to be friendly and accommodating. Another good idea is to eat a light meal or snack before going out, that way if the restaurant doesn’t have much you can eat, you won’t leave starving or feel deprived while the rest of your dining party stuff their faces.
Order Side Dishes
While it can be frustrating to arrive at a restaurant just to find out that they don’t really offer much in the vegan department, sometimes ordering a few different side dishes and putting them together is enough to make a balanced meal. For instance, a side of tofu and veggies with some rice makes a nice stir-fry dish. Or some rice & beans rolled up into a tortilla makes a nice vegan taco.
Seek Out Ethnic Cuisines
When all else fails, try seeking out ethnic cuisines. About 90% of the time many Mediterranean, Mexican, Chinese, and Thai restaurants will have a few dishes that are already naturally vegan, or are vegetarian and can be modified to be vegan. (i.e. falafel sandwiches, vegetable lo-mein, stir-fries, fried rices minus the egg etc.)
Leave Reviews & Suggestions
One last tip for eating out as a vegan is to leave restaurant reviews, and/or comments and suggestions. This can be done online or by filling out a comment card at the restaurant. One of the best ways to express your needs or desires as a customer is to let your voice be heard! Suggesting more vegan options is a great way to let restaurant owners know what they can do differently to make their restaurant better. Hopefully with time, the more requests for vegan options, the more restaurants we will see, starting to offer these options to us.
In the meantime, here are a few common restaurants that offer vegan options or dishes that can be modified to vegan:
Romano’s Macaroni Grill & Italian Restaurant
Noodles & Company
Chipotle Mexican Grill
bd’s Mongolian Grill
Cottage Inn Pizza