If you’re looking for vegan options while travelling or information regarding vegetarian/vegan-friendly restaurants close to where you live, this article will help.
Vegan Dining at Local Eateries:
At the onset, it’s good to note that as a general rule, keep in mind the fancier the restaurant the more accommodating it will be to special requests. We’re not living in the 1980’s anymore, so almost any competent chef will know exactly what a vegan is, and all upscale restaurant kitchens should have plenty of vegan ingredients on hand to make a terrific meal.
There certainly were, and in some locations still are, countless restaurants that offer little to eat for vegetarians, let alone vegans. But now restaurants that serve great vegan food are popping up everywhere, and their numbers continue to grow every year. Even if there aren’t any vegan restaurants near you, it’s good to learn about the relative vegan-friendliness of different restaurants and cuisines.
Types of Dining Establishments (from the worst to the best):
- Steak and Seafood Restaurants – without question the two categories of restaurants that are the worst of the worst for vegans.
- Fast Food Restaurants – most are disappointing when it comes to offering acceptable vegan options, but there are a few exceptions. The restaurant industry considers burrito places like Chipotle, Qdoba, and Taco Del Mar to be a step up from conventional fast food, and from a vegan perspective these places are incomparably superior.
- Casual Dining, Chain Restaurants – the industry refers to restaurants like Applebee’s, TGI Friday’s, Denny’s, and Olive Garden as “casual dining.” Vegans commonly have less flattering terms for these establishments as the meatless options are generally swimming in cheese. One of the dirty little secrets about casual dining is that most of their meals are pre-packaged frozen food that the restaurants “chefs” merely heat up and neither the wait staff nor the kitchen staff will have the any idea what’s in it, since the actual food preparation is not done at the restaurant.
- Ethnic Restaurants – some ethnic cuisines are remarkably vegan-friendly while others (particularly Korean and French) are practically devoid of vegan recipes. Without a doubt, the most vegan-friendly cuisine is Middle Eastern. Mexican food and Italian food can and should be remarkably vegan-friendly but you may need to have your server check with the kitchen to make sure that there are no eggs, dairy or animal fat (lard) used in preparation.
- Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants – naturally, you’re in good shape if there’s a veggie or vegan restaurant near you. Caution though for strict vegans: it’s easy to drop your guard at a vegetarian restaurant and unwittingly eat something with dairy products or eggs. The good news is that most new veggie restaurants opening today are vegan rather than just vegetarian.
*Tip: To help restaurants change to more plant-based, animal friendly menus, know that they are always seeking new business, so if you can clearly and politely request better vegan options, you’ll be surprised at how many will be receptive. But keep in mind that their wait-staff doesn’t have the power to push through change. You’ll need to communicate with the manager or owner.
So never forget, even if your town is not yet vegan-friendly, one day it will be. And you can be a motivating force to speed that change.
Vegan Dining on the Road:
Many vegans fear that adapting a plant-based diet can make travel more stressful or less enjoyable, but that’s not necessarily the case. Most of us never thought we’d see the day when Burger King or Denny’s offered veggie burgers, but now that they do, the millions of omnivores who eat there can see that choosing meat-free meals is both easy and tasty. Nearly every restaurant has at least one vegan-friendly dish. By asking the server for assistance and then making educated choices, dining out can be a delicious (and a cruelty-free) experience!
For comprehensive listings of vegetarian restaurants worldwide, check out these dining guides: Happy Cow, Veg Dining and VegGuide. These sites show vegetarian and vegan restaurants plus meat serving establishments that are vegetarian/vegan friendly and they can all be navigated by continent/country and in the USA by state/city.
Stay tuned…Coming soon, “Supporting Evidence for Vegans”
Rae Indigo is ERYT 500