This past weekend, I took a short three day vacation to rest and relax before my busy holiday season. This left me eating out quite a bit. During this time two of my friends, who recently went vegan texted me asking questions about eating out. Obviously there is a need for a blog. Haha!
Eating out is sometimes tough to do as a vegan, but it’s such a nice rewarding treat when you find a restaurant that rocks your vegan socks (I will give a list of suggestions at the end of this blog…..talk about a teaser!). I work in the food industry and love it. Food is a passion of mine and my current career deals with creating memorable moments for people around food (I’m an event planner for a restaurant/catering company). From working in the food industry, I can tell you first hand that sometimes restaurants are not veggie friendly. Servers just don’t know what to look out for…it’s not that they don’t care. They definitely care!….it’s their money that we are talking about J I personally know that most soups are created from a Sysco soup base wish is an easy affordable option for restaurants instead of making their own stocks. Well sometimes that “chicken” base gets used to make the veggie soup. Opps! And sometimes those grits are cooked in chicken stock for extra flavor. Opps! And sometimes cream is added to hummus appetizers to make it have a creamy consistency and last a little longer. And most vegan go right for the hummus thinking it’s safe! Opps. You ever notice that the edges of the veggie sandwich bread you are eating is shiny….well that’s an egg wash made to make the bread look more appealing…opps. Mmmm butternut squash risotto…sounds perfect, seasonal, and vegan right? Well not when the risotto is cooked in chicken stock and then made all pretty and shiny with a big dollop of butter at the end of the cooking process to present it with a nice shine on the top to the guest. Opps. Roasted potatoes seem safe, unless the chef sprays the roasting pan with synthetic butter spray, which is much more affordable and easier to work with than olive oil. Opps. I could go on and on here, but I think I’ve gotten my point across without having the scare you too much.
So when eating out vegan, try not to worry about asking too many questions. You wouldn’t sign a cell phone contract without knowing exactly what is included and how many text messages you are allowed every month….so why would you buy nutrients for your body without asking a few questions. Here is a list of things I hear myself saying at restaurants all of the time:
- “I’m so sorry to be a pain, but I’m vegan so that means I don’t eat meat, seafood, butter, eggs, cheese or any other animal product. I may have to ask you a few questions”. (It’s important to define what vegan is to the server….they know “vegetarian” but might not know “vegan”)
- “It’s ok to have to check with the chef, we are not in a hurry.” (Sometimes I can speak directly to the chef if I’m patient enough)
- “Do you have any vegan recommendations or menu already?” (Some restaurants do!)
- “ I know I’m a pain in the butt table to wait on, I work in the food industry too…..thank you for your patience” (Gotta stroke the ego of the server sometimes, so that they actually do type into the ordering system “Vegan, no cheese or butter”.
And then the questioning on the menu items…..it is OK to ask what’s in a dressing, and if it’s make in house. It’s ok to be a pain to the server…you will be so happy once you get a good meal and good service you will tip them well (you better!!!).
Something else I have noticed at restaurants is that I can order more food and spend less than what it cost to have a meaty meal. Take for example this dinner out with a friend, I was able to get a “mocktail”, a bottle of san pelligrino, two appetizers, a huge dinner (I couldn’t finish it), and a dessert for under $40. And this was a nice restaurant! No drive thru action here! Haha. My friend had water, one appetizer (with meat), a salad(with meat) and dessert and spent the same amount as me!
Creative measures I have done in restaurants to get what I want and uphold the plant based diet……..Omelet station was free at my hotel….well I had the chef sauté up all of the veggies in olive oil minus the egg and cheese. Yes he looked at me like I was crazy, but I got a big hot plate of fresh omelet veggies. “veggie” sandwich come with cheese? Ask to substitute avocado instead and eat everything but the bread. See spinach on the side orders? Order three servings of it for your entre and mix it when a bunch of other veggies.
Ok now for the good stuff, my recommendations for vegan eating….and I learn more every day!
East End Eatery (on 8th ave, near duck pond) owned by a veggie!! Sunday brunch has amazing vegan waffles
Tempo Bistro to Go (on 441 next to Lloyd Clark Sports). Amazing vegan soups!
Civilization (on 16th and main street, good for dinner or dates)
The Top (on Main street….black bean cakes!! Fresh veggies! Vegan Caesar dressing!!)
Taste of Saigon ( off of 39th)huge veggie menu and the sushi chef will create a custom vegan sushi)
Tasty Buddha (16th and main, and on 43rd by millhopper)
Emiliano’s (downtown) the BEST black bean soup I have ever had!
Ok this list is not complete, but it is the first few that popped into my mind and in no particular order!
Have fun eating guys!!