If you’re a vegan, even the title of this blog may have made you cringe. After all, how many times have you gone out to eat with friends and family, only to end up with a salad? Is it too much to ask that you can eat vegan food in any restaurant you dine in?
Depressing, isn’t it?
And what makes it worse is that people just don’t understand our desire to eat actual food when we go to a restaurant. Here are some of the comments you’re likely to hear when protesting about going to a particular restaurant.
- Don’t worry, they have plenty of salads on the menu!
- You’ll be fine because you love salad and they have a lot of options in that department
- It’s okay, they have plenty of salads on the menu for you rabbits
You get the picture.
While it’s true that vegans love salads, it’s also true that we like to eat.
And salads don’t always fill us up.
So, if you’re looking for tips to learn how to eat out at restaurants without always having to order a salad, you’re in the right place. But before we talk about how to eat anything other than a salad in various types of restaurants, let’s look at some tips to help you when thinking about which restaurant to eat at.
But first, here’s a little vegan humor.
Restaurant Prep: How to Ensure You’re Not Stuck with a Salad
You can take a few steps before venturing out to that restaurant to ensure they have things on the menu that don’t involve lettuce.
Lettuce be grateful for that!
Here are five tips to help you determine whether or not the restaurant is vegan-friendly.
Your first step is to call the restaurant and ask them if they have anything on the menu that is vegan. Sometimes restaurants do have vegan menu items, but for some reason, choose not to make them public by putting them on their menu.
Other restaurants have complete vegetarian or vegan menus they only bring out when asked.
A quick phone call is a great first step in determining if you can get a vegan meal when dining out at that restaurant.
2. Get it out of the way
Have you ever gone into a restaurant, sat down and ordered drinks, and then asked about vegan options? If so, you’ve probably experienced the heartbreak that comes from knowing you are destined to eat a house salad for dinner that night. (That is until you can get home and whip up something fabulous!)
Don’t let this happen to you. If you forget to call ahead, ask the hostess about vegan options as soon as you enter the restaurant. And if they’re not on site, grab a server and ask them.
If you don’t, one of two things could happen. You will have to leave after being seated, or you will have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re going to eat salad. Again.
3. Break the code
If a hostess or server isn’t around, look for a menu and search for vegan codes. Do you know those “Vs” or little green leaves beside some menu items? They typically stand for vegan.
If you find them on the menu, you’re good.
4. The old switch-a-roo
You know those dishes that are almost vegan, but not quite? You can sub out some ingredients to make them perfect for you.
For instance, if you find a burrito that you’re salivating over, but it contains cheese and sour cream, make it your own by asking that those ingredients are taken out and replaced by guacamole. Easy peasy!
Sometimes, you just can’t anything on a menu that is even close to being vegan. Trust me; I’ve eaten in plenty of steakhouses and have an ideal workaround. Just check out the sides menu and order a few of them to create a plate of your own making. For example, if you’re somehow stuck eating in a steakhouse, you could order a baked potato, and whatever vegetables they have on the menu.
5. Let something else do the work for you
If you want to make things easier, just download a couple of apps that help you find the closest vegan restaurants near you.
Here are a few that will make your life easier:
- Happy Cow: With this app, you can enter your location and see a list of the vegan restaurants nearby
- Vegman: Another app that allows you to find vegan (and vegetarian) restaurants all over the world
- VeganXpress: If you’re with family and friends who are determined to eat at a chain restaurant, this app helps you identify vegan options at those types of restaurants
And here are some more tips and tricks for eating vegan in regular restaurants:
Restaurant Tip Guide
Chances are that you will find yourself in a variety of restaurants, especially if your friends and family aren’t vegan. Here’s a quick guide that will help you decide what to order at each type of restaurant.
Unless you’re eating at a vegan restaurant, you’ll have to ask about every item on the menu — and that includes vegetarian restaurants. Although vegetarians don’t eat meat, they do eat dairy and eggs. So if you find yourself eating in a vegetarian restaurant, simply ask the server for suggestions that don’t include any dairy or eggs in the ingredients.
If you love Thai food, I’ve got great news. Many dishes in these restaurants are vegan, and the ones that aren’t can easily be made so. For instance, who doesn’t love a steaming plate of Pad Thai? Just leave off the eggs and fish sauce and it’s completely vegan. The same is true for vegetable and rice dishes, soups made with a coconut milk base, and curries. (You will need to ask the server if the curry paste is vegan and not made with fish sauce.)
I’m turning Japanese
Going to a Japanese restaurant and ordering vegan is another easy choice. Since the menu is filled with mostly rice and vegetables, your options are limitless. Just as with Thai food, ask the server to leave off the fish sauce, eggs, and bonito flakes, which are dried fish flakes.
You can also order miso soup, tofu dishes, and edamame.
The world is your oyster (or not)
When visiting a Chinese restaurant, you will also have plenty of vegetable and rice dishes to choose from. Also, you can order vegetable dumplings, soups, spring rolls, and fried rice dishes. Burn curd is another option, as are tofu dishes.
Be sure to ask the cook to exclude the fish sauce, eggs, and oyster sauce.
If you’re craving Italian food, you’ve got plenty of vegan options.
Think bruschetta topped with grilled vegetables and olives, fresh French bread dipped in oil and spices, and pasta with marinara sauce. Just be sure to ask if the pasta is made is with eggs.
You can also order a pizza topped with vegetables and no cheese. You will have to ask if the crust and marinara sauce is vegan.
If you’re like me, you love sushi. There is something about the delicacy of the dish, and let’s face it, picking up that perfectly rolled roll with chopsticks and biting into it is hard to beat.
But isn’t sushi made from raw fish?
It doesn’t have to be!
You can find a creative cook at your local sushi restaurant or just order the roll with no fish, fish-based sauces, or mayonnaise.
Check out how this guy does it:
Get your Greek on
Let me guess: you would do almost anything for a big plate of hummus or a slab of vegan spinach pie. And the good news is that you can find tons of dishes on most Greek restaurant menus. You’ll find grilled veggie wraps, potatoes, roasted veggies including eggplant, tahini, veggie dolmades, and more. When ordering, be sure to tell the server that you don’t want any yogurt or cheese in your dish.
It’s entirely possible to get your vegan Greek on in a Greek restaurant!
For the love of all things Indian
Here’s a guess: you love Indian food. Am I right?
Indian food is comfort food for many vegans, and that’s why it’s so easy to eat in an Indian food restaurant. You won’t have a problem looking for something to eat. Instead, you’ll have a tough time deciding which dish to order from the menu.
Here’s my advice: order more than one!
You can choose from vegetable samosa or pakora saag, dal, channa masala, rice, and naan bread that doesn’t contain butter or yogurt. Just be sure to steer clear of ghee, cream, or cheese (called paneer).
Head to the border
Ah, Mexican food. It’s one of my favorites because I know that when I eat in a Mexican food restaurant, I’m going to leave satiated.
No salads here.
When eating in a Mexican food restaurant, you’ll have the option of ordering salsa or guacamole with chips, bean or vegetable burritos or tacos, rice, vegetable fajitas, and vegetable chimichanga.
Just be sure to tell the server to leave off the sour cream and cheese. And you’ll need to verify that their beans don’t contain meat or lard. Also, check to see that the rice isn’t cooked in chicken broth and the tortillas aren’t made with butter or lard.
The middle countries
Chances are that you love Middle Eastern restaurants as well. There, you’ll be able to enjoy falafel, couscous, tahini, pita bread, tabbouleh, and vegetable samosas to name a few.
Is anyone else getting hungry?
In Middle Eastern restaurants, the cooks often add yogurt or cheese, so be sure to tell the server that you don’t want it included in your dish.
Sometimes, you just want American food, but that doesn’t have to mean hamburgers and hot dogs. When eating at an American café, look for veggie burgers and hot dogs with French fries or onion rings. You can also order a pizza without cheese. You’ll have to verify that there isn’t any cheese, eggs, or mayonnaise in the dish.
And if the restaurant doesn’t serve veggie burgers or dogs, take a look at the appetizer menu. Sometimes a couple of appetizers can make for a great vegan meal.
Do all of these options and subs sound like too much trouble? Are you thinking that maybe you’ll just accept your fate and dine on salads when eating out for the rest of your life?
Here’s a little reminder of why you began reading this article in the first place.
Are You Ready to Eat Vegan in a Regular Restaurant?
Eating out is supposed to be fun, but too many vegans get stressed out when it comes to dining in restaurants. After all, they are paying for a night out with good food, but get stuck with lackluster salads all too often.
Change things up by educating your friends and family about restaurants that offer options for vegans and meat-eaters alike.
Do you have a proven method for eating out as a vegan and avoiding salads? If so, we would love to hear about it in the comments below!