Things to keep in mind when eating out as a vegan:
Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Ethiopian, Indian, Vietnamese, Greek and pretty much any other cuisine that’s not your typical American style restaurant will have plenty of menu items to choose from. Read over the menu and look for items that contain tofu, veggies, and other obviously vegan foods and ask your waitperson if they are suitable for folks who do not eat meat or dairy. I’ve been to many restaurants where waiters and waitresses were delighted to tell me of my vegan options, even suggesting items that aren’t on the menu.
Once you figure out a few good restaurants in your town that are vegan friendly… you will find that eating out isn’t difficult at all. It’s super easy once you understand what menu items typically are and are not vegan.
A very good web-resource for finding vegan-friendly restaurants is Happy Cow.net.
Here are some common vegan menu examples:
Vegetable Jalfrezi with Basmati Rice
Vegetable Sushi Rolls, Edamame, and Ginger Salad
Vegetable Burrito, refried beans (ask if they use lard) and a side of Mexican style rice
Tofu Curry with Sticky Rice
Pasta with Marinara, salad with vinaigrette, bread with olive oil
Bean Curd, any style served with white rice and veggies
Dolmades and lentil soup
Mock Duck over Rice, Asparagus Soup, Vegetable Spring Roll
Eating Out with Others in a “Meatcentric” Restaurant
Sometimes though, we don’t always get to pick where we eat. Ever been stuck at a restaurant with your in-laws who insisted (before you arrived ) that the establishment offered vegan options, only to be handed a menu and immediately notice that even the piddly side salad comes default with bacon and cheese?
I have… and I admit, it does not make for a superfun dining experience. But there are ways to get through it. And, remember, it’s just one meal. :)
You can always order that salad, minus the animal stuff and request it served with a balsamic vinaigrette. In addition, ask if they can make a pasta dish with just olive oil and steamed veggies. Not exactly fine dining, but it will get you through that one meal with a happy belly. Baked potatoes are always another good option (minus butter) topped with salsa or veggies.
If you know where you’re headed, see if you can pull their menu up online to suss out your options before you go. Fortunately, restaurants that serve no vegan options, are pretty few and far between. My husband and I have eaten out A LOT, and have only found ourselves in this scenario once. Yes, it was at the same darned restaurant I mentioned above.
A lot of information about fast food and chain restaurants can be obtained via the internet. Ingredient lists are easy to come by online so you can make wise vegan choices before you even drive through.
Chipotle and Qdoba Mexican Grills: I lump these together because they both offer great big burritos with plenty of fixins for vegans. My favorite thing to get is a grilled veggie burrito bol (or naked burrito)… with tons of guacamole and salsa.
Taco Bell: One step down from Chipotle, but again, there are a lot of burrito options here. Try a fresco bean burrito and ask them to add rice, or a seven layer burrito is always a great option if they hold the sour cream and cheese.
Panera Bread: Their ciabatta, sesame seed semolina, rye, French and country breads are all vegan. Have them make you a tasty sammie with the addition of lettuce, tomato, onion, and hummus. Or grab a dutch apple raisin or blueberry bagel with a soy latte to go. Along with many salads, they also serve black bean and garden vegetable soup.
Pizza Joints: These are often good choices because you can order a veggie pie minus the cheese, or a veggie sub with Italian dressing. Be sure to ask if their dough is dairy free, just in case. Papa Johns has vegan options, and and Pizza Hut seems to keep changing things up.
Subway: Order the veggie delight and fill it up with every veggie you can, and then have them top it with oil, vinegar, salt and oregano.
Burger Places: I have yet to figure out why big burger chains don’t have a vegan burger option. Don’t be fooled by Burger King’s veggie burger, as it’s not vegan. Stick to side salads, baked potatoes, and large French fries. Again, check the restaurants ingredient lists online before unknowingly biting into a “beef flavored” French fry.
Since restaurants and chefs use different ingredients in many family dishes, not all items recommended on this page are guaranteed to be vegan. Instead of assuming that an unknown meal is animal friendly, it’s always a good idea to ask… just in case.