I don’t know about you guys, but where I’m from, trying to find vegan options when eating out is like trying to fine a needle in a haystack. The first few months of being vegan, I relied heavily on vodka, french fries, and salads when going out to eat. Luckily, I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way. Here are my tips to eating out as a vegan (and ordering more than just liquor and lettuce).
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Be clear. It may be frustrating having to explain that you are vegan, but in my experience, it’s best to state your dietary preferences in a clear and polite manner ahead of time. This way, both the server and the chef are able to make your dining experience as pleasant as possible. If the server seems confused, politely explain your limitations. If it seems that there is still some confusion, you can ask for an allergy menu. Lastly, while this isn’t my preferred plan of action, if I still feel hesitant, I lie and say I’m allergic to dairy and eggs. Let’s be real…no restaurant wants a lawsuit on their hands and working in the industry for several years, I know how negligent some servers can be.
CHECK OUT THE MENU AHEAD OF TIME
Doing this has helped me tremendously, especially if I am going to a restaurant that I have never been to. Most restaurant menus are listed on their website or Yelp. Look for menu items that are vegetarian. Most of the time, these items can easily be made vegan. I generally tend to look for pizzas, pastas, burgers, or tacos. You can make any of these items vegan by omitting any dairy and eggs. Add on extra veggies and sauces to kick them up a notch.
Once you’ve scoured through the entire menu, make sure to call ahead and speak to a manager or the chef. Ask them any questions you may have in regards to certain menu items that caught your eye. For instance, if you saw a pasta dish that you thought could easily be veganized, call ahead and make sure the pasta noodles are free of any dairy or eggs. This saves so much time and stress. Trust me! There is nothing worse than HANGRY friends or an impatient server who just want you to hurry up and order.
If you’re still having trouble finding main dishes that can be made vegan, it’s time to get creative! Take a look at the sides menu and see if there are items you can order to make your own meal. When I eat at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, I often order a bunch of different items on the menu to create something delicious. For example, I’ll order a side of vegetables, a side of brown rice, a side of black beans, corn tortillas, avocado, and salsa. Then, I’ll just build my own vegan tacos. This method is probably unpleasant for the server and the kitchen staff, but I refuse to be apologetic when restaurants refuse to have vegan options on their menu.
IF POSSIBLE, TRY TO EAT OUT AT AN ETHNIC RESTAURANT
If you’re able to choose the restaurant, try to pick ethnic cuisines. For example, many Thai, Chinese, and Indian dishes can easily be made vegan (if they aren’t already) and are SO FLAVORFUL!!! If you choose a Mexican restaurant, just make sure call and check that they don’t cook their beans, rice, and/or chips in lard.
IF ALL ELSE FAILS, HAVE FUN AND DRINK VODKA!
I hope our little guide helps! If you have any question, comments, or tips of your own please send us a message with your feedback! Cheers!