Most people love going out for dinner, lunch or even breakfast every now and then if possible. How do you do this as a vegan though? When I first started out I was worried about dining out mainly because I didn't want to make a big deal and after a while, I wasn't super excited about just having a salad. Eventually, I realized that 99% of the time it's only a big deal if I make it a big deal.
1. Go to a vegan restaurant.
More and more vegan restaurants are popping up all over the place. Woohoo! So, if you are just starting out and are unsure of how to veganize an omnivorous meal then I would start with a vegan restaurant.
2. Go to a vegetarian restaurant.
More and more restaurants are offering vegetarian if not vegan options. In this case, you could ask your waiter to veganize a vegetarian dish by removing the dairy, eggs etc. and when there are vegan options, awesome!
3. Look at their menu online.
If you are going to a traditional restaurant (non-vegan/non-vegetarian), check out their menu online before heading out so you have a game plan and can adjust if necessary.
4. Call ahead.
If after looking at a restaurant's menu online, you're still unsure of what meal options are available, call them and ask. Usually, the restaurant/chef can veganize something from the menu. If that's not possible they are usually happy to make you an alternative dish that isn't even on the menu.
5. Be helpful.
When dining at a traditional restaurant (if you couldn't call ahead and you can't find anything on the menu) tell the waiter "I'm vegan, so I don't eat any meat, seafood, dairy or eggs, can you help me with my options?" You could also leave the vegan part out if you want to and say "I don't eat any meat, seafood, dairy or eggs, can you help me with my options?" First, tell them what you don't eat. Even now not everyone knows what vegan really means so if you just say you're vegan and don't mention what you don't eat, they still might recommend options with cheese etc. Second, ask them for their help. In general, people are happy to help especially when asked.
6. Get creative.
Even after asking the waiter for help, they may not know what is available to you so ask questions. It all depends on what you're in the mood for but think of different ingredients and ask questions like: "Do you have rice?" or "Could you do sautéed vegetables." or "Do you have a vegan burger?"
7. Ask the chef.
If you aren't feeling very creative and are still unsure of what is available, ask the waiter to ask the chef. "Could you ask the chef if there is anything that they could make for me that is vegan." I have been pleasantly surprised on many occasions what amazing creations the chef has made for me because they were simply asked.
8. Avoid seafood restaurants.
Out of all the traditional restaurants I have eaten at since going vegan, it seems that the seafood restaurants are the most limited in what they can offer. Even steak houses have more options and more items that can be veganized.
9. Get the apps.
There are some pretty helpful apps available now including Happy Cow and VegMan that can tell you what restaurants near you are vegan or vegetarian. They can also tell you what restaurants have vegan or vegetarian options on their menus.
10. Be patient.
In general, I believe that people do the best that they can so if your waiter or even chef are struggling to accommodate you, be patient. The last thing the world needs is another vegan perpetuating the reputation that vegans are know-it-all dicks.
With all that being said make sure to have fun and enjoy yourself! :-) If you guys have any more great tips for eating vegan at a restaurant please share them below!