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A Vegan Walks into a Restaurant – How to Eat Out and Stay Vegan!

What vegan dish do you order most often at a restaurant? While vegan restaurants are gaining in popularity, it’s likely that you’ve had to improvise, ordering items like fries and side salads that may be lackluster as your main meal. Nonetheless, there are smart ways for vegans to navigate the menu in restaurants without feeling too out of place. Check out these tips to make life easier visiting popular restaurants as a vegan.

3 Tips for Finding a Vegan Restaurant

With veganism becoming more mainstream, you may be lucky enough to have a vegan restaurant near you. This is ideal since you won’t have to struggle to find a wide range of entrees that fit your vegan diet. Fortunately for vegans, there are resources available for discovering new and interesting restaurants.

1.      Search HappyCow.net

Happy Cow is a priceless source for vegans. Not only does it automatically show where all of the vegan restaurants are near you, but it also offers a wide range of info including advice on going vegan, vegan IQ tests, vegan humor, and tips for saving the environment. If you don’t know of a vegan restaurant near you, try HappyCow.net first to find places that are compatible to the plant-based lifestyle. You can also download the Happy Cow app for vegan info on the go.

2.      Call Ahead to Ask about Vegan Options

A lot of restaurants are trendy and have names that are ambiguous and may not clarify what their cuisine is like. To take the guesswork out of a restaurant’s menu, give them a call and simply ask whether they offer menu options for vegans. Most restaurants really care about pleasing all of their customers and not losing business, so they’ll very likely go out of their way to accommodate you.

3.      Try Ethnic Restaurants

A lot of restaurants that specialize in Asian, African, or Latin cuisines may be much more likely to have vegan options. Check out these specific entrees that are offered by the following types of ethnic restaurants:

Ethiopian

Ethiopian cuisine utilizes a wide variety of vegetables that makes it suitable for the vegan diet. A safe bet for vegans in an Ethiopian restaurant is to order the bayenetu, a sample platter of meatless dishes. Other vegan Ethiopian entrees include atkilt wot, azifa, and gomen.

Chinese

Chinese cuisine is easily modified by choosing to include veggies instead of chicken, pork, or beef, but strict vegans will want to be aware of the sauces used. Since Chinese restaurants make use of tofu and a wide range of vegetables, they’re often a safe bet for those on the vegan diet. Consider trying steamed veggie dumplings, Chinese scallion pancakes, and salad with ginger dressing as delectable options for vegans.

Thai

Thai food is best known for its unique spices and delicious variety of sweet and hot curries. Like at a Chinese restaurant, it’s often easy to substitute a vegetable like potato or eggplant for your meat at a Thai restaurant. Next time you eat Thai, remember that pad thai, vegetable curry, and braised plantain are all vegan menu options.

Japanese

With the rising popularity of sushi, Japanese restaurants are enjoying more attention than ever. But luckily for vegans, sushi usually isn’t the only choice at these restaurants. First off, Japanese restaurants are likely to have more tofu options than any other. From bowls of miso soup to traditional choices like hiya yakko, vegans should find a lot of delectable options at Japanese restaurants.

5 Tips for Ordering at a Non-Vegan Restaurant

As a vegan, odds are some social plans will have you ending up at traditional, non-vegan restaurants. Since ordering a side salad and French fries every time can get monotonous, these tips will help you maximize your experience as a vegan ordering in a typical restaurant.

1.      Look for a Vegan Section on the Menu

This is 2017, and whether they admit it or not, every chef and restaurant owner is aware of the rising popularity of veganism. Look for a section on the menu that caters to vegans, or at least a symbol that signifies that vegan options are available. This may be indicated by a “V”, a small leaf, or some other symbol, but many restaurants are accommodating to vegans who visit their establishment.

2.      Ask if you Can Substitute Meat and Dairy Items for Vegan Foods

Being clever with the foods you substitute can create a lot more appealing menu options as a vegan. This can mean substituting the sour cream and cheese on a burrito for guacamole and salsa, thereby making it vegan-friendly. When looking at the menu options, consider creative ways to replace the meat or dairy in your items with veggies.

3.      Combine Side Items

Even the least vegan-friendly restaurants will include a few side items that are devoid of animal products. If you find yourself at such a restaurant, you can request an order of various vegan side items. For example, a simple side salad may not be fulfilling, but combine it with onion rings, minestrone soup, and veggie spring rolls, and you have a vegan feast you can be proud of. Find three or four decent options to include and it can make for a satisfying vegan meal at a spot where you least expected.

4.      Are there any Secret Options?

Some restaurants are strict with their menus, but there is still a chef back in the kitchen cooking those products for customers. Since pleasing the customer is top priority at a restaurant, the chefs are likely to work with you, and may modify some of their options to support your vegan requests. Ask your server if the chef will offer any vegan options for you, and you may be surprised by the response.

5.      Eat Before You Dine

If you know you’re going to a non-vegan restaurant as part of social plans, another option is to eat a high-quality vegan snack beforehand. This will prevent the need to rely on less-than-healthy side dishes, since you won’t care as much whether they have vegan choices on their menu. While this isn’t always the most fun choice, it is a solid idea for going out with non-vegan friends to restaurants with minimal options.

Manage Your Options When Dining Out as a Vegan

Veganism comes with its own unique set of challenges, but eating out at restaurants doesn’t have to be. The eight aforementioned tips will help you have a great dining experience regardless of what restaurants you happen to live near. Whether you live in a metropolis with dozens of vegan restaurant choices or you have to make do with your local barbecue establishment, a little forethought and planning can ensure that you have an excellent time eating out as a vegan.

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