Vegan Wonder

Savor the Vegan Experience: Delicious Tips for Dining Out

For many people, dining out is one of life’s great pleasures. But for those who follow a vegan diet, going out to eat can be a source of anxiety.

“Is there anything I can eat?” is a question many vegans have asked themselves more times than they can count.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. With a little bit of preparation and knowledge, dining out as a vegan can be an enjoyable and delicious experience.

Researching Vegan-Friendly Restaurants

Before you even leave your house, you can take steps to make sure you’ll be able to find something to eat when you go out to eat.

Start by checking out the restaurant online. Look for reviews, and see if other vegans have had good experiences there. Many restaurants now post their menus online, so take a look and see if anything catches your eye. (If you don’t see a menu posted, you can usually find one by doing a quick Google search.)

If the restaurant doesn’t have a vegan-specific menu or clear vegan options on the regular menu, you might want to consider going somewhere else. But if they do have at least a few options, you’ll know you’ll have something to work with when you get there.

Some restaurants are more vegan-friendly than others. If you’re not sure how vegan-friendly a particular place is, you can usually find out by doing a quick Google search. Look for keywords like “vegan” or “vegetarian” in the restaurant’s reviews, or check their social media pages to see if they post about vegan events or options.

Communicating Your Dietary Needs

Once you’ve made it to the restaurant, it’s time to communicate your dietary needs to your server. Be polite and friendly, just like you would when ordering anything else.

Don’t make a big scene about it. You’re not doing anything wrong by being vegan, and there’s no need to apologize or make excuses.

If you’re not sure what ingredients are in a particular dish, don’t be afraid to ask. Many restaurants use common ingredients like butter or chicken stock in dishes you wouldn’t expect them to. And if you’re concerned about cross-contamination (for example, if you have a severe peanut allergy and are ordering a vegan dish that was made on the same stove as peanut butter), don’t hesitate to ask about that, too.

Exploring the Menu

Now that you know what you can eat, it’s time to decide what you want to eat. Look for items that are naturally vegan, like salads, vegetable sides, and pasta dishes. Many restaurants will also have a vegan burger or another plant-based meat option, which can be a good choice if you’re dining out with non-vegan friends and want to stick with something familiar.

Don’t be afraid to ask your server if a dish can be modified to be vegan. For example, can you get fries instead of onion rings, or is there a vegan dressing you can have on the side? If the restaurant uses honey or other bee products, you might want to ask about that, too.

Sometimes, you’ll discover hidden gems on the menu that you wouldn’t have known about if you hadn’t asked. A few years ago, I ordered a vegan pizza at a local pizzeria, and the server mentioned that they had vegan garlic knots. I had never heard of vegan garlic knots before, but they ended up being one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you might want to try something you’ve never had before. Ask your server for a recommendation, or look for dishes that come from cuisines you don’t eat at home very often. (More on that later.)

Navigating Dining Etiquette

Now that you have your food, it’s time to enjoy it. But there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to dining etiquette.

If you need to make any modifications to your dish (like asking for no cheese or replacing a sauce), do it before your food is served. Once your food is in front of you, it’s considered rude to send it back to the kitchen to be altered.

If you have any other concerns or special requests, it’s best to bring them up as soon as possible, too. For example, if you need your food to be plated separately from non-vegan items, let your server know upfront.

And don’t forget to tip your server! They worked hard to take care of you, and they deserve to be compensated for their efforts.

Enjoying the Dining Experience

Now that we’ve covered all the practical stuff, let’s talk about enjoying your meal.

Take your time and savor each bite. Pay attention to the flavors and textures, and appreciate the effort that went into preparing your meal.

If you’re dining with friends or family, take turns sharing bites of each other’s food. This is a great way to discover new flavors and expand your culinary horizons.

If you’re at a nice restaurant, take a moment to appreciate the ambiance and atmosphere. Look around and take in your surroundings. (Unless you’re at a really fancy restaurant, in which case, keep your eyes on your plate.)

Expanding Your Culinary Horizons

Speaking of expanding your culinary horizons, don’t be afraid to try new things when you go out to eat. You might be surprised by how much you enjoy something you’ve never had before.

Are there any cuisines you haven’t tried yet? Indian food, Ethiopian food, and Thai food all have plenty of vegan options. Sushi restaurants often have vegetarian rolls that can be made vegan with a few modifications. (And don’t forget to ask for soy sauce, not the fish sauce that comes with sushi by default.)

Many restaurants now offer plant-based options that go above and beyond simple veggie burgers or salads. I recently had a delicious vegan burger made with jackfruit at a local sports bar, and a vegan version of chicken parmesan at an Italian restaurant. Both were delicious, and I never would have ordered them if I hadn’t asked.

Some restaurants are even creating entirely plant-based menus. In Los Angeles, there’s a burger chain called Umami Burger that has a plant-based menu with “impossible burgers” that look and taste just like beef. (I’m not a fan, but many vegans I know love them.) And in New York City, there’s a vegan steakhouse called The Butcher’s Daughter that serves plant-based versions of steak, ribs, and even foie gras made with mushrooms.

Dining Out with Non-Vegan Companions

One of the challenges of dining out as a vegan is that not everyone you go out to eat with will be vegan. And that’s okay! You don’t have to force your dining companions to eat the same thing you’re eating. (Unless you want to, of course.)

Instead, look for common ground. Many restaurants now offer plant-based options that are designed to appeal to both vegans and non-vegans. For example, the Impossible Burger I mentioned earlier looks and tastes like a beef burger, but it’s made from plants. If you’re at a Mexican restaurant, you can usually find vegan versions of tacos, burritos, and quesadillas that are made with soy or black bean meat.

If you want to introduce your dining companions to vegan food, this is a great opportunity to do so. Order a vegan appetizer or dessert that you know they’ll enjoy, or suggest modifying a dish to be vegan. For example, if you’re at a Chinese restaurant and everyone wants lo mein, you can order vegan lo mein and ask if they can leave off the egg.

Whatever you do, try to be inclusive and positive. Don’t make a big deal about the fact that you’re ordering vegan food, and don’t make your dining companions feel like they’re doing something wrong if they order non-vegan items. As long as everyone is respectful of each other’s dietary needs and preferences, you should all be able to enjoy your meal together.