People tend to assume that going vegan is a challenging lifestyle change. Aside from the usual, “How can you not eat ____?” many also think that going out to eat is an impossible task. It can be difficult, yes, but vegan restaurants are on the rise! More and more, once strictly carnivorous establishments are picking up on the trend, providing options for those of us who would sooner die than eat an innocent animal. Consider this article your guide to dining out without breaking your diet. In it, you’ll find everything from brand spanking new places to out of the box classics that have always called vegans friends.
First things first, not every restaurant you go to provides clear and concise options. At times, you’ll still have to slice and dice the menu in order to find something that fits your diet. While that might be a little more work than most of us would like to put into a night out, it remains an unfortunate necessity for the vegans of the world. If you’re headed somewhere that serves up meat, follow these simple steps.
Give Them A Call
There’s no harm in calling ahead if you aren’t sure about a restaurant’s vegan availability. While you can usually check their menu online, several places have a “secret vegan menu” comprised of everything they serve that follows the diet. Calling ahead allows the cooks to prepare the kitchen for your arrival if they need to do so. It also gives you an excellent idea of what to order long before that awkward pause with the waitress. There’s nothing better than walking into a restaurant and ordering with confidence, knowing that the staff isn’t going to accidentally include butter in your meal.
Whether you call ahead of time or ask the waiter upon arrival, be clear about your diet. Don’t wait until the drinks arrive and everyone is ready to order, just ask the staff beforehand what options are available for a vegan. You’ll be surprised at how happy people are to accommodate you when you’re upfront about the diet. It eliminates confusion for them and leaves you with a belly full of veggie goodness. As always, making use of good manners goes a long way.
A lot of mixed option restaurants utilize icons to denote vegan dishes or options. It might simply be a “V” or a leaf next to the item, much like a pepper points out a spicy dish. If there are icons, there is also a guide to tell you what they mean. Some locations use not-so-obvious icons, however. If things look confusing, all you have to do is ask. Your waiter or waitress will gladly point out which goofy looking icon means “this here be vegan!”
While veganism is rapidly catching on, vegetarianism remains a more popular option amongst restaurants. Thankfully, the transition to making those dishes vegan is a simple one. Ask the waiter if you can substitute dairy items for another ingredient or simply remove them altogether. Pro tip: The word substitute is key restaurant lingo. Without it, you would be “adding” an item to the meal, which comes with an extra charge. Substitutions are usually free, but always ask to make sure you aren’t charged an extra $1.50 for a vegetable. To help you in these endeavors, there are also a variety of apps available that point out good vegan restaurants near you, or at least ones with easily altered meals. You can always fall back on a Google search for, “Where can I find vegan food?” but the apps are far more helpful.
Now that the usual slice and dice menu options are out of the way, there are hundreds of fancy vegan restaurants popping up all over the country. The days of strictly having to buy vegan food from the grocery store are over, and the dining revolution has begun! Give these classic regional cuisines a try.
Thai restaurants have always served up 100% vegan options thanks to the heavy veggie content of this region’s diet. From green mango salads to curries and soups, there’s usually more vegan options than meat. Plus, Thai food reigns supreme in the realm of Asian cuisine. There are also dozens of vegan-friendly options at both Chinese and Japanese restaurants, but not nearly with the variety offered by Thai places. Either way, your lifestyle is one easily understood at these restaurants.
Next on the list of classic vegan options is Indian cuisine. These exotic delights also display a strong preference for vegetables over meat. It’s almost as if the entire menu was crafted for the vegan lifestyle, and meat lovers are put in your usual position of figuring out what they can eat. Steer clear of ghee as well as paneer, and you have yourself a host of options for exquisite dining. Try out some pakora, samosa, and saag.
As long as you ask for no cheese or yogurt, Greek is another almost entirely vegan choice for dining out. Sure, your meat-loving friends can get lamb or fish, but you’ll be dining on everything from homemade hummus to pan-fried potatoes and vegetable dolmades. Plus, you can always enjoy a nice glass of Ouzo.
Lentils, peas, and beans comprise a majority of Ethiopian dishes. Sultry greens on flatbreads, cabbage-based soups…is your mouth watering yet? While there are certainly meat options on the menu, you can’t go wrong with this cuisine.
While most immediately think of a beef taco when they hear the word Mexican, these locations are packed with vegan-friendly options from bean burritos to fajitas and chimichangas. All you have to do is skip the cheese, not add sour cream, and enjoy! The best part of the experience is still being able to enjoy all of those delectable spices.
Watch any chef’s Netflix show, and you’ll see that the Middle East loves their veggies. Think along the lines of falafel, couscous, tahini, and tabbouleh. If you’ve never tried it, prepare your taste buds for a journey to remember! Yes, it’s that tasty.
Not always easy to find, those living near a Jamaican inspired restaurant should take advantage of the deliciously spiced meals they offer. Ever have jerked vegetables? How about callaloo, potato roti, or ackee? These exotic delicacies are 100% vegan-friendly, and really pack a punch with their tasty ingredients. The only things you have to watch out for are butter and eggs, which any chef will easily cook without. Pro tip: order a side of bammy to dip in your callaloo.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of new, fancy vegan restaurants out there. Locations are opening every day from vegan-friendly cities like Los Angeles all the way to the tip of Maine. Each new restaurant offers a host of vegan delights from new takes on vegetable dishes to meat-inspired favorites that will have you swearing you just took a bite of steak. It would take pages to write about them all, so this list takes the #1 voted vegan dining experience in each state and puts them together.
• Arizona: Green Restaurant
• Alaska: Middle Way Café
• Arkansas: The Root Café
• Alabama: Chef Will the Palate
• Colorado: The Gold Leaf Collective
• Connecticut: Bloodroot
• Delaware: Drop Squad Kitchen
• Florida: The Farmer’s Table
• Hawaii: Beet Box Café
• Georgia: The Grit
• California: Julia’s
• Kentucky: Roots and Heart
• Illinois: Chicago Diner
• Idaho: BBQ4LIFE
• Indiana: The Owlery
• Maryland: Land of Kush
• Iowa: Trumpet Blossom Café
• Kansas: The breakfast Club Café
• Louisiana: Killer PoBoys
• Massachusetts: Veggie Galaxy
• Maine: Bandaloop
• Minnesota: Herbivorous Butcher
• New Jersey: Veganized
• Michigan: Detroit Vegan Soul
• Missouri: Main Squeeze
• Nebraska: Modern Love
• Mississippi: High Noon Café
• Nevada: Lakeside Restaurant at the Wynn Hotel
• Montana: Catalyst Café
• New Hampshire: Susty’s
• New Mexico: Love Yourself Café
• North Dakota: Terra Nomad
• North Carolina: Happy + Hale
• Oklahoma: The Tropical
• Rhode Island: Julian’s
• Ohio: Paulie Gee’s Short North
• New York: Avant Garden
• Oregon: The Cornbread Café
• South Carolina: Jack of Cups
• Pennsylvania: Vedge
• South Dakota: Sanaa’s
• Tennessee: Avo
• Vermont: Revolution Kitchen
• Texas: Bouldin Creek Café
• Utah: Buds
• Virginia: Fresca on Addison
• Washington: Plum Vegan Bistro
• Wyoming: Sweet Melissa’s Café
• Wisconsin: Green Owl Café
• West Virginia: Bluegrass Kitchen
Options Upon Options
It isn’t hard to see that vegan restaurants are on the rise here in the states. Whether you opt for a regional cuisine based around a plant diet or an entirely vegan dining experience, the choices are seemingly endless. So, the next time you and your friends are headed out for a nice dinner, you might want to suggest one of these amazing places instead of the usual fattening sports bar and rib shack. When all else fails, remember to call ahead, be straightforward about your diet, and cleverly substitute your meal.