Vegan restaurants make me happy. The feeling of knowing that you can order literally anything off the menu and be ok is maybe my favourite feeling in the world. But let's face it, you might be able to force your friends to go to a vegan restaurant once in a while, but realistically the majority of your meals are going to be in 'regular' restaurants.
At first glance the menu in a regular restaurant may looking daunting, but DON'T PANIC - I have yet to meet a menu that I haven't been able to conquer. There are always vegan options if you know how to play the game.
As much as I LOVE being a vegan, I HATE being that annoying person who hogs all of the waiter's time and makes everyone else wait to order. Because of this I always do these 3 things whenever I go to eat at a new restaurant.
1. Check their menu online.
- Scan it over once to see if there's anything that's obviously vegan.
- If there's not, scan it over again to see if there's anything vegetarian that you can remove the cheese from.
- If there's nothing again, is there anything close? I'll often make my own meal by asking them to substitute different ingredients from other dishes. I'm always really nice when I ask this (and I always call ahead - see Step 2 - so they're expecting it), and I've never had a problem! At the end of the day, their main goal is to make you happy - just don't be a total bitch about it.
- If all else fails, side dishes are your best friend. Look for vegetables (make sure they aren't cooked in butter), rice, potatoes, corn, etc., and make your own meal!
2. Call the restaurant (this is key)
- Once I think I've found something vegan, I always call to confirm with the restaurant. I'll say something like "I'm coming to your restaurant next week with friends, and I'm vegan so I can't have meat, eggs or dairy. I looked at your menu and I think I can have the stir-fry if I get it without the chicken? Would you mind checking if there's any dairy or eggs in either the noodles or the sauce?". The hostess usually has no idea, so they'll put you on hold while they ask the kitchen. BONUS: I once called a steakhouse (Fred's Not Here on King Street), and before I could even offer up my suggestion of a make-shift meal, they told me that they had 2 vegan dishes that weren't on the menu! Times are changing, people!
3. Get there early
Unless I'm showing up to dinner with another friend, I get their 15 minutes early (and if you are, don't worry about it! Since you've done both steps 1 and 2, you're good to go) . This way I can confirm with the waiter what I'm going to eat, and ask any last minute questions. This way when he comes to take your order, you can play it cool because he already knows about your modifications!
- Don't assume that your waiter knows what the word 'vegan' means. I always follow it up by explaining that it means that I can't have meat, eggs, or dairy.
- I'll often find something that's vegetarian, and then just tell them that I can't have dairy. (E.g., ordering the vegetable fajita's then saying that I can't have the cheese or sour cream). The waiter will often ask if I have a dairy allergy and I'll say yes! It's not a big deal for them, and then I can be sure that there's no dairy on it. I find it's also easier for the waiter if you just list one thing you can't have (dairy), rather than overwhelming them with veganism.
- Always clarify that there's no egg or dairy in ALL the parts of the meal. Most people won't think to check if there's egg or dairy in the bun, or in the noodles. Always ask them to check!
Do you have any different tips? Let me know!!