If you’ve been vegan for a while, you know the drill. You sit down with a group of friends or family at a non-vegan restaurant, and all of a sudden, just about everyone at the table’s eyes are on you. At least one person is reading the menu to you, saying, “Oh look, you can eat (insert fancy salad here),” while you’re thinking, “Please don’t say salad. Please don’t say salad.” And once everyone has stopped chirping in your ears and you've finally gotten a second to look at the menu, everyone’s eyes are on you again because they’re all ready to order, and you’re not.
While you know that they are just being considerate and trying to help you out, it can sometimes make eating out frustrating. It only gets more frustrating the longer you’ve been a vegan. People tend to think that it’s new to you all the time. No one really cares if you’ve been a vegan for one day or five years. It’s new and intriguing to them, so they just consider it the same for you.
So, all I can say for this part is to be patient and be considerate of what they’re saying. Though you’ve known that you can eat the veggie panini sans cheese for quite some time now, whoever is telling you is just trying to help. I, myself, am working on this because I tend to get impatient at restaurants (I have to tone down my use of the phrase, “I know!”).
Also, though you may be like me and think you’re a know-it-all, someone may see something on the menu that you didn’t see or think of, so you should try to listen, even if all you want is peace and quiet so that you can read the menu on your own.
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- A lot of restaurants serving international food have vegan options: Indian and Thai restaurants generally have the most, but you should be able to find something on the menu at most Chinese and Mexican places as well. Black bean tacos and veggie fajitas are among my favorite dishes.
- Make sure to order no butter. You can always have your food cooked in oil if you want to achieve the same sort of flavor as butter.
- If ordering pasta with marinara sauce, ask if they use chicken or beef broth in the sauce. Also make sure that there's no cheese or butter in the sauce. You can always order pasta with olive oil, garlic, and whatever vegetables you want. Italian restaurants are particularly good at aglio olio sauces, but ask for crushed red or black pepper if your dish needs a little extra umph to it. I like to get bowties or linguine with greens and tomatoes.
- If you're eating bread, ask the waitress for olive oil. You can make a simple dip with olive oil, salt, and black pepper. You can also just dip your bread in salad dressing.
- When choosing something on the menu, I generally opt for a pasta, a vegetable sandwich with fries, or a veggie pizza with no cheese...but if neither one’s an option, I either get a salad with fries or a bunch of sides off of the side menu.
- If you really can't find anything on the menu, tell your server that you're vegan, and he or she will tell the chef. The chef should be obliged to make you something.