If you are vegan or are interested in starting a vegan diet, then you've probably had the experience of trying to dine out and being disappointed when there weren't any suitable options on the menu. Being vegan doesn't mean you have to forego eating out. Here are some strategies you can use that will allow you to eat at a wide range of restaurants!
Look at the menu before you go
The first and most obvious step to dining out on a vegan diet is to look at the restaurant's menu ahead of time. This way, you know if there are actually any vegan options, and what they are. Many restaurants put their menus online now and you can usually see if there's anything vegan on there without having to ask. Some places even have a special section for vegetarian or vegan options, and that makes it even easier!
There are countless terms for animal products and animal derivatives on restaurant menus, so before heading out it helps to double-check if there are common ingredients that are off-limits for vegans. Some obvious ones include dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt; eggs; and meat products like beef, pork, and poultry. Then there are other less obvious animal-derived ingredients such as gelatine (a gelling agent made from bones), juices or wines clarified using fish derivatives, and white sugar processed with bone char to name a few. Having checked the menu beforehand, you should be able to have confidence that it’s the right restaurant for you!
Once you've located some options that seem appealing on a restaurant's online menu, your next step should be to call ahead. There are several reasons to call ahead. First, if you're going during a busy time (lunch/dinner rush), they might be able to put your name on a waiting list and text you when your table is ready. This will save you some time in the restaurant. Second, you can ask about vegan options and if the kitchen is willing to accommodate a special request. If they can get creative for you, that's great! If not, then it's back to the drawing board!
This can also save you a lot of stress and disappointment when you arrive at the restaurant to find out that they only have one dish that is vegan. It is also good to call because this shows the restaurant how much vegans care about eating in their establishment. When more people show interest in eating there, more restaurants are likely to add vegan options to their menu!
Do your research
Some people may think that it's easy to eat out as a vegan because almost every restaurant serves some form of salad. But not all salads are created equal, and there are many things that can be hidden in your bowl of greens that could render it non-vegan (looking at you "cheese crumbles").
Use the internet - If you're not sure where to go, a quick Google search can be really helpful. There are lots of websites out there with information about vegan restaurants but also look at restaurant websites directly. Find a place that has more than one option on their menu; this will give you more flexibility and increase your chances of being satisfied with your meal.
Ask for recommendations - You probably know someone who is vegan or vegetarian — or maybe they just like a particular type of food. They can probably give you some tips on where to go, or which restaurants they have enjoyed in the past.
Read the reviews - Even if you haven't found any good recommendations online, don't worry! You can still find a restaurant by looking at reviews left by other diners — just make sure they're recent. Many restaurants will post customer feedback on their website, but if not, don't hesitate to contact them directly and ask for it!
Be vocal about your dietary restrictions
If you have dietary restrictions, don't be shy! Let your server know what you need in terms that are clear and definitive. Ask questions - never be afraid to ask a question or two, everyone knows that we all have different things we need to avoid. If you want to be safe, it's better to ask and be absolutely sure, than to doubt and regret later. Specifically, be wary when eating Asian food because they may use fish sauce or oyster sauce in their dishes!
It's also important to alert your server or hostess as soon as you arrive at the restaurant that you're vegan. It's much easier for them to make adjustments before the meal has been prepared than when it hits their table. Also, keep in mind that even with a proper heads up, there may be some cross-contamination with dairy or meat products — especially with certain utensils — so be sure to ask if you have any questions about the ingredients used in your food.
If you're still unsure about whether or not an item is vegan-friendly, ask the server to double-check with the kitchen.
Use a vegan-friendly app
If you’re still unsure as to whether the restaurant is right for you, log on to an app or website that makes it easy to browse menus and be sure that you will be accommodated. Why not check out the Peckish website where you can filter out any non-vegan-friendly dishes and restaurants with limited capacity to cater for you. So, whether you’re making a reservation or ordering in, you can rest assured that there’s a perfect dish waiting for you! Some amazing options on our website include the all veggie Umi Falafel and Young Plant Superfoods, and delicious vegan options at Koto, Dukes, and Barry’s of Douglas!
Ultimately, no matter where you dine out, there is something on the menu for you. But it’s nice to be able to take a few precautions, particularly when traveling away from home. These hacks will help you navigate a variety of scenarios while dining out as a vegan. Now you can enjoy your meal without fretting over whether or not it was prepared with animal products.