5 ways for eating out as a vegan
Eating out as a vegan can be a bit challenging at the beginning. Even after 5 years being a vegan, it sometimes still not works for me 100%. With the right communication, knowledge, patience and a little bit of thinking outside the box, eating outside becomes a natural routine of your vegan life. My 5 ways in this article may help you find YOUR way to manage this challenge.
Note: I also want to mention that in rare cases there are still some places where you can get nothing but salad (ask for a simple vinegar and oil dressing) and sides – but hey, it’s food and better to eat it instead ending up in front of an empty plate, right?
1. Use the app Happy Cow to find suitable locations
I love to use the “Happy Cow” app or website if I am searching for suitable restaurants. The app has a huge database and offers a selection of vegetarian-friendly, vegetarian and vegan restaurants. You can also find organic stores. This is a great option if you just want to grab a quick snack on the go.
No matter if you dine out with a non-vegan group or go for a meal with a vegan friends you can find a suitable location for any occasion. Filter the search just according to your needs. I simply sort the results according the rating and check the most popular restaurant on the list. Furthermore, the higher the rating the more likely you can find a bunch of uploads pictures from former customers to get a first impression. I usually select the 5 best restaurants and check according to the pictures which one looks appealing to me. Then, make a decision.
2. Call the restaurant in advance
If you find a restaurant you would like to visit but you are not sure if they offer a vegan meal give them a quick call. Explain your situation. Then, kindly ask if there is any possibility to serve you a vegan meal. Always remember to be kind and your counterpart will be too (most of the times). Express your thanks and tell that you are looking forward visiting the restaurant.
3. Check the restaurants online menu
I often use the option and take a look on the restaurants menu which is available on their website. You might be surprised finding the one or the other vegetarian, gluten-free or even vegan dish. If there is no option start to think about how to veganize an existing dish. This works best for vegetarian dishes as you easily can leave out the dairy products.
4. Talk to the waiter at the restaurant
If you don’t have the possibility to check the online menu of a restaurant in advance go to the restaurant, take a seat, check the menu and talk to the waiter. Politely explain what you do and what you don’t eat. Ask the waiter for recommendations. Most of the times there is something to offer. Be patient and polite. Don’t forget that some people don’t know much about veganism or might never about it before. If I’m looking back to my non-vegan times, I also didn’t make the whole connection regarding veganism. It was a process to learn about a new life style.
To make sure you get what you want ask concrete questions like “does the food contain egg, dairy or meat?” or “can the fish sauce be replaced by soy sauce?” (especially in Asian restaurants). A valid question can be “can you please leave out the ghee (butter made from buffalo or cow’s milk) and the paneer (a sort of cheese)?” for Indian restaurants. Maybe also “do you prepare your fries/veggie sides separately from the meat products you offer?” can help to exclude food you don’t want to have on your plate. If the waiter is not sure, kindly ask him to check with the chef. Be patient and stay friendly. I know sometimes also this can be a challenge if you are hangry 🙂 – but please TRY YOUR BEST!
5. Cheat a bit to get a vegan meal
I am a very honest person. Liars and cheaters don’t have a place in my life. However, to protect me and other living beings I decided to cheat a bit on my background in this particular situation.
During my years living abroad I often experienced that people don’t understand the concept of veganism. The disconnection and inexperience often is culture related. As I lived in China it happened to me that the chef added beef to my veggies as I told him I don’t eat meat. Obviously, he thought I am not eating pork but might eat beef due to religious reasons. For a muslim this experience would have been great and might be seen as an excellent service. In my case, I was wondering about the misconception. Take home the message: what’s common sense for vegans doesn’t mean the whole world understands the vegan concept in full depth.
So, this is the point, where I started cheating a bit. I pretended being sensitive to all kind of animal products. I communicated that I get sick if there are animal products in my food. Surprisingly, I made very good experiences with this method. I assume, that’s because of the fact that food allergies are much more accepted in our society than the fact that someone cut out animal products from a diet voluntarily. It’s a bit of cheating, yes, I know, but it helped me to avoid unnecessary discussions and to get a vegan dish at places I would never have expected. And it’s totally up to you if you try this method or not!
Dining outside is part of your vegan journey. You will get used to talk about that you eat vegan. At the same time you learn how to communicate the right way and it becomes easier and more natural for you to dine outside with friends. Vegans still want to socialize and that are ways to manage it. All you need to do to accept, that it’s a process with a loooot of learnings!
Compared to a few years ago, the dining out situation for vegans has already improved a lot. The more people asking for vegan meals, the more restaurants are willing to offer plant based meals. That’s simply the law of supply and demand which makes it possible. This is why I want to encourage you to start communicating and asking for vegan meals in every situation possible. Let’s work for at least for ONE vegan meal on every restaurant menu!
That’s it for today. All I wrote is from my experience I made during 5 years. It’s your turn now to make yours! Do you have experiences with dining outside already? If yes, share your lessons learned with me in a comment below! Would love to read about it!
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