Every vegan would agree that the question they hear most often is: “Isn’t it hard to eat out in restaurants?” So many carnivores are baffled by the idea of eating vegan in a restaurant, but the truth is, it’s not hard at all and rarely means you’re limited to salad.
1. If you can, pick a vegan restaurant.
Whenever I go out with friends, they always beg me to take them to a vegan restaurant. In the same way that people want to try Ethiopian or Cuban food, many people are curious to try vegan. Check out my blog at ChefChloe.com to see a guide to my favorite vegan restaurants around the country. If your party is not willing to eat in an entirely vegan restaurant, suggest Asian, Indian, Mexican, or Italian food, which are all vegan-friendly ethnic cuisines.
2. Do your research.
If you’re dining at a nice restaurant, the chef should absolutely be able to prepare a vegan meal for you. Just call ahead of time and ask. If they say they can make you a grilled vegetable plate, thank them, but politely ask if they could add some black beans, lentils, or rice with a dairy-free sauce or dressing. Chances are, they will put something creative together. If it’s not the kind of place that a chef can accommodate you, you may just have to accommodate yourself. Go online and get familiar with the menu, and continue to Tip #3.
3. Get creative with the menu.
Scan the menu to get a sense of what kind of vegan ingredients are in the kitchen, and think of an inspired way to put them together. When the waiter comes to take your order, politely gesture that he come stand next to you so that you do not have to shout your slightly complicated order across a table of guests.
Here are some of my favorite dishes to throw together in a not-so-vegan restaurant.
Avocado Toast from Chloe’s Kitchen
Almost all bread is vegan, as long as it’s not egg bread or topped with cheese and butter. Order a side of toast or bread and a side of avocado. Ask the waiter to bring you some olive oil, a red pepper shaker, and some lemon slices. Spread the avocado over the warm toast and drizzle it lightly with olive oil. Squeeze some lemon juice over the avocado and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. This is my favorite salty, tangy, spicy open-faced sandwich. The recipe is in my cookbook Chloe’s Kitchen, and I prepare it for myself in restaurants all over the globe.
Stuffed Baked Potato
The dreaded moment for most vegans is the social situation that brings them to a steakhouse. Guess what? It’s still not hard to eat vegan! Here’s what you do: Order a plain baked potato, a side of steamed broccoli, a side of mushrooms, and a small side of cherry tomatoes. No butter on anything. Cut open the potato, add broccoli and mushrooms, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Mix it up with chopped chives and top it with cherry tomatoes. You could also add a small dinner salad with balsamic vinegar. So delicious, hearty, and healthy! I did this once and my meat-eating friends looked at my plate with envy. Plus, my order was half the price.
Design Your Own Pasta
Pasta in restaurants is almost always vegan, as long as it’s not freshly rolled egg pasta. Order pasta with plain marinara sauce and scour the menu for ingredients you could add to it. Request extra garlic and top it with red pepper flakes to turn it into a spicy arribiatta sauce. Or just load it up with veggies, mushrooms, olives, chopped tomato, or anything else that looks appetizing on the menu. It’s very easy for the kitchen to throw a bunch of ingredients in a pasta dish, so this shouldn’t be a difficult request. This is my go-to order at chain restaurants or any mainstream establishment that serves pasta. You can never go wrong with noodles.
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