One Month At A Time

Going Vegan: Dining out

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So far, the vegan thing is working out just fine. I’m still dropping weight at a modest pace –a pound or two every week. I’d like for the weight to fly off, but I also like to have a beer once in a while, and eat cookies.

Weight loss, while encouraged by my doctor, is a secondary effect of this whole project.

So far, the hardest thing has been dining out. Meals out are somewhat limited. When my father was in town last weekend, we didn’t do our annual pilgrimage to the local Chinese buffet. About the only thing I could safely have would be the iceberg lettuce on the salad bar, which almost nobody actually touches in the first place. Chinese restaurants use fish sauce, oyster sauce, chicken stock, pork and eggs in all kinds of things.

So, Chinese food is kind of on the no-fly list until I find a way around it.

We actually ended up eating at a Ryan’s, which wasn’t terrible. I constructed a really decent salad, had a baked potato drowned in salsa, bread, and fruit. I went ahead and ate the breaded okra, though who knows if it was cooked in the same oil as the chicken nuggets, the fish sticks, the cheese sticks, and God knows what else. You have to be a little bit realistic, I think.

Probably the Ryan’s in Los Angeles has an organic, fair-trade vegan island with a harvest-your-own mushroom bar.

Anyway, I checked in with several websites about vegan-friendly places (they barely exist in West Virginia) and even chain restaurants which have vegan options. At most of them you can find a salad, some kind of potato (served dry), and maybe bread (if you ask them not slather it with butter), but I reached out to a few to ask –“Hey, have you got anything that a vegan would like to eat that isn’t a salad? Maybe a nice veggie burger?”

Some places ignored me –like TGI Fridays, Lonestar Steakhouse and Dunkin Donuts, but I did hear back from a few people.

From Applebees.

Dear Bill,

Thank you for your e-mail. We’re always looking for new ways to provide great guest service, and comments like yours help us to do that. We appreciate your concern about the availability of vegan-friendly dishes at Applebee’s. Our Menu Development team regularly reviews our menu and creates new items throughout the year. Guest feedback is an important part of that process. Thanks again.

If you have any other questions or comments, please give us a call at 888-592-7753.


Sincerely,

Matt
Sr. Guest Relations Specialist

Case # 1905883

Notice how they didn’t just say, “Uh, no. Go graze in the parking lot, lawnmower man.” Instead, they answered my question by not actually answering my question, which sort of feels worse.

Outback Steakhouse referred me back to the menu.

Hi Bill,

Thanks for contacting us. Attached is a PDF that can help you with the ordering process. We would also advise speaking with a manager to see what other dishes the restaurant can prepare for you.

Sincerely,

Andrew

The PDF basically lists salad, bread, potato and the grilled asparagus, but I should probably ask the cook about whether they can cook that in something besides animal fat. You can also get steamed broccoli, which is typically limp, tasteless, and the most pointless thing to order when you go out to dinner.

But Outback is steakhouse. What could I expect? They serve steak!

I told them I’d stick with the beer.

Locally, I had better luck.

Rocco at Muriale’s said he could work something he thought I’d enjoy. Bricks and Barrels pointed out that they have vegan options on their menu, and Paterno’s said they’d catered to vegans before. I should maybe speak to the chef, they said, but really, who does that? Not me. If I’m talking to the cook, usually, I’m complaining. That’s just my history.

When I go out, I’m not looking to do a full-on interview or be someone’s lab rat. I just want a couple of easy choices. If I want to get all tricksy with my meal, I’ll stay at home and cook it myself. That way, if I hate it, I can toss it in the trash, make a peanut butter sandwich, and not feel like I’ve betrayed someone who was trying to help me out.

 

I checked in with pizza places, which vary considerably.

You can eat vegan at the chains, if you know which crust and which sauce to order. It’s assumed you specify “no cheese,” and choose veggie toppings, but I wanted to know if my neighborhood pizza joint could accommodate. So, I wrote an email to Husson’s Pizza and asked about their crust and sauce.

Greetings!
There is nothing in our sauce or dough from an animal.
So enjoy!
Thanks for the inquiry,
Nick Husson

I ordered pizza that very night and it was glorious.

Eventually, I’ll check in with Lola’s and Pies and Pints.

 

However, Sarah’s Bakery was a no go. She uses butter in her pie crusts.

I’d make you a pie crust with crisco, but it goes against everything I believe in

That’s OK, I said. Some sacrifices have to be made.

I think it’s awesome she does what she does.

 

The absolute winning find was Bluegrass Kitchen.

Pathetically, I wrote Keeley Steele and asked her what kind of vegan things they had.

Bluegrass Kitchen

We have a lot actually. If you 86 dairy & chicken you can have the tostada or chimi (you can add tofu too)
Our new mock “chicken & dumplings” are vegan
Our housemade veggie burger is vegan…just get it with no cheese and not on brioche
Tofu wings
Fried Pickles
And Monday is meatless monday…we have a few vegan regulars so we try to make sure we have something vegan running on that evening. 
Tricky Fish:
Tofu tacos with no dairy
veggie dog
Starlings:
We have vegan cheese, bacon & sausage for our breakfast sandwiches.
Let me know if you have any other questions
ks
I ended up going out to the Civic Center last night where they were having the Small Farm Conference and a winter farmer’s market. Keeley and company had set up a stall and were selling Tofu Buffalo wings and they were wonderful –if you like tofu.
Not every vegan does, but it’s OK by me.