Friday, September 13, 2013

Eating Vegetarian in Restaurants

I haven't been a vegetarian long (it'll be a year at the end of this month), but one of the toughest adjustments for me was finding something to eat when going out to eat. Sounds silly, right? But plenty of restaurant meals revolve around meat, so it can be a challenge. And yes, it's easier to control exactly what goes into your food when you make it at home, but sometimes I just want to let someone else do the cooking for me, you know? I feel like I'm improving at finding satisfying options, so I wanted to share the wealth!

Order a regular dish, but ask for the meat on a separate plate

One of my favorite dishes is pasta, but it's tough to find a meat-free pasta meal. So after checking with the server to make sure the sauce isn't flavored with meat (and cheese if you're strict about rennet), go ahead and order the fettucini with meatballs or whatever, with the meatballs on a different plate. My husband loves this option because he scores extra leftovers ;) 

Eat a meal of "side" dishes

Some restaurants have a great selection of à la carte side dishes and I'll order a few of those as my meal, like a baked potato, grilled asparagus, and wild rice. 

Try an ethnic place

Tons of other cultures don't place meat at the center of every meal (unlike many American chains) and if your dining partners are up for it, going to a local Indian or Chinese place will give you way more vegetarian options.

Get a salad

Duh, right? Sad but true - when I first became a vegetarian, I would get a salad every time I was at a restaurant because I thought I had no other options (and sometimes you don't!), and then as I became more adept at finding other choices, I rarely ordered a salad. Now I try to strike a happy medium, and remember that side salads are an option too.

Check the appetizer menu

Some vegetarians don't eat anything fried because the same oil is used to fry the sampler's chicken fingers and your mozzarella sticks - but that doesn't mean you have to skip the entire appetizer menu. I've found some surprisingly tasty options there (steamed edamame, garlic bread, a mixed berries bowl, apples with peanut butter dipping sauces) so it's worth a try.

Ask your server

When all else fails, ask your server. They are usually a wealth of knowledge about items you're considering (the broccoli and cheese soup at Panera contains chicken fat!) or can suggest something to you if you're stuck. I used to be a server, and believe me, they hear all kinds of crazy questions and requests during every shift, so don't be shy! :)

Anything I missed? What do you eat when dining out?


  1. I am invited to a steakhouse on the weekend for a family brunch! Since I'm not a vegan, I can choose from the two vegetarian options: eggs, or nachos with cheese. Sigh.

    1. Ugh. I'm sorry! I hope you can at least enjoy the conversation.

  2. I was a vegetarian for 14 years, so I feel your pain. I would definitely second eating at ethnic restaurants - my favourites were Indian, Turkish (mostly for the dips, salads and pizzas), Thai (but you have to watch out for fish sauce) and Mexican.

    Ordering appetisers is good too - when I lived in Greece it was very hard to find a main meal that was vegetarian, but a plate of mixed appetisers (dips, cheese and spinach pies, salad, dolmades and bread) was wonderful :)

    Now that I'm not a vegetarian I sometimes have a hard time deciding on a meal because I have so many options :)

    1. I forgot about Mexican! We have a local place here that serves amazing grilled vegetable fajitas - yum!

      And I hear ya about the plethora of meat options - I can almost always choose my meal faster than my husband these days ;)

  3. Fish places and truck stop places are the worst.

    Fish places assume vegetarians eat meat (that's a PESCetarian!) and I've asked if there are vegetarian options at truck stop places and gotten responses like, "We've got a turkey burger. Want one of those?" =P

    So we avoid those places. But other than that, there are usually plenty of vegetarian options. Especially at our local indian restaurant. Yum!

    1. That turkey burger comment is funny - I haven't heard that, although I have been offered salads with "little" pieces of bacon on top. Because eating little pieces of meat doesn't count? haha :)


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