Being vegan can certainly have its own set of challenges. For example: what grass do you eat when there is snow on the ground? Kidding kidding...as a longtime eater and not-so-longtime vegan, I'm well aware of the vast amounts of vegan variety there is out there, and the options seem to be getting tastier every day.
Unfortunately, not all locations have jumped on board—and you can't always be the one to pick where the boss wants lunch or where your new Hinge date prefers happy hour. So, while being vegan in a non-vegan world seems difficult enough, here are a few ways to get around eating out while keeping your preferences intact and the restaurant staff (reasonably) sane.
- As more diners move closer to a plant-based lifestyle, some restaurants are expanding and adapting their menus.
Note: I'm not encouraging you modify each menu at every place you decide to have breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not every location is designed to suit your needs, nor should they. These basic tips are merely a guide for being able to attend gatherings such as birthday parties, or when a few of your friends want to grab dinner. Any food allergy can also be used as a substitution for the word "vegan," so if you have celiac disease, consider these words of wisdom as well.
Having been in the service industry for over two decades and having eaten in restaurants for over three, I can tell you there is a right and wrong way to go about asking for what you want— and yes, there is such thing as a stupid question.
Do your research
Maybe the place that your in-laws read about on Visit Bend's website and haven't shut up about since they got here already offers vegan options; but also, maybe not. The only way to really know is to do some footwork and check out the menu. It's 2019. The internet exists. It's worth a Google.
Call ahead of time
If you're confused about the menu or you just have clarifying questions about certain dishes, it's better to ask ahead of time instead of while you're staring at a dimly lit server who gets paid minimum wage—and who just came back from his third trip to the kitchen during the dinner rush to ask if there is egg in the tempura batter. The waitstaff and the kitchen staff may work in the same building, but that's about as close as they get. Just assume that anyone who knows the wine list doesn't know offhand if they use butter or margarine in the veggie mix.
Call ahead of time during non-rush hours, greet them like a decent human being and then state why you're calling. Example: "Hello, I will be dining with friends/relatives/fellow gang members at 6pm tonight and was wondering if you had a few minutes to answer some questions I had about your menu." Since you've taken my advice and researched a few items, you already have some questions ready. If for some reason you like to go in like a blindfolded man swinging and the menu is small, then simply ask what items on their menu can be modified to be vegan, if any.
Ask for options
Truly, the best way to get your favorite eatery to offer more vegan options is to just ask them.
Contact a business by finding them online—whether it be through Yelp, its social media or web page, damn near every owner or manager will be accessible. Be sure to (like anything in life) ask nicely. Let them know that you wish to visit their business more often, but are limited due to the menu. While many eateries are recognizing veganism as a growing group, they're not at all obligated or required to follow your suggestions. So always be polite and kind. After all, you catch more flies with honey...or the vegan version: you attract more flies with agave.