Dining Out–Vegan-style

It sucks.

No really, it sucks. You don’t have to think very hard about it to understand why. The majority of restaurants don’t offer vegan options, even in a city such as Pittsburgh. TGI Friday’s, Red Lobster, Ruby Tuesdays, etc. What do you get at these places? Meat, seafood, burgers. You’re not going to find tofu or seitan, and while you might find a veggie burger some of the time, it’s usually pretty gross and more often that not, vegetarian instead of vegan.

Disclaimer: I don’t ask too many questions when dining out. If something could be vegan, is likely to be vegan, or is not clearly not vegan, I’m gonna assume–sometimes incorrectly–that it’s vegan. On menus that literally don’t have anything to indicate vegan options, if it’s marked vegetarian and does not obviously involve eggs or cheese, it’s good enough for me.

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Take the above for instance. This was today at BD’s Mongolian Grill (which is yummy if you happen to have one near you). Despite having an entire salad-bar stand full of different types of animal flesh, they still had tofu and, awesomely, it was on the veggie stand. Now, is the shitake mushroom sauce or the chili garlic sauce (both of which are mixed in my dish) vegan? Probably. Maybe. Perhaps there’s butter involved. Maybe even chicken broth, for all I know. But it didn’t apparently involve either of these things so I’m happily ignorant and assuming otherwise. The alternative is to grill my waitress (bad pun intended) and nobody wants that.

That said, when I took my bowl of plant matter up to the grill and Grillin’ Dude saw my tofu, he asked if I was vegetarian or vegan. I said I was and he offered to use separaters to ensure that my food didn’t touch any neighboring food that involved meat. I told him I didn’t care but that was super awesome of him and he got a bigger tip because of it.

Now, even with my supremely lax standards when eating out, frequently I find myself limited to ordering solely from the side menu. If I’m lucky, the side menu involves some kind of beans (sans bacon or ham) because protein, but I have on more than one occasion sat there munching French fries while everyone else ate their meal.

LiveKindly has been sharing videos and articles recently claiming that veganism is set to be 2018’s megatrend. I don’t know if I believe that, but at the same time, with so many efforts being taken to promote plant-based alternatives–Impossible Foods, for instance–maybe it is true, and maybe that will bring more vegan options to the larger chain restaurants.

That is, until millennials finish killing them off, just like we did with fabric softener, the diamond industry, department stores, and good old fashioned family values.

Go us, I say! Especially if we successfully make dining out as a vegan less sucky.

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