The Lone Vegan Part I: Non-Vegan Restaurants: Following along with your non-veg friends and family

vegan eating out at restaurants that aren't vegan

Today’s question comes from the VegetarianSnob intro survey and this person asks:

What do you do when your non-veg friends and family decide to go to non-veg restaurants/parties/functions, and you’re forced to follow because you don’t want to be left out?

I get this question all the time, and have experienced this sooo many times myself. I remember one time back when I was a baby vegan like under 1 year in, I went out with my extended family and my grandma decided on something like the Black Angus Steakhouse. So if you’re unfamiliar with the restaurant Black Angus Steakhouse has like zero vegetarian options apart from cornbread or salad (that you have to request all the different types of meat to be removed from). Now this may have changed since then, but back in the day, it was super non-vegan friendly. But, what can you do? You’re the only vegan/vegetarian out of a group of 5+ people, who also happen to be family. So what you do, is suck it up. This can seem like a huge thing to tackle as a new vegan because not only are you out with friends/family who will most likely question your decision, but you’re also there facing those things you worked so hard to give up, but don’t worry, there are ways around this. Since this is such a meaty (no pun intended) question, I’ve decided to break it into a couple of parts in this mini-lone vegan series. Today’s post will only cover the restaurant aspect of things. In my next post I’ll cover parties and the following, odd events like holiday get togethers, dinner parties, etc. My best advice is 1. Be prepared and when you can’t be 2. Adapt. Easier said than done though. Here’s how I do it (and what I do on a regular basis!!!):

Do some recon work

So, when it’s up to your friends/family to decide where to eat and you’re left in the dust, and if they’re organized enough to preplan where you will go, this is your cue to do some prep, recon research. It is up to you to determine what you will eat prior to arriving to the restaurant. Trust me, you can do this on your own, without drawing attention, and I guarantee your friends/family won’t notice that you’re a vegan/vegetarian because you’ll be such a smooth orderer.

So, if you have advanced notice of where you’ll be going use these tips for your recon work below (don’t worry, if you don’t have any advanced notice, I will cover that too!):

1. Look at the restaurant’s menu online. It’s 2016 so many places actually accommodate vegans/vegetarians which is amazing. If they do, they might even have a little green “v” next to vegan/vegetarian options. Check for those first. This is if you’re lucky. If you’re not so lucky…

Most Popular Top 10 Vegan Recipes

2. If there’s no clear indication of vegan/vegetarian options, the next thing you should do is search yelp reviews of the restaurant using keywords “vegetarian” or “vegan” depending on what your lifestyle is. You can’t do this on the app or mobile site unfortunately (get on it Yelp!!), but you can search the reviews of a restaurant on your desktop this way.  Chances are, some nice resourceful vegan has done the work for you and has even shared a good option for you to eat! Score. I looked up the local OB Noodle House (a joint near my house with rave reviews that I haven’t been to yet) which happens to be a Pho joint, which are usually notorious for meat-heavy broths and dishes. Here’s how I checked to see if there are vegan/vegetarian options. Look at the example below: 

yelp review search vegan tool

Here’s where you can search within reviews

vegan yelp tip

Type in vegan or vegetarian for the right results


vegan yelp trick

Viola thanks to this vegan you know there are options for you!

If you don’t want to dig through the Yelp reviews or they’re coming up short, here’s your next option:

3. You could also just contact the restaurant in advance. You could tweet them, FB them, or even call them (gasp). I rarely have to resort to calling a restaurant, but I’ve done it and I”ve done it recently. One example is Jeff’s holiday party was at a hip steakhouse (bleh), and the holiday party was a predetermined prix fixe menu for a bunch of meat-eaters. So, we called and they were able to create 2 special vegan prix fixe dinners for us! Score. All we had to do was ask, in advance. So, if you’re going to a restaurant, just call em up and ask. Chances are they’ll be helpful. If they’re not, and you’re still not sure about their vegan options here’s your last choice, the worst case scenario:

4. If you don’t have time to do any recon work and it’s all last minute and you’re left thinking on your feet, I suggest just asking your server AND coupling that with your best judgement. Sometimes your server might not understand the full picture of veganism or vegetariansim. Just use your best judgement. Remember the Black Angus I was discussing earlier? Yeah so happens even their baked potatoes and mashed potatoes have chicken broth in them somehow, so what I did, and it sucked, but I got over it, was eat a salad and asked them to remove every single meat, cheese, and dairy element and then requested balsamic vinegar. Not appetizing, but at the end of the day, the key to these weird situations is that you’re going out with friends and family which is what you need to remember in the end. The reason you’re making these sacrifices is so that you can continue to do social things like go to dinner with your friends and hang out with your family. Some restaurants will be trickier than others, but at the end of the day what’s most important is that you’re taking time to actually hang out with your friends and family despite less than appetizing entrees. If you deny yourself the privilege to go out with friends and family because of your diet or lifestyle, then you’ll fail. You can’t be a successful vegan if you ditch all your friends and family along the way. It just doesn’t work like that. Some dinners may suck, but you’ll laugh about it later, I promise :). Worst, worst case scenario, just have a drink instead and gorge on Daiya mac and cheese when you get home ;).

Full circle: Preparation and research are key and when those options fail you, the next best thing to do is go with the flow and let yourself be hungry for a couple of hours if there’s no other option.

Question of the day: What’s the worst thing you’ve ever eaten at a non-vegan restaurant as a vegan or vegetarian?

Happy restaurant-ing,

non vegan restaurants with friends and family


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