I have gone to plenty of not-vegetarian-friendly restaurants with many nonvegetarian friends. Although it may seem to present itself as a dilemma, eating out with omnivores can be a worthwhile experience.
A menu at a primarily steak-and-potatoes joint can be daunting. I’m fairly sure your server won’t know which burger buns have milk products in them. Unfortunately, the salad option becomes our stigma because vegetables are apparently lamer than a juicy New York strip steak. Yet the trick to making a salad option worthwhile is to order appetizers that you can add to the salad yourself. Most places have some sort of baked potato (sans bacon bits) that you can order with your salad to cut up into chunks. Now we’re starting to beef up your salad, so to speak. Some places, like Texas Roadhouse, my dad’s favorite, even have peanuts — a free addition to a somewhat sober-seeming salad. If you are really lucky and in a somewhat healthy steak (oxymoron?)-and-potatoes place, then some restaurants will have a fruit cup as a side. Add that to your greens, and now your salad will actually look appealing.
Vegetarians have a responsibility, though, to order or eat food that is appetizing (particularly to the eyes). I have told my carnivore friends about the cruelties animals face in factory farms, and that hasn’t convinced them to go vegetarian. However, they’ve eaten vegetarian food that looked amazing and was something they had never experienced before and thus spared the life of the animal they may have eaten right then. Take control when you can! Sometimes I’ll invite friends to a vegan restaurant and watch them struggle to decide what will actually fill them up — all of them are shocked by the taste and quality of vegan cuisine. Vegetarians obviously do not eat salads all the time, but in tough situations with friends and peanuts at Five Guys, it’s the option we’re seen with most. It’s vital for others and helpful to animals to show how veg food can be pretty amazing.
Chances are that if you live in or near a city, it will have at least a couple vegan options. Some small towns, too, have vegan options that seem hidden away. You can take a few friends to a coffee shop to get the one vegan brownie they have and show them that almost anything can be cooked or prepared vegan. If you have no options like vegan cafes or restaurants with veg options, try the classic veg restaurants, like Mexican, Ethiopian and Vietnamese places. A lot of these cultures’ dishes are vegetarian just because they’ve always been made that particular way.
It’s easier than most people think to find vegan options while dining out. The trick is to be creative and plan ahead of time. You can use your smartphone to look at the menu on the go or even find another restaurant nearby. The veg options are there, but it’s up to you to encourage your friends and make it a worthwhile experience.
Benjamin Sylvester is the president of the Drexel Animal Welfare Group. He can be contacted at [email protected]
“Moo Over This” publishes biweekly.