Since I’ve been a vegetarian for all of my adult life, you could say I’ve had some creative experience dining with carnivores. Even my husband is a meat-eater so it can be tricky. Most restaurants seem to think that all vegetarians eat is salad and eggplant, so in the past I’ve often left feeling just as hungry as when I arrived. But with years of getting creative with Steakhouse menus, I have some tips and tricks for my fellow veggies who are always stuck dining at not-so-veg-friendly restaurants. Here’s how you can find vegetarian options on every menu:
Skip the entree and live in the appetizer section. Most restaurants’ app menu is filled to the brim with vegetarian options. From nachos to garlic bread to quesadillas – there always seems to be a plethora of vegetarian comfort food. And more often than not, the appetizer portions are just as big as entrees. Just know that when picking an app, there are rarely any healthy options so make sure to come hungry!
Ask to replace the meat with extra vegetables or even tofu – If it’s a rice or pasta dish, most restaurants are happy to do this. Sports bars are known to serve noodle dishes like pad thai or alfredo. If you couldn’t find something that tickles your fancy in the appetizer section, look for noodle or rice dishes on the menu. Let your server know that you have dietary restrictions and usually they’ll let you omit the meat in these dishes for extra veggies or sides.
Try and sway your friends toward Thai, Indian or Mexican restaurants – this is the vegetarian trifecta, I swear. These types of cuisine often use beans and/or tofu as protein in their dishes so vegetarians have no problem finding something to their liking. They also have amazing options for carnivores and herbivores alike!
Get creative with side dishes. I have spent many dinners at sports bars pigging out on sides of mashed potatoes and bruschetta. If your luck is really pressed on other options, you can always get a few different sides to fill you up. Every menu has a sides section (usually in tiny print at the very end of the menu) and when you order sides by themselves, usually the portions are quite a bit bigger than when you get them accompanying an entree.
Ask your friends if you can turn Saturday night dinner into a Sunday brunch instead. Brunch is a vegetarian’s safe haven. Pancakes, waffles, eggs florentine, omelettes – the options are endless! Not only is brunch cheap for everyone, but both vegetarians and meat-eaters can find something they love.
With these tips and tricks, you should almost always be able to find something vegetarian at a restaurant. It may not be the dream meal you were hoping for, but it’s something to eat nonetheless. AND you got to spend time with people you care about. When all else fails and there are truly no veg options at your friend’s restaurant of choice, make sure you’re always checking the menu ahead of time and preparing a meal beforehand if absolutely necessary. And make your friends let you pick the restaurant the next time around.