For my birthday, I decided to have a dinner at a posh restaurant with a few friends. I had a look at the menu for said restaurant and there wasn't a single vegan main on that menu, but I was not worried.
Eating out is one of the most challenging things for vegans as many of them don't want to feel like burdens by finding nothing to eat on the menu and it's just frustrating to not find a place to eat in a hurry or to inconvenience others because you can't find anything suitable for your preferred lifestyle.
It's time to stop stressing out over eating out. Today, I am going to share a few tips on how to eat out at a non-vegan restaurant hassle-free especially when invited to eat out.
Tip 1 - Check the menu online
By checking the menu online, there will be no surprises when seeing the menu at the restaurant. You will also be able to find what you might be able to eat.
If you can't find a sample menu on the restaurant's website, go on Google and type in the restaurant's name followed by the word, 'menu.' A website or Google Images is likely to have a picture of the menu.
Tip 2 - Call/email the restaurant a few days before
At least a week before the day you need to go to the restaurant for an event, call/email in and find out if there are a vegan items on the menu. If there aren't, ask if it is possible for something vegan to be made for you as you are going to be a guest at the restaurant in a few days. If you're lucky, you might even be able to suggest something that can be made for you.
Tip 3 - Speak to the waiter
In some restaurants, there is a separate vegan menu. For restaurants that don't have a separate menu, your waiter can ask the chef if he/she can prepare something vegan for you or make a vegetarian meal vegan for you by excluding dairy, eggs, honey, et cetera.
(Shout out to Clos Maggiore for their wonderful service and their waiter ensuring that everything I ate was vegan-friendly although there was not a single vegan main on the menu, for pointing out which breads were vegan and which weren't when the bread basket came by and for the vegan chocolate he gifted (although I don't like chocolate 😊)).
Tip 4 - Eat before going to the restaurant
By doing this, you can just fill up at the restaurant by ordering just a few sides such as chips (fries) or sautéed spinach.
Tip 5 - Order a lot of sides
Quite a number of sides tend to be vegan-friendly. Therefore, although it will be a bit odd, you can order a lot of particular sides and just explain that you can't eat anything else on the menu due to dietary requirements.
Tip 6 - Order Soup
Rather often, restaurants add cream or milk to their soups. However, this can easily be excluded. So, while placing your order, speak to your waiter and ask him/her if dairy could be excluded from your soup.
Most breads are vegan.
Tip 7 - Veganise things on the menu
If you study the restaurant's menu, you might be able to find vegetarian meals that can easily be made vegan by excluding one or two ingredients or you can find other ingredients on the menu that you can ask to be used as substitutes for eggs, dairy or meat in a non-vegan recipe. For example, mushrooms instead of beef if you notice mushrooms in the ingredients of and of a different meal and everything apart from the beef interests you in a beef dish. If you're lucky you might get a discount on your meal after doing this. A restaurant has actually given me a bill which stated that my food was "on the house" after doing this before.
I hope these tips and tricks help you feel more comfortable the next time you go out to eat!
And remember, do be nice, calm and polite when speaking to any of the staff at the restaurant, especially your waiter. If you're a vegan in a non-vegan restaurant, the staff are doing you a favour.