Being a vegetarian in Los Angeles means that dining out is basically worry free, but my city is an exception. Often times I take this for granted and vegetarian dining out is a harsh reality elsewhere. Coming to terms with this reality takes time but is worth it, especially if you love to travel like me!
It truly is a great time to be a vegetarian, vegan, or health conscious individual. This is especially true if you live in a city like Los Angeles. There are so many products out there and so many great options at Los Angeles restaurants. But the harsh reality of vegetarian dining out in many cities is anything but fun. Some areas have not, will not, or refuse to alter menu options. Coming to terms with the reality of eating out as a vegetarian is essential. No matter where you go, you always need a plan!
Prior to becoming a vegetarian, dining out was easy. I mainly ate veggies, but I still ate fish and occasionally chicken and turkey. Its been several years now, but I can still remember the feeling of diving into a restaurant’s menu knowing how many choices I had. Wherever I went out to eat, I could always find something yummy. This is no longer true as a vegetarian and things are definitely more difficult. What this has done is given me a new approach to how I dine out.
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If there’s one resource that never fails, it’s Yelp which is my absolute best friend when it comes to eating out. I’ve loved Yelp since the beginning and researching where to eat is my jam. This is critical to vegetarian dining. When you choose to eat a certain way, reading other people’s experiences, checking out their photos, and scanning a restaurant’s menu is a must! If you’re going somewhere that has a limited menu, or someone in your party is dead set on going there, then I always check the menu to make sure I can get at least one thing to eat.
Learn to look at menus differently. I’m constantly reminding myself of this because even if I go to a place that I know has one or two things I like, there are likely other dishes I can alter. Thanks to Beyond Burger, just about everywhere I’ve gone offers a veggie burger of some kind. Normally it is a Beyond or Impossible burger, but I don’t always want to get a veggie burger. That’s no fun and they aren’t exactly healthy. I now look at a menu to first see what is plainly vegetarian, but also what can become vegetarian. For example, you go to a nice restaurant that has a salmon risotto. Ask if they will leave off the salmon. Now you have a vegetarian risotto!
There is always something you can adapt or change at a restaurant. This is particularly easy to do with salads. I love salads, but I know some people can get bored with “just” salad. I definitely do not. That being said, I want my salad to be more than just the basics. There are so many items on a menu that you can ask them to NOT include, such as chicken or bacon. If they offer tofu, then ask them to add tofu to your salad or pasta dish. For a long time I found it annoying to be that person who makes special requests like “no bacon” or “dressing on the side.” Screw that! I’m paying for my meal and visiting your restaurant, so if I want to make substitutions then I’m going to do it!
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There are so many restaurants to choose from, no matter where you live or are traveling, so I no longer feel the need to go somewhere that I can’t get a good meal. If someone picks a place and they don’t have vegetarian options, then I tell them that place is not for me. It’s not vegetarian friendly and if whoever you’re with still wants to go there, then they can go by themselves. Life is too short to feel restricted and there are too many fabulous places to eat, even in cities and towns that aren’t vegetarian friendly. Heck, you can go to Cheesecake Factory and they have a whole vegetarian and health conscious section.
Sometimes it takes a bit longer to find a good place to eat as a vegetarian. I’m consistently looking at menus and vetoing restaurants. Normally when I travel with my family, I pick the restaurants, suggest restaurants, and make sure that there are good things for my vegetarian family to eat. Taking control of the process let’s you enjoy every meal you go out for. Gone are the days where vegetarians had limited options. If a restaurant wants to restrict you, then adapt their menu for them, or say no thanks!
The reality of vegetarian dining out is harsh, but easy to overcome. It’s been years since I’ve gone to a restaurant and not looked at the photos of food and the menu prior to venturing there. It’s second nature to me now and I’m so glad that I stick to this process. No matter what city, town, or country I am in, I always have a list of spots I want to try, am excited about, and know that are vegetarian friendly.
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Mandi Mellen is Lead Editor, Writer, and Host at BuzzChomp. She’s also an Actor, Director and Producer. Visit M Square Productions for her film work, or get lost in her comedy on Pillow Talk TV. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Vegetarian Dining Photo Credits: Pexels.com
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