Going out to eat with friends or family is one of my favorite things to do in Louisville (hello, foodie town.) But for a long time, I thought that going to restaurants that didn’t label themselves as “vegan friendly” would suck. If I was going to a “non-vegan” restaurant with family or friends, I would look up the menu beforehand and decide whether I was going to enjoy the food or not based on whether they had a “vegan option”. I would look for something clearly marked as vegan, then decide whether I thought the person who created the dish really cared if the said vegan enjoyed their food. At a lot of restaurants, it seemed like the only vegan option would be a salad, where I’d have to order it without cheese and choose the most boring dressing, and in case you were wondering, there are lots of vegans that don’t love salad!
It turns out though, that even if it initially looks like you’re going to have to suffer through your cheese-less house salad to enjoy the company of friends and family, there are actually way more vegan options that aren’t on the menu. There are two ways to access these, and the first way is just to ask!
I recently went to Volare with the Yes Team for our holiday party. Before going, I had the mindset I mentioned before. But for some reason, I decided I’d just check and see if there was something different that maybe wasn’t on the menu. It also turns out that a simple “do you have any vegan options?” goes a long way. The waitress quickly left and came back with an entire separate menu full of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. She also said that if none of that looked good, they could probably put together some sort of veggie-pasta dish. I was surprised in the best possible way. I ended up getting a huge plate of roasted veggies, and it was absolutely delicious. I learned that people can’t accommodate your needs if you don’t give them the chance to.
If you have a special diet, vegan, gluten-free, or what have you, I highly recommend that next time you eat out, just ask if there’s anything that can be done for you! What’s the worst that can happen? I’ll tell you, they’ll serve you a house salad. You’ll eat it, still have a great time with your friends, and have something else when you get home.
Another (slightly more annoying, but effective) way to access more inclusive options at restaurants is to ask for substitutions. This is something I do pretty often at breakfast or brunch places. The brunch equivalent of a house salad for vegans is oatmeal. There are so many creative, colorful, and wonderful menu items on the Louisville brunch scene, but for some reason the only one that doesn’t include eggs, meat, milk, or cheese is oatmeal. It’s not my personal favorite, so instead of settling, I ask for an omelet with potatoes instead of eggs. It usually ends up being a vibrant and filling breakfast hash full of veggies. What’s even better, in this situation as well, people are happy to accomodate. In my experience the worst that happens here is that you get the occasional eye roll, but are still satisfied with what you got, and don’t feel left out!
My point in this is that making up my mind about how accommodating, and even whether I was going to like the food at a restaurant before giving it a chance was incredibly limiting.
If there are two things you take away from this post, I hope it’s these: First, most of the time eating out isn’t really about the food. It’s about the people you get to spend time with. Second, if you give people a chance and actually ask for what you want or need, they will want to help you, they want you to enjoy yourself, and they don’t want you to miss out. So ask for what you want, what’s the worst that could happen?