There comes a time in every home-cook's life when you get a break, and 'going out to eat' is the choice for the next meal. In any household this is the time when personal preferences, old habits, 'trying something new' and many more considerations come into play when choosing where to go eat.
Each household has its own dynamics where these considerations are weighed for their merit, and according to the member of the household that is most effected by them. "You chose last time", "I hate their fries", "but I want pizza" and "I don’t have anything to eat there", are but a few, with the last one being the most prominent in inter-dietary households.
The following describes our own vegan non-vegan version of the 'going out to eat' decision tree, but you can easily make the adjustments for any combination of diets to help you reach a decision anytime.
1. Going somewhere for the first time?
Whenever you decide to try a new place, check out their menu online before leaving the house.
If it has both vegan and non-vegan items on the menu, and if everyone finds appetizing choices, off you go.
Don't hesitate to make a phone call and ask
If the menu is not available online, which can be the case with places recently opened, a preliminary phone call is the next best thing. It's been our experience that you can find vegan-friendly places this way, even if their published information doesn’t necessarily indicate it.
Another advantage of first calling in is that recently-opened places should know as early as possible that vegans are interested in visiting their place, and offering vegan food on the menu should be a consideration they make to win this constantly expanding segment of their potential clientele.
2. If you've visited this place before: Is there vegan food on the menu?
If the only vegan dishes are... salads
Creatures bigger than rabbits should have more than just salad for dinner.
Gone are the days when my love had to do with salad only when going out for dinner with friends or family.
That said, there are times when the non-vegan half craves something that can only be had at a place where vegan food is not served. In those occasions the vegan\s should agree in advance to get by with what usually amounts to some of the salad choices.
In rare cases you'll get a spontaneous and willing kitchen staff to accept the challenge and make you some vegan food with the ingredients they have at hand (It's a fun culinary game, give it a try!).
These photos are from the Beer Garden at our hometown, a VERY non-vegan pub, but they went out of their way to make my love a nice improvised vegan meal.
If the menu is totally vegan
There are the few all-vegan places where the roles are reversed. I have to admit that for me personally this is not a total reversal as in most cases I usually greatly enjoy the vegan food on offer, not to mention: get great ideas as to what to cook for my love at home.
These photos are from Um Kulthum (named after the illustrious Egyptian singer), one of our favorite vegan restaurants.
There are vegan dishes on the menu
Most of the places have both vegan and non-vegan food on offer. Then you ask:
3. Are the vegan menu items fixed and known, or is the kitchen staff vegan friendly, spontaneous, creative and willing to go the extra mile?
If the vegan craves a specific menu item, the choice is easy – "let's go eat ______'s veggie burger".
If the food on offer, vegan or not, is delicious, diverse and periodically changes, or if you know the staff are willing to veganize any item upon request – off you go.
On other occasions, if a place has only a few, fixed vegan dishes on offer, and even if you've tried them and they're good, it usually leads to the choice not to go there – "I don't feel like eating AGAIN their vegan Shakshouka \ Rolled eggplants \ Artichoke Pasta, tonight". Unless, of course, it's been a while since your last visit, and a specific crave is back.
As for the places that have a willing and able vegan-friendly kitchen staff: It's all about your willingness to put the faith of your culinary experience in the hands of said staff. In places we know well, and visit frequently, this always ends up in a satisfying experience for us both. When visiting such a place for the first time, it's a gamble which doesn’t always pays off, but when it does – it's a double triumph: You enjoy your experience of eating out, and have a new place to add to your going-out-to-eat list.
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