Eating out is a common stress for newbie and seasoned vegans alike. Most of us are surrounded by non-vegan friends, family, and coworkers. And socializing is often based around food. At restaurants.
So today I’ll cover four ways to rethink dining out with omnivores so that no one ends up feeling guilty or embarrassed.
“I like to be social, but I hate either watching others eat and having nothing or seeming really fussy and making everyone go where I can eat.” – Claire
This post could have also been called “eating our way through Toronto with our meat-eating family in tow”.
If you initiated the seemingly-tricky-but-really-very-simple move of dining out with omnivores, it’s probably for one of two main reasons.
First is the sneaky advocacy move.
Perhaps your omni family or coworkers offered to go wherever you want.
You want to show them that veg food is real food and maybe even influence their eating habits. Or you want them to understand the way you eat better.
Second, you just really want to get a good meal out for once.
Tired of cobbling together sides to make a full meal?
You – like a smart little vegan – jumped at the chance to speak your truth and said I have the perfect place in mind! And then had to scramble to decide what that place is.
For either of the above reasons, my advice is the same. If you want to reinforce this good behavior and keep going to veg places with your omni friends and fam, here are four points for you to consider. But first, a little background…
Putting my advice to the test
I spent over a month in Toronto this past summer. Since I have an aunt and uncle in town and Toronto is a foodie paradise, we had our visits over meals out.
The cool thing was that my SAD-eating aunt and uncle were down for exploring “crazy” vegan food options. They put their palates in my little plant-loving hands.
A beautiful partnership – I decided where we ate and they were introduced to new interesting restaurants they would have never gone to on their own.
But I still had to handle this gift with care to make the most of it. Because, you see, I was operating from both the above reasons number one and two.
Did it work? Find out.
Four Ways to Rethink Dining Vegan with Omnivores
Don’t go too healthy.
Animal foods are higher in fat. And eating the typical processed foods full of salt and sugar desensitizes taste buds. As a little aside, when I say omni, I’m thinking SAD (Standard American Diet) eater.
The result is that something that tastes clean with delicately nuanced flavoring to you will just taste bland to them.
For example, Hogtown Vegan is where SAD meets vegan – traditional vegan comfort food. And wouldn’t you know, it became my aunt and uncle’s favorite place of the ones we visited together. My aunt gave the Phish ‘n Chips two thumbs up and my uncle approved the Unchicken and Waffles.
Just last week they let me know they had gone back by themselves (with no vegan tour guide!). “You know, the one that serves real food,” is what they said. Lol! What sweethearts.
On that same note, the veg restaurant they could do without was our favorite because we felt clean after leaving.
Don’t be wishy washy.
Speak up and tell ‘em what you want.
You do no one any favors by trying to be nice and go where they want. Perhaps they are genuinely curious or care about you. Give them the opportunity to try out something new and maybe actually like it.
At Live Organic Food Bar, my uncle ordered the raw banana almond pancakes. By choice, mind you, even though there were far less “out-there” items on the menu. Like the cooked gluten-free french toast that my aunt ordered and approved of.
And he loved them. Never would have expected that. He said he would come back for the raw pancakes – now that’s a victory!
Do your homework.
Research a few restaurant options and see what you think they will like. It also helps to have omni-appropriate favorites lined up to take advantage of those spontaneous times when someone asks you where you want to go.
Look up the menu online or search yelp reviews to see if both meat eaters and veggies said they loved it.
When I looked online, I saw Fresh’s menu had burgers, sandwiches, and dessert, great transition foods for the uncertain omni. At the same time, it had whole-foods based bowls that would be great for Jay and I.
My aunt and uncle ended up ordering a burger and club sandwich – playing it too safe for what the menu had to offer, I think. Unsurprisingly, Fresh was one of the restaurants Jay and I enjoyed the most.
Even though it wasn’t my aunt and uncles favorite, we got them there a second time by suggesting we try out brunch. Most people can get excited about that.
It’s not that big a deal.
I have one final point for you. Just do it.
Either treat it like an adventure or be chill and act like bringing your omnis there is NO BIG DEAL.
Don’t worry whether everyone is enjoying themselves. Don’t stress that the omnis can’t find something to eat. They’ll take care of themselves just like you usually do when you end up at a steakhouse.
Act as if you are enjoying a meal out with friends or fam. Because (duh) you are.