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May 31, 2011

Tips for Dining Out, Veg-Style

Creativity and planning can lead to a great dining experience

Guide to Meat-Free Meals

  • John Giustina/Getty

Though many restaurants are meeting the growing demand for healthier, more compassionate fare, you may still find yourself in situations where a little creativity or forethought can help ensure a satisfying dining experience. Here are some tips.

Top Chef Tip-Off

Challenge: You’re taking your parents to their favorite restaurant, where the menu hasn’t changed since the Ford administration. You envision a bowl of iceberg lettuce with a tomato slice and a few croutons. Maybe a side of fries or a spaghetti plate from the kids’ menu if you’re lucky.

Solution: Call ahead, and see what the chef can offer for a vegan meal, suggests Benay Vynerib, chief operating officer of New York City’s Candle Café and Candle 79 restaurants. “Chefs are more than willing to accommodate, but they love the heads-up, because it gives them the opportunity to be creative and to show you that they care.” Also check with servers; many are more than willing to accommodate requests or steer you toward options not listed on the menu.

World Explorer

Challenge: Eating out is your favorite pasttime, but you’re feeling a bit bored with the pastas at Italian  restaurants and the veggie burritos and guacamole at Mexican eateries.

Solution: Introduce your taste buds to some new flavors. Chinese, Indian, Ethiopian, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Thai, and other ethnic restaurants offer a plethora of vegetarian dishes.

Unfamiliar Territory

Challenge: You’re on the road, and your bag of trail mix is getting light. But the highway billboards only point to chain eateries and fast-food joints.

Solution: No need to panic. Chain restaurants like Ruby Tuesday, Johnny Rockets, Denny’s, and Red Robin offer mouth-watering veggie burgers with all the fixings. Even fast-food joints like Taco Bell, Quiznos, Chipotle, Subway, and Fazoli’s feature meat-free items. With some advance planning (or a good GPS), a road trip can also be a great opportunity to visit restaurants you won’t find at home. Vegetarian eateries are becoming increasingly popular. Add some to your itinerary, and getting to your destination might be the highlight of your trip.

Read more from the Guide to Meat-Free Meals »

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