three perspectives on vegans dining at nonvegan restaurants

Here’s a question I’ve been thinking about a lot:

Vegans: do you make it a point to go only to vegan and veggie restaurants? I’d like to know. Here are my thoughts on it, as well as my (probably incorrect) interpretations of those of the two vegans I’m closest to: my moms & my sweetheart.

My thoughts:


The number of photos I have of me looking bizarre while eating is truly amazing. Also, I’d really like someone to explain why I’m wearing two sweaters in L.A. Also what’s happening with my bosoms.

  • If I ever eat another shittyass veggie burger, or even a mediocre veggie burger, or even a pretty good veggie burger, I am going to die.
  • If I see another menu with a mediocre tempeh reuben/seitan fajita dish/portobello sandwich/cole slaw with veganaise mayo (sigh)/terrifying soy buffalo wings/whitey burritos/underflavored whitey tacos/stir-fries (oh. god.)/and the hummus/and the bland chili/horrifyingly bland peanut noodles/sad sad sad uncrispy salads with truck lettuce and sad sad sad gloppy dressings, etc. etc, I. Will. Die.
  • [insert long cheffy snobbish rant here about how I make my own tempeh and can’t possibly be expected to eat that bitter shit in regular tempeh reubens and would never own a restaurant because then you have to make what people want to order instead of vice versa, which is how my weirdo business works because I’m such a diva.]
  • Why do we go to these places, when we could go to, say, an actual Mexican place run by actual Mexicans who actually know how to cook and can make us actual Mexican food that is 1,000 times better? I do not have even one more inch of stomach space for a burrito as big as my head stuffed with iceberg lettuce and crunchy beans made by…well, I was just about to write the most horrifying sentence about trustafarian hippie vegans, but why be so mean? Trustafarian hippie vegans could make this non-trustafarian hippie-hating long-time vegan a good meal, I will admit that it is possible. I will merely say that they so rarely do and will not slander those who are, sigh, basically my people.


  • By “these places,” I am specifically talking about places like: Chicago Diner in Chicago (where last night I had a truly dreadful dish called “Oaxacan Ravioli” whereby I must give the cooks points for trying, but whose execution was mindblowingly horrid (here’s a tip: ravioli should not be so “al dente” [i.e., undercooked] as to CRUNCH when you bite into it, unless it is the famous St. Louis-style “toasted ravioli,” which this most assuredly was not); Kate’s Joint and Quantum Leap and Caravan of Dreams and bunches more in NYC; one zillion crap vegan Thai places in LA with plasticky soy protein dishes; this one place I went to in Boston last year I can’t remember the name of (it was upstairs, and Asian, and horrrrrid); and I’m sure you can think of more.
  • The other thing is that when you go to nonvegan places & order their vegan dishes, you show them that there is a market for vegan things, and that’s good, right?
  • OK, I’ll admit it: Chicago Diner has the best vegan strawberry milkshakes ever.


Really. Amazing.

My sweetheart’s thoughts:


The number of photos I have of my sweetheart eating something sugary is truly amazing.

  • YUM! Seitan!
  • Ooh, terrifying soy buffalo wings!!
  • I’ve been on tour for weeks and am subsisting on hummus and kombucha from our rider and the last thing I want to do on the half hour I have before I have to rush back to the venue is worry that the chilaquiles from the awesome-looking taco truck on the corner have secret cheese in them. Plus, I can trade tickets to the show tonight to the cool vegans at this place in exchange for backstage doughnuts! Doughnuts!!!!!


“Dudes! I got the doughnuts!”



  • I wonder if Lagusta could FedEx some peanut butter cups to the next hotel? I’m getting a little low.
  • Oh my god Chicago Diner has the best vegan cookies & cream milkshakes ever. I hope they use real Oreos. Wow, I’m so happy that Oreos are vegan these days. No more Hydrox for me! Oh boy. I’m going to get some Oreos on my way back to the venue.
  • Oreos!!!!!

My mom’s thoughts:


OK, I need to work on my collection of mom-eating photos.

  • Chicago Diner is SO AWESOME. I love it SO MUCH. They always donate to whatever animal rights campaigns we’re working on, and they support all the groups I’m in as much as they can. Everyone is so nice and cute, and when Lagusta’s sweetheart is in town we go and he loves the milkshakes so much.
  • Hmm, what’s this in my soup? A door hinge? Oh my. The rest of the soup is pretty tasty though!*
  • Look at that cute dog!
  • One reason I love going to vegan restaurants is to support other vegans, and vegan businesses. Why worry about what’s in the food at nonvegan places when you can have peace of mind at all-vegan places?


This ice cream has Oreos in it!!!!!

What are your thoughts?


31 Responses to “three perspectives on vegans dining at nonvegan restaurants”

  1. jenna


    ok. for real. i’m one of those snobbish vegans who nearly always (~95% of the time) chooses a vegetarian or vegan restaurant at which to eat. (and here it gets even more snobbish: admittedly, if it’s a vegetarian restaurant that relies really heavily on dairy products, i lump it right in with all those joints that serve animals.) that said, i live in new york city, and this is one of the few places in the world where i can easily and contentedly subsist on the variety and quality of strictly vegan restaurant fare.

    my reasoning is exactly the same as mamma lagusta: i like knowing that my restaurant dollar will never not ever fall into the hands of a meat-producer. i know that’s idealistic and rainbows-and-sunshines and all that unattainable shit, but it makes me feel better. and isn’t that what it’s all about? (i’m kidding. really.)

    i’m also extremely lucky in that i live in harlem, and the kate’s joints of the city are nowhere to be found. i’m less than a block from the uptown juice bar and just one tiny avenue from strictly roots, so i get my curried pumpkin and collards with nary a weird soy animal in sight.

    • lagusta

      ZOMG I LOVE STRICTLY ROOTS!!! Yeah, living near a great vegan place does change things….I do not have that luxury.

  2. brittany

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. loves it and loves momma p and loves j and loves YOU. excellent!!!

    ok… so you know that i don’t really go out of my way to go to vegan or veggie restaurants and that i may actually avoid them to a certain extent, due to the not being a huge fan of veggies thing (i KNOW… sigh)… but the funny thing is… reading your list about things that you will never have room for in your stomach ever again is… well… my feelings almost exactly.

    so i really don’t know what that means, except maybe that i’m just the most outrageously picky eater ever invented.

  3. Sara

    The problem with the awesome Mexican restaurants is that they cook the rice in chicken broth and beans with lard and always put cheese on your meal, even when you ask for no queso. When I’m in Mexico, I can pretend the first two things aren’t happening (since I kinda have to), but in the US I have options, and most of the authentic establishments don’t seem to understand vegan. If someone worked with them to have truly vegan options, that would be awesome….

    • lagusta

      Ah, not true though!! I’ve gone to a bunch of authentic Mexican places (with people who speak Spanish too!) & have been surprised at the veggie friendliness. In fact, my mom has a teeny tiny Mexican hole in the wall place near her apartment in Rogers Park in Chicago and they have a sign out front advertising their vegan burrito! And though they speak almost no English, they painstakingly told her that there is no chicken stock, cheese, lard, etc etc in it. When she walks in now, they say “vegan burrito!”

      Things are looking up, yo! :)

    • kevin

      I always assumed the same as Sara with regards to authentic Mexican places. There are tons of them near me in South Philly but none seem to advertise anything as vegan. And my Spanish is pretty poor, so I don’t want to risk it. I also am completely fine with gringo burritos…. In fact I often love them.

      The language barrier also largely makes me avoid Thai and Chinese places that don’t specifically use the word vegan.

      In Philly the majority of places I eat at when I go out are not vegan. They tend to be bars. There are actually a handful of bars here that have food I actually *love*.. The South Philadelphia Taproom’s Vegan Hoagie; The Belgian Cafe’s Veggie Loaf (and their wings) personally are awesome imho.

      I am absolutely sick of Portabello sandwiches and hummus appetizers though. And any place that relies on May Wah for all their protein needs… ugh ugh ugh.

      • lagusta

        Yeah, the sad thing is that portobello sandwiches are so cliche that even when they are good, they are bad. UGH.

        I’ll pass your tips on vegan food in Philly bars to Jacob, that’s his jam!

  4. Sasha

    Things are looking up…I feel lucky to live in Melbourne, the vegan capital of Australia. We have the bestest vegan/vegetarian mexican hole in the wall called ‘Trippy Taco’. It’s awesome…I go there all the time, and have taken all my friends there too, they can’t believe it’s vegan.

    I always organise my catch-up dinners at vegan, or when I can’t vegan friendly places. I too like to encourage vegan resturants through my support.

    I’m going to Hawaii in October, and NY next June, and I can’t wait to go on a search for all things vegan when I get there.

    • lagusta

      Hawaii is weirdly not super vegan friendly. Well, it doesn’t have a ton of vegan restaurants. Of course it depends where you’re going–what island are you going to? If you’re going to Honolulu there is a place that has amazing vegan pho I can point you to–it’s called Super Pho & I adore it.

      Happily, there is enough fresh fruit & veggies everywhere to keep you super well fed, especially if you have access to a kitchen!

      • Sasha James

        Thanks Lagusta

        I’m going to Oahu, so I’ll check out Super Pho. I have heard of a place called Hale too, it’s supposed to have vegan options. I have booked a room with a kitchen, so I’ll be able to cook up a mini storm.

  5. Sasha

    …I forgot to mention, my husband is a meat eater, and he is increasingly eating my vegan meals. It started with leftovers disappearing from the fridge, and ended up with a full vegan meal on Sunday night…Carol’s book is working.

  6. Dustin

    I almost never, ever, ever eat at vegan or vegetarian restaurants because, here in DC, with the exception of one (and it’s not even great), they all stink. And stink is putting it nicely.

    That said, I am not nearly as snobby as you about food. I think I must like a lot of things you find vile. Like, I never get sick of eating hummus from real middle eastern restaurants that know how to make hummus. Plus, I live for amazing veggie burgers (emphasis on amazing) and french fries cause me to choke up on account of how much I love them. Plus, I have eaten so many Amy’s frozen meals for lunch in the last couple of years, it would make your head spin.

    I wish I could say I ate at only vegan restaurants, but DC is so regressive when it comes to food. There are no Candle 79’s or Hangawi’s or Sacred Chow’s here. Heck, their bastard step-children aren’t here either. It’s very sad. And I am lazy about cooking.

    I think I am basically a little bit of all three of you, but lean more toward your mom and Jacob.

    • lagusta

      OK, for the record: I love real hummus as you describe. I loathe hippie dry, pasty hummus. Everyone does though, right? Veggie burgers just maybe aren’t my thing, and though I rarely eat them I’ll never hate on anyone for loving french fries. In fact, there is a Five Guys Burgers and Fries near my bank and (here is where everyone gasps and starts hating me) I’ve been there a handful of times to get their A*M*A*Z*I*N*G fries. Skin on, freshly-made—just perfect.

      And do you remember when Amy’s used to provide vegan airline meals? I have to say that I loved flying when I knew I could get an Amy’s shepherd’s pie….

      • lagusta

        I should add: at FGB&F, they cook the fries in peanut oil and you can see the containers of it right next to the cash registers. You can also eat free peanuts while your fries are frying!

  7. Robyn

    I am definitely not of the school that says that vegans/vegetarians should make it a point to mainly go to mainstream restaurants to let them know that there is a demand out there. What then will happen to the extraordinary veg-oriented restauratns? Are we supposed to think that carnivores will keep them in business trying to impart that there is a demand for meat too? Kidding, of course.

    We live so much of our lives trying to make do in the omnivorous world; when there is a specific and solely veg option available, I think we should jump on it.

    I should also note, though, that just b/c something is vegan doesn’t give it a pass on taste/quality. You don’t simply get credit on vegan alone: it must be redonkulous as well b/c there are so many possibilities there is no excuse for it not to be.

    • lagusta

      Yeah, I feel you–that’s sort of just my excuse for going to a (tasty) non-veg restaurant when there are (crappy) vegan ones I feel I should be supporting.

  8. randalputnam

    I love the whole thing- especially your mom looking at the cute dog and Jacob enjoying vegan sweets. I must say that I love the donuts that Randy gets at the vegan donut shop in Seattle!
    Randy and I enjoy putting non-vegan restaurants to the challenge. Sometimes we call ahead and explain that we want to eat there and could they make something vegan for us. Results have been almost unanimously positive! We have found chefs that are so excited by the idea of cooking a vegan dinner that they will make numerous courses for us and come out to check with us to see how we are enjoying everything.
    On our recent trip to Provincetown, we were pleasantly surprised by how many non-vegan restaurants had vegan fare- vegan crepes, vegan treats, vegan fancy dishes, lots to choose from.
    Overall, we have probably had better meals by going to non-vegan restaurants than vegan ones, for many of the reasons you explained. Best of all, though, is when we stay home and Randy makes some of his delicious creations!

    • lagusta

      Oh man Randy’s such a great cook!

      Yeah, I feel the same way–watch for my post on how INSANE Alinea was last week in Chicago. I kid you not: it was life-altering.

  9. kt

    well, as a breeder that does not even get to go to restaurants all that often, my first choice is always karma road – a place that has totally spoiled me (ha! meat pun?) so much so that i can’t remember what life was like without it.

  10. ecclescake

    I think I split my restauranting pretty evenly between vegan/veg and non-vegan places. I like supporting veg*n places and the accompanying peace of mind about what’s in my food, but I also like representing at omni places and providing pressure for vegan friendliness, or at least vegan awareness. Plus there are so many of those gawdawful vegan Thai places here that I will never go to because they just don’t get the yum of food, and if I avoided all omni places I’d never get to chow down on bibimbap with steel chopsticks because there aren’t any veg Korean places in LA. I think.

    And I’m right with you, Lagusta, on the portobello sandwiches and the bland stir-fries and the bland veggie burgers, whether they be at vegan joints or at [other]. And I’m right with Jacob on the doughnuts, milkshakes and cookies. And peanut butter cups! I’m a sucker for well-done (or even mediocrely done, as is unfortunately often the case) vegan sweets.

    • Robyn

      Mediocrely done vegan sweets? I cannot even fathom. I’m on the east coast, so the venerable Vegan Treats is only ever a hop, skip, and jump away. Please do whatever you have to do to try some! – I swear I don’t work there, it is just THAT GOOD.

    • lagusta

      BIBIMBOP! You make my heart sing.

      And I think I’ve been to all those Thai crazy places, WTF with there being so many in LA????

  11. the great debate « resistance is fertile

    […] It’s happening again. I’m spending two days in NYC hiding from my out-of-control life while my sweetheart works around the clock, and we’re having friendly squabbles over where to eat. We’re in the most veg-friendly city in the entire universe (suck it, PETA, you know nothing), albeit in a bit of a dining black hole stuck here in Midtown, and Jacob’s saying things like “They got me take-out from Zen Palate delivered last night just because it was close by, and it was horrible, as I knew it would be. On the upside, I’ve had lunch at ‘sNice three days in a row.” Which is prompting me to say things like “I hereby vow to never go to a veggie restaurant ever again.” Menus have gotten so much better over the years, but there is still so much veggie burger bullshit that I just want to scream. Things are better, but I want them to be perfect. […]


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