Eating Out


[Yellow Sunshine Vegetarian Fast Food in Berlin, Germany]

Even though I’ve been a vegetarian for 10 years, going out to eat with friends and family is sometimes kind of a drag. It’s not that I can’t find things to eat. Really, it’s that my family and friends insist on making a big deal out of the fact that I’m a vegetarian, as if this puts some kind of limitation on where we can eat. The truth is, most restaurants will have vegetarian options (vegan options are another story, although my cousin assures me he can generally make do, even if it’s just with a salad.) You may not have a life-changing meal there, but at least you can tell your family and friends to chill. On the other hand, it’s nice to go to a place that caters to vegetarian cuisine, even if you may not be able to drag your meat eating family and friends there.

What To Look For

The following kinds of restaurants will almost always have something you can eat:
Indian (usually half of the menu will be vegetarian)
Thai (lots of tofu dishes)
Chinese (lots of vegetable dishes)
Italian (pasta)
Ethiopian (list of vegetarian dishes: http://www.ethiopianrestaurant.com/vegetarians.html)
Asian Fusion (noodles, vegetables)
Mediterranean (falafel, hummus, tabouleh, baba ganoush, etc.)
Health Food (we love our health nuts)
Moroccan (lentils!)

The following kinds of restaurants will generally have something you can eat:
Japanese (often will have vegan sushi available)
Pizza (lacto-ovo)
Korean (vegetarian bibimbap)
Kosher (latkes are a potato pancake that are very delicious)
French (often there is some kind of quiche or crepe that is lacto-ovo vegetarian)
Vietnamese (Some Vietnamese restaurants only have meat broth. Some do both veggie or meat.)
Mexican (Many Mexican restaurants use lard in fried beans, so ask for black beans. Make sure the rice isn’t cooked in meat stock.)

The following kinds of restaurants you probably want to avoid:

BBQ
American (usually the only option is grilled cheese)
Deli
Diners (Denny’s may have a boca burger, but do you really want to go there?)
Bar & Grills
Greek
Turkish
Creole
Filipino
Irish
Soul Food
Fast Food (even the fries are usually cooked in oil w/ varying amounts of animal fat)

Vegetarian Friendly Restaurants
Finding vegetarian restaurants before the birth of the internet was a serious pain. Now every place (almost) has a website. And there are some great websites out there to help you find vegetarian and vegan restaurants.

Happycow.net is a vegetarian restaurant finder that allows you to search worldwide. Good news for hungry veggie expats like myself. Their listings include address and phone information so you can make sure the place is still in existence before you go. They also have reviews and a carrot-based rating system to tell you how expensive it is. Be sure to check in the notes if the place is 100% vegetarian, vegan, or both.

VeggieLife.com also has a restaurant finder with results in the USA only. No descriptions of the restaurants are included, but address and phone numbers are available. They also don’t specify whether the restaurants are vegan, vegetarian, or omnivorous. They do, however, have supposedly the most listings.

VegDining.com allows you to search by city worldwide to find restaurants. There is a place for reviews but few are active. Restaurants are categorized according to whether they are only vegan / vegetarian, mostly vegan, vegetarian friendly and so on. Phone information and address are generally available.

City Guides

San Francisco
San Francisco & Bay Area Vegan Restaurant Guide

New York City
Vegetarian Restaurant Guide

Chicago
Chicago Vegan Restaurant Guide

Los Angeles
Vegetarians in Paradise City Restaurant Guide

Portland
Vegetarian Restaurant Guide

My Favorite Vegetarian Restaurants
In the Bay Area:
Saturn Cafe in Santa Cruz (Simply the best. Home-made veggie burgers? Sweet potato fries? Fake chicken satay anyone?)
Cha ya in San Francisco. Vegan monk food, udon noodle soup, and lots of interesting delicacies. Did I mention vegan chocolate cake?
Long Life Vegi House in Berkeley – Fake meat or seafood Chinese style only. The fake mongolian beef is probably the best thing ever.
Santa Cruz Diner Mostly because they have veggie dogs with sauerkraut.
Smart Alec’s Fast Food in Berkeley (Some people detest them, but I think their original homemade griller patty is delicious.)

In Berlin:
Yellow Sunshine – Vegetarian and vegan fast food! Every city should have one!

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