In Food

Please hold the meat: Ordering veggie in a restaurant

Posted by: on Jul 18, 2012 | 2 Comments

Som Tom Salad, Thai Rada

While, awareness of dietary restrictions has risen significantly, ordering vegetarian or vegan can still be challenging if you aren’t at a strictly vegetarian/vegan restaurant. As a vegetarian, I prefer to eat at restaurants that cater specifically to vegetarians. It means more choice and less concern that my meal will show up with accidental pork. However, I have yet to find such a place in my new home. Therefore, I must muddle through the menus at restaurants that really are geared towards those that indulge in meat, cheese, butter, seafood, and bread. In the last two and half years, I have identified several challenges to ordering vegetarian food in restaurants. These challenges are getting a huge slab of meat instead of those mouth-watering fresh greens you ordered, resigning yourself to a side salad or two, saying no to cheese, and ordering harmless looking vegetable soup.

One of the main challenges is not getting what you ordered. It’s especially frustrating when you get meat. A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to Bizotto’s for cocktails and appetizers. We sat at the bar and had really tasty peach sangria. I ordered Thai vegetable potstickers and he ordered mussels. However, when our food came, I got pork potstickers. Fortunately, I cut one in half before eating it. But, I still had to send the potstickers back and wait for the right dish.

An additional challenge is avoiding cheese. For some reason, many people believe vegetarian really means, “Hi, all I eat is cheese.” I don’t actually want my diet to consist completely of cheese. In fact, while I like it and will eat it, I rarely do. I want a meal that is composed mainly of vegetables, not grilled cheese or macaroni and cheese.

And while soups may seem like a safe bet, many soups are actually made with a chicken broth base. Making them distinctly non-vegetarian. And most servers can’t tell you if the soups are truly vegetarian or not. I’ve actually even seen macaroni and cheese that is made with chicken broth. In other words don’t assume it’s veggie friendly.

Summer Salad from Bizotto’s

When I eat out, I keep a few go-to meals in mind. For example, salads. This past week I went to a new-to-me seafood restaurant called the Island House. I will eat seafood in small amounts. But I can never eat enough of it to order a whole meal. So, I ordered a salad and had a few bites of my husbands dinner. Plus, the Island House has really tasty sweet potato biscuits. The salad was a little lack luster but it was enough to fill me up. Even restaurants that only list salads with meat on their menu will prepare a salad without meat. In fact, if you find yourself forced to order at a fast food place (McDonald’s, Wendy’s, etc.), try a salad without meat or get a side salad and a baked potato.

However, I also had dinner at Bizotto’s this week. Their menu is also mostly meat and seafood. But they do have a Summer Salad right now that is to die for. It’s filling, it’s delicious, and it has no meat. It has walnuts, mango, apples, oranges, lettuce, carrots, and all kinds of goodies. I often find I’m surprised with how filling a large salad can be.

Additionally, if I’m eating out Asian and Mexican restaurants tend to be safe bets. Asian cultures traditionally eat less meat so the menu tends to be more vegetable friendly. And vegetable fajitas are always a safe bet at a Mexican establishment. In fact, I visited the new Thai restaurant this week (2x… we had guests). The restaurant is called Thai Rada. You can always order dishes with tofu instead of meat. But I tend to stay away from soy as much as possible (more on that later). So, instead I’ve been asking for just vegetables. Some places will just bring you the vegetables without the meat or tofu and not give you more vegetables to replace the meat or tofu. This is not the case at Thai Rada. They definitely bring you enough vegetables to make a complete meal. I ordered both their Thai Basil Stir Fry and their Panang Curry this way. Both were fantastic and vegelicious.

Fruit bowl at Janet’s

Breakfast tends to be a little easier. You can always order pancakes, waffles, or vegetable omelets. But lately, my personal favorite is the fruit, yogurt, and granola bowl from our local cafe, Janet’s. There is so much fruit in the bowl you can’t even see the yogurt underneath! And it comes with a little bowl of granola to throw over the top. It’s the perfect amount to add a crunch. And it’s much healthier than a giant stack of pancakes.


  1. Ask what’s in the meal and don’t feel bad about having the server check with the kitchen.
  2. Don’t be afraid to send something back!
  3. Salads are usually a safe bet and can always be made without meat.
  4. Vegetable soups aren’t always vegetarian.
  5. Asian cultures traditionally eat less meat and Asian restaurants tend to have more vegetable dishes.
  6. Vegetable fajitas are a safe bet at Mexican restaurants.
  7. Feel free to ask for extra vegetables if you order a dish usually made with meat without the meat. If you are going to pay, you might as well get your money’s worth.
  8. Fast food doesn’t have to mean greasy hamburger and fries! Order a meatless salad or a baked potato. You can even get smoothies.


  1. Beth
    July 19, 2012

    These are great ideas! I think one of the reason that I haven’t gone meatless is because of eating out issues, as well as I would miss it. I got a kick out of the “send it back” comment. We here in the upper midwest are often taught to not make trouble and eat anything put before us. We are Minnesota Nice, so sending it back is really tough! I love blogs that make me think about my own culture.

    Great blogspot! Take care.

    • Hali
      July 19, 2012

      Hi, Beth! Thank you for your kind comment. I had to get over feeling so bad about sending things back. I just remind myself that I did order the dish a specific way (without meat) and that it should be that way. I then ask very nicely and explain that I don’t eat meat. They are usually very nice and apologetic about it.

      I also find that looking for salads with things like avocado or beans as an ingredient helps make them more filling.


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