If eating vegan or plant-based is new to you, it can feel a bit overwhelming when dining out. But remember, all it takes is a quick scan of an online menu, a conversation with a friendly kitchen manager or following some of your favorite restaurants on social media to discover that delicious, plant-inspired menu items are there for the ordering – even at restaurants that don’t seem vegan-friendly.
Read on for vegan-friendly tips for dining out and check out some of our favorite vegan options for eating at restaurants in Colorado Springs.
1. Review menus online for vegan options.
Whenever I’m invited to a restaurant where I’ve never dined, I look for the menu on their website or a Facebook page. I did that recently for a meal at The Famous and saw plenty of ways to get around the meat and fish for lunch at the steakhouse. Two of us opted to split two vegetable-forward options.
The grilled veggie sandwich ($13) is nearly vegan; just hold the cheese. Served on house-made rye and onion bread, the massive portion has smoky asparagus, peppers, mushroom cap, and summer squash served with a fresh avocado half. The soft warm bread, creamy avocado, and aromatic vegetables are exquisite. The Sesame Chicken Salad ($16) without the chicken is equally massive, as they increased the vegetables. Bright and colorful crunchy cashews, carrots, lettuce, and cabbage are served over soba noodles with a serious kick of heat. This high-end salad and sandwich are worth every penny.
2. Talk to the chef or kitchen manager about ingredients.
When friends invited me to Hacienda Colorado, I figured eating vegan would be a sure thing. Beans, tortillas, and rice are my kind of meal. But when I asked the server to confirm that the rice and beans were vegan, he came out with kitchen manager Robert Glerup. All of the beans are made with animal products, and even the tortillas (yep, hard, soft and the chips) are made with lard.
Glerup chatted with us and came up with an excellent suggestion. Celery or carrots are almost always in the kitchen, so we opted for celery sticks to dip in the salsa. He suggested the portobello fajitas ($15.99) in lettuce boats, and those sizzling plates of mushrooms and vegetables – with sweet caramelized onions – were meaty on their own. Served with a side of seasoned vegan rice, they made a hearty meal.
3. Follow restaurants and vegan groups online.
My Facebook feed is filled with announcements from local restaurants about their special of the day or upcoming events. Sure, much of the food isn’t vegan. But now and then, something surprising pops up.
In the vegan world, Buddha bowls (or hippie bowls) are commonplace. Fill a bowl with beans, greens, and grains. The Golden Bee’s version is anything but conventional. A protein bomb with tofu, chickpeas, lentils, edamame and even quinoa (serving as a protein and seed/grain), it’s not as overwhelming as I assumed it would be. That’s likely because it’s served in a light, umami-rich broth over roasted sweet potatoes and steamed vegetables and cabbage. This is the dish that just might make your non-vegan dining companion covet your order and rethink his aversion to vegetable-forward dining.