My First Vegan Outing

It was bound to happen and to be honest, I’m glad it happened tonight so now when it happens again, I will feel even more confident.

My good friend Ashley suggested we hit a new Mexican dive in town after our class that ended around 5. I have mentioned before how much I adore Mexican food — but long gone are the days of chiles rellanos and all things gooey and cheesy and queso-y.

Luckily, Mexican fare is flexible. I kept it simple with a bean burrito — the beans were vegetarian and with a side of rice and some quac, it wasn’t as laden with fat and calories like what I would normally get at a Mexican restaurant (sans cheese = lighter caloric load). I ordered my bean burrito and the waitress asked me if I wanted cheese or sauce or anything on top. At first, I was caught off guard by this question as burritos, the way I have come to know them, are just contents wrapped up in a soft tortilla with nothing on top. I told her nothing on top: just the beans in the tortilla and the rice and quacamole on the side.

So of course when my plate was brought out, the tortilla was smothered in cheese.

It was one of those weird moments where time stops inside and you have 1.5 million thoughts in 0.5 seconds and react so fast that your mind has to catch up with your body — one of those out of body experiences that you don’t realize what you said/what happened until after you have said whatever and the moment has passed. I didn’t even give the waiter enough time to put my plate on the table when I said “Oh my gosh, I am so sorry — I actually don’t want anything on top of the burrito. Just the beans inside the tortilla, that’s it. No cheese on top.”

No big deal! The waiter apologized, took it back and within 5 minutes, I had a new, dairy-free plate.

I reacted so much more positively than I would have anticipated: no panicking, no rudeness (obviously this was never an option), no awkwardness. I didn’t even pull the “Oh, I’m vegan” card. Just communicated no cheese.

No cheese, no big deal.

I had a delicious dinner and a great conversation with the best of company and now feel more confident than ever to take on whatever dish comes my way in a restaurant. Also, I feel much more confident about getting creative with the menu while dining out. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the menu! You can always make modifications.
  • Be very clear when communicating what you do and don’t want on your plate. No need to be pretentious and condescending, just be sure you do your job at being an effective communicator.
  • Look at the menu ahead of time, if possible, so you feel more comfortable at the restaurant when the time comes to order. Most places have their menus posted somewhere online.



7 thoughts on “My First Vegan Outing

    • Thanks, Courtenay! 🙂

      That’s actually a really good idea — I probably would have never thought to do that! I’m sure it helps reduce confusion, right?! 🙂

  1. A new Mexican place just opened up in my little town – its probably one of the most vegan friendly places I can go to so its been great plus I love spicy food! You’re right about checking the menu ahead of time, it saves a lot of panic at the restaurant. Also, if there is nothing I like there, sometimes i ring ahead to let them know I’m a vegan, and they are usually very accommodating!

    • MMMMmmm I LOVE Mexican food and all things spicy, too! I thought it would be hard with all of the cheese on Mexican food but my encounters with it have been pretty versatile and positive!

      Good idea about calling ahead! I’ll bet it sure does safe a lot of time, hassle and potential miscommunication. What is your favorite thing to order?!

      • Usually if I’m going to a Thai, Indian or Italian restaurant there is always something for me to get (with a few minor modifications). But the plain old ‘Irish’ restaurants are so not vegetarian friendly even – mostly they only have a very boring pasta or stir-fry. If I don’t order one of those, I often just ask for a starter (like Bruschetta) with fries and a salad as my main course.

        I always bring nuts & dried fruit in my bag for emergencies! Plus a bar of dark chocolate as they NEVER have dessert for me 🙂

        Also, if it’s not available online, I email the HQ of some restaurant chains for their vegan lists, so I’ll never starve to death if I’m away from home! It seems like a lot of work at the beginning, but once you put in the groundwork, it becomes second nature.

        PS I think I’ll be getting something spicy & Mexican tonight after all our talk of it 🙂

  2. It is such a blessing that restaurants have become so much easier to navigate with menus/ingredients/nutrition facts listed online (or paper ones there) and waiters/cooks have become so much more flexible in preparation to special requests because so many people have become more conscious of their food decisions… whatever they may be! (Vegan or otherwise!)

    • It REALLY is! It is so refreshing to see both local and chain eateries being more forward thinking with different types of diets. I was reading a book and apparently, some cooks really enjoy the challenge of creating fresh concepts for special food requests: vegan, raw, gluten-free, and so many more! Cheers!

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