Guest post by Brittney Helmrich
Diving in to the best healthy restaurant realm can be very difficult for vegetarian and vegan diners who want to enjoy a night out with friends or a dinner date, especially for those who want to dine out on a budget. Many vegetarians see chain restaurants as impossible to work with and avoid them as a result, but it’s entirely possible to have a healthy, tasty, enjoyable meal without breaking the bank or eating an appetizer and a side salad.
The most important thing to remember, no matter where you go out to eat, is to always ask questions. Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, you’re at their business and they want you to be a satisfied customer so that you’ll come back, and more importantly, bring all your friends with you. If you see nothing that works for you on the menu, inform your waiter that you’re a vegetarian and ask if they have any special dishes, or can make something for you. Or, look through the menu for key ingredients. If you see that they make Cajun chicken pasta on one page and you see broccoli on the list of sides, ask if you can substitute the chicken for lots of broccoli (Hint: They will do this for you at Chili’s, and it’s amazing!).
You may look at this list and see only a menu that caters to the meat-eaters of the world, but look again. Here are 5 chain restaurants that do a surprisingly good job of catering to their veggie-loving customers:
1. Ruby Tuesday
Between the zucchini cake minis and the option to make three veggie sides your meal, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t try it out sooner! (P.S. Both come with the endless Fresh Garden Bar.)
You can order pretty much anything without the meat in it (salads, fajitas, tacos, etc.) And they will replace it with tons of veggies like bell peppers and onions. Yum!
They have a whole host of dishes that are veg-friendly, including black bean tacos and vegetarian burritos. (Note: Just be sure to replace pinto beans with black beans – the pinto beans are supposedly cooked with bacon.)
4. PF Chang’s China Bistro
They have a whole section of food dedicated to vegetarians, including delicious options like stir-fried eggplant and coconut curry vegetables.
5. Olive Garden
They have a whole host of meat-free appetizers to enjoy (try their bruschetta), minestrone soup, create-your-own pizza, and pastas that can easily be made meatless. Just know that they’re not nearly as vegan friendly.
Other restaurants that offer veg-friendly options or will make their popular menu items for you meat free? Applebees, Denny’s, Panera Bread, Hard Rock Café, Taco Bell, Uno Chicago Grill, and many more.
And, in case you’re looking for the perfect, quick and easy dessert to finish off your meal, you can head on over to Dairy Queen and get a Star Kiss bar, or to Baskin Robbins for a selection of dairy-free and gelatin-free ices and sorbets.
Do you have any vegetarian dining tips? What is your favorite vegetarian meal on the menu?
I am a vegetarian who actually loves steak houses. They usually have great wine and bread, lots of veggie side dishes, and almost always that iceberg wedge salad. I love the wedge.
Thanks for the comment, and I completely agree! Just more proof that it’s totally possible to find a great veg-friendly meal almost anywhere! And if you’ve ever been to a Longhorn Steakhouse they have these really yummy white cheddar stuffed mushrooms and the most amazing dessert ever called the Chocolate Stampede. It’s like the perfect cross between chocolate cake and chocolate cheesecake. Way too big to eat on your own but perfect to share!