A few years before becoming a balls to the wall plant eater, a friend asked me why I wasn’t completely vegan, and all I remember is this momentary horror movie playing in my mind: Cartoon mozzarella sticks skipping joyfully down a sidewalk in the rain before getting shoved into a scary van, kidnapped forever. A giant wheel of aged cheddar rolling away for me before plummeting off a cliff into an abyss. Orange cream frosting on Sugarplum cupcakes locked behind bulletproof, impenetrable glass as I kick and scream to get through for just a taste. No way I could be vegan, and give up all the things that make me happy? Screw that. Tell me that you’re vegan, I would have said all of these:
Here’s the thing…you, my friends, can have it all. Seriously. You can treat your body, the earth, and the animals with respect without compromising one iota of your happiness. And we feel we are totally credible in the ‘if we can do it anyone can’ department considering I would receive cheese and meat as birthday gifts for much of my life and I have seen Evan’s morning be ruined over a poorly cooked egg.
The true test and proof that vegans can eat out really is navigating a menu at a bar. It can seen counterintuitive that a vegan can order anything since a bar menu will typically read like a list of the leading causes of heart disease, but vegans are just like everyone else – some of us like to drink until we make poor eating/life decisions.
Our Portland friends were down for the weekend and gave us a perfect excuse to drink at the local brewery, Standing Stone, in Ashland, OR. The beauty of bar eating in a college town is the menu almost always has special options that are at least vegetarian to start and only take a few requests to veganize. A few tips for ordering vegan at a bar:
- LOOK FOR FRENCH FRIES OR TOTS . It’s still good to at least ask the staff how the fries are made as the rare restaurant will use beef tallow or lard in processing fries (and always ask if there is an allergy), but 99% of the time the fries are good to go and you can request them to be made with special flavas, such as these fries with curry powder. Just avoid all creamy sauces and stick with ketchup, mustards (we heart dijon), and vinegars for dipping sauces.
- LOOK FOR ALTERNATIVE MEATS AND DON’T ASSUME. If a veggie burger is available, many bars will allow you to substitute the veggie burger for hamburger on any menu options. Just be sure to check that the veggie burger isn’t made with eggs, a common binder. Really progressive bars will also offer tempeh, seitan, or tofu to be added into a dish.
- STIR-FRY AND SALADS: If you have to order quick or are too drunk to study a menu, look for these two words. Don’t just stick with the salad listed and pull out the meat and dairy; instead, shop the ingredients available from other salads or entrees and request those items be added to your salad. The same concept goes with stir-fry…do you see they have brussel sprouts to order? Add it to the stir fry. It may cost a little more, but will add some gusto to a mix that may be short on fill once the meat is removed.
- FRIED VEGGIES. Okay, fried food may not be the best for you, but I really doubt you give a shit if you’re choosing to eat at a bar in the first place. Even my most carnivorous of friends find fried zucchini, fried pickles, or fried, well, anything delicious and just as easily irresistible as the meat options. This brewery just had ‘seasonal vegetables’ listed and when we asked, they said they were frying brussel sprouts..for reals, these puppies were amazing! My prego friend Sarah probably housed the whole plate guilt free…and I couldn’t have been more proud.
- HOPE FOR A CREATIVE COOK. Some of the best meals that I ever had came after I noticed a menu didn’t have any vegan options that were appealing, so I asked to talk to the chef and he was totally stoked for the challenge! He had fun trying something new and I reaped the benefits. It never hurts to play on the ego on a chef by making it seem like a fun challenge. They know their kitchen and are probably sick of making the same shit all the time. Throw in a big tip, write a great review, and enjoy your meal.
- DESSERT – THINK FRUITY. I don’t consider a meal complete until I’ve eaten dessert, but at a bar this can be next to impossible. While I have had crazy luck asking questions and getting some great food (like the German Chocolate Cake from The Bye and Bye), usually if you can find a sorbet you are good to go. Or just order a Pyramid Apricot Ale, and call it good!
Happy eating my friends! As always, we love to hear your thoughts, stories, and pictures of good food, especially great food you found in bars. Happy drinking!