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Why must all restaurant entrees have meat in them?

Maxinella Feb 25, 2011 10:34 AM

O.K. I realize that as a vegetarian I'm the odd ball at most dining establishments, but I find it amazing that most places just assume that every patron wants some sort of flesh in every entree. Yes, I know that you can find eggplant parm, or some other cheese encrusted dish on some menus, but why do so few restaurants have even one non-meant entree? Haven't chefs ever heard of beans.

I'm curious: if you eat meat, do you feel that you must have it as an entree whey you go out to eat? If not, what would you like to see more of on menus?

  1. n
    NanH May 4, 2011 08:00 AM

    My recent dinner experience brought this thread to mind. We were at a nicer 'eclectic' restaurant with several vegetarian options. At least, I assumed the 'v' =vegetarian explanation was pretty clear, as was the fact that there were meat, dairy, fish and egg recipes on the menu.

    Well, the table next to us was not so easily convinced, as they cross questioned the waitress on the various meal preparation methods to the point where she got the manager to come speak to them. They were happy with none of the replies which I will paraphrase:

    Vegan? -Cannot guarantee.

    Organic? -As much as possible.
    Which ones? (these were pointed out on the menu), then one said, 'Are you sure?' -We did not grow them ourselves.
    Separate utensils? -No
    How thoroughly to you clean them between dishes? -Dishwasher
    Does that remove all traces of 'flesh'? -Yes
    How are you sure to avoid meat 'contamination' of the vegetables? -vegetable prep at a separate station

    On and on with much sighing and rolling of eyes. Seriously, just eat at home.

    2 Replies
    1. re: NanH
      BobB May 4, 2011 08:14 AM

      Reminds me of the Portlandia episode where the dining couple has to check out the family history of the chicken they're about to be served. Very funny, utterly off-the-wall show.

      1. re: BobB
        Kholvaitar Nov 18, 2013 05:28 AM

        "His name was Colin. Here are his papers."

         
    2. q
      Querencia May 2, 2011 01:29 AM

      Re vegetarian choices in restaurants---everybody, if you get to Montreal or Toronto do not miss having a meal at Le Commensal. There are several in Montreal and I think just one in Toronto. Elegant vegetarian---even non-veg people will like it. There is a vast cold table then a vast hot table---you take what you want and they weigh your plate. The cold table is the best salad bar I have ever seen anywhere----I remember huge platters of avocado halves filled with sauce. Their website gives menu items but in reality many more choices are offered.

      1. c
        cookware junkie May 1, 2011 04:26 PM

        We live in a meat-eating culture. In fact, it is hard to find any culture from any point in history that does not incorporate at least a little bit of animal food into its food culture.

        I do eat meat, but I don't necessarily insist on a meaty or very meaty meal at home or out. Sometimes when we go out, I just enjoy the hot, fresh bread and a seafood bisque, which has very little seafood in it when all is said and done.

        I don't usually like to eat meat at restaurants because I expect the animal has been raised on drugs and grains and in less-than-healthy circumstances (both for the animal and the environment). So, while I occasionally enjoy steak or fajitas or lamb at restaurants, I prefer to eat foods from farmers and ranchers whose practices I agree with, and I am fortunate in being able to buy directly from people who are very good stewards of their land and their animals. When it comes to more vegetarian fare, I've never had a lentil soup/stew anywhere that I like as well as my own. I generally love salads that others make because I'm not doing all the prep work! Ditto when it comes to lasagne, and I appreciate a vegetarian lasagna just as much as one with meat in it.

        1. n
          NCVeggie Apr 8, 2011 12:35 PM

          I agree that today the lack of vegetarian choices probably has more to do with mark-up and possibly a lack of creativity, as others have suggested. While the American diet is generally meat-centric, it seems that many chefs are moving in the opposite direction, using meat as a condiment or flavor enhancer, rather than the focus of a meal...
          That being said, here in the South meat is still definitely king, macaroni & cheese, french fries and cornbread are considered vegetables and everything else is cooked in pork fat or slathered with mayonnaise.
          My tip for frustrated vegetarians is to go for some type of ethnic food when dining out, and generally there will be a far greater selection of veg options.

          1 Reply
          1. re: NCVeggie
            paulj May 2, 2011 08:16 AM

            Though 'ethnic' places might not understand the scruples of an American vegetarian. For example a Chinese tofu dish might still have some minced pork, and Japanese tofu dish might have a dashi (fish) broth, Mexican beans fried in lard, etc.

          2. s
            sisterfunkhaus Mar 12, 2011 03:54 PM

            I am not a vegetarian, but I don't eat a lot of meat. I almost always get vegetarian only when I go out. I live in the middle of BBQ central where vegetarians are considered weird. I never have trouble finding something vegetarian. Even at steak restaurants, I can get pretty great meal most of the time.

            BTW, I would become a vegetarian except for broth and stock. I love cooking with broth and stock, and veggie stock doesn't always do the trick. I've considered just not eating meat at all, and allowing stocks and broths. It seems a bit weird though.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sisterfunkhaus
              linguafood Mar 13, 2011 02:57 PM

              If it doesn't seem weird to you personally, who cares?

            2. s
              snowman51 Mar 10, 2011 08:21 PM

              why do almost all reastaurents add garlic to evevrything? Meat, veggies, whatever. One good sniff or bite of garlic and I am on the way to the hospital. I guess its what sells, bad for me but good for the profit margin. Must be the same for meat additives.

              1. m
                MonMauler Mar 10, 2011 08:00 AM

                When I go out to eat, which is extremely often, I almost always eat meat in one form or the other. There are only two exceptions: 1.) Sometimes I'll have a slice of cheese pizza for lunch, and 2.) A nearby restaurant serves a pretty good half caprese panini with a cup of soup, and if the soup I choose doesn't have meat in it, then I don't have any meat for lunch. At dinner, my entree always includes some form of meat.

                When I go out to eat with friends, especially in dinner settings, everyone in my group unfailingly orders an entree including meat. I'm sure exceptions have occurred, but none occur regularly.

                1. ttoommyy Mar 10, 2011 05:14 AM

                  "I'm curious: if you eat meat, do you feel that you must have it as an entree whey you go out to eat?"

                  Short answer: yes! At 50, my eating habits are pretty much set for life and I like meat. Seafood/fish is good too, but I almost always will go for a meat entree. I really cannot think of a time I ever ordered a non-meat or non-seafood/fish entree. I am a carnivore through and through.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ttoommyy
                    0
                    02putt Mar 10, 2011 05:45 AM

                    I too like meat but sometimes I am just not that hungry. When we go out to dine as a family sometimes I just order soup and salad. Some of those salads are massive. I don't care if the soup broth is chicken, beef, or vegetable or something else. Just as long as it is yummy!

                  2. d
                    David305 Mar 10, 2011 05:06 AM

                    Dear Maxinella,

                    I was a strict lacto-ovo-vegetarian for 25 years. Due to health problems and overweight, I switched to the Blood Type Diet ("Eat Right 4 Your Type"). As a type O, that meant adding back meat. It worked well; but when I went back to high carbs, my weight started to balloon again, and health problems resumed. Now I'm trying to eat low-carb and type O again.
                    I learned over 25 years the many strategies of a traveling vegetarian. In the 70s and 80s, I regularly bought the Vegetarian Times guide to vegetarian and veg-friendly restaurants; they showed places across the US and Canada. There were several other such guides, some better organized than others. These days, the WWW is the most current source. Just Google "guide to vegetarian restaurants, and you will find DOZENS of guides.
                    Finding regular restaurants that accommodate vegetarians is much easier on the east and west coasts. But aside from bigger cities and resort towns, it's a more onerous task in the middle -- especially in smaller towns in the South, the Midwest, the Great Plains, and in the "Cowboy country" of the West. It's a question of demographics and consciousness: working folk in simple lives don't even imagine eating vegetarian, let alone try it. Your average small-town greasy spoon will simply not have considered your needs, beyond bread and a plate of wilted lettuce. And they will call something vegetarian that isn't, so don't rely on them to be the guardians of your conscience. All dietary reform depends on some kind of raised consciousness; otherwise, people eat the same way their mothers fed them. Even though Tulsa is far larger than Santa Cruz, the latter will have far more options. (Not judging, just saying; I know some lovely people from Tulsa.) Some places get it faster than others; once-barren places like Bar Harbor or Boise now have tons of good options. Cool places like Asheville, Santa Fe and Austin always did.
                    Generally, more upscale people and communities -- especially college towns -- are far more likely to have vegetarians, or the rebellious teenage children of the rich who have decided to defy their parents and try to be vegetarians. Nicer restaurants will usually have at least one dish in each category that is vegetarian or vegan.

                    Some upscale burger places will have veggie burgers now. For instance, Red Robin will prepare a Gardenburger, or substitute a Boca Burger on any burger order upon request. If you are meticulous, (as I always was,) ask (very politely and with a smile) that it be cooked on a cleaned grill without the animal fat. Even places like Houston's, Burger King, Cheers, Johnny Rockets all have vegeburgers. Wraps restaurants usually have veg options. Another web suggestion: try Googling "Which burger chains offer veggie burgers" and/or "Which restaurant chains have vegetarian options".

                    Most especially, you want to look for ethnic categories, which provide the richest pickings:

                    Indian always has extensive vegetarian menus, as most Hindus are vegetarian. (Alas, many Indian dishes are deep-fried; be alert and ask if you are avoiding.) Nepalese similarly has extensive options.
                    Thai restaurants can usually prepare any dish with Tofu. (Though be careful if peanut sensitive.)
                    Kosher Dairy restaurants are meatless, (though they may not be fishless! Ask.) and many dishes are vegan.
                    Middle eastern/Greek restaurants have hummus, felafel, stuffed grape leaves, etc.
                    Mexican restaurants have bean burritos, chili rellenos, etc. (Ask to make sure beans are made without lard. And if you're vegan, say no cheese or sour cream.) Chipotle Mexican Grill is in many suburban places now, and has good choices; their black beans are typically meatless, but their pinto beans typically have meat.
                    Pizza places always have veggie pizzas. Many or most do not put meat in the sauce; ask.
                    Italian places always have pasta dishes, and eggplant parmesan. Ask re sauces.
                    Chinese places always have at least a few vegetarian dishes, but ask about chicken broth. Pei Wei is in many suburban places now, with good choices. The best Chinese restaurants often have a distinct vegetarian menu; ask. Big cities often have all-strictly-veg Chinese restaurants in the Buddhist cuisine style. I've been to many, and they're wonderful.
                    Japanese restaurants usually have some tofu dishes; but you can also assemble a fantastic meal from various appetizers!
                    Ethiopian places always have some veg dishes.
                    Some Indonesian restaurants have a vegetarian version of the rijstaffel, an experience.
                    Spanish is not known for veg, but there are many veg. tapas.
                    French is not known for veg., but there is always ratatouille.
                    Some buffet restaurants like Golden Corral offer a variety of choices. If you can find a Sweet Tomatoes or Souplantation, the pickings are very rich indeed -- and they label which items are vegetarian and vegan.
                    The most reliable cuisine (aside from restaurants labeled Vegetarian) is found in restaurants that specialize in "Natural Foods." While they're not always all-veg, they know that a good portion of their clientele is veg, and they cater to them eagerly and carefully. Typically, they'll have a variety of vegetarian and vegan soups, salads, entrees and desserts. And they WILL usually have the consciousness not to prepare vegan sandwiches where they have prepared chicken or fish. To be certain, ask; they will not be offended. Similarly, if you encounter a major natural foods supermarket such as Whole Foods or Earth Faire, you'll find a huge selection of prepared foods, including some hot, a lot of it veg; and a dining area where people may sit and eat (no wait staff, though).
                    German, Russian, Polish, Cuban, Argentinian, US southern/BBQ? Sorry, outta luck. (Lots of people actually IN those places now eat lighter and healthier; but the cuisines as still found here are still old-style, meaty and heavy. Ditto for most French, Spanish and Italian.)

                    Hope this helps! You should've seen how sparse things were in 1973, when I started!
                    Happy traveling and eating, best wishes,
                    David H., Kendall West (Miami), FL

                     
                    1. iluvtennis Feb 27, 2011 05:36 PM

                      I'm not a vegetarian, but i often order meals that don't have meat. There's a place I love that serves a few meatless entrees where i am a huge fan of their butternut squash ravioli...then there's another place that I often get crispy avocado tacos...one of my favorite dishes in town!

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: iluvtennis
                        e
                        escondido123 Feb 27, 2011 05:49 PM

                        Avocado tacos? Tell me more please.

                        1. re: escondido123
                          iluvtennis Feb 28, 2011 03:11 PM

                          Here's the description of the dish
                          Fried Avocados • Handmade Tortillas • Sweet ‘n Sour Jalapeno
                          Slaw Cotija Cheese • House-made Salsas • Cumin Crisps • Pasilla Chili and Key Lime Sauce

                          http://www.hannahsoffthesquare.com/me...

                          1. re: iluvtennis
                            e
                            escondido123 Feb 28, 2011 03:19 PM

                            Fried avocados? I can't stomach that idea though I love the sound of the rest of the dish.

                            1. re: escondido123
                              iluvtennis Feb 28, 2011 04:15 PM

                              I think not frying the avocados would actually be a plus myself, but i still like the fried version.

                        2. re: iluvtennis
                          Sparkina Mar 23, 2011 04:58 PM

                          Butternut squash ravioli? Avocado tacos? Sounds divine! Oh, man, now my mouth is watering all over my keyboard.

                        3. thew Feb 27, 2011 11:53 AM

                          ignoring the fact that many places do have vegetarian options, it comes down to money. does the number of meals ordered outweigh the loss of food on days when none is ordered. that's about it

                          19 Replies
                          1. re: thew
                            e
                            escondido123 Feb 27, 2011 12:04 PM

                            I would say some places have real vegetarian options that are on par with the meat based ones. A clever and smart restaurant chef always plans ahead so s/he knows what he will do with the ingredients for items that will not sell today. Veggies become part of a stew, soup or salad for the next day. Better to toss out some veggie based dish than that fish that is no longer fish.

                            1. re: escondido123
                              im_nomad Feb 27, 2011 01:38 PM

                              I think if you were to work the ingredients so that they were somewhat in common with other meat dishes it could work. I do understand how it might be hard to use the remainder of a massive can of chick peas after using just one portion, but with fresh foods I can see how it would be done.

                              1. re: im_nomad
                                e
                                escondido123 Feb 27, 2011 02:01 PM

                                No need to buy a "massive" can. If I'm eating in a decent restaurant I expect the beans to start out dry and be cooked onsite.

                                1. re: escondido123
                                  thew Feb 27, 2011 02:09 PM

                                  but, sticking with chick peas, even using a pressure cooker that takes a half an hour. so they need to be prepped in advance. and if they are not used?

                                  1. re: thew
                                    e
                                    escondido123 Feb 27, 2011 02:15 PM

                                    You don't have to cook large amounts. And how much will a couple cups of dried beans set anyone back...it can always be made into a bean spread of some sort or added to a soup. Restaurants know how to reuse not throw away.

                                    1. re: escondido123
                                      e
                                      ediblover Feb 27, 2011 02:24 PM

                                      It's not just about having the ingredients, but separate equipment/stations. It takes a lot of effort and $ to keep an additional set just for special conditions (allergy-free, vegan, Kosher, etc.).

                                      1. re: ediblover
                                        e
                                        escondido123 Feb 27, 2011 03:23 PM

                                        But we weren't talking about any of those, we were only talking about vegetarian. People who have very strict diets for whatever reason have few options in the US unless they are a large enough group in a small enough area to keep a restaurant in business. That is true in some specific places for Kosher and vegan diets.

                                      2. re: escondido123
                                        paulj Feb 27, 2011 04:14 PM

                                        So what's the difference between 4c of chickpeas that were cooked yesterday, and 4c from a can (other than labor cost)?

                                        1. re: paulj
                                          e
                                          escondido123 Feb 27, 2011 04:22 PM

                                          Because sometimes canned chickpeas can have that "canny" flavor that some people don't like. And I just figured that when a restaurant can cook whatever amount of an item seems good, raher than based upon the size of a can, it would be a way to save money.

                                          1. re: escondido123
                                            raytamsgv Feb 28, 2011 04:05 PM

                                            Not always. Sometimes, it is more expensive to purchase a small amount of ingredients than a large can.

                                            1. re: escondido123
                                              s
                                              sisterfunkhaus Mar 12, 2011 03:58 PM

                                              Washing them well helps with the flavor. I make a crock pot vegetarian curry with chickpeas that is fantastic. The long cooking time softens them and the coconut curry sauce makes them not have that canned flavor.

                                            2. re: paulj
                                              c
                                              chocolatstiletto Feb 27, 2011 04:49 PM

                                              Yeah, I have to say, most salad bars only offer kind of gross canned beans, and they're generally awful. I would love, LOVE it, if more restaurants put out cooked or at least spiced things into the salad bar or veggie options. Even canned beans with spices, or cooked for a bit in broth, would be an immense improvement over the tinny, dry canned beans.

                                              1. re: chocolatstiletto
                                                paulj Feb 27, 2011 05:33 PM

                                                A 4 or 5 bean salad could well have come in a big jar such those sold at Costco.

                                                1. re: paulj
                                                  c
                                                  chocolatstiletto Feb 27, 2011 05:35 PM

                                                  I actually love Costco's 3 bean salad, as sugary and delicious as it is. It's still 100x more interesting than not-well-drained canned garbanzo beans. (Wawa, I'm looking at you...)

                                                2. re: chocolatstiletto
                                                  westsidegal Feb 28, 2011 01:35 PM

                                                  dunno where you're located, but the salad bar at the meat-temple called FOGO DE CHAO has fresh beans.

                                                  1. re: westsidegal
                                                    c
                                                    chocolatstiletto Feb 28, 2011 04:14 PM

                                                    Haha, thanks for the heads up-- I've actually heard they (and their kin, Chima) have fantastic salad bars. I've been thinking of treating my steak-loving boyfriend to a night there as a treat, so it's nice to know I'll enjoy it too!

                                                    1. re: chocolatstiletto
                                                      jfood Feb 28, 2011 05:04 PM

                                                      when you go tell your boyfriend to wait when they start brininging the meats since they try to fill you up on sausage and chicken before they bring the rib eye and filets. tell the first server to only bring the expensive stuff. i hosted 12 people last week and told them each the same thing.

                                                      worked like a charm last week. and for what they charge chicken and sausage ain't the way to go.

                                                      btw - the salad bar is enormous as well.

                                                      1. re: chocolatstiletto
                                                        s
                                                        sisterfunkhaus Mar 12, 2011 03:56 PM

                                                        OMG, Fogo has the best salad bar ever. It is vegetarian paradise.

                                        2. re: escondido123
                                          m
                                          miriamjo Apr 4, 2011 07:00 PM

                                          Unless you are dining at better restaurant, there is unlikely to be a "chef", but most likely a cook who relies on a whole lot of pre-prepped food.

                                      3. m
                                        mlgb Feb 27, 2011 11:29 AM

                                        I just don't get why vegetarians expect every restaurant to cater to them even when it's not part of the restaurant's target market. If I don't feel like a big slab of meat for dinner I order a couple of appetizers and a salad. Or I pick a different restaurant.

                                        28 Replies
                                        1. re: mlgb
                                          Maxinella Feb 27, 2011 11:43 AM

                                          I certainly don't expect every restaurant to cater to vegetarians if they're not part of their market. I wouldn't go to a steak house and expect them to cater to me. However, I don't think it's unreasonable that there be more of a choice. Like I said, I sincerely doubt that every omnivore wants to eat meat at every meal.

                                          1. re: Maxinella
                                            m
                                            mlgb Feb 27, 2011 12:11 PM

                                            It would of course be ideal if every restaurant had an endless variety of just what I felt like eating on any particular night. But of course that isn't realistic. Nor do I expect a chef to whip up something special just for me which is what many vegetarians seem to demand. It's the same as being gluten intolerant. You learn which restaurants are set up to deal with you, or you call ahead, or you cook at home, or you make do with the salad and pasta that is already on the menu, hold the chicken please. I know, for example, if I have to go to dinner with a vege friend, that the local Thai place is willing to substitue tofu for meat in ALL of their stirfries, and that the Mexican place has a choice of black or pinto beans, and lots of fresh salsas. And the Southern Indian Buffet is all-veg even if I have to drive a bit farther to eat there.

                                            Sometimes I think it's the vegetarians who have no imagination, can't look at a menu and put something interesting together from what is already there.

                                            1. re: mlgb
                                              e
                                              escondido123 Feb 27, 2011 01:12 PM

                                              If we were talking about something not mainstream I could understand your seeming frustration with the desire for good vegetarian dishes. But many, many people in this country would like to be able to go out and eat and find something interesting that is meatless. I love pasta and would be delighted to find more than alfred, pesto and marinara as my sauce choices. How about a puttanesca at least? Or maybe beautifully roasted brocolli--which could also be offered as a side--tossed with something thoughtful in the way of ingredients. I don't go to a restaurant to "put something interesting together..." that's the chef's job. I also know that can become a problem for restaurants when they don't want everyone to think they can basically "roll their own." Again, I am not a vegetarian but would love to see more dishes that are not meat-based yet wonderful. Shouldn't be too hard for a good chef...think of it as one of the evening's specials.

                                              1. re: escondido123
                                                thew Feb 27, 2011 01:21 PM

                                                putanesca isn't vegetarian.

                                                1. re: thew
                                                  s
                                                  small h Feb 27, 2011 01:55 PM

                                                  Oh, you can just leave out the anchovies and throw in extra capers. I bet no one would even notice.

                                                  1. re: thew
                                                    e
                                                    escondido123 Feb 27, 2011 02:02 PM

                                                    You know what I'm getting at, and in my house putanesca is made without anchovies.

                                                    1. re: escondido123
                                                      thew Feb 27, 2011 02:08 PM

                                                      then i think it is something other than puttanesca.

                                                      1. re: thew
                                                        e
                                                        escondido123 Feb 27, 2011 02:13 PM

                                                        Yes, it is pasta in the style of puttanesca for vegetarians.

                                                        1. re: escondido123
                                                          h
                                                          Harters Feb 27, 2011 02:44 PM

                                                          On a couple of occasions, I@ve continued to make puttanesca even though i realised we had no anchovies. In truth, the other flavours are sufficiently dominating that you don't notice they were missing once the dish had come together.

                                                          1. re: escondido123
                                                            thew Feb 27, 2011 04:34 PM

                                                            "in the style of something" is not the same as "something"

                                                            a kosher-style deli isn't kosher, either.

                                                            1. re: thew
                                                              e
                                                              escondido123 Feb 27, 2011 04:51 PM

                                                              When I was a kid, this was the point at which my mother would come into the room and say to my sister and me "Okay you two stop your bickering and make up or neither one of you will get spaghetti of any kind for dinner." So will "You are absolutely right" do the trick?' Off to make manicotti for two. Best.

                                                              1. re: thew
                                                                linguafood Feb 28, 2011 08:18 AM

                                                                whoda thunk thew'd be the beacon of authenticity.

                                                                1. re: linguafood
                                                                  thew Feb 28, 2011 08:56 AM

                                                                  i was actually laughing at myself as i wrote those......

                                                              2. re: escondido123
                                                                EWSflash Mar 12, 2011 03:25 PM

                                                                Or would it be pasta in the style of the vegetarian puttanesca?

                                                        2. re: escondido123
                                                          westsidegal Feb 27, 2011 02:36 PM

                                                          if you venture up to the LA area from escondido, try GJELINA restaurant in venice (part of LA city proper, near the beach).

                                                          for pasta, try Hosteria Piccolo in Santa Monica.

                                                          if you make it to the Century City area of LA , try Obika Mozzarella Bar for MANY terrific options.

                                                          if you end up near UCLA, try any of the Persian stews from the vegetarian section of the menu at SHAMSHIRI GRILL on westwood blvd. also, most of the mezze they
                                                          serve there are inherently vegetarian.

                                                          in the San Fernando Valley area of LA there is an Israeli restaurant called Itzak Hagadol that does some amazing things with eggplant.

                                                          near downtown LA there is a vegetarian Japanese restaurant called SHOJIN that has a HUGE menu of very inventive japanese vegetarian food.

                                                          near mid-wilshire, there is RAHEL which serves vegan ethiopian food. . .

                                                          1. re: westsidegal
                                                            e
                                                            escondido123 Feb 27, 2011 03:19 PM

                                                            Thanks for the suggestions westsidegal. My niece goes to UCLA and the rare times I go to visit her it is always an Ethiopian place near her apt. She used to be a vegetarian and I'm an omnivore so we usually get one veg meal and one with meat. But must admit I only go into LA once a year.

                                                    2. re: mlgb
                                                      l
                                                      LauraGrace Feb 27, 2011 12:22 PM

                                                      "even when it's not part of the restaurant's target market."

                                                      See, this is the major bone of contention, I think. I don't think anyone's thinking of your local hot dog stand or cheese-steak joint, or even steakhouse, but IMO, most mainstream family-casual (and up) restaurants are doing themselves a disservice by not thinking about meatless mains/entrees, not just because everyone has a vegetarian friend they like to eat dinner with sometimes, but because not everyone wants meat every time they go out.

                                                      It's a profit thing. Why exclude a whole demographic when you can *include* them with a very simple menu change? Again, just seems like good business sense to me.

                                                      1. re: LauraGrace
                                                        m
                                                        mlgb Feb 27, 2011 12:42 PM

                                                        I think most mainstream family casual restaurants have cheese pasta and chicken caesar on the menu precisely because they know that their target market (including kids and budgeting seniors) will order those items, but not something with lots of indigestible fiber and "weird" ingredients. I think you are wrong that family casual restaurants want to cater to anything but the lowest common denominator and to expect that is unrealistic.

                                                        But I do know that I can find a quinoa wild mushroom and creme fraiche "risotto" at a Peruvian restaurant opened by a creative chef (and it's $13 including a side salad and cauliflower soup). It's just up to me to seek that out and not expect to find it at my local Macaroni Grill.

                                                        1. re: mlgb
                                                          l
                                                          LauraGrace Feb 27, 2011 12:48 PM

                                                          Oh, totally. I'm not really thinking corporate-type places where the menu is dictated to them and they're really assembling more than cooking. I'm thinking more casual than, say, a shi-shi bistro or white-tablecloth-type place.

                                                          1. re: LauraGrace
                                                            paulj Feb 27, 2011 12:55 PM

                                                            What would be a good vegetarian offering at the shi-shi bistro? Surely not a vegetarian casoullet. :)

                                                            1. re: paulj
                                                              l
                                                              LauraGrace Feb 27, 2011 01:07 PM

                                                              Hahaha!! Yes! With vegetarian duck confit! :D

                                                              I dunno, some kind of winter squash ravioli or risotto or pasta dish. Minestrone. Black bean rissoles/fritters. Braised kale and white beans on hearty bread. Cold soba noodles with tofu. Gnocchi with roasted veggies. Something Moroccan-ish with chickpeas?

                                                              1. re: paulj
                                                                westsidegal Feb 27, 2011 03:04 PM

                                                                here are a couple of the vegetarian items offered at one of the local shi-shi restaurants near me, (note that this is NOT a vegetarian restaurant)
                                                                1) TODAY'S ORGANIC VEGAN SOUP
                                                                2) VEGETABLE TEMPURA WITH SPICY MISO
                                                                3) BURRATA CHEESE WITH SUNDRIED CHERRY TOMATOS
                                                                4) CHEESE PLATE WITH WARM DRIED FRUIT AND NUT BREAD
                                                                4)WILD ARUGULA SALAD
                                                                5) APPLE ROMAINE SALAD
                                                                6) ORGANIC SLOW-ROASTED BEET SALAD WITH WALNUTS AND CHEVRE
                                                                7)GRILLED ORGANIC TEMPEH WITH KALE, CURRIED COCONUT LENTILS, AND SWEET POTATO

                                                          2. re: LauraGrace
                                                            Jay F Feb 27, 2011 01:45 PM

                                                            Is vegetarian as rigid as kosher? Would a vegetarian not want to eat tofu and carrots that were cooked in a pan that had last cooked a filet of beef?

                                                            1. re: Jay F
                                                              l
                                                              LauraGrace Feb 27, 2011 01:49 PM

                                                              Haha... there are as many applications of "vegetarian" as there are vegetarians. I wouldn't care; presumably it's been washed. If forced into conjecture, I would guess that someone who objects to eating food cooked in the same (washed) pan as beef would be unlikely to eat in a restaurant that serves meat at all.

                                                              1. re: Jay F
                                                                s
                                                                small h Feb 27, 2011 01:53 PM

                                                                I think someone who adhered that strictly to a vegetarian diet wouldn't go to a restaurant that served meat at all. I don't eat meat, but I really couldn't care less about what went on in which pan, prior to my food hitting it (within reason).

                                                                1. re: Jay F
                                                                  raytamsgv Feb 28, 2011 04:02 PM

                                                                  It depends on how you define "vegetarian". There are many hyphenated vegetarians.

                                                              2. re: mlgb
                                                                im_nomad Feb 27, 2011 01:28 PM

                                                                I'm not touching the "I don't get why vegetarians expect every restaurant"..... however to answer, perhaps because beans, eggs, cheese etc etc.... are food. Restaurants offer food.

                                                                1. re: mlgb
                                                                  n
                                                                  NicoleFriedman Feb 27, 2011 03:35 PM

                                                                  I understand the OP's issue but I must agree with you. I do not like pork and yet almost anywhere I've been on I-95 in the South has pork in some form, even the vegetables. (Of course there are exceptions if I were able to venture off the highway but sometimes on road trips that's not possible). I've ended up eating little more than a salad on occasion as a result which sucks... but I don't expect these places to cater to me. (Unless there's a significant Jewish community nearby:} )

                                                                2. j
                                                                  jeanmarieok Feb 27, 2011 09:40 AM

                                                                  I don't need meat in my entree. I am not a vegetarian, but I do get tired of eating out in general. My strategy for the past couple of years has been to order an appetizer (sometimes two!) and a salad. I find I get a much more interesting meal than a slab of meat and a starch.

                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                  1. re: jeanmarieok
                                                                    tatamagouche Feb 27, 2011 10:37 AM

                                                                    To make a broad generalization with lots of exceptions, appetizers/small plates *are* more interesting than entrees/large plates. Chefs can take chances on "exotic"/more expensive ingredients because customers are more comfortable experimenting with smaller portions (often, though granted not always, with a smaller price tag).

                                                                    I know a few chefs in the early days of nose to tail who convinced customers to try offal that way. But the same would apply to lesser known types of produce as well.

                                                                    http://www.ruthtobias.com

                                                                    1. re: jeanmarieok
                                                                      Maxinella Feb 27, 2011 10:49 AM

                                                                      Wow! I guess I hit a nerve. Yes, there are certainly great vegetarian options in Boston and Cambridge, and many fine dining establishments do have a vegetarian option. However, sometimes you want to meet the in-laws for dinner in the 'burbs, or you're traveling on business with a group of people, or you're just on your way somewhere and you want to get something to eat.

                                                                      I can't tell you how many hours my husband I have spent trying to find a reasonable place to eat that isn't in the middle of a veggie friendly city, doesn't cost a fortune and makes good food.

                                                                      Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against cheese, but if I don't want to eat it at every meal. It also takes more than a side salad and a couple of pieces of roasted zucchini to fill me up.

                                                                      1. re: Maxinella
                                                                        paulj Feb 27, 2011 11:20 AM

                                                                        What are good vegetarian dishes that could be made 'burbs in a restaurant that has mainly meat dishes? It might help to define the type of restaurant, for a example a steak house, or franchise family dinning, or freeway reststop in the middle of Iowa, etc.

                                                                        1. re: paulj
                                                                          Maxinella Feb 27, 2011 11:50 AM

                                                                          How about a chef salad with hard boiled eggs and/or beans? Or maybe a stir-fry made with tofu instead of beef or chicken? How about soups with a vegetable base? I wont' bring up tempeh or seitan, because I realize that they are still, unfortunately, out of the main stream.

                                                                          1. re: Maxinella
                                                                            paulj Feb 27, 2011 12:36 PM

                                                                            Eggs are part of a classic chef salad. But would it be a chef salad if it didn't have meat? What sort of beans would you use? A half dozen canned kidney beans? A salad bar is probably a better offering; chickpeas are common items there.

                                                                            Places that specialize in stir-frying often have tofu options (though it might be hard get a Chinese one without some pork). Else where a stir fry is likely to be offered as a 'healthy eating' option.

                                                                            Does a vegetarian option have to include high protein items (eggs, legumes, soy products)?

                                                                            1. re: paulj
                                                                              im_nomad Feb 27, 2011 01:32 PM

                                                                              To answer your last question solely from my own perspective, it's nice to have a complete meal, but in a restaurant where it is but one of my meals for that day, not necessarily. I can offset protein needs elsewhere in the day.

                                                                              It's a very different situation in cases such as I've posted about in the past, such as being in hospital, confined to a training facility, etc, where there are no other choices for days and days on end.

                                                                      2. re: jeanmarieok
                                                                        e
                                                                        escondido123 Feb 27, 2011 11:15 AM

                                                                        I generally do the same. My husband will often order a meat entree and that is more than enough for both of us if it looks good. But generally, I like smaller amounts of meat that bring flavor to a dish rather than a big slab of whatever--though a crusty, rare steak can be nice once in awhile.

                                                                      3. j
                                                                        jamieeats Feb 27, 2011 05:19 AM

                                                                        am i the only one who thinks its perfectly fine for restaurants to feature most dishes with meat or seafood, and then having vegetarian options available?

                                                                        18 Replies
                                                                        1. re: jamieeats
                                                                          0
                                                                          02putt Feb 27, 2011 05:49 AM

                                                                          No this is really a no brainer...would you expect to see pork on the menu at a Lebanese Restaurant?

                                                                          1. re: jamieeats
                                                                            k
                                                                            Kingman Feb 27, 2011 05:52 AM

                                                                            At the end of the day, restaurants want to create dishes that sell. They are in business to sell food and make money. Meat sells. Legumes and vegitable broth are not the most popular entres. If I were to open a restaurant, I would do everything I could to accommodate vegitarians, but I would not devote a portion of my menu to veg. dishes. It just wouldn't be in the best interest of my business. That's life.

                                                                            1. re: Kingman
                                                                              0
                                                                              02putt Feb 27, 2011 06:07 AM

                                                                              I agree and for the record there are certain restaurants I don't go to because nothing on their menu appeals to me. C'est la vie!

                                                                              1. re: Kingman
                                                                                h
                                                                                Harters Feb 27, 2011 06:10 AM

                                                                                " It just wouldn't be in the best interest of my business. "

                                                                                I think that's just plain wrong. Devote a portion of your menu to attractive sounding vegetarian dishes that sit alongside the attractive sounding meat-based dishes and you expand the customer base. You not only satisfy the vegetarians who come as part of a group of omnivores but, do it right and you attract vegetarians to visit you as a specific destination for them. And think of all the extra profit you'd be missing out on - most places price their vegetarian dishes only slightly cheaper than the meat -based ones, yet their ingredient costs are far less. The profit margins are, therefore, significantly higher. On all levels, vegetarians are really, really good business - bring 'em on.

                                                                                1. re: Harters
                                                                                  e
                                                                                  escondido123 Feb 27, 2011 07:35 AM

                                                                                  So true. And if restaurants were also aware enough to make dishes that were truly vegetarian--make anchovies an option in Caesar salad, make some popular soups and risottos with a veggie base too--and then offer a variety of interesting veggies that could be sides or a veggie platter, as well as a poached egg as an option to top any dish. There are so many people looking for interesting options, but you don't have to turn the restaurant upside down to make it happen. I'm a meat eater.

                                                                                  1. re: escondido123
                                                                                    Jay F Feb 27, 2011 01:40 PM

                                                                                    I hate the word "veggie." If I owned a restaurant, I would serve plenty of things vegetable eaters like, but none of them would be called "veggie." In fact, I'd tell the servers to say 'No Veggies" to anyone who used the word "veggie" while ordering. "Meat only if you say 'veggies.'"

                                                                                    1. re: Jay F
                                                                                      westsidegal Feb 27, 2011 02:27 PM

                                                                                      i feel the same way about the word "Yummy".

                                                                                      if you want something "yummy" please go somewhere else.

                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal
                                                                                        Jay F Feb 27, 2011 02:29 PM

                                                                                        I hate "yummy," too. "Yummy" is gross.

                                                                                        "Yum" does not offend, however.

                                                                                  2. re: Harters
                                                                                    paulj Feb 27, 2011 07:35 AM

                                                                                    Ingredients are only part of the cost. If the vegetarian items can be stored and prepared in the same way as the meat based ones, then the added cost of including those on the menu in negligible. Adding a Boca-burger to the burger line up would fit in this category. But adding a house made vegetarian shepherd's pie (yes American restaurants sell such a thing) might require added staff and more prep area.

                                                                                    1. re: paulj
                                                                                      e
                                                                                      escondido123 Feb 27, 2011 07:57 AM

                                                                                      I would hope most restaurants could do better than a Boca-burger. Why go with fake meat when there are so many other options? I go meatless a couple times a week and those meals are as interesting as the rest.

                                                                                      1. re: escondido123
                                                                                        paulj Feb 27, 2011 08:13 AM

                                                                                        Won't that depend on the type of restaurant and its range of offerings?

                                                                                        Take for example a burger-joint. Not a franchise, but one that cooks most items on the flat top grill and a couple of deep fryers. What are their alternatives?

                                                                                        A local institution in Chicago is Italian Beef. I haven't been to one in recent years, but I recall only one non-meat option - an egg sandwich on Fridays, no doubt a left over from Italian Catholic fasting practices.

                                                                                        1. re: paulj
                                                                                          e
                                                                                          escondido123 Feb 27, 2011 09:24 AM

                                                                                          If you are a vegetarian, I think one would have the good sense to not go to a restaurant that is obviously all about the meat. The OP said "dining establishments" so I don't think s/he's talking about every hot dog stand, burger joint or taco shop.

                                                                                        2. re: escondido123
                                                                                          h
                                                                                          Harters Feb 27, 2011 08:21 AM

                                                                                          LIke you, I eat veggie meals at home and I eat veggie meals in restaurants. Not as many as flesh-based ones, but say around 10% of the time. And I'd never cook or order a "fake meat" meal.

                                                                                          It's not difficult for a restaurant - if you have five main courses on your bistro menu, make one a veggie. If you have ten, make it two.

                                                                                          There's a celeb. TV chef has a couple of places near me. He's not a vegetarian but his original restaurant is entirely veggie (and it's really good food). He has a second place which caters for a wider clientele. The current menu has seven main course choices - steak, leek & squash cannelloni, sea bass, calves liver, grilled fish (varies by the day), lamb rump, gnocchi with a mushroom and red wine ragout. I'd be more than happy to order any of those

                                                                                        3. re: paulj
                                                                                          0
                                                                                          02putt Feb 27, 2011 10:31 AM

                                                                                          OK too funny. I will never look at Shepherd's Pie the same again.

                                                                                        4. re: Harters
                                                                                          raytamsgv Feb 28, 2011 03:58 PM

                                                                                          It all depends on business plan of a restaurant. While a restaurant MAY get more vegetarian customers, there is often a far larger pool of potential non-vegetarian customers. If a restaurant owner can get more money appealing to the latter group, then it is in their interest to do so.

                                                                                          I think that if people would like to see more vegetarian options at a local restaurant, they should talk with the owner or manager. They won't know if there is a demand for such dishes otherwise, because wait staff don't always communicate that to the management.

                                                                                        5. re: Kingman
                                                                                          l
                                                                                          LauraGrace Feb 27, 2011 09:19 AM

                                                                                          "Legumes and vegitable broth are not the most popular entres."

                                                                                          If this is what you think of as creative vegetarian food, I feel a bit bad for your potential clientele, honestly. It IS in the best interest of your business to provide vegetarian options. I could never be a vegetarian, but I rarely eat meat because of the expense and other factors, and a sizable percentage of my meat-eating friends sometimes, you know, just don't feel like eating meat. Not having an interesting veg option or two seems like bad business.

                                                                                          1. re: LauraGrace
                                                                                            EWSflash Mar 12, 2011 03:23 PM

                                                                                            It seems like it to me, too.

                                                                                        6. re: jamieeats
                                                                                          jfood Feb 27, 2011 02:50 PM

                                                                                          Add me to your list as being perfectly fine.

                                                                                          I wish every restaurant would have more chocolate dessert options without nuts since I am allergic to nuts, but here is what I do...I deal with it and work around it.

                                                                                        7. john333 Feb 27, 2011 05:17 AM

                                                                                          Yes, I eat meat and I like to have meat whenever I eat out. I'm a carnivore, after all (note the two incisor teeth in my upper jaw for example; great for tearing apart animal flesh).

                                                                                          I can't stand it when I'm forced to eat vegetarian food like when someone else orders food at the office and they order too many vegetarian sandwhiches and all the meat ones are gone. Then I still feel hungry.

                                                                                          12 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: john333
                                                                                            thew Feb 27, 2011 08:48 AM

                                                                                            you're an omnivore. as is everyone else in our species.

                                                                                            1. re: thew
                                                                                              MandalayVA Feb 27, 2011 12:01 PM

                                                                                              If we're all omnivore why are there so many allergies to vegetable products? Gluten, wheat, soy, nuts, strawberries ... yes, I know about shellfish but I think that the shells are the creatures' way of saying DON'T EAT ME YOU'LL BE SORRY. Never heard of anyone with a beef, pork, chicken, lamb or kangaroo allergy.

                                                                                              1. re: MandalayVA
                                                                                                thew Feb 27, 2011 12:21 PM

                                                                                                are you arguing that we are not omnivores?

                                                                                                we have molars, for one. carnivores don't need them.

                                                                                                1. re: thew
                                                                                                  MandalayVA Feb 27, 2011 02:59 PM

                                                                                                  Like many other things in life, just because we CAN doesn't mean we SHOULD. Humans' greatest hunting weapons are not teeth or nails, but our brains. When meat wasn't available humans THEN turned to plant matter and it was a matter of desperation, not choice. Ask any anthropologist.

                                                                                                  1. re: MandalayVA
                                                                                                    thew Feb 27, 2011 04:33 PM

                                                                                                    um - though i don't work in the field, i don't need to ask an anthropologist - it's what i got my degrees in.

                                                                                                    they (we) did not turn to plant matter when meat wasn't available, they (we) supplemented a mostly plant diet, with meat on those rare occasions they (we) could get it - just as our closest relatives the chimpanzees do.

                                                                                                    most modern anthropologists think gatherer/hunter is a far more accurate description than hunter/gatherer.

                                                                                                    and you ignore the presence of molars, and a long gut designed to break down tough cellulose, and a million other hallmarks of an omnivore our bodies have.

                                                                                                    1. re: MandalayVA
                                                                                                      c
                                                                                                      chocolatstiletto Feb 27, 2011 04:43 PM

                                                                                                      Er, actually, most recent (i.e. last several decades) of anthropology has pointed out that meat is a fairly unreliable source of calories, though an essential one. Meat, especially from large animals, requires a huge amount of preparation and work just to kill, let alone butcher, prepare, and preserve the rest of it. Gathering, that oh-so-maligned alternative, is more flexible and consistent, without severe weather changes. Just saying, gorillas have massive canines but they're mainly for attracting lady gorillas, as far as I know, not hunting and slaughtering things. There are things to be said for both sides, but humans began to domesticate crops and form sedentary societies for a reason; while health and balance can be dicey things within that context, to reduce it "Man eat meat RAWR" is a bit silly.

                                                                                                  2. re: MandalayVA
                                                                                                    Maxinella Feb 27, 2011 12:24 PM

                                                                                                    Actually, I know someone with a severe chicken allergy, but that's beside the point. Allergies are a whole other topic.

                                                                                                    1. re: Maxinella
                                                                                                      MandalayVA Feb 27, 2011 03:02 PM

                                                                                                      No, it's not. Allergies are your body's way of telling you this is not something to eat. Is the person truly allergic to chicken? Do they eat anything other than Perdue or Tyson or another supermarket brand? If not, they're allergic to the grains the chickens are fed. I know someone who claimed to be allergic to chicken but when he began eating chickens raised as they should be--chickens are also omnivores but they prefer stuff like bugs--the "allergy" cleared up.

                                                                                                      1. re: MandalayVA
                                                                                                        n
                                                                                                        NicoleFriedman Feb 27, 2011 03:28 PM

                                                                                                        I wish that were the case but allergies are just your body's immune system attacking itself.

                                                                                                        1. re: NicoleFriedman
                                                                                                          EWSflash Mar 12, 2011 03:20 PM

                                                                                                          Thank you.

                                                                                                        2. re: MandalayVA
                                                                                                          s
                                                                                                          small h Feb 27, 2011 03:54 PM

                                                                                                          If allergies were your body's way of telling you what not to eat, we would all be allergic to rocks. And yet.

                                                                                                      2. re: MandalayVA
                                                                                                        s
                                                                                                        sisterfunkhaus Mar 12, 2011 03:47 PM

                                                                                                        My boss and his dad have a disease where they cannot eat red meat. I forgot what the problem is, but it makes them have big bags under their eyes and makes them very loopy.

                                                                                                  3. bbqboy Feb 26, 2011 09:11 PM

                                                                                                    It would seem that it comes down to supply and demand. I'm lucky enough to live in a small tourist town on the West Coast with a high degree of food awareness. Most places seem to offer at least a few options for non meat diners, with several featuring those dishes. Organic produce tends to be about the same price as regular stuff, I believe due to the demand. I can only guess that if
                                                                                                    somewhere knows they will have a clientele, they will try and meet the wishes of those potential customers.
                                                                                                    Of course, I could be completely wrong as I'm in kind of a closed loop here. The rest of our valley
                                                                                                    conforms much more to what is described above.

                                                                                                    1. q
                                                                                                      Querencia Feb 26, 2011 05:21 PM

                                                                                                      Plan a trip to Montreal where there is a small local chain called Le Commensal that is vegetarian and elegant. Two buffets, one hot and one cold. Oboy, I just now checked and they have a website with pictures and menu. The BEST vegetarian restaurant I have encountered. Worth planning a trip just to eat here. I think they have a branch in Toronto also. Do go.

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: Querencia
                                                                                                        im_nomad Feb 26, 2011 05:48 PM

                                                                                                        Le Commensal is very good, but I would not say it's the best vegetarian restaurant ever, and there are numerous in Montreal that match or excel. Coming from a small town, I was delighted to be spoiled for choice there.

                                                                                                        OP wasn't looking for vegetarian / vegan restaurant suggestions though.

                                                                                                      2. e
                                                                                                        ediblover Feb 26, 2011 02:14 PM

                                                                                                        Do I feel I must have it? Not really. A good dish is a good dish, and it can be good with or without meat.

                                                                                                        More of on menus? I'd like to see more types of meat. If a restaurant serves a protein that I can easily find, then that doesn't really excite me much. Chicken, beef, salmon, shrimp and so on are all nice, but odds are I've already had it this week. I'd like to see more duck, snails, sea cucumber, wild game and so on. Something that I haven't had this week.

                                                                                                        1. KaimukiMan Feb 26, 2011 12:50 PM

                                                                                                          I agree with much of what has been posted above. More and more places do have at least one dish that is either vegetarian friendly or can be adjusted to be, and vegan dishes are also starting to show up. But it is far from universal. As to the protein options, well for a lot of meat eaters there aren't any. A place I knew made an amazing portebello mushroom entree. I shared some once with a carnivore friend and he couldn't believe it wasn't some kind of marinated meat. But would he order it? Never. He eats meat. Preferably beef, maybe chicken. Don't even mention fish.

                                                                                                          And I am constantly amazed at the number of people who tell me they would never order a bean based dish in a restaurant, and even the number who tell me they just don't like beans at all. Now I admit, I avoid lima beans like the plague, and firmly believe the only use for garbanzo beans is to make hummus. Many people simply can't stand the texture of cooked beans, to them they have the same mouth feel as overcooked canned peas. And then there is the methane issue..... No beans on a first date, thats for sure, right up there with garlic and raw onion.

                                                                                                          Finally being a basic carnivore/omnivore myself, the vast majority of the time I do want some animal protein, even if I order a salad. Real food, not just pretty garnish. Yeah, dumb attitude, I know better, but.... At the same time I do appreciate it when I see that there are options, and there are rare occasions when I opt for that possibility.

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: KaimukiMan
                                                                                                            e
                                                                                                            escondido123 Feb 26, 2011 02:16 PM

                                                                                                            And when you eat in France, at least old school restaurants, it's hard to find anything but a basic salad that doesn't have some kind of meat in it--chicken gizzards, duck, bacon--not that I'm complaining.

                                                                                                            1. re: escondido123
                                                                                                              westsidegal Feb 27, 2011 02:24 PM

                                                                                                              french food is really tough for vegetarian options.
                                                                                                              although i'm not a vegetarian, often i end up with the cheese plate at french restaurants.

                                                                                                          2. b
                                                                                                            beevod Feb 26, 2011 08:12 AM

                                                                                                            Two words: Vegan restaurant.

                                                                                                            1. s
                                                                                                              serah Feb 26, 2011 08:05 AM

                                                                                                              It's my acid test of a decent restaurant, no matter what the price level - whether or not the chef cares enough to put effort into a vegetarian main course. Even living in the UK with a high proportion of vegetarians, I still nearly faint with shock if there is more than one vegetarian option on the menu, let alone one decent (preferably non-cheesefest) vegetarian option.

                                                                                                              Fine dining is not mutually incompatible with vegetarianism, just lazy and uninventive chefs.

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: serah
                                                                                                                l
                                                                                                                LauraGrace Feb 26, 2011 04:32 PM

                                                                                                                Oh, I agree so much with this! I'm fortunate to live in a city with more than its fair share of veg-only and veg-friendly restaurants, and I've found that a restaurant that puts thought and creativity into its veggie offerings is generally better-quality across the board.

                                                                                                              2. goodhealthgourmet Feb 25, 2011 09:37 PM

                                                                                                                i was a vegetarian for over 20 years and used to get annoyed that *everything* seemed to have meat in it unless i was at a vegetarian restaurant or at least one that was known to cater to vegetarians...but quite honestly, it was a walk in the park compared to the challenge i face now having to completely avoid gluten & soy.

                                                                                                                but i do think it's easier now than it was 20 years ago to find meatless options on restaurant menus. hey, Mario Batali made "Meatless Monday" trendy...
                                                                                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/705902

                                                                                                                even Sodexo - the international food service company - is jumping on the bandwagon:
                                                                                                                http://www.meatlessmonday.com/sodexo-...

                                                                                                                1. l
                                                                                                                  LPhila Feb 25, 2011 08:24 PM

                                                                                                                  I agree it depends on the type of restaurant, and I tend to think of this as a value thing... if I'm going to a high end place and paying high end prices, I want a high quality protein, meat or fish. I love vegetarian food but I'm not paying $20+ for a bean or tofu entree. I wonder if you're not seeing vegetarian items on menus because it just doesn't sell in some places?

                                                                                                                  1. t
                                                                                                                    tacowalker Feb 25, 2011 08:17 PM

                                                                                                                    I understand your point, but I think as others have said it depends on the city/town you are in. In the 2 largest population cities in Oregon, Portland and Eugene, there are many veg/vegan choices out there. Places that do only that style of food, to fine restaurants that have many veg and meat items, and many in between. It also depends on how much you frequent national chain restaurants. Always better off with a local place for veg/vegan foods. I was vegetarian for 10 years and it was hard when I traveled to some cities.

                                                                                                                    1. j
                                                                                                                      Jeanne Feb 25, 2011 08:14 PM

                                                                                                                      Looks like you live in the Boston area. I can't imagine that the restaurants there don't offer at least 1 or 2 vegetarian options from which you can choose. They do have these options at all the restaurants I go to in my area.

                                                                                                                      1. z
                                                                                                                        ziggylu Feb 25, 2011 05:58 PM

                                                                                                                        I understand your frustration. Im not a vegetarian but also rarely sit down to a large piece of meat...instead preferring small amounts of it in a dish when i do eat it(stir fries, pastas,etc) Particularly in restaurants I avoid meat centric entrees where there is already so much added fat in the preparation that i will have a difficult time digesting several ounces of meat along with all the fat.

                                                                                                                        I do love fish and seafood tnough and typically will order something like that when fine dining. Inexpensive dining usually finds us eating middle eastern or asian. Its mid priced restaurants where the menu is long but other than the mandatory farmed salmom dish and poorly prepared pasta primavera where i struggle to find something to order.

                                                                                                                        1. EWSflash Feb 25, 2011 05:57 PM

                                                                                                                          I'm an unapologetic omnivore, and I agree with you. Why do people think they HAVE to have grilled chicken on a damn caesar salad? A true caesar salad is one of the most perfect treats there is. And go to, for instance, Macaroni Grill, andevery entree has grilled chicken or something on it, dishes that would be fine gutbombs without meat at all. It pisses me off, frankly. sometimes I don't want to eat meat, I'm not crazy about chicken in general, yet i"m having it shoved down my throat at every restaurant that thinks I may die at their table if I don't have some kind of meat for dinner.

                                                                                                                          I do wonder what kinds of places you dine at if you're not finding any vegetarian dishes, though.

                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: EWSflash
                                                                                                                            westsidegal Feb 27, 2011 02:20 PM

                                                                                                                            cheap, frozen, already-grilled, already-sliced chicken can be obtained from any commercial-crap-food distributer in big plastic bags.

                                                                                                                            also, this is one of the ways for agribusiness to dump some of the dark meat that many folks seem to distain.

                                                                                                                            need i say more?

                                                                                                                            1. re: westsidegal
                                                                                                                              thew Feb 27, 2011 04:25 PM

                                                                                                                              usually i see the white meat on caesar. is that unusual? (but then i prefer dark meat anyway) i never order it w/ chicken - i agree - but then i never have it as the sole plate in my meal, either

                                                                                                                              but - why, you ask? because then people make it a more complete one dish meal. but no place forces you to put the chicken on the salad

                                                                                                                              1. re: westsidegal
                                                                                                                                EWSflash Mar 12, 2011 03:16 PM

                                                                                                                                True, all of it! Only I might get the chicken option if I knew it would be dark meat. Sometimes.

                                                                                                                            2. f
                                                                                                                              Fromageball Feb 25, 2011 05:35 PM

                                                                                                                              I'm not a vegetarian but usually try to order dishes without meat in restaurants(unless I know where the meat came from)...it is frustrating. I usually end up ordering some sort of fish(also depends on whether that seems like a good idea at a particular restaurant) because I don't normally make fish at home, but I would love it if I could get a nice veggie-laden dish with beans or lentils as the protein at more places.

                                                                                                                              To answer as to why restaurants do this - I think it is because most people DO want some sort of flesh as the protein. I know too many people who "don't like vegetables" or think that since they are out to dinner they "shouldn't have to eat vegetables".

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                                                                                                                                Steve Feb 25, 2011 04:36 PM

                                                                                                                                The answer to your question is that a sizable percentage of the public gets nervous if they don't have their fix of meat, and many restaurant don't know how to compose a main dish that doesn't feature meat.

                                                                                                                                To make things worse for you, it seems to me that most restaurants feature more and more appetizers that have meat in them. So many folks hardly even order a salad anymore in a fairly upscale place. And soups heavily feature stocks or add-ins of animal product.

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                                                                                                                                  Harters Feb 25, 2011 02:31 PM

                                                                                                                                  I can't remember the last time I went somewhere that didnt have a vegetarain main course - it's years. Places often have two or, sometimes, more. From the last couple of local bistro type places we've visited:

                                                                                                                                  Wild mushroom risotto, duck egg frittata, micro herb salad

                                                                                                                                  Pumpkin and kale steamed pudding with red wine gravy.

                                                                                                                                  The sort of things I'd be happy to order (although I didnt on either occasion as there was a meat dish I fancied more)

                                                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: Harters
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                                                                                                                                    Isolda Feb 25, 2011 05:56 PM

                                                                                                                                    This is because you live in Britain, home of some of the most innovative (if uncelebrated) vegetarian cuisine in the world. All of my best non-Asian vegetarian recipes are either from the Vegetarian Society website or from British cooks.

                                                                                                                                    I think the problem with mainstream (non-ethnic) American restaurants is that they assume vegetarians want "health" food. But truly fabulous vegetarian food is delicious, fatty, and decadent.

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                                                                                                                                      chocolatstiletto Feb 27, 2011 07:55 AM

                                                                                                                                      I agree with that-- I did a master's in Britain last year, and was unbelievably happy with the veg options even at the casual pub down the street. At one place in Bristol, without my even asking, they said they could do a veg sausage and mash, with a veg gravy. Good salads, really good vegetarian burgers (aloo patty with lentils, for example,) and spectacular sweet potato pies were all to be had. Kind of a bummer to come back to the Philly suburbs!

                                                                                                                                    2. re: Harters
                                                                                                                                      Peg Feb 28, 2011 11:19 AM

                                                                                                                                      "I can't remember the last time I went somewhere that didnt have a vegetarain main course"
                                                                                                                                      I was going to say exactly teh same thing - ah, sometimes it's good to be a Brit!

                                                                                                                                      Having said that, I have noticed a trend for fish dishes to include meat - what's THAT all about? (speaking as a pescetarian).

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Peg
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                                                                                                                                        Harters Feb 28, 2011 01:08 PM

                                                                                                                                        Something of a Spanish influence I think, Peg.

                                                                                                                                        We're just back from dinner at a nearby bistro type place - very much the "modern European" style of menu. Herself ordered seabass which sat on a mound of spinach and chorizo. Bloody fantastic - I wish I'd ordered it - the two flavours really worked well together.

                                                                                                                                        But I understand the issue you raise for folk who don't eat meat.

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                                                                                                                                          escondido123 Feb 28, 2011 01:30 PM

                                                                                                                                          The French also did dishes that combine sturdy white fish with a bordelaise sauce. An amazing combination, but again a problem for pescetarians....so I won't even mention the Portuguese pork with clams.

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                                                                                                                                      kaleokahu Feb 25, 2011 02:01 PM

                                                                                                                                      Maxinella: Do I feel I must have it "as" an entree? No, not at all. But honestly, if an entree does not have some meat (or meat flavoring) *in* it, I am not likely to be satisfied.

                                                                                                                                      I live in a city where there is a large enough vegetarian population to support some v-oriented restaurants. Not many, but some very good ones. There, the problem is exactly the reverse: Where's the beef?

                                                                                                                                      When I've dined out with a vegetarian in my party, most restaurants have happily come up with something pretty good when asked. It sort of depends how strict a veg the patron is (e.g., good luck coming up with a dish made with wine that has not been subjected to gelatin, isinglas or eggwhite fining, if that bothers you).

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                                                                                                                                        Gmarie Feb 25, 2011 01:46 PM

                                                                                                                                        I agree with you Maxinella. While I eat just about everything, I think there SHOULD be something for everyone! There's nothing wrong with that. And yes, I've noticed that most menus have meat-centric entrees. Being a meat eater, doesn't mean I always want meat. It's not a must for me.

                                                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: Gmarie
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                                                                                                                                          02putt Feb 26, 2011 04:44 PM

                                                                                                                                          I totally disagree with "there SHOULD be something for everyone." Does that mean restaurants should cater to every food preference or allergy going. If so we would all be eating lettuce for dinner. That's what makes the dining experience unique. Call ahead at better dining establishments and make your dietary needs known. Usually, they are very accommodating.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: 02putt
                                                                                                                                            tracylee Feb 26, 2011 05:13 PM

                                                                                                                                            Except for those of us who can't eat lettuce! :D

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                                                                                                                                              LauraGrace Feb 26, 2011 05:37 PM

                                                                                                                                              Well, I understand what both of you are saying. I think most restaurants need to think in terms of broad appeal. Meat-centric entrees are going to appeal to most people, but vegetarianism is quite common, perhaps even increasingly common, as are (just as an example) concerns about the source of the meat. So it seems smart to me to provide a creative, interesting vegetarian option or six, as well as (given the above example) to work toward being more careful about where the meat comes from. Then you're hitting a larger percentage of potential clientele without a massive amount of extra work.

                                                                                                                                              Even a casual family restaurant should, IMO, be thinking about how to make sure that their ordinary customer's vegan cousin, Kosher-keeping brother-in-law, and meat-hating neighbor can eat *something* on the menu.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: LauraGrace
                                                                                                                                                im_nomad Feb 26, 2011 05:55 PM

                                                                                                                                                I agree, and with a restaurant that offers "food" as opposed to a specific cuisine, I honestly don't see what the big deal is. It simply demonstrates an ability to make a wide variety of dishes.

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                                                                                                                                            Isolda Feb 25, 2011 11:13 AM

                                                                                                                                            What sorts of restaurants are you eating in? I'm not a vegetarian, but frequently prefer meatless meals and have no trouble finding them when we eat out. I can imagine steakhouses would be an exception, but we usually go out to Indian, Chinese, Turkish, etc. Still, even some of our boring chain restaurants have a few vegetarian options.

                                                                                                                                            To answer your question about why so many entrees include meat, I'm guessing it's because it sells. When you ask the average person what he or she is cooking for dinner, the first thing you will hear is the name of the meat. People just seem to center entire meals around chicken or beef or pork.

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                                                                                                                                              sedimental Feb 25, 2011 10:59 AM

                                                                                                                                              I totally agree, but I do see it slowly changing. I eat meat but was vegetarian for many, many years. I really like meat but I don't want it all the time. I tend to order the token pasta dish (over meat centered dishes) when dining out. There is typically one or two main dishes without meat to choose from.

                                                                                                                                              I would love to see more pasta, grain and bean dishes prepared creatively and beautifully...not just the cheese encrusted "one dish" thing. I would love to see more creative "fusion" styles of soups, breads and salads in fine dining. You tend to see them more at casual places or on lunch menu's. I cook this way at home so I know it can be done well- last night I made Yakisoba Thai noodles (with green veg) and a side of sweet and spicy hot yams. It was so colorful and beautiful enough to serve at any restaurant, healthy and full of flavors. I think it must be a "style" issue? It certainly can't be about taste.

                                                                                                                                              13 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: sedimental
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                                                                                                                                                smartie Feb 25, 2011 01:55 PM

                                                                                                                                                I was also a vegetarian years back but am very happy ordering meat free food. Actually I commented today when we ordered food for lunch that it's so hard to get vegetarian entrees in the USA and sandwiches. Yes there's tuna salad but it's chicken with this and bacon with that. I often order the pastas without the chicken or shrimp or get a salad minus the chicken.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: sedimental
                                                                                                                                                  im_nomad Feb 25, 2011 03:06 PM

                                                                                                                                                  It does appear to be changing somewhat, although minimally. Some restaurants are still stuck back. I went to a place with friends a while back and the menu was basically a panini, soup / salad, some pasta dishes type place. Literally everything on the sandwich menu had chicken with I think one or two beef dishes (I sort of expected a roasted vegetable panini in a place like this), same goes for most of the salads, pastas etc everything seemed to have chicken. My one choice was a roasted red pepper soup.

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                                                                                                                                                    sedimental Feb 25, 2011 04:29 PM

                                                                                                                                                    I know. That is crazy too. There are soooo many wonderful creative ways to do menu items (that don't include meat ) in a place like that. It is even more of a disappointment when the one non-meat entree is not done well. I can tell you that I have had many roasted vegetable sandwiches with limp zucchini and a few olives.

                                                                                                                                                    At my house, I consider it a "cooking cop out" to choose meat for meals all the time. It's not because I don't like meat, it is because it causes you to stretch your skills even more when using other things for the entree. The days of the "Enchanted Broccoli Forest" are over, non meat entrees do not need to be brown and boring. It sure would be nice to have more of a choice. I certainly would choose non meat entrees more if they were delicious and not just *basically* a meat based entree-just missing the meat.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: im_nomad
                                                                                                                                                      goodhealthgourmet Feb 25, 2011 09:20 PM

                                                                                                                                                      random thought about places like that...not sure if you're vegan, but if you're a vegetarian and you eat cheese, the next time you run into an issue like that, ask if they'd be willing to make you a grilled cheese! and i know you already know this, but unless everything is pre-made you can just ask them to omit the meat from the salad or pasta that otherwise looks good to you. vegetable-based soups aren't always the safest choice unless you can verify that they're not made with chicken stock.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                                                                                                                                        im_nomad Feb 26, 2011 05:43 AM

                                                                                                                                                        I personally do eat cheese and eat eggs, and sometimes employ a little "I don't ask and you don't tell me" when it comes to some restaurant cooking and non-obvious sources of animal based products (like soups), particularly so in "once in a lifetime" type restaurants. Yeah, I'm weird.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: im_nomad
                                                                                                                                                          goodhealthgourmet Feb 26, 2011 09:36 AM

                                                                                                                                                          not weird at all! i know other vegetarians who are the same way. in fact, back in my veg days more than one friend and relative opined that it would be easier if *i* was willing to turn a blind eye on occasion, but i just couldn't bring myself to do it.

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                                                                                                                                                        Sherri Feb 26, 2011 10:52 AM

                                                                                                                                                        im_nomad - employing chicken (or some other ingredient) in multiple dishes is called "dovetailing" and used extensively in restaurants. Easy to cook/prep a single ingredient and toss it into soups, sandwiches, pasta, salads, etc. Usually, the restaurant is willing to leave it out.

                                                                                                                                                        Although I am not a vegetarian, I often ask for a vegetarian option and have never been refused. It is usually so innovative and delicious that my dining companions ask for a taste. The most recent example was a deep rich winter vegetable ragout served over cheesy polenta - delicious!

                                                                                                                                                        A poster mentioned the ease of freezing meat VS the high cost of fresh produce as a possible reason for the paucity of vegetarian options. I think it is laziness or lack of knowlege on the part of the kitchen. Both grains and legumes are relatively inexpensive and can be combined with fresh produce to create delicious dishes that sell. This is key. The restaurants are a business and need to make money. If they put veg options on the menu and no one orders them, they're removed in favor of the tried and true big sellers. Granted these may be tired, but if they sell, it's hard to argue with success from the restaurant's POV.

                                                                                                                                                        Keep asking. If the kitchen is interested in broadening their client base - and it would be stupid to ignore a ready-made group of diners - they will heed your requests.
                                                                                                                                                        NOTE: this does not apply to those "captive audience" situations you described in another post. That was a needlessly grim situation for you. It sounded like everyone - from the conference planners to the hotel kitchen - dropped the ball.

                                                                                                                                                      3. re: sedimental
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                                                                                                                                                        NicoleFriedman Feb 26, 2011 01:55 PM

                                                                                                                                                        That sounds delicious! However, I think that another part of the problem is that people are carb sensitive. For myself, I am at a good weight. However, if I eat too many carbs (yes even low glycemic index ones) I put on weight easily. That's why at Italian restaurants I almost always forgo the pasta so I can have the bread and dessert. Most veg entrees, if not drowning in cheese (which I abhor) are extremely carb dense. Occasionally I will find exceptions but they're usually in ethnic restaurants. For ex, korean restaurants make amazing miso stews with tofu (soon du bu), with a small dish of rice and pan chan it's not enough carbs to make me want to never eat again.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: NicoleFriedman
                                                                                                                                                          westsidegal Feb 27, 2011 02:15 PM

                                                                                                                                                          ethiopian food is also good in this regard, as is southern indian food if you forgo the bread and the rice.
                                                                                                                                                          my local persian restaurant also serves vegetarian versions of many of the persian stews.

                                                                                                                                                          when eating mexican, i normally tell the server NOT to even put the chips on my table.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: westsidegal
                                                                                                                                                            EWSflash Mar 12, 2011 02:51 PM

                                                                                                                                                            I envy your ability to get those words out of your mouth at Mexican restaurants. They stick in my throat and the next thing I know we're ordering another bowl of chips and more salsa.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: westsidegal
                                                                                                                                                              tatamagouche Apr 4, 2011 06:26 PM

                                                                                                                                                              Ethiopian? But injera's so central to the meal as an experience.

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                                                                                                                                                                linguafood Apr 5, 2011 09:20 AM

                                                                                                                                                                Injera is what ruins Ethiopian for me. I'm fine with the spices and other ingredients, but that "bread" just does nothing for me. It's like eating a sour sponge that will triple in size within the hour. Meh.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: sedimental
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                                                                                                                                                            miriamjo Apr 4, 2011 06:10 PM

                                                                                                                                                            Unfortunately, all those creative pasta dishes are not usually gluten free.

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                                                                                                                                                            escondido123 Feb 25, 2011 10:44 AM

                                                                                                                                                            In my experience there are generally a number of vegetarian choices. At the place I go there's Cheese soufflé, Truffle pasta, Mushroom soup, Three hearty salads, Wild mushroom linguini
                                                                                                                                                            Potato gratin and both a risotto and couscous that could be vegetarian without the protein, plus a number of interesting veggies that could make up a nice vegetable platter. That said, I think the hard part about creating veggie entrees is that the good ones take some time and creativity to create, but people often think because there's no meat it should be cheap. But I do think restaurants are trying, at least here in So Cal.

                                                                                                                                                            9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: escondido123
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                                                                                                                                                              odkaty Feb 25, 2011 06:50 PM

                                                                                                                                                              As a vegetarian I wouldn't touch the risotto or soup. Both are often made with meat stocks.

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                                                                                                                                                                escondido123 Feb 26, 2011 08:30 AM

                                                                                                                                                                You are so right. But there might be the possibility of having the risotto made with a veggie stock...if they make one.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: escondido123
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                                                                                                                                                                  odkaty Feb 26, 2011 09:55 AM

                                                                                                                                                                  I always ask.

                                                                                                                                                                  Had a pleasant experience at a restaurant last week. As the waiter was sharing the specials he specified that the soup was made with vegetable broth, and both the crab meat and bacon were add-ins. I've never had a waiter to into that much detail without prompting. Nice touch.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: escondido123
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                                                                                                                                                                la2tokyo Feb 25, 2011 08:27 PM

                                                                                                                                                                I think the price thing escondido mentioned has a lot to do with it. Good vegetarian dishes are often more labor intensive than meat dishes, but people think they should be cheaper, so nobody wants to sell them. Restaurants can keep meat and seafood in the freezer, but top quality produce is extremely perishable, and making good vegetarian stocks is neither cheap nor easy. Restaurants can make money on vegetable sides, for which they can charge up to $9 for in a nice restaurant, but it's hard to come up with something without protein that would sell for $20 in the same restaurant, and even if you come up with a good dish it involves triple the work of something like sauteed spinach. The more I pay attention to vegetables in restaurants the more it seems to me that it's much harder to find elite-level vegetarian cooking than almost any other type of cuisine.

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                                                                                                                                                                  julesrules Feb 27, 2011 04:23 AM

                                                                                                                                                                  I agree with these reasons, plus, I think it's hard to have a decent variety so restaurants go with 'safe' options. IME non-chowhound vegetarians tend to have other restrictions as well: pickiness, other health/lifestyle considerations, etc. I personally love vegetarian food and would
                                                                                                                                                                  be happy to cook interesting dishes for vegetarians but it gets frustrating when there are other restrictions, especially when cooking for a crowd. At work for example there is one guy who does not eat eggs or nightshade veg, per his yoga pratice and auryuvedic doctor, and two others who don't eat garlic or onions for religious reasons. I'm left with very few options that interest me. I can only imagine this problem is compounded at a restaurant, and chefs' creativity is not rewarded.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: julesrules
                                                                                                                                                                    CookieGal Feb 27, 2011 05:03 PM

                                                                                                                                                                    Special diets can be sooo challenging to cook for! both in a restaurant and at home!

                                                                                                                                                                    My partner has been through the food sensitivity ringer over the past two years!
                                                                                                                                                                    I was a vegetarian for years and now I have been cooking, Wheat free, gluten free, cow dairy free, night shade free, and meat free (aside from chicken and eggs) luckily we keep laying hens and often have roosters in the freezer.

                                                                                                                                                                    Anyway We can't go out and eat anything except sushi, and as I don't eat seafood it's veggie rolls all round (that means i get the tempura rolls all to myself!)

                                                                                                                                                                    I started blogging about all these special dietary recipes and challenges a couple years back http://eatingwithsole.wordpress.com/ . My guy is pretty lucky I was a gluten free and vegan baker back in the day!

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: CookieGal
                                                                                                                                                                      chefathome Feb 27, 2011 05:12 PM

                                                                                                                                                                      Just checked out your blog. Well done! I was just diagnosed with Celiac Disease, unfortunately, and eating out is certainly a huge challenge, especially with the huge potential of cross contamination. It is unreal how many products contain gluten! Thanks for posting.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: CookieGal
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                                                                                                                                                                        02putt Feb 27, 2011 05:51 PM

                                                                                                                                                                        What is night shade free?

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                                                                                                                                                                          LauraGrace Feb 28, 2011 03:27 AM

                                                                                                                                                                          No tomatoes, eggplant, or other members of the Nightshade family.

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