Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Vegetarian or Vegan Nights at Restaurants - Yay or Nay?

It feels that way sometimes, doesn't it?

As a vegetarian, I expect dining out to be a bit of a chore. I have to do my research ahead of time to make sure that wherever I go has at least one substantial option for me. (Dear restaurateurs - a salad doesn't count as a substantial option.) It's difficult sometimes - especially since many restaurants either don't have a website (shocking, considering how many free website options are available) or don't post updated menus. ("oh yeah...the one on the website is from spring of 2008") Even more frustrating are the restaurants unwilling to accommodate vegetarians (I'm talking to you, Michael Symon. Who puts bacon on a veggie burger?)
But...I'm happy to say that Lago, one of my absolute favorite restaurants in Cleveland, is more than accommodating for vegetarians and vegans. Every Monday is vegetarian night at Lago, where an entire menu of vegetarian and vegan options - including dessert - is available. (in fact, I had an amazing meal there last night) Now, I know what some people might say. (at least I've heard this in the past)

"Why can't a restaurant be meat free every night of the week?"

"I wouldn't patronize a restaurant that still serves meat."

"Giving us one night a week/month isn't enough."

I can respectfully disagree with those opinions, though. This is Cleveland. The meat and potatoes capitol of the world. I can count the completely vegan and vegetarian restaurants within an hour drive on one hand. Rome wasn't built in a day, and Cleveland won't be an absolutely vegetarian friendly city in a day either. (and vegans - wow! your battle here is just beginning!) I respect any restaurant that goes out of its way to accommodate my lifestyle and offer creative entree options (besides a salad) - even if it's only once a week or once a month. (thanks for your monthly vegan dinner, Bistro 185!) As a Top Chef once said, a good chef can cook anything well, and I'm going to try and support Cleveland chefs who embrace vegetarianism and veganism in any way that I can. (while still hoping to see a day where I can find multiple vegetarian or vegan menu options everywhere)

What are your thoughts on vegetarian or vegan nights at restaurants?  Do you support them?  Or are you holding out for an entire vegetarian or vegan menu?


  1. Is it weird for an omnivore to wish there were more vegetarian/vegan nights? Just because I eat meat occasionally doesn't mean that I want to eat meat/meat products at every meal of the day – I almost always order veg at restaurants. I think it'd be neat for a bunch of my veg friends to go out and inconvenience the meat eaters :)

  2. I think the bacon on the veggie burger is supposed to be a tongue in cheek thing and not meant to be serious!

  3. @ Becky - not at all! Just because a meal is missing meat doesn't mean it's missing anything.

    @ Deanna - I know it's meant to be tongue and cheek, but...I dunno. I can't say I'm a Michael Symon fan. I appreciate that he's brought attention to the Cleveland food scene, but otherwise, I'm not really down with his cooking.

  4. I'm definitely down with "meatless nights". Otherwise, as a vegan in Cleveland, I'd never enjoy a nice dinner out. I don't agree with veggies/vegans not eating at restaurants that serve meat. I think that with enough support, these "meat free nights" could potentially turn into permanent menu items. If we boycott them, we will be written off and so will the "meat free nights" as well as any chance of them putting more meatless items on thier menus. We need to show the world that 1)We are not evil elitists snobs, and that 2)meatless food is as delicious as any and will sell to omis, veggies, and vegans alike. Putting a vegetarian, a vegan, and a gluten free item on a menu brings in a more clientele without alienating what you already have. I worked at a restie in Cleveland that always had at least one vegan item on the menu and a number of veggie. All items sold just as much as the meaty ones. I always enjoyed telling my guests that thier meal was vegan AFTER they raved about how incredible it was!

  5. I am a big meat eater, as you know. I love looking at steak of the month clubs and fantasize about being able to finish off a steak at one of those places that pays for your meal if you can finish a heart attack on a plate size steaks. That said, I love the idea of a vegan/vegetarian night at a restaurant. I love having the option of a vegan or vegetarian meal any night I go out. I don't always want the heart attack dinner. Sometimes I want to clear those arteries out and still have a good meal.