While many menus are written in beautiful font and have lovely illustrations, their descriptions of dishes are often incomplete. I’ve learned that asking certain questions and knowing what to look for on menus goes a long way when trying to eat vegan and gluten-free at restaurants. Here are six good ones:
Do you use fish sauce in your Pad Thai? Most Asian restaurants do. I’ve only been to one place that used water upon request instead of the fish sauce. Even if the menu says it’s vegetarian, it’s best to ask.
Do you use vegetable broth in your soup? Same as the Pad Thai. You’d be surprised to learn that most soups at Asian restaurants use chicken broth, even if the soup is labeled as vegetable.
Do you make your smoothies from fresh ingredients or from a mix? I’ve been to smoothie shops that use yogurt or milk in their smoothies, and sometimes the smoothie mixes contain dairy. Ones made with fresh produce and juice or water taste the best and are the healthiest.
Do you have a slice of lemon I could use for my salad instead of dressing? Even seemingly simple vinaigrettes have things other than balsamic vinegar in them, and a lot of times those things are milk, cheese, egg, and wheat. Squeezing lemon juice (citric acid) on greens aids in iron absorption.
Is it vegan and gluten-free if we remove or sub this or that? Sometimes it’s not enough to just order the vegetable version of something. If you state clearly what you’re looking for, it will be easier to make it happen.
Do you know what I mean when I say vegan and gluten-free? While many people are familiar with the vegetarian diet, many people also believe it is interchangeable with vegan. Some people think vegetarians eat chicken. Some vegetarians eat eggs and dairy. Given these man variables, it’s best to just ask nicely if your server knows what you mean.
What helpful hints do you have for dining out?