Vegging Out at Conventional Restaurants

What an amazing weekend ๐Ÿ˜€

I met up with some of my best girlfriends from university for our 1st Annual Girls Weekend. You know how you always say, “we all have to get together sometime!” but you never seem to find the time? We learned that if you set a date and a location (and maybe make a Facebook group) it’s much easier to actually make it happen!

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Since we are scattered over Nova Scotia and New Brunswick we decided to meet in Moncton which is pretty central. It has lots of shopping and a good selection of restaurants so we figured the rest would just fall together.

It was SO nice to be with the girls who truly know me. Not only did we need to do some serious catching up but it was so much fun reminiscing about our university days (“does that guy have sidesteps?”). I forget how absolutely hilarious my friends are and how easy it is to be myself with them.

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Our Friday night consisted of dinner at a new Asian restaurant followed by hours of conversation & wine. We spent Saturday afternoon shopping then had late lunch at the Pumphouse Brewery. Blueberry ale anyone ๐Ÿ˜‰

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After a few hotel drinks and the usual “getting ready” business, we went to Mexical Rosa’s for cocktails and guac then headed downtown to attempt to talk to french people and get our dance on ๐Ÿ˜‰ We already decided than an annual event just won’t be enough… round 2 is under discussion for the spring and I can’t wait!

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While we were out exploring the city and deciding where to eat, I was inspired to write a post about vegetarian/vegan options at conventional restaurants. A plant based diet can be challenging when you want everyone to happy with the restaurant choice but you want to be able to enjoy your food as well (i.e. not a garden salad).

There is a well-known vegetarian restaurant in Moncton but we wanted more of a “girls night out” atmosphere to our Saturday night so we decided on Mexicali Rosa’s.

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When shopping, it’s more convenient to have lunch at the mall and when traveling, you gotta hit up a city’s signature places,like the Pumphouse Brewery. When in Rome!

So I developed a little compilation of plant-based options at 10 mainstream Canadian food establishments. This is for anyone interested in eating a more plant-based diet or just wondering how the heck I do it ๐Ÿ˜‰

***DISCLAIMER: I’m choosing the term “plant-based” because I’m not strict on the “may contain traces of” aspect. I don’t always need my food to be certified vegan. If it’s not in the ingredients list, I’m happy with that. I’m the only “vegan” in my group of close friends/family so this is how I do the best I can ๐Ÿ™‚

A few notes:

  1. To my readers outside of Canada: most of these establishments may not be familiar to you but many of the same guidelines can apply.
  2. For the suggested options I either checked the allergen info or asked my server and nothing directly contains dairy or eggs. However, most locations cannot confirm cross contamination in their kitchen. For example, veggie burgers may not be cooked on a separate grill. If that’s not OK with you, make it known to your server before ordering to see which menu items they can accommodate you with.
  3. Depending on when and where you are reading this post, some menu specifications may have changed or may be different in your area. Always do your own research, ask lots of questions, and don’t take my advice/opinions to be gospel.
  4. I did not review every possible menu option, but just highlighted a few of my favourites. I also did not list the basic items like green salads that you can easily determine vegan.

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1. Mexicali Rosa’s

Mexican food is one of the easiest to make vegan/vegetarian without compromising taste. If you eat dairy, the possibilities are nearly endless, but otherwise, nix the cheese, double the salsa, add some guac and you’re set! We have a Mexi’s in Fredericton which is pretty popular and the patio rocks. I can make any restaurant work for a good patio ๐Ÿ˜‰ Here’s what I suggest:

  • Guacamole Dip + chips & salsa are brought to your table when seated.
  • Mexi Taco Salad; baked taco bowl, no cheese, topped with veggie chili, served with avocado dressing.
  • Avocado salad; no cheese. Option to to add veggie chili.
  • Veggie Chili Bowl (of course).
  • Vegetarian fajitas or burritos; no cheese, sub guac for sour cream.

guacamole-dip Source

2. Boston Pizza

Their menu has come a long way over the years. I used to struggle to find even a decent salad here. It makes me so happy to see more franchise restaurants considering the veggie community!

  • Santa Fe Salad; no cheese, add salsa. My FAVE!
  • Vegetarian pizza; no cheese, add extra veggies to amp up flavour. Available in thin crust or gluten-free.
  • Veggie burger; no feta, no mayo. The brute buns and regular buns are both dairy and egg free!

santa fe salad 2 Source

3. Thai Express

Very important: for all of these you must request the vegetarian sauce. It’s really just a light soy sauce but the regular stuff contains animal products (likely fish sauce). On the legend, dishes classified as “D) Vegetables” do not equate with “V) Vegetarian” because they do not use the vegetarian sauce. Also, though curry is usually OK, there is no vegetarian option for curry at Thai Express.

  • Pad thai with tofu and/or vegetables, no egg.
  • Stir fry in the following flavours: ginger, cashew nut, sweet & sour, basil, or lemongrass (street location only).
  • Also pad sew or fried rice without egg but they are not my personal preferences ๐Ÿ˜‰

pad thai Source

4. Jack Astors

Ohhh Jack, how I love you! How many bar/grill franchises do you know that serve tofu?! Another lovely feature is that the teriyaki sauce is suitable for vegans as confirmed by an Ontario Jack’s kitchen manager.

  • Walk the Guac (of course!)
  • Veggie stiry fry with teriyaki sauce; add tofu (if not on the menu, Jack’s will accommodate).
  • The Smiling Buddha Salad (personal fave!); sub tofu for chicken, sub teriyaki or balsamic for honey dijon, and no goat cheese
  • Hold The Beef Veggie Burger; ask to omit mushrooms (fried in butter but part of patty). You should also inquire about your local Jack’s bun ingredients.
  • Jack’s Fajitas with veggies or tofu; no cheese or sour cream, with teriyaki sauce.

smiling buddha Source

5. Subway

Avoid the flatbread, new garlic bread, and any cheese breads since they contain dairy. The rest are fine, including the roasted garlic bread, but I recommend either a whole wheat wrap or 9-grain WW bread. Your sauce options are buffalo, mustard, sweet onion, and oil/vinegar. Also, their “chopped” salads are much better than their previous style where they laid your sliced veggies atop the greens ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Veggie Delite Sub; on whole wheat bread or a wrap, no cheese, choice of 3 sauces, add avocado
  • Chopped Veggie Delite Salad; no cheese, load up the veggies, add sweet onion or oil/vinegar, add avocado, and ask for the combo deal with apple slices and if the sandwich artist can chop them with the salad. This is actually a ballin’ salad!

subway 3Source

6. Cora

The choices are slim but it’s the best fruit plate you can get an any breakfast/brunch spot I’ve tried! Important note: You have to ask for your toast dry or they will butter it by default.

  • Samira Wake Up; dry toast, add peanut butter or jam
  • Oatmeal with brown sugar & toast; dry toast (which you will be too full to eat, so maybe request no toast), use sugar sparingly, stir in some peanut butter, add side of fruit
  • Side toast with side fruit

Coras Samira Wakeup Source

7. Tim Horton’s

Fellow Canuck’s, rejoice! But not with a smoothie in hand; all smoothie bases contain dairy even without the yogurt.

  • Any classic bagel (except cheddar) but no specialty bagel; order dry because butter is their default setting; no cream cheese of course, and ask for PB or jam
  • Oatcakes
  • Hashbrowns
  • Any oatmeal (except apple cinnamon but only available in US)
  • Hearty vegetable soup (unfortunately not minestrone) & country bun
  • APPLE STRUDEL… what?! ๐Ÿ˜€

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Check out this link for your STARBUCKS vegan needs!

8. Booster Juice/Jamba Juice/Jugo Juice

My go-to spots for a healthy, filling, on-the-go snack (or meal if you bulk it up enough). In the mall, downtown, whatever you’re up to, just look for dairy free options that use soy milk/protein/yogurt. Sometimes soy can be substituted for dairy as well. Many smoothies and of course all juices are dairy-free by default ๐Ÿ™‚

booster-juice Source

9. Pubs/Bars

As usual, you need to ask the server at your specific location for details on ingredients in veggie patties, buns, sauces, etc. You can usually find one of the following to be suitable:

  • Sweet potato or potato fries
  • Veggie pizza; no cheese
  • Hummus or bean dips with veggies/chips/breads
  • Guacamole or salsa with chips
  • Veggie stir fry
  • Veggie soups/salads
  • Veggie sandwich or wrap with mustard/balsamic/oil & vinegar; ask them to grill it at the end ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Veggie burgers; no cheese, no mayo; no sauces like pesto, ranch, etc.

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10. Hotel Breakfast Buffet

Depending on the location, the hot breakfast is usually out of the question except for pre-made oatmeal. Just make sure it’s cooked in water and not in milk. I also recommend bringing your own coffee creamer and I’ve seen people carrying around their almond milk too ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Oatmeal, instant or pre-made; no milk, stir in peanut butter and/or a mashed, then top with fruit, cereal/granola, dried fruit, nuts
  • Toast, bagels, English muffins; preferably whole wheat with peanut butter or jam
  • Fruit, fruit and more fruit to stash in your purse for later ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • Cereal (read labels); dry OR add your own milk or yogurt

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Now what do you think of dining out on a plant-based diet? Notice I called it challenging, not hard. If you have any questions about a particular menu item or establishment, please leave a comment in the box below and I will be happy to address it ๐Ÿ™‚

Liz xo

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14 thoughts on “Vegging Out at Conventional Restaurants

  1. Love these suggestions!!! The Cora’s breakfast sounds great! I usually go for the poached egg, cottage cheese, whole wheat toast and fruit. There ARE healthy options everywhere, it’s just a matter of making the right choice. I went to a smoothie place the other day while out shopping and asked the guy for a smoothie minus the juice and he was like, “ummm it wont taste good…” lol….My response was, “yes it will! It will taste like fruit, not sugary juice!!”

    • YES I used to get the Peggy’s Poached every time before I went veg! And I hear you on the sugar juice. Once you get away from excess sugar you don’t enjoy the taste of it. I had my Jugo Juice with coconut water instead of cranberry juice on the weekend and it was WAY better ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Great post Lizzie!
        Next time we get smoothies I will sub out one of the juices for coconut water too, it was a bit too sweet for me. Can’t wait for the Spring girls weekend! โค

      • Thank lady:)
        You’d def prefer the coconut water. It was weird to me because Booster Juice is never that sweet.Can’t for our next weekend either I miss you girls already!
        & thanks for the comment xo

    • Ummm yeah, I know, crazy. No dairy or egg products according to the allergen info. It makes me a little worried as well :/ lol! Thanks though, I hope the list helps you out at your next date night ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you Cailee; that’s so sweet ๐Ÿ™‚ I am amazed at the changes in my skin, immune system, sleep patterns, etc, etc since eating a more plant-based diet. I could go on and on but I think that leading by example is the best way to inspire!

  2. Looks like a great weekend. By the way, you are so pretty!

    I can’t imagine how hard it must be to travel and maintain a vegan diet. I have a hard enough time as a vegetarian. Chipotle is the best for plant-based fast food in the US. You should give it a try next time you’re here!

    • Aw, thank you Sarah :] I’ll admit, traveling can be a challenge. Sometimes I can’t find vegan options so I settle for a green salad then run to the grocery store to fill up on fruit. Bad days are much less frequent than good and make me appreciate the good so much more. I’m heading to the US the first week of Nov. I am DEFINITELY checking out this Chipotle place ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. This is so informative. I am not a vegetarian or vegan but I always wonder how difficult it is to order food when you are out if you do follow one of those diets. Plus I actually do love to order vegetarian items even though I eat meat and fish so these are all great suggestions!

    • It’s nice to save a few calories here and there by nixing things like meat, cheese and sour cream too right? Veggie meals are a good choice for a light meal ๐Ÿ™‚ And the restaurant challenge gets a bit easier every time ๐Ÿ™‚

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  5. Pingback: WIAW: So, what DO you eat? | Lizzie Fit

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