Creating Demand for Vegan Options in Restaurants and a Spring Dinner at Graze

In a recent recap of my prom night dining experience at L’Etoile, I barely skimmed the surface of the inherent flaws and impossibility of “humane meat and dairy,” as well as introduced Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s insightful concept of “excusitarianism.” I also asserted my belief in patronizing non-vegetarian/vegan restaurants to increase demand for plant-based menu items and to show business owners that the market for more compassionate, mindful meal options harbors a huge potential for profit that continues to grow as the public recieves more information about the all-around benefits of a vegan lifestyle.

I have absolutely no intention of seeming difficult or unreasonable when requesting vegan options at restaurants that do not cater specifically to my diet, but rather wish to help businesses broaden their menus to appeal to an even wider range of diners, thus increasing their monetary success while advocating for a plant-based diet in the process. Indeed, on the countless number of occassions that I’ve telephoned a non-vegan eatery seeking vegan accommodations, I’ve received nothing but quite positive responses assuring me that providing a plant-based meal would bring no burden whatsoever to the restaurant.

And frankly, it shouldn’t. Restaurants do business in the hospitality industry, where success is based on how well they cater to customers. Keeping an eye on public dietary trends certainly serves a restaurant’s best interests, as diners with specific food allergies or lifestyle choices are obviously more likely to patronize the businesses that offer them options. For example, many restaurants have added gluten-free fare to their menus in the midst of a growing American aversion to wheat and an increasing prevalence of celiac disease. Others have shifted their offerings from heavy gastronomic “splurges” to lighter, vegetable-based fare in an attempt to appeal to a more health-conscious society.

However, I think that because veganism delves so deeply into people’s fears, insecurities, and rationalizations of their own lifestyle choices, many are unwilling to accept the exclusion of animal products as a legitimate dietary consideration, deeming vegans as “threatening” or “demanding” in requesting restaurant meals to suit their lifestyles. In reality, vegans deserve to have their dietary preferences honored just as much as those allergic to gluten, peanuts, dairy, eggs, or soy, even if our food choices stem from a “radical” (i.e. compassionate) ethos rather than an unwanted health restriction.

In a continuous quest to provide vegan outreach to restaurants, I returned to one of my favorite non-vegan restaurants that caters beautifully to my particular lifestyle choice, as well as keeps a number of other dietary restrictions in mindGraze. I’ve patronized the casual yet classy pub before, though have since shifted my perspective on its demi-celebrity chef, Tory Miller (find out why here), and have always left immensely satisfied with the animal-friendly fare they’ve provided me, even amidst their other not-so-mindful menu items (though I’ve noticed that the amount of vegan/vegetarian-friendly options have been increasing slowly but surely!). My most recent visit proved no different, and I happily shared a meal highlighting the cornucopia of gorgeous spring vegetables that currently abounds in Madison, with the lovely Sarah (a fellow friend to the animals), who had never before sampled Graze’s offerings.

 

Opting to enjoy the unquestionably impeccable weather that evening, Sarah and I dined on the Graze patio underneath a kelly-green umbrella. As always at Graze, I began my meal with the House Pickles—a platter of six unorthodox pickled vegetable combinations about which I dream, waking up with drool on my pillow (TMI? I don’t care). My excitement for said pickles ran a bit awry on this particular occassion, as I utterly failed to photograph the dish before devouring the vast majority of it. Perhaps you can still decipher the dregs, starting from the top and descending: citrus-pickled beets with orange segments; incredibly umami daikon radish slices; classic bread and butter cucumbers; housemade super spicy kimchi; crunchy escabeche of cauliflower, carrots, and jalapeno; andasparagusspears, probably my favorite pickle of the six.

To satisfy my insatiable hunger for leafy greens, I also ordered the Mixed Green Salad (hold the cheese, please) as a starter. Lightly dressed in a tangy champagne vinaigrette, the colorful pile of tender greens, thinly sliced radishes, uber-sweet spring carrots, and refreshing baby cucumbers provided a simple yet scrumptious pre-entree dish.

Finally, for our main dishes, I opted for the Roasted Spring Vegetables (without the garlic aioli)—an individual-sized cast-iron skillet full of new potatoes, baby turnips, asparagus, and sugar snap peas sprinkled generously with basil and served with a squeeze of lemon—while Sarah chose the Pub (Veggie) Burger—a housemade vegan patty served with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mustard, and ketchup on a (again) housemade English muffin with a side of fries. Both of us verily enjoyed our meals, savoring delectable bites between our fascinating and insightful conversation (we like being pretentious together).

 

Comment Provoking Questions: Do you try to provide “vegan outreach” to restaurants? In your experience, how do most restaurants respond to requests of vegan options? How ridiculously excited do you get over pickles?

Until next time, Ali.

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2 thoughts on “Creating Demand for Vegan Options in Restaurants and a Spring Dinner at Graze

  1. Eric says:

    1. I just ask if the dish has meat or dairy in it, and if the answer is yes then I don’t order it or ask if it can be modified. I think the server gets the idea from that.
    2. In Madison most are accommodating or apologetic if they can’t work something out. However other places that’s not always the case. In Iowa I ordered pasta marinara, and it came with meatballs. When I complained the waitress just took a fork and started to pluck them off the plate. In Nashville I was at a place that had meat in almost everything. I asked if the garden salad was free of meat, and the waitress said it was, but when she brought it it had bacon all over it. She said “Oh, that’s just bacon. It doesn’t count.” (!)
    3. Not so crazy about pickles, but I’m always happy to see hummus on the menu.

    • Ali Seiter says:

      1.) A very effective method of getting what you want as a vegan! I always like to use the word “vegan” when asking about a dish, however, because I think it conveys that my not eating meat and dairy is a lifestyle choice rather than an allergy and helps restaurants better realize the growing popularity of veganism.
      2.) We are certainly lucky in Madison where so many restaurants are sympathetic to vegan diners! But I can certainly imagine the difficutly eating out in the South poses–what ridiculous experiences you shared–as if bacon didn’t really come from a slaughtered pig, pshaw.
      3.) Who wouldn’t say no to hummus? 😀

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