”Vegan? In the States? As an exchange student? You are crazy! Is that possible? What do you eat? Salad? We can’t take you anywhere! ”
Actually, being vegan in the States, as an exchange student, is quite possible and not as challenging (at all) as it might seem. I collected a few restaurants and typical dishes, and spiced them up with some hacks for you :)
Common American Restaurants
Fast Food Chains
Probably the most fearful place to stop by and eat are fast food places. Not only are there very few vegan, or even healthy in any sense, options, but supporting the cruelty behind the fast food chain image is hard to overcome. But sometimes one really has to stop by..what to do then?
Wendy’s might be one of the safest places to go to, in case your family, or even friends, are unsure about which fast food restaurant to visit and you are able to suggest a place. Apart from a BLACK BEAN burger patty (the buns are apparently considered vegan too), you can easily order lots of plain baked potatoes with apple slices on the side, or ask to change some salad ingredients.
Starbucks / Coffee Shops
The oh so popular coffee-shop stores. Luckily they probably are one of the easiest places to eat, or rather snack, vegan. Due to increasing demand milk substitutes are available almost everywhere, and Starbucks even offers cute fruit bars and “evolution” juices. So much about feeling fancy about eating healthy!
Mexican (and asian) places are ALWAYS very safe. Common are chains like Chipotle, Moe’s and Taco Bell. Very often it works like this: you stand and wait in line and once it is your turn you can choose your type of meal (burrito (bowl), quesadilla, tacos..) and are able to customize it up to every single ingredient; meaning that you can say NO to meat and HELLO to tofu, tempeh, veggies, guac and salsa. And jalapeños.
Now Mellow Mushroom is just a pretty awesome place, in my opinion. Not only are the options endless for vegans, and vegetarians, as the chain additionally has a vegan menu, but it is not know as a “vegan place”, so even meat eaters will gladly stop by and enjoy their meal along with you. Tip: The Tempeh Hoagie is the bomb! (just ask to leave the cheese (and feta) out).
Olive Garden is an american italian restaurant, serving lots of pasta and non-vegan dishes, and are very common for their (vegan) breadsticks! The first few times eating out at Olive Garden ended up being a mess for me, as the re-fillable entre salads contained a lot of cheese and the dressings dairy. The vegetable sauce I got with my pasta sadly contained dairy as well, as I found out later on. To prevent that, for any restaurant, check their websites, and you will find information on vegan dishes, or kindly ask the waitress/waiter, although some might not exactly know what veganism is and you might have to explain it to them first.
Typical Meals & Hacks
- HAPPYCOW.COM – THE place to go and check for vegan or veg-friendly restaurants (although there might not be all existing places entered)! Including reviews and pictures. Just go onto the site, scroll down and use the map to check a specific city for restaurants, cafes and (grocery) stores.
- There are AWLAYS salads, veggies and potatoes – apart from “The Cook-out”. DO NOT go to the Cook-out! Other than that you are SAFE. Either order your salad with several (cooked) veggies and check the dressing ingredients! The balsamic vinaigrettes should usually be vegan. If you can’t befriend yourself with a salad, check the side dish options and make sure to order veggies and baked potatoes without butter.
- Oatmeal – now I do not know about traditions outside the South, but oatmeal is traditionally made with, YES, thank god, WATER! I have asked at several, even home-owned restaurants and usually the answer was water, but please check. The one and only time I did not do so my oats were very surprisingly made with eggs.
- ASK – do not be afraid to ask your waiter/waitress for changes in your order. If somebody doesn’t want the tomato slice on their burger turns out in the same way as someone who only wants two slices of bread and cooked veggies turned into a sandwich or no cheese on their salad. It is the customers wish and mostly very much possible.
- Store – and in the worst cases, if there really are no vegan options or your family went to the cook-out, ask to stop by at a store and quickly grab some fruit or chips. Another tip would be to eat before or after you went out, which is not as nice, but in very bad situations do-able.
There might be following more restaurants, more tips, more hacks; just stay tuned.!
I hope you have a lovely day, #govegan, try it :)!