Tips from a Vegetarian: Lent-Friendly Options for Dining Out on Fridays3 min read

If you observe Lent, you are now in sacrifice mode, staring down several weeks of not eating meat on Fridays. This can be simple enough if you are cooking for yourself, but what if you are traveling, or otherwise have plans to dine out on a Friday? Not only will you need to order differently, but you’ll have to watch your favorite meat dishes land in front of the people all around you. How will you cope? 

There’s an obvious answer, of course: eat fish. But what if you don’t like or feel like fish?

As a longtime vegetarian, I was primed for this moment. I now live in a city with plenty of plant-based options, but in the early years of my vegetarianism, I did not have much to choose from. Let me help you navigate your Friday restaurant challenges. Here are some tips for getting creative when planning to dine out, wherever you are. 

Go Global

Looking for a meal with more complexity than pasta? If you get a say in choosing the restaurant, seek out cultures with menus more likely to include interesting meatless options.

Consider cuisines where meat is not the sole focus, like Ethiopian or Nigerian, or where salads and side dishes can add up to a main spread, like Chinese or Middle Eastern, or where many entree pastes and wraps contain no meat at all, like Indian or Mexican. In such restaurants, you are more likely to get a choice between several meals instead of having to settle for a boring default. 

Get Creative with Sides

When most of the entrees are out of reach, I always look to appetizers and side dishes to see if I can put a satisfying meal together. These categories are more likely to have more than one plant-based dish. You can order them to be served together with everyone else’s entrees, or have them brought out a few at a time, like a prix fixe menu. 

Assess the One Non-Meat Dishes on the Menu

Imagine your crew is excited about eating somewhere with all meat options. You want to be accommodating, so you spot one thing on the menu that seems meat-free and say “this is fine!”

I’ve done it. I’ve often told people that as long as there’s one dish I can eat, I’m all set. I’ve even relished the lack of choice and made a point of enjoying my drink while everyone else poured over their menus. 

This doesn’t always work. Sometimes, the one plant-based item looks great. But sometimes, it’s not very exciting. Wanting to cause as little fuss as possible is a kind impulse, but you deserve to get something out of your dining experience, too.

Take a moment before you say yes to a restaurant. Really think about that one item. Will it be enough food, or will you leave hungry? Does it have variety, or is it a plain plate of just one thing? Is it something you might still order if you had a menu full of other plant-based options? If it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, it’s worth putting in a vote for finding a new place to eat.  

Ask for Accommodations

I’ve been in that tight spot where I’m starving and for whatever reason, the restaurant I’ve found myself at is all meat. 

One thing I’ve learned is to ask the server an open-ended question rather than asking if they can remove the meat from one particular dish. Say, “I can’t eat meat today. What do you suggest?”  Your server has seen all kinds of orders and might have some creative advice.  Sometimes, they will even offer to have the chef make you something that isn’t on the menu. I have discovered some secret menu items that way. 

Best of luck on the next few Fridays! I hope you find some culinary surprises before you return to your regular routine. 


No responses yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Comments

No comments to show.