Vegetarian meals that aren’t an ordeal


Veggie burger

Illustration by Andrea Nebhut

So you’re looking at the menu for this trendy new restaurant that your friends wanted to check out, and everyone around you is super impressed by the items they see. Brisket platter with hollandaise sauce. Bison burger special with apple-glazed bacon and coconut curds. Hot dog, but covered in edible glitter and somehow not gross. Everyone but you. You, reader, don’t eat meat — whether your dietary preferences are because of a love of animals and the environment, medical or religious restrictions, the outcome is the same: you’re frantically clicking the Google button on your phone in this place that doesn’t have free WiFi, hoping the waiter won’t arrive before you can find a meatless alternative to kielbasa. Too late. The waiter taps out of your shoulder and you snap out of your reverie, only to realize you have two and a half seconds to order your meal before the restaurant closes and everyone gets mad at you.

What do you do? You use your last one percent of phone battery to read my column below, on fun ways you can add a vegetarian vibe to your favorite restaurant meals.

Meat your new favorite meal

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Burger King, Carl’s Jr., TGI Friday’s and Dunkin’ Donuts (with their new Beyond Sausage Sandwich, which is coming to more than 9,000 Dunkin’ outlets starting on Nov. 6) are just a few of the fast food restaurants that either have added, or are going to add “meatless meat” options to their menu. Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger are two options that taste almost identical to meat (and even “bleed” like real beef), but if the restaurant you’re going to doesn’t have these options, they still might have another variety of veggie burger you can try.

Don’t be afraid to substitute

There are several fairly well-known ways that you can make your favorite fast food staples vegetarian — for example, you can get a vegan Crunchwrap Supreme from Taco Bell by simply adding black beans and removing the seasoned beef, reduced-fat sour cream and nacho cheese (Taco Bell even has a “How to eat vegan” page on its website, one of many restaurants that cater to their non-meat eating customers in this way.) You can also get a vegan pizza from Pizza Hut or Domino’s, just by asking for pizza without the cheese and covering it with your favorite vegetables and meatless toppings. If you’re ordering food online via a service like Uber Eats, Postmates or DoorDash, you can ask for a substitution in the comments of your order. For example, if you want a meatless taco, you can ask to substitute avocado, rice and/or beans for the meat portion of your order. You can also ask to have any part of the meal that you don’t want, like meat, cheese or sour cream, removed or substituted.

Bring your own toppings and condiments

You probably shouldn’t do this in a restaurant (unless you want to be known as the weirdo who brings a box of Daiya cheese singles stuffed in the pockets of your trenchcoat), but if you go to a drive-thru or food truck and know whatever food you end up ordering will be boring, it might be worth it to take some portable ingredients with you. For vegan readers who want to add a cheesy taste to their food, there’s nutritional yeast, which you can find at your local supermarket, and which adds a tangy parmesan flavor (in addition to being good for your health.) You can also grab some artificial bacon bits or vegan aioli to add to your salad or Boca burger. And if you’re ordering a bagel but your only options are cream cheese, you can take a little plastic bottle of Daiya or Kite Hill dairy-free cream cheese with you, and no one will be the wiser.

Go to a vegetarian restaurant

This may be too little, too late if you’re already somewhere with meat-heavy options, but there are plenty of restaurants specializing in vegetarian and vegan-friendly food in San Antonio that are worth checking out. Some of my favorites are Green (their main location is at the Pearl, but the menu items aren’t too expensive), La Botanica on St. Mary’s, and technically Pizza Classics — their vegan cheese pizza is very good. There’s also Pharm Table, 5 Point Local and Viva Vegeria. But wherever you choose to go, I hope that these tips will help you order something better than two burger buns and a slice of cheese.