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Opinion Tips for dining out as a vegan

Liv's author bio image

Author: Liv Published: March 27, 2024

Make vegan dining fun & stress-free! Try these tips for finding restaurants, navigating menus, and uncovering hidden plant-based gems.

If you’ve decided you’d like to try plant-based eating and are wondering what this means for your love of dining out, I have some great news for you – veg food is everywhere these days.

Here in Australia, for example, veganism has become so mainstream that most places you go (even fast-food chains) will have at least a few meat-free and dairy-free options on the menu. 

Some places even offer separate vegan menus, and an increasing number of restaurants and cafés are 100% plant-based! 🙌🌿

We’re truly spoiled for choice, and wherever you are in the world, there’s usually a delicious vegan option hiding right around the corner. But if you want some extra peace of mind before heading out on a dining adventure with friends or family, here are a few things I’ve picked up along the way to help make your dining experience a breeze.

Research ahead of time

A hand scrolls through a restaurant menu on their smart phone.

If you’ve been invited somewhere by a friend, take a couple of minutes to check out the restaurant’s menu online beforehand and get acquainted with the plant-based options they have available. That way, you’ll feel prepared before you even arrive at the restaurant, and won’t have to make a rushed decision with the waiter hovering over the table!

If the vegan options where you’re going are not clearly marked on the menu, consider calling ahead to double-check. And if you’ve made plans with someone to go out for a meal, but don’t know where you’re going yet… 

Suggest a spot

A person is turning the sign on the front door of a cafe to 'open'. Their face is obscured by the sign.

It pays to be proactive! Why not take the lead and throw your own restaurant ideas into the ring, especially if you’ve heard of some well-liked places that cater to everyone and are extra vegan-friendly. 

Check out our recommendations for some amazing places to visit for vegan food in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. A quick Google search will reveal many more, too.

Ask the server or chef

Server at restaurant smiles attentively at a table of customers, holding her tablet.

Remember that it’s not only okay to advocate for yourself and your dietary needs, it’s embraced – and totally normal.

Most restaurants will be more than happy to accommodate a wide range of requirements and customise dishes if needed… as long as the request is friendly and polite, of course! Tell your server what you’re looking for and see what options or adjustments they’d recommend.

Adapt the vegetarian options

A woman in a cafe window points at her menu smiling, while the wait staff writes down her order.

Even if a restaurant doesn’t have vegan options marked on the menu, there will often be vegetarian dishes that can easily be altered to make them vegan. Just ask your server to hold the cheese, eggs, or other non-vegan ingredients. 

Get creative with side dishes

An assortment of four side dishes sit on a restaurant table.

Not seeing a main meal that takes your fancy? Go tapas-style and combine some entrees, starters, or side dishes to make a more diverse plant-based spread instead! Lots of menu staples already happen to be plant-based — we’re talking dependable classics like olives, focaccia and hummus, guacamole, veggie dumplings, spring rolls, edamame, side salads, sautéed or roasted veggies, and of course, everyone’s favourite: hot chips. 

Pack a snack (just in case) 

A shot of a woman at a cafe holding a cup in one hand and a muesli bar in the other.

Nuts, fruit, granola bars, popcorn, and plant-based protein bars are all easy to stash away in your bag and can help tide you over in a pinch. For pretty much any day or occasion, in fact, it’s not a bad idea to arm yourself with snacks just in case you encounter unforeseen delays sourcing your next meal – or are just feeling extra peckish 😉

Save this list of vegan options at food chains

Three woman are eating at a fast food restaurant, sitting opposite another person who they are laughing with.

Many food chains with countless locations around Australia offer delicious plant-based snacks and meals these days. Familiarise yourself with this list of on-the-go vegan options and you’ll always have a radar for what’s around.

Search Google Maps for vegan cafés & restaurants

A screen cap of a Google search of vegan restaurants.

Google Maps isn’t just for navigation anymore, it’s your vegan food compass too! Type in “vegan” and voilà: You’ll discover a plethora of options at your fingertips.

You can even filter the results ‘by distance’, choose to only view restaurants that are ‘open now’, and save your faves for later. 

Get community recommendations on Happy Cow

A screen cap of vegan restaurant recommendations from Happy Cow.

Search your location on the Happy Cow website or app to see a comprehensive list of vegetarian and vegan options at restaurants near you, as well as their opening hours — all kindly compiled and reviewed by fellow plant-based foodies (aren’t they the sweetest?). You can even submit your own recommendations if you discover something new that hasn’t made it to the list yet. 

Just make sure you check the recent reviews on each result (to make sure the restaurant is still open and offering the vegan options listed) before you make a special trip.

Join your local vegan Facebook group

A woman holds her phone in front of her, scrolling social media.

It might sound old-fashioned these days to recommend joining Facebook groups, but they can be very useful for finding up-to-date info about meal options and restaurants nearby. Vegan ‘news’ — like that exciting new plant-based brunch spot opening across town — tends to spread through them like wildfire.

If your city has a local group, try searching in it using keywords like “dinner” and the suburb or area you’re interested in to see what’s got people talking. Likewise, if you’re traveling, see if there are vegan groups specific to your destination that you can join to get recommendations straight from the locals.

Have fun exploring

On a wooden cafe table, someone sits eating a salad with a drink, while a burger is in the foreground with flad saying 'vegan'.

With these handy tips in mind, you’re all set for your next vegan dining adventure. You’ll soon discover that it’s really not hard to find (or order) plant-based options at all – it’s just a matter of getting to know some nifty tips and tricks like these, building up your confidence, and enjoying some seriously delicious veg food along the way!

Liv's author bio image

Meet Liv!

Having grown up in a “meat and 3 veg” kind of household, Liv’s embarrassed to admit that she was a bit of a one-note chef until she began exploring the world of plant-based food. Vegan cooking has given her a whole new appreciation for the symphonies of flavours that simple, nourishing wholefood ingredients can create. (Even eggplant, once her greatest nemesis, is now — in a delicious, miso-glazed redemption arc — her all-time favourite veg.)

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