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Friday, November 12, 2010

Eating Out

Greetings, salutations and general wishes of goodwill to one and all!  What is on Chuckys mind today?  It's day #43 of our newly found vegetarian life.  Today I would like to share my experiences meeting up with friends and dining out.

What is on the menu?  What choices do I have as  vegetarian?  Do I find myself making sacrifices?  I think that the best way to share my experiences is to simply alphabeticaly list the establishment and describe the choices I found.  

Bahama Breeze - For those not familiar, Bahama Breeze is a member of the Darden Restaurants chain (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grill, and Seasons 52).  Bahama Breeze serves Caribbean-inspired food.  Tiffany and I will be going there tonight to meet up with some friends.  My past pre-vegetarian life recalls quite a few choices.  Online I find they have quite a few acceptable menu choices for tonight's dining:  Creole Baked Goat Cheese, Spinach Dip & Island Chips, Roasted Cuban Bread, or Island Tomato & Basil Flatbread.  Mmm... I am getting hungry already!  :)

Update.  Tiffany and I began with the Warm Spinach Dip & Island Chips to share with the table.  For our entree, she and I shared the Sun-Drenched Portobello & Vegetable Sandwich and a bowl of Cuban Black Bean Soup.  Everything was deliciously prepared.  I highly recommend these selections.
Carrabas Italian Grill -  This has always been one of Tiffany and my favorite dining spots.  Recently, following a Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera Live HD event (Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunov") we visited Carrabas.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that we may continue visiting Carrabas after our vegetarian life change.  We shared wine, small Zucchini Fritte (fried battered zucchini) appetizer, wine, Quattro Formaggi (tomato, basil & cheese) brick-oven pizza, wine, Tag Pic Pac (tomato, garlic & basil) pasta, and more wine.  There are many non-meat choices and we look forward to our next visit.

Cici's Pizza - Cici's buffet has endless possibilities for Tiffany and I.  We start with salad, a little pasta with some meatless marinara sauce, and perhaps a couple of bread sticks.  Then it's time to attack the pizza buffet.  There are almost always several non-meat selections on the buffet:  cheese pizza, veggie pizza, alfredo pizza, spinach pizza, etc.  And, if the buffet is temporarily out of vegetarian selections all we have to do is to flag someone down behind the pizza bar and submit our request.  Within a few minutes, fresh hot non-meat pizza will be served onto the buffet bar! 

Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar - Okay, okay.  "Not fair!"  Although a fresh roasted coffee and fresh juice bar, they cater to vegetarian and vegan diners.  But, you're welcome to bring your meat-eating friends with you because they serve non-vegetarian & non-vegan selections as well.  Tiffany and I have sadly only visited once.  We've been wanting to return but they just aren't that convenient to home.  We began with the most delicious soups.  Then I ordered a wrap. It was spinach tortilla stuffed with potato, sauerkraut, meatless chicken, and creamy vegenaise sauce.  Tiffany ordered a BBQ meatless steak sandwich that was served on a ciabbata roll.  Every single bite and morsel was heavenly!  We WILL be returning soon!

Elephant Bar - EB used to have a much nicer vegetarian menu selection (hummus & world's greatest vegetarian burger).  I don't know what is going on at their corporate office but something has change and changed for the worse.  Tiffany and I recently met her mother and sister at the Elephant Bar and I was actually quite disappointed.  There are pretty much two vegetarian selections, salads and Morningstar burger.  Let me give you a little history lesson folks.  EB used to make the absolute BEST vegetarian burger available.  Then some bright moron at corporate elected to switch to what can best be described as sticky rice colored with red beet.  Absolutely tasteless, disgusting, fell apart with one bite and looked exactly like a Gaines-Burger (I kid you not).  Ha!  That culinary creation did not last very long.  Now?  Simple Morningstar burger on a grilled stale whole wheat bun (includes tomato, lettuce, onion, and pickle).  It was edible but barely so.  Elephant Bar?  No, I cannot in good conscience, recommend them for the vegetarian.  This opinion truly hurts me, my friends.  Elephant Bar used to be a favorite place to dine.

Firehouse Subs - They have but a single item for us vegetarians.  But, trust me, it's killer!  Go ahead!  Dare to enter a Firehouse Subs and order the Veggie Sub on whole wheat (sauteed mushrooms, bell peppers and onion with lettuce, tomato, mayo, mustard and italian dressing topped with provolone, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese), hold the mayo please.  But please keep your mouth closed after you chew and swallow each bite.  Else the screams of joy emitting from your taste buds might disturb other patrons.

Phat Thai Café - Simply outstanding.  Like most Thai restaurants, tofu can be substituted for meat.  I did encounter a dilemma though.  The other night I had a craving for noodle soup but they do not offer a non-meat based soup.  So, I caved in and ordered the Beef Noodle Soup.  Substituted tofu for steak.  The server immediately impressed me, "Sir?  Are you aware that this is a beef-based broth?"  After confirming that I was aware and thanking her for warning me, I was then asked whether I would like my tofu fried or steamed.  Oddly enough, I had never been given a choice.  Nice touch!  Tiffany and I had the fried tofu appetizer and she ordered Phat Se‐Ew Noodle with tofu.

La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant - Many non-meat selections off of the menu but Tiffany and I are only familiar with their afternoon buffet.  Endless possibilities.  We've been going there regularly for years and never tire of the place.  Best Mexican food to be found with a staff that cannot be beat!  There isn't a steamer tray of grilled vegetables. Instead, we pick them out of the steak fajita, chicken fajita and grilled shrimp trays.  We create our own burritos and tacos using Spanish rice, refried beans, Mexican corn, grilled veggies, pico de gallo, diced onion, and fresh salsa.  There are fried plantains and tortilla chips on the buffet.  Every visit has a different taste as we continue to get creative.

Subway - Two basic sub sandwich choices:  Veggie Delite and Veggie Patty.  Oddly enough, our local Subway shops offer the Veggie Patty but it's not listed on their web site.  And, of course, they offer any sub made into a salad.  Breakfast?  I recommend the Western Omelet (light English muffin, egg white, cheese, bell pepper, onion and ham), hold the ham.

Loving Hut - We've only visited once and had a wonderful experience.  A truly delicious vegan café.  Tiffany and I had the Sea Wonder (tempura dish with Chinese mushroom, seaweed and soy protein) appetizer.  We then tried the C8 Combo (rice, summer roll, ocean delight, and vegetables).  Freshly prepared and absolutely delicious.  Each bite was a jubilation of flavor.  I look forward to many, many more visits.

SEA Thai - You absolutely cannot lose if you visit this place seeking a scrumptious vegetarian meal.  Almost every dish can be ordered with tofu.  Try the Seaweed Salad.  A delicate delicious combination of fresh seaweed, sesame oil, and sprinkle with sesame seed.  Soups?  Almost everyone is meatless-broth based and can be safely ordered.  Make mine "super Thai hot" please!  You can't go wrong with the Phad Thai, Phad See Euw or any other dish that they serve.  Their menu clearly defines what each dish is composed of making it simple and easy to order.

So, what is the lesson learned?  Wonderful news!  Tiffany and I can continue to dine out and join friends for a meal.

I don't find myself missing the non-vegetarian selections.  Instead, I find myself regretting that there aren't more choices.  Tiffany and I eat out as much, if not more frequent, than prior to fourty-three days ago.  What I consume may have changed but my lifestyle has not.

Hi-dee hi-dee bon appetit-ho my friends!


  1. wow! day 43! congrats on making the plunge! it's an exciting journey, and one i wouldn't trade. we're eating better than ever, and it almost seems that since quitting all the crap, my palate has opened up because everything tastes so much better now!

  2. Thanks jayedee. When I was eating lunch today I recalled what you had commented. You are soooo right! Every morsel and bite tastes tremendously better than before. Perhaps I am wrong but I don't care because I now taste wonderful things that I did not previously experience. A result of body detoxification? I truly appreciate your sharing your thoughts and in a strange & simple way, you made my life just a wee bit better today. :) You added clarity to that which I am experiencing.