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Vegetarian Dishes in Restaurants

Recently I performed an experiment where I ate vegetarian for a month. I learned a lot, but it’s not one I’m eager to repeat.

This experiment also gave me the opportunity to test a theory I have: Vegetarian meals have to be a better value on menus. The reasoning for this is that menu space is relatively expensive in most decent restaurants. In order to recover the cost of that space, the restaurant will have to sell a lot of the dishes that are on there. Restaurants will want to have an option for vegetarians because denying one vegetarian may deny a group of friends. Since they can’t count on the relatively low percentages of vegetarians and vegans in the population at large to provide the necessary revenue, these dishes will have to also appeal to omnivores. Therefore, they have to draw the omnivores from other meaty dishes. This translates into either better taste or lower cost.

For the most part the results of my testing this theory were inconclusive. Some places have excellent veggie options, some places have only mediocre ones, like a veggie burger patty. This is sometimes the case even in fancy places which should try harder and which should also attract a disproportionate number of vegetarians, since the diet is primarily one reserved for the more wealthy of our society. I also had mixed success with vegetarian/vegan restaurants. One was excellent, the other was only so-so.

In general I found that the best places for a veggie option were ethnic food places. Indian restaurants topped the list, because of the prevalence of vegetarians in India. But also, burrito joints and Italian places had a surprising number of options. Chinese and other Asian eateries often have a choice of meats, tofu or nothing so it’s possible to eat well there too.