My Vegan Bag of Tricks

Navigating the menu at restaurants can be a little tricky for vegans. While I’m spoiled for choices here in Austin, there are lots of restaurants where I can get an OK meal. Something that will fill my tummy. But there’s the other part of hunger, the part that isn’t satisfied by a plain salad with no dressing or by dry toast and black coffee. So many vegan restaurant meals need just a little something extra before they can be really satisfying. Until the day that every restaurant kitchen stocks Vegenaise and vegan pesto, I’ll just have to bring my own.

I’ve been sneaking in bits and bobs of soy creamer and salad dressing for years, but it leaves me feeling like that stereotypical little old lady smuggling rolls out in a napkin, except in reverse. So I’ve been looking for a more elegant solution for awhile now. And with the makeover SoyGo coffee creamer got recently, my elegant solution is ready.

Here’s my little bag of vegan tricks and how I use it. Starting at top left there’s salad dressing (Goddess and Sesame Ginger), chocolate coins and a Cocomel caramel, Justin’s peanut butter and chocolate hazelnut butter, Wild Garden shelf stable hummus, SoyGo coffee creamer, a sample of Parma and a baggie of nutritional yeast. You can find individual packets of vegan salad dressings at camping supply stores or buy large (and somewhat expensive) boxes at Amazon. I got my SoyGo from Rabbit Food Grocery, though most vegan specialty stores carry it. The Parma was a sample and I’ve also included a little baggie of nooch since my Parma samples won’t last forever.

Now my salads have dressing, my toast has peanut butter ( or hazelnut butter depending on how decadent I’m feeling), my veggie sandwich and bagels have hummus, my coffee isn’t black, and my pasta primavera or marinara gets an extra zing from a bit of Parma. And I won’t envy anyone’s Death by Chocolate so long as I’ve got a Cocomel and some really good chocolate in my purse.┬áThe one thing my little bag is still missing is shelf stable packets of Vegenaise. For now, hummus will have to fill that spot.

I think I’m even ready to hit up that Applebees in rural Arkansas that served me this:

"hot" tea from Applebee's

That’s right, I enjoyed microwaved Lipton in a plastic glass with a straw. It added just the right touch to my Oriental Chicken Salad (without the chicken, salad dressing, and fried noodles).

I’m giving away one Vegan Bag of Tricks (including the RuMe resusable bag). To enter, tell me about the worst vegan meal you’ve been served at a restaurant. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only. It ends at noon on Monday, March 4.

20 thoughts on “My Vegan Bag of Tricks

  1. I was once served raw tofu cut into tiny little cubes, all swimming in red chili sauce. I picked up my plate, jiggled it, took one bite, and that was it. And of course I was with non-vegans who had their fears of tofu reinforced. That kind of stuff doesn’t happen when you’re just with vegans who can laugh it off with you. You gotta be sitting next to Steak Boy who gets a good chuckle AT you. Good times.

  2. The worst vegan meal I’ve ever been served was actually at a vegetarian establishment here in Austin. I went to the new Austin Java on Windsor and ordered the vegetable sandwich and the vegetarian tortilla soup. There were less veggies on my sandwich than there are when I go to subway so I only ended up using one piece of my bread. There was no dressing, hummus, mayo, etc. on the sandwich, just the unseasoned vegetables. When I got around to the tortilla soup I was thoroughly disgusted. It was really greasy and tasted like beef! Normal tortilla soup is a chicken based soup so I really wasn’t sure why this one tasted so much like beef but it was awful!

    • I’m really hoping they improve. There’s so much potential there. I hope you let the manager know about your experience.

  3. The worst vegan meal I’ve ever had was also the most comical. My husband and I were married at a gorgeous lake in east Texas on what was supposed to be a sunny and warm Saturday afternoon. It was 50* and windy.
    That evening, my father insisted on taking us to dinner somewhere to warm everyone up. In rural east Texas, you pretty much have steakhouses, greasy Tex Mex, or fast food burgers. Steakhouse won out, as my dad is a big lover of red meat. We arrive in our wedding attire (which included my husband in his kilt), and sat down to order. The waiter was perplexed by ‘vegan’ (which my Georgia peach stepmother so sweetly pronounces ‘vaj-in’ to the laughter of everyone within earshot) but eventually determined they could only offer the salad bar and french fries. We get to the salad bar to find iceberg lettuce chunks and tomatoes, pickled okra, boiled eggs, diced onion, shredded cheese, and parmesan croutons, with the offering of ranch, thousand island, russian and bleu cheese dressings. Oh- and little squeeze bottles of olive oil and red wine vinegar. So, the night of our wedding, we dined on iced tea, lettuce, tomatoes and french fries- got our veggies, water, carbs and antioxidants covered! Worst vegan meal we’ve ever had, but at least everyone had a good laugh by the end of the night, and there was a Walmart near by that carried pita chips, hummus and veggie sticks. And chocolate almond milk. ;)

  4. 1) At least one location of thundercloud adds mayo to their guacamole to “freshen up the color” in the mornings.

    2)I went to Kirbey Lane one time around 3am and ordered the hummus taco plate made vegan. The cook managed to slip a huge hunk of raw ham into my dish. Fortunately I picked through my food and saw it and didn’t eat it. I haven’t eaten there since.

    3)At a restaurant in North Texas, I ordered a vegan tofu stir-fry dish. About halfway through eating it, my friend asked me if I was eating chicken. I am a lifelong veggie and thought that they were using some type of mock-meat tofu and had no idea that I was eating the real thing. I felt so terrible afterward. Did not tip the waitress.

    Restaurants are tricky. Be careful guys. <3

    • I once found a french fry deep within my guacamole at Kerbey Lane. It seemed ominous at the time.

  5. I tell that hot tea story all the time, the picture still cracks me up. I just bring a nooch shaker and the peanut butter packets. Sometimes I have chocolate but usually it gets all eaten and stuff.

  6. We went to dinner at Truluck’s in the Arboretum once when I was still married, and although I phoned ahead and let the restaurant know about my dietary preferences, I was served a whole head of unseasoned steamed broccoli (yes, the whole head, still intact) and plain white rice. Some of the side dishes that was brought to our table for our fellow diners had peppers, zucchini and all kinds of veggies in smothered in cheese and butter so obviously there was other vegetables on site.

    • I’m giggling here at the idea of an entire head of broccoli served up like an art piece.

  7. My worst was also at Kerbey Lane in Austin, TX! I was so excited to go because they serve a different flavor of vegan pancakes every day, and I am a sucker for pancakes! I can’t even remember what the flavor of the day was…but it was something like pumpkin or apple cider…a fall flavor that had me drooling. When they came out they were so tough and rubbery, I couldn’t get the knife to cut them at all! I ended up just ripping pieces off by hand…but after a few bites I was DONE. Disgusting! In all fairness, I gave Kerbey Lane another try at a different location, and the pancakes there have been just fine.

    • Kerbey Lane can just be really inconsistent. But I still go back. Where else will you find vegan pancakes and cheese fries at 3 AM?

  8. My worst meal was from 5 Guys (I know, I know) in Rogers, AR. I’m the only vegan in the family so I figured I would just get a veggie burger and eat the pattie/vegetables. We get the food home and I open my burger to find only lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions covered in mustard between the two buns. Called 5 Guys and they verified that that indeed is what comes on their veggie burger.

  9. It was dinner at a chain steak place to celebrate the retirement of our senior vice president (his choice of location). Despite calling ahead and discussing it with the manager and the head of wait staff, the “best they could do” was a plate of streaming green: asparagus, broccoli, and spinach. It satisfied my chlorophyll quotient for the month.

  10. I’ve never aten vegan in a restauranr (yet!). Though all my home-prepared vegan meals uptil now just were delicious.

    Oow, I remember I got some raw vegan food for tasting: lasagne. So this was as well as the best as it was the ‘worst’ vegan ‘meal’ I got. It was served to me at an info-event about raw foodies which was held in some lunch-restaurant. Hmmm, my ‘worst’ vegan meal served in a restaurant was delicious, hahaha! :o)