Smile Politely

Ask Politely: What to do about vegans?

Remember, way back in November when we announced we were starting an advice column? Well, it’s finally here. We’re eager to answer your questions, so do send them to us.

Disclaimer: We are neither experts nor robots, so if you need immediate medical assistance, please hang up and dial 9-1-1; if you need an immediate response to a question, call your mom.


How do you eat with vegans? What’s the best way to accommodate vegans when you’re cooking at home? Where do you go out to eat in C-U when you’re going with people with lots of restrictions and intolerances?

That’s a good question, reader. Veganism can feel alien — like, who doesn’t want to eat cheese with their meal? That’s cheese with an “s”, mind you. But vegans are human, too, and they’d probably argue they are more evolved than the rest of us omnivores. Cooking a vegan meal at home, when you’re not used to doing so, can feel unfamiliar and restrictive. But we’re here to tell you, dear readers, is that it’s not so hard or scary!

(We write this assuming that these vegans do not have other dietary restrictions like gluten, soy, or corn intolerances. In that case, you should probably eat at their house, or they should bring a dish they know they can eat.)

Read over our advice and consider your skills, time, energy, and general enthusiasm. Then, ask your friends what they do and don’t eat and like. We feel like this is generally a good rule of thumb anyway, because who wants to show up for dinner and potentially be served literally all of the things you hate to eat? Everyone has a dietary thing now; it’s not weird to ask.

If you regularly cook at home, our estimation is that you’re already eating vegan dishes on a rotating basis. Do you eat veggie soup? Probably vegan, or easily made so. Swap out chicken or beef broth for veggie broth, and you’re all set. There are endless resources online for vegan recipes, and we have two public libraries that have plenty of books available to you. Check the labels on the pantry items you already have.

But that doesn’t really feel like the answer you’re looking for, so let us be more specific: vegans love some grain bowls with roasted veggies covered in sauce. Look at any vegan restaurant’s menu and you’ll find more than a few items that include some grain bowl with options to add, like, all the veggies, and tofu, and then a selection of sauces. Tahini is super popular among vegans, and easily acquired ‘round these parts. If you’re hosting some vegans for a meal at yours, the menu should be “build your own grain bowl.” 

  • Make a grain.
  • Roast some veggies. 
  • Bake some tofu. 

Don’t fret! This is easy. Buy some firm tofu (available at any grocery store). Drain it well by wrapping it in some paper towels or a dish cloth and placing it between two plates, with a can of something on top to encourage any excess water to exit the building. Slice into half inch slabs. Since tofu takes on the flavor of its marinade, mix up a good one. We like to use sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and red pepper. Pour that mixture all over the tofu slabs and bake at 375° until the edges are golden brown.

  • Buy or make a sauce that seems appropriate. This could be tahini mixed with lemon juice, salt, garlic, and water, or soy sauce, or some sort of hot sauce, or all of the above. 
  • Get some garnishes: herbs, scallions, sesame seeds, shredded raw carrots or beets, pickled veggies, vegan kimchi (available at Fresh International Market). 
  • Enjoy!

For dessert, don’t do that yourself. Most sugar isn’t technically vegan, and honey isn’t vegan, either, so you probably don’t have what you need. Preorder or pick up some vegan baked goods from Dancing Dog, Cake Artist Studio, or Hopscotch.

In a commerical kitchen, a person wearing a green t-shirt, black apron, black glasses, and an orange knit hat looks at a cake they hold to the side. The cake is cream colored with chocolate drips down the side. Photo by Steven Pratten.

Chocolate tahini cake at Dancing Dog held (and made) by Anastasia Pennington-Flax. We told you vegans love tahini. Photo by Steven Pratten.

Looking for a meal out on the town rather than fixing it yourself? Thankfully C-U has some decent options, where your guests won’t be relegated to ordering a salad, that will make it an enjoyable experience for your vegan/vegetarian friends. First, you need to decide if you are going to join them in their eating choices. Maybe you’re friend-dating and want to appear super accommodating, especially if you are extending the dining invitation. It would be a nice gesture to suggest Dancing Dog or Red Herring, so that you’re going to a place where you know they won’t be limited to certain menu items. However, those places are kind of narrow in terms of experience. Red Herring does not regularly serve dinner (though they do have international fusion dinners), and neither serve alcohol.

If you’re looking for a more typical dining experience, and you want some carnivorous options as well, there are several local establishments that have multiple vegetarian options. Vegan might be a bit more difficult to come by, at least finding a situation where there are many options. Indian cuisine is a great way to go. Whether it’s Himilayan Chimney, Sitara, or Kohinoor, you’ll find a giant menu with a hefty selection of veggie based items. At Kohinoor, there are plenty of items that can be made vegan upon request. 

Crane Alley is a pretty solid option for the entire spectrum of eaters. The restaurant actually has a separate section of designated vegetarian items, some of which are also vegan. The entire menu is pretty robust, especially for a bar, and they have a lovely beer garden which of course you’re not going to utilize now, but we’re guessing vegans eat in the summertime, too. 

Looking for more ideas? Check out our Vegan Ease column to see what our writers have found around town. 

Good luck making new friends and humoring old ones making new choices.

Julie McClure + Jessica Hammie
Managing Editors  

Have questions you need answered? Email us at [email protected].

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