Sometimes It’s Just Tough

As a vegan, I know I have it good. I live in Los Angeles, which means I have access to a number of vegan options that other people in other areas don't have. I can go to a different farmers market almost every day of the week. There are vegan products in my supermarket. I have two health food stores fairly close to my home. I have restaurants that cater to my needs. So, relatively speaking, I'm a lot better off than many other vegans.

But I'm having a hard time these last few days. It's not that I'm craving animal products. I'm not. I can honestly say I have not had a craving for anything I used to eat as an omnivore in a really long time. Jane is feeling the same. But we're both struggling with the restaurant thing. We're really tired of having one option at most of the restaurants we frequent. We're bored with the restaurants readily available to us. If we lived in West Los Angeles or Silverlake, or Portland (see FoodEaters tantalizing descriptions of her travels), we'd have many more options. If gas wasn't $4/gallon.... or if we could stomach the idea of schlepping across LA at the end of the day... we'd have more options than we'd know what to do with, but neither of us relishes the idea of travelling more than 30 minutes for dinner. (Yes, I know, everything is 20 minutes away in LA.)

I want to go out to eat and not have to think about it. I want to go out to eat and not have to invent something to eat. I want to go out to eat and have more than one option (especially if it's a "veggie" burger). I want to be able to go out to eat with my friends, and not have to contemplate the menu first.

Sorry to be whining. I know there are worse problems in the world. I'm just frustrated today. I miss the days when I could say, "let's go out for dinner" and not have to give it some serious thought.


  1. Amen. If I have to eat one more veggie burger, I think I’ll scream. It’s one thing to choose it, it’s quite another to have no other option.
    At least you have Jane in this with you. I’m married to an omni (okay, more like carnivore), so I’m largely at the mercy of wherever he wants to go, which frequently means pubs with nothing but veggie burgers.
    And to add a gripe to yours, I’m having to listen to Andrew Bourdain in the background as I type this. Ugh. Seriously, eat one single meat-free meal for all our sakes.

  2. I know what you mean. I used to feel that way. There are maybe 4 places around here for me to go out and eat. But I guess I just sort of got used to cooking for myself cause now I hardly ever go out to eat. I cook ahead a lot and refrigerate the food for my lazy days. To tell you the truth I don’t really miss going out to eat anymore. I guess it just takes some getting used to.

    How long have you been a vegan?

  3. I agree! It’s very frustrating. I’m tired of having to eat a baked potato and steamed veggies when I go out with friends and family. Ideally, I wouldn’t go (and waste my money) to place with my friends which such little options but a lot of my friends won’t let me choose a vegan place most of the time! Booo.

    I’d rather make my own perfectly cooked sweet potato and steamed veggies, and not have the pay the extremely jacked up prices!

    Besides the delicious vegan places in my town, the only places worth spending money to me is veggie sushi! I don’t miss eating out a lot, like I did pre-veg days.

  4. Hi Lisa,
    Yes, your right, I’m lucky to have Jane. Even more so since the bulk of the food prep in our house falls on her shoulders.
    I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Bourdain to eat a veg*n meal. But here’s a fun blog if you haven’t seen it already…Hezbolla Tofu, an anti-Bourdain vegan blog.
    Seriously though, not poking my nose into your marriage, but imHo, you should get to choose the restaurant 50% of the time….

    Hi LisaMarie,
    We’ve been vegan for a little over a year now. Jane also makes food ahead, and neither of us has a problem eating leftovers… But it’s nice to be able to say, nah… I don’t feel like having XYZ for dinner, let’s go out instead. So how long did it take you to get past the desire to eat out?

    Hi Nicole,
    We have that problem with our friends as well. Most people have a negative perception of what vegan food is going to taste like, and are therefore unwilling to try it. We find that going out for ethnic foods is usually the best bet.
    But the prices often don’t reflect the lack of meat. And, as you stated, it’s really frustrating to pay $$ for things you can easily make at home.

  5. You’re right. Sometimes it is just tough. A little whining is ok!

    When I became vegetarian 25 years ago, I got so sick of lettuce as my primary meal anytime we went out for dinner that I just stopped going out. Things have gotten better, but now we live in a small town with pretty limited options…and boredom is back on our dinner plates.

    That said, we’ve had some luck speaking to the cooks and chefs and waitstaff at the restaurants near us, and asking if they could make a variation from the single item. Most are happy to accommodate, especially when we tell them we’re happy to eat their experiment. Not the perfect answer, but it helps.

  6. LOL. Well, I guess despite the ridiculously high cost of living here, I should be grateful that everything’s just a relatively short subway ride away in NYC (unless the trains are messed up, which happens a lot more than we’d like it to.)
    Keep us posted on how things worked out with the cooks at your local restaurants; I think it can be helpful to everyone on the boards to know how to navigate in similar situations, since we all have to “make due” every so often at non-veg-friendly establishments.

  7. I know! I live in a city of 25,000 people and there are no veg friendly restaurants. There are two places you can get ONE vegetarian option… nothing vegan. I think I have ended up saving a lot of money not eating out though. If I ever win the lotto I think I will open up a veg chain then maybe more people would do it, since it is less of a hassle.

  8. I can also sympathize. My husband and immediate circle of friends are onmi, and eating out is just a pain in the butt. The men in our little tribe don’t like anything too “health-foodie” (why just the men? Is that a guy thing?), so my options are pretty limited even though they all keep my food needs in mind when selecting a destination.

    When it’s just the husband & I, it’s still difficult, for the same reason. I’m just resigned to it, I guess. And I didn’t even know that until I started going out with a group of vegans about once a month. The first time I saw a menu where I could order anything on it, I was pretty much paralized with indecision.

    I wish I had an answer for you…for all of us, actually.

  9. Not sure where exactly in LA you’re at, but if you’ve ever been to the Taste of Life booth at the Hollywood farmer’s market, they now have a restaurant open at 4817 Fountain Ave #D (upstairs). I haven’t been myself, but it’s the same stuff from the FM… and now I’m craving lasagna….mmm
    And the Whole Foods in Glendale reportedly opened an all-vegan portion of their “to-go” bar.

    And I totally hear ya on getting bored with the veg places around here. We need more non-asian places (not that the others aren’t awesome, they’re just practically the only options out there!)

  10. Really? Are you sure it’s not just general life frustration speaking here rather than a lack of food options? I don’t know where you guys live, but after all this is L.A. county… there are soooo many options!

    I can’t walk more than a mile out of my front door without bumping into something vegan that I can eat. Since we live in the same metropolitan area I’m really surprised to hear you say you don’t have many choices. Both my parents are meat eaters and I go out to dinner with them frequently. Sometimes they’ll let me take them to one of my veggie places (my dad loves the nut burger at Follow Your Heart!), but most of the time they’re dragging me along to one of their restaurant choices. Their have been very few “normal” restaurants we’ve gone to where I wasn’t able to find a few vegetarian options that could easily be veganized. True, it’s a pain in the ass to have to ask “hold the cheese, hold the butter”, etc… but as an onion hater I’ve had to be vigilant in restaurants all my life anyhow to make sure they don’t put onions on my food. For me asking for them leave the cheese off of the salad or to leave the butter off of the steamed/grilled veggies hasn’t felt like too much of a hassle. Just last week they dragged me along to some chain restaurant near the Northridge mall that I really didn’t want to suffer through. Much to my delight, right on the menu was a cheeseless pizza with seasonal grilled vegetables (and it was delicious). The veggie fajita I had at Chili’s of all places was surprisingly good too (I asked if they’d make me the fajita with their grilled portabello mushrooms instead of steak, and hold the cheese… and they were happy to oblige). It seems like more and more of these regular places are becoming more healthy conscious, and in turn, more vegetarian & vegan friendly.

    Please don’t hate me of saying this, but I think that if you spent a week somewhere that doesn’t have even one vegetarian restaurant for hundreds of miles in any direction, I think you’d realize just how totally lucky and spoiled with vegan options we are here in Los Angeles.

    I don’t know how helpful this suggestion will be, but maybe you’ll find some new and exciting stuff in your area if you start exploring some of the ethnic food places nearby or even go back to “normal” restaurants that don’t advertise as being vegetarian and vegan. Some of my favorite vegans foods in this city come from places that don’t cater to vegans at all.

  11. Hi Tammy,
    Thanks for the support.
    I feel a little silly whining, when I know I have it better than a lot of people, and it’s certainly getting noticeably easier to be veg*n in society. I just wish it were totally mainstream.

    Hi Val,
    I miss Vegetarians Paradise 2. When I was in school, and vegetarian, that was one of my favorite restaurants. Yes, it’s certainly easier to navigate Manhattan than Los Angeles. But I’m not sure our cost of living is that much less than yours. Thanks for the support!

    Hi Chrissy,
    I hope I didn’t annoy you too much with my whining. Your situation sounds really tough. And while we too have saved a ton of money eating out less than we did as omnis, some days we’d be happy to trade a little of that cash for a bit more variety. Make sure to let us know when that lottery ticket comes in. We’ll be happy to visit your establishment!

    Hi Sue,
    Hey, I’m a man… It’s certainly not all of us. There are a number of guys who comment here… although we seem to be in the minority.
    Yes, I’m looking forward to the day when it’s really all mainstream and easy. It feels like we’re moving forward. I just wish we were there already. (More whining, sorry!)

    Hi Beth,
    We live in the Pasadena/Eagle Rock area, so there are plenty of restaurants nearby, just not veg*n oriented. Taste of Life isn’t close by… but next time we’re in the area I would love some lasagna.

    Hi FoodEater,
    Nah, it’s food option frustration. I absolutely cannot walk out of my door and find anything in walking distance… nevermind vegan fare. Driving distance, we’re close to tons of restaurants, but only 2 of them are vegetarian/vegan, and I’m tired of Fatty’s and Jane is tired of Cinnamon.
    I don’t hate you for saying that we’re lucky. I know we’re lucky, and I don’t really have a right to whine. I mentioned it in the post. But I miss the days of being able to order something off the menu and not have to worry about it, and, I’ll say it again. I’m sick of veggie burgers as “the” option.
    Thanks for the suggestions. We generally do well in Thai or Chinese restaurants, but I’m never really convinced that I’m getting a truly vegan meal (fish sauce). I’m usually willing to take that leap of faith.
    Your posts on the joys of Portland made me long for the day when those options are everywhere.

  12. Happy to have discovered this blog. Recently decided to transition into veganism and could use a lot of help. Since I live in socal, I think this blog will have many posts relevant to what I need to know. =)

  13. Hi Anna,
    Thanks. Hopefully you’ll find lots of helpful information. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, we like to visit Foodeater’s blog for restaurant reviews and recommendations.
    Anyway, good luck with your transition. Feel free to write if you have any questions. If we can’t help you, we can probably point you in the right direction.

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