My husband and I enjoyed your previous article. We began eating a plant-based vegan diet in October. We spend 3 months here on Marco and have friends who want to go out to dinner. It is not easy – we have ordered fish a few times but would rather stick to our eating plan. Any suggestions for places to eat? Thank you. Mary.
Thank you so much for your question. This is one of the most-often asked questions about following a vegan, plant-based diet. Most people understand that this way of eating is, hands down, the healthiest. Many people seem to know intuitively that a vegan diet can help them lose weight, get energized, get healthy and live longer … but the social implications are often the first to come to mind!
Currently, there are no vegan restaurants on Marco Island. Until recently there weren’t even any vegan restaurants within two hours. The great news is that there are now a couple of vegan restaurants in Naples and Ft Myers. Plus, of course, there are a number of excellent choices in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.
The nice thing about going to a vegan restaurant is that we don’t have to go through “the drill,” as I call it. The drill is the process of explaining, re-explaining and sometimes re-re-explaining to the wait staff and chef(s) what foods and ingredients are acceptable … “No, seriously, chicken broth is not vegan. Nope, neither are bacon bits. And no, fish sticks don’t qualify either.”
Some people find the drill to be exhaustive and sometimes even futile, so frustration sets in. That’s why it is so enjoyable to go to a vegan restaurant where you can order right off the menu without fear. Plus, in a vegan restaurant, there’s no need for worry about cross-contamination which is, sorry to say, pretty much a given in “regular” restaurants. “Did I mention that chicken broth is not vegan, unless it’s specifically vegan chicken broth? Ma’am, why do you look so confused??”
By the way, there is indeed a food product that looks like chicken broth, smells like chicken broth and tastes like chicken broth, but does not come from chickens and is NOT chicken broth. It is what we vegans call chicken broth … or sometimes “un-chicken broth.” Expecting your wait staff to understand this is a set up for frustration – or fodder for hysterics.
The good news is that Naples now has a Whole Foods Market with many vegan food choices and a café where you can dine in. Plus, even Publix supermarkets are now getting very aggressive in offering vegan foods throughout their aisles.
I don’t expect you and your friends to derive the same satisfaction going out to eat at Publix as you would to a “fancy” restaurant, but the point is there are more and more options, which brings me to more good news.
Marco Island, while having no vegan restaurants, is a cornucopia of dining establishments and most have vegan options on their menus. And, if not, virtually any restaurant can make something special to your order.
At an Italian restaurant, you can always order pasta with tomato sauce, or perhaps grilled eggplant. You may have to engage a bit in the drill, but some menu choices are an easier task than others. You may want to ascertain that the sauce has no chicken broth and no butter (or other animal-based ingredients). In the case of the grilled eggplant, you’ll want to make sure they use no egg if the eggplant is battered. Plus, you may want to request that the pan, grill or other cooking surfaces be cleaned prior to cooking your food.
Joey’s Italian Restaurant has actually prepared vegan pizza for me with vegan cheese that I supplied – it was awesome. Plus, you can always order a veggie pizza with no cheese.
If you go Chinese, the options are nearly limitless as long as you make sure they understand the basics … no chicken broth, no oyster sauce, etc. Chinese chefs are true masters of the culinary arts and Chinese restaurants always have numerous options.
The typical “surf & turf” restaurants, plentiful on Marco Island, should easily be able to prepare pasta and salads to satisfy any appetite. More and more of them now offer meat analogues – products that look, taste and have the texture of meat, but without the meat!
Subway, Little Caesars and other national chains now offer vegan options as well. Clearly, as the vegan trend continues to expand exponentially, restaurants will have to follow suit. Any restaurant on Marco Island has an open invitation from me to call for a consultation on how to add more vegan options to their menus.
Jeff Popick is a 17 year resident of Marco Island. He holds a real estate license and general contractor’s license, and his true passion is bettering humanity through our food choices. Though not conventionally licensed in the fields of health and nutrition, he is widely considered a top expert in the field and has written three books and countless articles. He also enjoys public speaking and has hosted radio shows on the subjects as well. Question or comments you’d like addressed? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.