All month long Im blogging about my cities vegan-friendliness in the hope of dispelling the national misconception that its a crummy place to be vegan. As youve seen in earlier posts, thats so not true! But as I ramble on about all the great things we DO have, Im acutely aware of something we dont.
Yep, its a sad fact that we lack upscale vegan restaurants. Locals like Cafe as a treat, but I think both locations are pretty casual (decor &, especially sometimes excessively the service). The menu almost never changes; the food can be pretty, but it doesnt delight, excite, or teach me. Its just nice.
If you want fancy fine dining, you have to go to a non-vegetarian restaurant with good vegan choices or special menus. Thankfully, our restaurateurs excel in this regard. You might already know about the entirely vegan menu I enjoyed at Alkaa. Vegans are also enthusiastically accommodated by Top Chef among others. (NOTE: since were southern, and everythings a bit more laid-back in the south, by fine dining Im thinking well-informed and polite servers, a beautiful, unique setting, tasting/prix fixe menu availability, silverware that gets changed with courses, and expertly-prepared food made with locally-sourced (often organic) ingredients. Or at least most of these. :))
Two tips for a successful vegan experience at higher-end restaurants: 1) make a reservation a few days in advance (youd do this anyway) and 2) carefully explain your dietary needs to the person taking the order (usually the host/ess answers the phone, NOT a server or cook). Dont just assume that theyll know what vegan means be clear by saying something like, no birds, no beef, pork, fish, eggs, dairy products, or honey. I also often ask the person taking my reservation to mark no gelatin since a lot of fancy folk use it in foams, sauces, and gels. (There are vegan alternatives, of course, and creative cooks know em.) The clearer you can be with the person taking the reservation, the better luck youll have when the message gets to the person in charge of your food.
Happily, theres (at least) one place where you dont have to call ahead for a special menu, because the chef-owner writes her seasonal menus with vegans in mind.