Eating Vegan at Fast Food Chain Restaurants
Some well-meaning vegans have chosen to ignore the fast-food and chain restaurant market because of its emphasis on animal flesh, but the bottom line is this: In order to convince meat-eaters to stop eating animals, vegetarian options must be convenient and available in the places where meat-eaters munch. There will never be vegan or vegetarian options at restaurant chains unless vegetarians and vegans support them. Some of us never thought that we’d see the day when Burger King or Bennigan’s offered veggie burgers, but now that they do, the millions of carnivores who eat there can see that choosing meatless meals is easy and tasty. This is a huge step in the right direction.
Almost every restaurant has at least one vegan dish available. By making educated choices and asking the server for assistance, dining out can be a delicious—and cruelty-free—experience! We put together this handy guide to help you navigate the chain restaurant world.
Arby’s offers a baked potato and a garden salad or side salad with Italian dressing.
Backyard Burgers, a restaurant chain in the South and the Midwest, offers a delicious garden veggie sandwich.
Remember going to Baskin-Robbins when you were knee-high to a grasshopper? Awaken the kid in you by trying the chain’s dairy-free and gelatin-free ices and sorbets, which are just as yummy and cooling as ice cream—without the pus and hormones.
A delicious vegetarian Boca burger and a fresh garden salad are your options at Bennigan’s.
Bruegger’s Bagel Bakery has several breakfast and lunch options for vegans, including its blueberry, chocolate chip, cinnamon sugar, cranberry orange, pumpernickel, and rosemary olive oil bagels, which can be topped with fresh vegetables, Dijon mustard, or vegan hummus spread. Bruegger’s also serves several vegetarian sandwiches, which can be made vegan by leaving off the cheese and dressing.
Burger King’s BK Veggie™—a flame-broiled vegetarian burger (contains dairy products)—has enjoyed continued success. Every time a customer sees “BK Veggie™,” it is a reminder that “having it your way” doesn’t have to mean taking a bite out of Bessie.
The French fries, hash-brown nuggets, breadsticks, English muffins, and CrissCuts at Carl’s Jr. are all vegan. In the restaurant, there is an all-you-can-eat salad bar that offers a variety of fresh vegetables and a three-bean salad that can be topped with fat-free Italian dressing.
The grilled portobello mushroom sandwich and Boca burger are vegan at Cheeburger Cheeburger, which can be found throughout the Midwest and the South and on the East Coast.
Cheers offers a vegan veggie burger. Load it up with all the fixings for a filling meal.
At Chili’s, you can have the tostada chips and salsa as appetizers, followed by the veggie quesadillas—replacing the cheese and sour cream with extra vegetables—or the Cadillac Fajitas without the meat.
Chipotle offers a vegetarian fajita burrito, but be sure to order it with black beans—the pinto beans are cooked with bacon.
Cici’s Pizza is inexpensive and will deliver to your home. Just be sure to ask about the vegan status of each item on your pizza. Cici’s also offers a pasta-and-salad buffet with many vegan options.
The Broiled Portobello Stack at Claim Jumper is vegan if you ask for an unmarinated portobello mushroom.
The Daily Grill, located throughout California, offers a vegan grilled vegetable plate.
Dairy Queen offers a vegan “ice cream” bar called Star Kiss. Dairy Queen also has vegan slushes in cherry, grape, blue raspberry, lemon lime, watermelon, and kiwi strawberry flavors. The selection varies by location
Even Denny’s—known for its traditional breakfasts, lunches, and dinners—has some vegan options. Denny’s vegan foods include oatmeal, English muffins, bagels, grits, applesauce, fresh fruit, vegetable plates, seasoned French fries, baked potatoes with several vegetable toppings, garden salads with light Italian or oil-and-vinegar dressing, and sandwiches that can be made with several vegetable options. It also serves a vegetarian burger.
5 & Diner has several vegan options, including a vegetarian burger and the Veggie Delight.
The vegan option at Flamers Grill is the Veggie Pattie.
Hard Rock Cafe offers a vegetarian burger, a veggie sandwich, and salads.
You have several vegan options at Hard Times Café, including the Café Veggie Burger and the Veggie Chili. Be sure to tell your server that you don’t want any dairy products in your Veggie Chili.
Houston‘s offers a veggie plate and the Vegetarian Burger. Just be sure to order the burger on vegan bread.
Swing by a Petro truck stop and you’ll find the Iron Skillet restaurant, where you can refuel with the stacked salad bar and spaghetti with meat-free sauce.
The Garden Po’ Boy, the Portobello Wrapini, and the Spinach Veggie Wrap are your vegan options at Jason’s Deli. Be sure to ask about the vegan status of each of these dishes—it varies by location.
John Harvard’s offers a grilled portobello mushroom sandwich and a veggie burger. Be sure to check the vegan status of your choice when ordering.
Johnny Rockets features the Streamliner, a vegan Boca burger with grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and mustard.
Kelsey’s, with locations in Canada, has several vegan options, including Kelsey’s Vegetable Burger, the Roasted Vegetable Wrap, and the Vegetable Fajita. The vegan status of these dishes varies by location, so be sure to check with your server when ordering.
Kona Grill now has a vegan menu! For appetizers, you’ve got edamame and seaweed salad. For sushi, there’s a cucumber roll, an avocado roll, and a vegetarian roll (with asparagus, avocado, yamagobo, cucumber, and sprouts). There are three vegan salads, including the house salad, the roasted asparagus salad, and the oriental salad, along with many vegan dressings, including onion soy, sweet soy, oil and vinegar, and balsamic, red, or white wine vinegar. Finally, both the Pan-Asian noodles and the linguini with marinara sauce are vegan, as are the sides of steamed baby bok choy, white rice, and seasonal vegetables.
The pizza sauce and dough at Little Caesars, and Papa John’s are vegan, while Pizza Hut uses vegan sauce, and its Thin ‘n Crispy and dessert crusts are vegan. By omitting the cheese and choosing your favorite vegetable toppings, you can easily make a delicious vegan pizza.
All of Manhattan Bagel’s bagels are vegan, except for the jalapeño cheddar cheese and egg varieties, and its bialys—a flattened onion-and-poppy-seed bagel—are also vegan. The Manhattan Grille and Vegetable Garden sandwiches can be made on a bagel, a roll, or a tortilla and are vegan if you omit the spreads and cheese.
The Veggie Stack sandwich is your vegan option at Mimi’s Café, which is located on the West Coast and in the Midwest.
All of Moe’s tacos, fajitas, salads, and burritos can be made vegan by substituting tofu for meat and skipping the cheese. Just be sure to ask for a vegan tortilla.
O’Naturals, a restaurant chain in New England, offers healthy, all-natural fast food for diners who want great food to go. Its menu features a large vegetarian selection, and vegan items are marked for easy identification.
A great place for breads, soups, salads, and sandwiches is Panera Bread. Each location varies its menu options, so just ask about the vegan options before ordering.
P.F. Chang’s is one of the most vegan-friendly restaurant chains around. Its vegetarian menu is terrific, and everything can be made vegan, from appetizers such as Tofu Lettuce Wraps to entrées like Orange Peel Tofu.
Located throughout Florida, Pollo Tropical offers Caribbean-inspired fast food, including several vegan options such as the Vegetarian TropiChop entrée. Other vegan items include Balsamic Tomatoes and Bananas Tropical. The chain’s black beans, French fries, white rice, yellow rice, boiled yucca, and corn are vegan too.
Pyramid Brewery offers a Boca burger that can be substituted for any nonvegan burger on its menu. The Margarita Pizza is also vegan.
A great alternative to Subway is Quiznos Subs. It offers a veggie sub that’s filled with guacamole, black olives, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and mushrooms—just be sure to order it without the cheese and ask for the balsamic vinaigrette instead of the red wine vinaigrette. Grab a side garden salad and some potato chips, and your stomach will be appeased in no time.
If you stop at Roy Rogers, you’ll find baked potatoes, sides of veggies, and a salad bar. And its mashed potatoes are vegan if you forgo the gravy.
Ruby Tuesday has an Endless Fresh Garden Bar where you can make your own vegan salad.
Starbucks has a sesame noodles dish, made with noodles, broccoli, carrots, red pepper, snap peas, tofu, pickled cucumbers, and sesame peanuts. The dish comes with a bar of Starbucks dark chocolate for dessert.
Subway’s Veggie Delite—on Italian bread and without cheese and mayo—is delish! Want to spice things up a bit? After visiting Subway, visit the nearest grocery store, purchase some fake lunch meats, and load up your sub!
Sweet Tomatoes, located throughout the South and the West, has a variety of salads, sandwiches, and soups.
Ohio’s Swenson’s Drive-In offers the Veggie Special.
Taco Bell has many great options for vegans! The fast-food chain has a variety of sides that are vegan—including the cinnamon twists, chips and guacamole (or pico de gallo), cilantro rice, black beans, and Mexican rice—and all its salsas are vegan. You can also order the fresco bean burrito, the veggie Cantina bowl without sauce, or the regular bean burrito without cheese. Several of Taco Bell’s other dishes can be veganized simply by omitting a few ingredients. The 7-Layer Burrito can be vegan with five layers—just forgo the cheese and sour cream. The tacos, nachos, and Mexican pizzas are vegan when you ask the cashier to hold the meat, cheese, and sour cream.
Tubby’s, with locations in Michigan, has the vegan Hot Veggie Stir-Fry Sandwich.
Village Inn has a Boca burger that is vegan if ordered without mayonnaise and cheese.
Head to Wendy’s for a plain baked potato, the Deluxe Garden Salad with red Italian dressing and no cheese, or French fries. You can also ask for a veggie sandwich, which includes everything that would normally be on the burger except the meat—there’s even a button for it on the cash register.
World Wraps, with locations in Washington and California, offers its vegan customers the Tofu and Mushroom Teriyaki and the Bombay Curry Veggie.