It’s easy being vegan ’cause you have a Vegan Passport. Make world-wide travel easy by picking up a copy. Thanks to the folks at The Vegan Society, this handy little book makes vegan eating easy and won’t take up much space in your suitcase.
It’s easy being vegan ’cause there are veggie-friendly restaurants all over the place.
Tips for Locating Veg-Friendly Restaurants
- Give an ethnic restaurant a try. For example, Ethiopian is vegan friendly as is Indian food.
- Use Veg Guide or Happy Cow to find veg-friendly restaurants near you.
Where I’ve been this year:
A few years ago Bill met a woman on a plane to London who owned a vineyard in Calistoga, CA. He was apparently very kind to her and made sure she got where she needed to go before he headed in a different direction. The woman gave him her card and invited him to visit her winery if he was ever out her way, so off we went.
On the way to Calistoga, we stopped at the market just off Highway 101 to pick up provisions for our stay up North. I picked up some smoked tofu by Tofu Life. It’s made locally in California and I haven’t seen it in Chicago. I bought the garlic/lemon and hot/spicy flavors. The texture was different from other smoke tofu products I’ve bought back home. The texture (not the taste) reminded me of feta cheese and would make a good substitute. With our shopping complete, we jumped back on the road.
Highway 101 is just another four-lane+ busy highway but as soon as you venture off to smaller two-lane roads expect to drive up and down steep hills and around miles upon miles of sharp curves as you wind through the mountains. By the time we arrived at Diamond Creek Vineyards, I was over driving and handed the keys to Bill. Exhausting. Not what I had in mind for a relaxing vacation. Little did I know it would only be worse in the passenger seat.
We met Boots at the vineyard and she invited us to a tour. It’s a small winery but unique in that it has several micro-climates within about 22 acres. I’m hardly a wine expert. If you hand me a glass of red wine, I will drink it — no questions asked — whether it’s a $3-bottle or $200-bottle. As soon as we started our tour, she let us know they produce only high-end wine. The least expensive bottle is $175. This vineyard is special in that you can’t just drop in for a tasting like most vineyards. So it was a treat that the winery had a tasting earlier that morning and we were fortunate to be able to taste the leftovers. OK, so I could taste a difference. The wine was so smooth. It was good. Too bad it’s out of my budget.
Back in the car, we headed to Cafe Gratitude in Healdsburg for a late lunch. Healdsburg is a cute little town with shops situated around a small park. I had been to Cafe Gratitude before and was looking forward to going back. There’s a funky little shop attached to the Healdsburg location, so be sure to leave some time to browse if you visit. Cafe Gratitude is mostly a raw food restaurant but some locations also serve cooked food. The Healdsburg location does not. Either way it’s all vegan. Every dish is named with an affirmation, so it takes a bit of getting used to when ordering. We enjoyed the “I am thankful” coconut curry soup, the spicy “I am honoring” live nachos and the “I am accepting” sushi bowl. Everything was delicious and I was stuffed but that didn’t stop us from ordering a slice of peach pie for dessert.
With a full belly, we began our journey further North on hilly, winding roads that a full belly doesn’t support. Nausea be damned, we made it to The Corey House where intense relaxation was about to ensue.
Gas prices are high, but I hope that won’t stop you from a little travel this Summer. My last road trip was to visit my parents in Indiana, which is definitely NOT the most vegan-friendly place on the planet. Despite that, I still find plenty of vegan food to sustain me when I visit.
What always surprises me the most about being vegan is that the people who I think are going to be the least likely to support my vegan lifestyle tend to be the ones who are the most considerate and interested in my good health.
My dad and step-mom are always very accommodating and want to make sure I get enough good food. Why this is surprising to me is that my dad is a hunter, and for whatever reason, I believe in my heart he “gets” why I am vegan, and my step-mom was so excited about finding a “vegan burger” on the menu at Cheeseburgers in Paradise, of all places, that she couldn’t wait to take me there for dinner.
Nonetheless be prepared when traveling. Know your options in advance and be flexible. Are you driving? Taco Bell and Subway are good options for road trips. For instance, I know when I visit my parents, who live in different cities, that there aren’t any vegetarian restaurants, so I have researched online veg-friendly restaurants in both areas. Also, I always bring food with me and stop by the grocery at the first chance when I visit my family.
In my opinion, it’s just best not to make a big deal out of it, but I refuse to suffer. I always make sure vegan food is available whenever I travel, but know I will certainly encounter delightful surprises along the way. Being vegan is good Karma. You never know where a delicious piece of vegan chocolate cake will pop up.
Being vegan and traveling can sometimes be a beautiful thing. My recent trip to Austin, TX, was one of those times. VegNews wrote up Austin a couple of years ago, and Happy Cow lists many vegan and veg-friendly restaurants in the area. Armed with this vital info, my boyfriend and I hopped a plane to Austin to escape what seemed like a never-ending Chicago winter. Our flight departed on schedule and once we landed on-time (yes, on-time — practically a miracle in my opinion.), we took a 50 cent bus ride into town. (Seriously, the bus fare is only 50 cents. Is it really 2008 in Austin?) We dropped our bags at a 4-star hotel (where we landed a great deal on priceline.com) and headed out for margaritas.
The next morning we awoke to sunny skies and temps rising to a near perfect 78 degrees by the afternoon. Our first trip together was going swell. I began thinking our luck was about to run out, but it had only just begun. We headed out to rent bicycles. We decided to forgo a car so we could ride bikes all weekend on the bike path around Town Lake. Plus, it turns out Austin has a good public transportation system with local buses and trolleys. (No car necessary. It turned out to be a very “green” trip.) We rode bikes all day and took buses to dinner at night — one vegan feast after another.
Town Lake Hike and Bike Path: It’s not really a lake, but a 10-mile loop bike and running path. It’s just as crowded on the weekends as the Chicago Lakefront path, but still worth it. If you take a break and sit by the water, you will see turtles, ducks, swans, and other wildlife enjoying life in Austin.
Visit Casa de Luz for a macrobiotic vegan brunch, lunch, or dinner buffet. The menu is healthy and delicious. We went for lunch and then back again for Saturday brunch. You will leave full and very satisfied, but not feeling guilty because all the food was truly healthy. While you’re there you can check out their tiny macrobiotic store or even take a yoga class.
From downtonwn Jump on the #7 bus and head to Mother’s Cafe and Garden, a vegetarian restaurant with a lot of vegan options. This restaurant reminds me of Blind Faith in Evanston but with more vegan choices. (Did you hear that Blind Faith? We want more vegan options.) We enjoyed two meals at Mother’s: dinner and Easter brunch. Very tasty.
The Whole Foods market in downtown Austin is unlike any Whole Foods I have ever seen. They have an entire prepared foods counter of just vegan foods: half are cooked, half are raw. We had some amazing raw “tuna” that I pray they bring to a Chicago location very soon. I tried to take a picture of the sign above the counter as proof of this vegan wonderland but was stopped by an employee who asked me if I had a permit. Please! If I was trying to steal secrets, I know better tactics than whipping out my camera in broad daylight. Haven’t they heard about the vegans who go around with hidden cameras in their bags filming animal cruelty at factory farms? Nonetheless, you must go visit when you’re in town. It’s a huge store — 80,000 square feet! We stopped by to pick up goods for a picnic in Pease Park. Yet another nice bike ride and much quieter except for all the people playing Frisbee-golf. Never knew such a sport existed.
We met non-vegan friends at Manuel’s for a very good dinner where we ate vegan enchiladas filled with spinach and mushrooms, topped with a verde sauce. I was prepared to just eat chips and gauc and call it a day, so it was a nice surprise to to enjoy a good meal at a non-veg restaurant.
Austin is the live music capital of the world, so we set out to hear some acoustic guitar at the Cactus Cafe in the student union on the University of Texas campus. I’m no expert on music but it was good. Probably a little more subdued then other options around town, but right up our alley.
Saving the very best for last…
Dhaba Joy is this tiny little cafe near U of T. It’s connected to a cool toy store, where I picked up a fun book, Porn For Women. (Hold on…it’s not what you think! It’s a very silly book. Check it out.) It’s not really a place you would think of for dinner, but that’s when we went and it turned out to be my very favorite. I had a tempeh “chicken” salad sandwich with a side of mac and “cheese”. I couldn’t have been happier, but I love sandwiches and a side of somethin’ yummy. As we ate dinner, I stared longingly at the baked goods on display at the counter. Hmmmm. (I know I should have been staring longingly into my boyfriend’s eyes, being our first trip and all, but how could I when there were cupcakes calling out to me.) I knew there was no way I had room for a cupcake right then. I also knew we would be back. How could we not? They had a cupcake called Love, and that’s just how I feel about cupcakes. So off we went to the Cactus Cafe to listen to music. As soon as the music stopped, we were on our way back for cupcakes and Oatscreme (soft-served “ice cream”). The Love cupcake was like a Hostess cupcake except better because it was vegan. Yum. Yum. Yum. The Oatscreme was also very good, but my heart was with the cupcake. It’s a good thing we didn’t go there until our last night in Austin, because I would have wanted to eat every meal here.
If you ever go to Austin, you must go to Quack’s for vegan chocolate truffles. The chocolatiest vegan goodness I may have ever had. Whenever I eat something unbelievably good, my thought process go likes this, “Damn, this is good. How is this possible?” This was one of those moments. Eat one there. Take one to go. You will be glad you did.
I don’t know yet where the next trip will be, but I can’t wait to discover another vegan wonderland.
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