1. Do Your Research
Most restaurants have online menus (aka your cheat sheet to success) where you can peruse your choices, or lack thereof, ahead of time. Many of those online menus even come with an allergen guide so you can easily find any hidden ingredients.
2. Call Ahead
While this may seem like overkill, folks in the restaurant business can be really accommodating, especially when given notice ahead of time.
3. Ask your Server Questions and Provide Clarifying Responses
There is still a lot of confusion between vegetarian and vegan (and sometimes pescetarian; for more information, see the description in this article) so don’t forget to ask about butter, cheese, cream, eggs, fish oil, and oyster sauce. Not all servers know what “all animal products” mean, so be sure you tell them exactly what you can and cannot eat.
4. Know Your “Go To” Items
Every menu usually has that one vegan-friendly-ish item. After a while, you’ll learn how to spot it in the form of a side salad, tortilla chips and salsa, vegetable of the day (without butter) or french fries.
5. Pack a Granola Bar
A grumbly tummy can lead to a grumbly dinner date, so it never hurts to stash a snack on your person, just in case of emergencies.
6. Eat Ahead
If you’ve checked online or called, and there still aren’t any options for you, you can always eat ahead in the safety of your own kitchen. You can always have drinks and simply say you don’t have much of an appetite.
7. Be Wary of Dessert
Dessert will almost never be an option (being lactose intolerant on top of vegan, I’m especially cautious of this one); a fresh fruit bowl without whipped cream or sorbet are usually safe, but you can always ask the server to double check.