Monday, January 19, 2015

We Don't Serve Your Kind Here: Why Can't I Eat At Fancy Restaurants?

 No meat, no dairy. One would think it wouldn't be hard to find here in Huntsville, where you can't walk a block without passing at least one (usually two or three) restaurants. Indeed there are plenty of options for the casual diner. And yet, somehow, the more money you are willing to shell out, the fewer options you have.

Business dinners are always hard for anyone with dietary choices or food restrictions. The chance of an advance order getting messed up is high, and that's even if your boss respects your right to choose what goes in your body. But even saying you have a terrific boss who makes every effort, it apparently may not be possible to eat a decent meal at an upscale restaurant in Huntsville.

"Whoa, wait a minute," you say. "You must just be on a rant. There are lots of professional chefs in the area. If you order in advance they surely could come up with something fantastic."

Yes, one would think.

I often get questions on Facebook and Twitter about the best place to find vegan items or foods. Usually I'm not too disappointed in what I (and other helpful Facebook peeps) can dig up. However, the most recent question was from a business woman who was looking for an upscale restaurant to hold a business meeting/dinner. Of course, Shannon needed vegan options.

After several weeks of suggestions and calling restaurants, she posted an update on her progress. After talking to the big names in local food such as Cotton Row, Grill 29, The Bottle, and Albany Bistro, she came up with nothing. The only meal they could offer her was essentially a plate of steamed or stir-fried veggies. While strictly speaking this might be the healthiest thing to eat, vegans don't pay 20 or 30 bucks for a plate of broccoli. We go to nice restaurants to have our tongues entertained with delights we can't replicate at home. New ideas are what we pay chefs for, right?

According to recent statistics, ONE THIRD of the population of the United States is interested in moving towards a vegetarian or vegan diet. This market is already in the millions and will continue to grow. Can you seriously say you employ a fine dining chef if they can't deviate from a steak? As Shannon put it, "If I don't have trouble using tofu, tempeh, or seitan to substitute for meat, why in the world are these professional chefs finding it so hard?"

Well? Any local restaurants want to answer that?

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