Eating While Vegan: Travel Edition

My husband and I took a quick vacation down to Orange County, California this past weekend.  It was AMAZING. Here was the view from our hotel the first night in Dana Point…I KNOW.

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Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel…Pre-monsoon conditions!

I have read a lot of Vegan travel blogs and each one is awesome. Honestly, any tips are so appreciated so you’re not THAT person. My husband hates when I am that person. I know, tough life. Not sure how he does it…

Although these travel blogs are so appreciated, I learned A LOT as this was my first official getaway as a full blown Vegan so, because of the beautiful soul I am, I am sharing you my favorite tips for eating Vegan while traveling (they work for home as well. I’m the gift that keeps on giving…)

But before we begin…here is another view from the back of our hotel just because. LOOK AT IT. Maybe if I post it enough, I will magically transport back there…wait for it…fine.

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Okay, so when we first got there I’m like so Hangry. We went and checked the hotel bar and I wasn’t feeling anything and I was passive aggressive and grumpy and HANGRY.  The concierge let us know that there was a store a quick walk away so we decided to head down there and stock up on Vegan Friendly snacks. (Side Note: This was not quick. The sidewalk also ended halfway through the trip so you had to run across the Pacific Coast Highway to get back on the sidewalk. I am sure we looked ridiculous. And I was wearing capris with tennis shoes and you could see my socks. So gross. Fashion Fail. I digress…)

When we got to the little shopping center, I was in desperate need of caffeine so we stopped at Starbucks which is so easy to go Vegan at.  Veg News Magazine has a really simple article on this that I lived by when I first went Vegan! Read it. Love it. Live it.

Okay, I’m fully caffeinated…rearin’ to go.  Then I see pizza and I’m like whaaaaaaaat?! Vacation AMIRITE?! We walk in and this heaven of a man says they have marinara pizza and I’m like Yaaaaaaaaas, queeeeeeeeeen. So we sit down and eat which brings us to our first food stop: ITALIAN RESTAURANTS.

Italian: This can prove oh-so-difficult if you are not sure what to ask but that is what I am here for. For an appetizer, I always go with Bruschetta al Pomodoro which is the most traditional recipe. One thing to note is to ask if their French Bread is made with honey, I have run into a few that are but 95% of the time, you are golden.  Pizza dough is usually a very simple recipe consisting of flour, sugar, water, salt, yeast and other stuff (Idk…I’m Irish) but no animal-derived products and a marinara pizza with extra tomatoes, basil and garlic pieces is so delicious. You will not miss the cheese (although so many pizza joints are now carrying vegan cheese!).  Like any restaurant, salads are a go to but obviously watch out for cheese and Caesar dressing, a simple green salad with Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar is a perfect compliment to that marinara pizza.  Unfortunately, most fresh pasta is made with eggs so call ahead if you have your heart set on pasta.  At Italian restaurants, make basil and garlic your friend, just ask them not to saute garlic in any butter. Here is what I ate at Angelina’s Pizzeria in Dana Point!

Good and full, we stopped at the store, got some seriously yummy snacks: hummus, veggies, fresh fruit, kettle chips, mimosa stuff and theeeeeeeese! I was so happy. Individually cut pickles because what in the world and I going to do lugging a whole pickle jar around? Look ridiculous and eventually smell like I spilled pickle juice everywhere is what I would do…

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We had to say farewell to our beautiful hotel so we had a lazy breakfast/snack excursion at the beach and went on our way down to Laguna Beach.

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There’s totally whiskey in that coffee…shhhhhh

Laguna Beach brings us to….MEXICAN RESTAURANTS!

Mexican: Mexican is so sneaky because unlike Italian, where you can visibly see everything swimming in cream, they hide their animal products. Rude. We stopped at Tortilla Republic because they had a sign outside that said “Gluten Free! Vegetarian! Vegan! Options Available!” well great, you had me at Tequila (Patron and Don Julio are Vegan Friendly).  I was so excited to not have to pick through the menu to find Vegan options but lo and behold nothing was specifically vegan and our waiter didn’t understand the difference between Vegetarian and Vegan but after a few conversations, he was totes picking up what I was throwing down.  At Mexican Restaurants always look for Vegetarian options and make them vegan by omitting the cheese and sour cream, almost every restaurant has veggie burritos, enchiladas or fajitas.  Something you have to be careful about is if they cook their beans in animal fat (whyyyyyyyy?!). If not, get on with your bad burrito inhaling self. Chips and salsa is always a safe choice if no animal lard in frying process and make guacamole your friend! Fresh pico, guac and cilantro are life. Here is what I ended up eating and I for sure earned this:

I am ashamed to say the only Asian food I had was Pei Wei in the Las Vegas airport (they have a surprisingly easy menu to navigate for a Vegan online) but as ASIAN food is one of my favorite foods so I will give you a few tips anyway because I’m a peach. And a giver.

Asian: It may seem like everything and it’s edible mother is cooked with Fish Sauce, and you may be right, but ordering your favorite noodle dish very politely and letting them know you do not consume fish sauce can go a long way.  I have never been to an Asian restaurant that is not willing to cook it another way.  Another thing I love is veggie spring rolls. I can eat them all day every single day and I plan to do that here shortly. As an experiment, of course. I do it for you, my readers.  Things to watch out for are, again, the fish sauce, chicken and fish broth, egg in rice and noodle dishes. Asian restaurants are a great one to call ahead on since each family-owned restaurants usually do things differently.

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Newport Beach was amazing and here is where we hit most American/Bar Food spots

Since we really didn’t have any specific plans, we found ourselves in a lot of AMERICAN/BAR FOOD restaurants in Newport Beach which can be so hard because…Butter. Ranch. Butter. ‘Merica.

American/Bar Food: Most respectable restaurants will have a Veggie burger. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean Vegan so ask if they use egg as a binder. If not, WHOOOOOOOOO! just make sure they don’t cook it in butter (learned this the hard way with my favorite local veggie burger). Also, watch the bun.  If they are buns made in house, double check on the ingredients but if they are brought in, I just play it safe and go with a lettuce wrap.  Salads are always great, again watch the cheese and dressings.  Fries. Obvi.  An exciting tid-bit of information I found this weekend was that not all beer battered veggies have egg and milk so if you see those Avocado Fries on the menu, see if they are Vegan, there’s a chance they could be as some restaurants only use the simple beer and flour batter. Bless their little souls.  I also saw hummus plates with falafel on a lot of menus! Then again, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and order a shit-ton of sides, an extra plate, and make your own darn dish. See below…

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Thank god they had Vodka at this restaurant… 

All in all, it’s not impossible to eat out and travel while vegan. Make sure to stock up on snacks for airport layovers and gas station stops. I always have Justin’s nut butters, different drinks, Vega Protein Bars, Almonds, That’s It Bars, Seeds and Bananas on hand. Always. I’m like the Mary Poppins of Snack Attacks. Here are some I got for this trip!

The biggest tip is to make google and Yelp your friend.  You are not alone in looking for vegan friendly spots in any city, I promise.  There are others like us that have been to the same place you are at with the same questions.  You might just get lucky and find a Vegan only restaurant like Cafe Gratitude. I SERIOUSLY DIED AND WENT TO VEGAN HEAVEN. Look at those masterpieces.

If you find a great strictly plant-based restaurant, let me know! Until next time!

-The Biggest Little Vegan

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