Chain Restaurants with best vegan options - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 41 Old 12-07-2006, 03:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I live in a city lacking in cool, independently-owned veggie-friendly restaurants. It's basically one of those cookie-cutter, Anytown, USA places with the same Old Navy, Target, Best Buy, Applebees, etc, etc. Almost every restaurant here is a franchise. But being forced to eat at some of these places has let me know which ones are better as far as veg options go. I never found it difficult to get vegetarian food at any restaurant, but vegan food is a bit harder.

So I thought we might have a thread with everyone's input on the chain restaurants with the most/best vegan options.

For me, the Cheesecake Factory has to win the prize. Strange that a restaurant with "cheese" in the title would have so many acceptable vegan options. Here are a few highlights:

Appetizers:
Roasted artichoke
Edamame

Thai Lettuce Wraps (I order this as a main course): Shredded veggies and rice noodles with butter lettuce and 3 dipping sauces. Order without the chicken.

-A HUGE range of fantastic dinner salads

-Evelyn's favorite pasta- has broccoli, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, eggplant, and all kinds of goodies. Make sure they don't put cheese on it.

The Macaroni Grill

They have a "build your own pasta" thing where you mark what you want for pasta, sauce, veggies and seasonings. They have a whole-wheat penne option

Chipotle Mexican Grill

There aren't many of these, and I think they're all on the west coast. But they have a scrumptious veggie burrito.
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#2 of 41 Old 12-07-2006, 08:50 PM
 
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PF Chang's is AWESOME for veg*ns of any sort!

I love the avocado eggrolls at Cheesecake Factory! So unhealthy, but . I think they're vegan. There's nothing obviously un-vegan about them to me, but I could be wrong.

Moe's Southwest Grill (mainly burritos, tacos and the like). You can get tofu as a meat or one of many veggie dishes (hold the cheese and sour cream). It's a build your own food kind of place (sort of like a Mexican Subway, the way you order).
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#3 of 41 Old 12-07-2006, 09:34 PM
 
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Subway
Fresh City
Finagle A Bagel
California Pizza Kitchen

Sadly, Olive Garden no longer has much to offer vegans. They changed their menu again a few years ago and took away a few good options. Now it's pretty much the pasta w/ garlic & tomato sauce.

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#4 of 41 Old 12-08-2006, 01:50 AM
 
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Am I missing something about eggrolls? Last time I checked they have egg in them?

I think I saw Chipotle in KC and in Chicago.

I used to know vegans who would eat at Taco Bell, supposedly their beans are animal-free. But of course there are other reasons to avoid those people.
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#5 of 41 Old 12-08-2006, 02:22 AM
 
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Taco bell is my only choice for road food. Dh teases me about my 4 layer burrito:
A 7 layer burrito with no cheese, sour cream or tomatoes (I have this raw tomato thing)

What's helped me is www.happycow.net which shows veg*n friendly restuarants in your area.

we have taco del mar which actually features a vegan burrito! Woo hoo! In DT Seattle there are two wholly vegan restuarants! It's too bad that it would take me forever to get there. Other than thai or japanese (veggie sushi rolls only) there isn't much around.
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#6 of 41 Old 12-08-2006, 10:29 AM
 
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Sadly, Olive Garden no longer has much to offer vegans. They changed their menu again a few years ago and took away a few good options. Now it's pretty much the pasta w/ garlic & tomato sauce.
how did they change their menu? did they add butter as the last ingredient to the minestrone soup? or a miniscule amount of eggs to the portabello mushroom ravioli? (that is dh's *favorite* thing at olive garden and he will be crushed if he cant get it anymore.) how about the marinara sauce? dont tell me they added something stupid like chicken broth...

panera bread has some good options. most of their bagels are vegan. their black bean or vegetable soups in a sourdough bread bowl are AMAZING. their sweets arent vegan, but they look pretty behind the glass and smell nicely. (i know its tempting, but think about how much your hips will thank you )
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#7 of 41 Old 12-08-2006, 10:33 AM
 
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The Cheesecake Factory fries everything in the same oil, if that's a concern for you.
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#8 of 41 Old 12-08-2006, 11:28 AM
 
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Moes - we just left the South and MAN I miss Moes.

Subway

umm.... that's about all I can think of.

We're lucky, we have several Veg*n restaurants to choose from now - of varying price.
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#9 of 41 Old 12-08-2006, 11:30 AM
 
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The Avocado Eggrolls at Cheesecake Factory don't have any eggs in them (that I know of, they just look like eggrolls). They're avocado and sundried tomatoes wrapped in the wonton wrappers like an eggroll and deep fried.
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#10 of 41 Old 12-08-2006, 11:41 AM
 
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Qdoba - unlike Chipotle both their black beans AND pinto beans are vegetarian!

TGIFridays has a vegan dish that has grilled portabellos, other veggies and angel hair pasta (I wouldn't recommend it though - I thought it was incredibly bland, but I could have just been our restaurant here).

Noodles and Company has been great vegetarian and vegan options. You can have tofu put into any dish, and it's yummy! They have a whole wheat pasta option, too!

I know this is a thread about vegan options, but I just wanted to add that you have to be careful what you get at Macaroni Grill - even their alfredo sauce is not vegetarian. Dh was really bummed about that.
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#11 of 41 Old 12-08-2006, 02:15 PM
 
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I forgot about Zao noodle bar. They feature a few vegan dishes and even mark them with a yin yang sign to let you know!
http://www.zaonoodle.com/
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#12 of 41 Old 12-08-2006, 02:43 PM
 
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Originally Posted by momma2emerson View Post
The Avocado Eggrolls at Cheesecake Factory don't have any eggs in them (that I know of, they just look like eggrolls). They're avocado and sundried tomatoes wrapped in the wonton wrappers like an eggroll and deep fried.
A lot of egg roll/wonton wrappers are made with egg.

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#13 of 41 Old 12-08-2006, 04:23 PM
 
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Pe-Wei Asian Diner (owned by PF Chang's)

Their veggie options are marked w/a leaf.

Proud WOHM veggie mom to Alina 7/29/05 & partner, Jackie, since 2001, m/c 1/2009
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#14 of 41 Old 12-08-2006, 06:09 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Kitsune6 View Post
In DT Seattle there are two wholly vegan restuarants! It's too bad that it would take me forever to get there. Other than thai or japanese (veggie sushi rolls only) there isn't much around.
I was in Seattle a few weeks ago and they had some great places near the University; but I guess that's considered North Seattle.

I'm in Canada (Vancouver, actually, so we actually have like over 100 veg restaurants here); but "just happens to be vegan" (not necessarily only chains) food that you might have in the US too, these are my faves:

first of all, there's these, but if you really live in the middle of nowhere, then you might not have them:
- Lebanese or Mediterranean cuisine like falafel sandwiches, hummus, baba ganouj, etc.
- Indian food like channa masala, gobi aloo, dahl, etc.

as for chain places, there's:
- Taco Bell bean burritos w/tomatoes instead of cheese (if you can bring yourself to eat TB)
- Burger King has a killer soy-based veggie burger in Canada by a co. called Sol Cuisine, but I think yours are veggie patties, blech
- New York Fries, mmm
- Kelsey's - do you have that down there? Either way, pretty much any place with fajitas can do vegan (hold the meat, cheese, sour cream)
- Denny's is the WORST... we usually get stuck ordering a few different kinds of "fried potatoes" and sharing
- A&W has a veggie burger in Canada. Haven't inquired about its ingredients, yet, but I did eat it a couple times when I was traveling this summer --hold the cheese and weird mayo-based white stuff


Hmm, well I guess those are mostly fast food places .. I don't really eat out at chain restaurants much at all, but when I do it's usually when I'm traveling so it's fast food...
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#15 of 41 Old 12-08-2006, 06:18 PM
 
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Originally Posted by veganf View Post
Subway
Fresh City
Finagle A Bagel
California Pizza Kitchen

Sadly, Olive Garden no longer has much to offer vegans. They changed their menu again a few years ago and took away a few good options. Now it's pretty much the pasta w/ garlic & tomato sauce.
What about Capallini Pomodora. As long as you don't add thecheese that the guy brings to the table, it's vegan. And it's great. I love Olive Garden. And the salad is wonderful and the ministrone soup.

Kathi

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#16 of 41 Old 12-08-2006, 06:52 PM
 
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how did they change their menu? did they add butter as the last ingredient to the minestrone soup? or a miniscule amount of eggs to the portabello mushroom ravioli? (that is dh's *favorite* thing at olive garden and he will be crushed if he cant get it anymore.) how about the marinara sauce? dont tell me they added something stupid like chicken broth...

panera bread has some good options. most of their bagels are vegan. their black bean or vegetable soups in a sourdough bread bowl are AMAZING. their sweets arent vegan, but they look pretty behind the glass and smell nicely. (i know its tempting, but think about how much your hips will thank you )
Maybe the Olive Garden menu varies from region to region, because we don't have all those things on the menu here.

Forgot Panera Bread though! Yes! They have some great stuff.
And we also have Taco Del Mar, though the one near me closed sadly.

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#17 of 41 Old 12-08-2006, 09:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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- Kelsey's - do you have that down there? Either way, pretty much any place with fajitas can do vegan (hold the meat, cheese, sour cream)
I haven't seen a Kelsey's down here. I think those are only in Canada. But when I lived in Toronto I used to go there (dh loves it) and once I had a post-fajita emergency on a 30-minute bus ride home. Woo-boy was that rough (and unbelievably close). I don't think I could risk another episode like that.
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#18 of 41 Old 12-09-2006, 10:09 PM
 
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chipotle is owned by mcdonalds

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#19 of 41 Old 12-09-2006, 10:27 PM
 
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Taco Del Mar is SO good.

There is another taco chain here, Jimboy's, that is much better than Taco Bell but not as good as Taco Del Mar.

PF Chang's is awesome, we've only been there once though.

We usually don't eat at chain's though. We love our local Thai and Indian places!

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#20 of 41 Old 12-10-2006, 12:07 AM
 
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According to the Vegetarian Resource Group (at least last that I read), Olive Garden will not commit to anything on its menu being vegan. They say the ingredients vary from place to place. So...I just don't eat there.

I LOVE California Pizza Kitchen. DD is obsessed with their split pea soup.
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#21 of 41 Old 12-10-2006, 10:22 AM
 
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TGIFridays has a vegan dish that has grilled portabellos, other veggies and angel hair pasta (I wouldn't recommend it though - I thought it was incredibly bland, but I could have just been our restaurant here).

I had that around here a few weeks ago and it was delicious! It was the only thing on the menu that I could eat though - even the salads are covered in cheese and meat there.

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#22 of 41 Old 12-10-2006, 01:30 PM
 
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I have talked with PF Changs, Cheesecake Factory, and California Pizza Kitchen, oh and Olive Garden. Here is what they told me (this is from corporate)

PF Chang's: Uses separate oil for vegetarian dishes (yay!). You can order anything on the menu and sub tofu for the meat. (yay). We get sweet and sour tofu, orange tofu, coconut curry veggies, tofu lettuce wraps, egg rolls are vegan there. We love it there.

Cheesecake Factory: The avocado eggroll wrappers have a tiny bit of egg in them so they are not vegan. Chinese chicken salad without chicken is vegan. Veggie burger without cheese or mayo is vegan. None of their pasta is vegan, except the rice noodles they use in the pad thai.

California Pizza Kitchen: Split pea soup is vegan. Pasta is egg free so get it with marinara. Chinese chicken salad, no chicken is vegan. Pizza crust might have some dairy in it, they were not sure. Do not eat the bread at CPK that they bring to the table; has milk in it.

Olive Garden: Nothing there is vegan. All their pasta is made with eggs. Their marinara has cheese right in the sauce. And even their house dressing has cheese in it. Can't eat the breadsticks or the soup either.

We will eat at Subway or Taco Bell when we have to. Not bad for a quickie.
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#23 of 41 Old 12-10-2006, 01:50 PM
 
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Olive Garden: Nothing there is vegan. All their pasta is made with eggs.
Wow I'm shocked about that - I was assured by their waitstaff that a couple of the dishes were vegan. That's really upsetting.

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#24 of 41 Old 12-10-2006, 01:58 PM
 
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Yeah, I was shocked too.

Maybe it's different by region, but this was information from their corporate office.

Also, Johnny Rockets Streamliner is vegan, including the bun. I spoke to corporate and also all my local Johnny Rockets (back when I lived in L.A.) and they said they had a real committment to keeping that vegan burger on the menu because, if I remember correctly, the owner or the president or someone high up in the company is vegan and put it on the menu because of it. Now, it's made on the same grill as the meat, so if that bothers you, don't eat it. But I think it's cool that they have it on the menu so I support that whenever I can. Wish there was one close to me in Vegas.
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#25 of 41 Old 12-10-2006, 02:11 PM
 
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That's awesome! I love Johnny Rockets!

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#26 of 41 Old 12-11-2006, 02:40 PM
 
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BTW - the portabello ravioli at Olive Garden isn't even vegetarian.
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#27 of 41 Old 12-11-2006, 02:45 PM
 
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chipotle is owned by mcdonalds
i'm not sure they are anymore. we were just there over the weekend and my sister said she heard they were bought out by someone, or something similar
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#28 of 41 Old 12-11-2006, 02:59 PM
 
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BTW - the portabello ravioli at Olive Garden isn't even vegetarian.
Eww. I hadn't eaten at an Olive Garden in about ten years, but I was visiting friends last week and that's where we got food from. That's what I ordered. I thought it would be safe. I don't normally eat dairy, but plain marinara didn't sound good. :Puke
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#29 of 41 Old 12-11-2006, 05:28 PM
 
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Yea, I know - really gross. I ordered with my mom a while back. Then dh and I went to dinner, and I ordered it again. We had an on the ball server who told me it was made with chicken broth - she even went back and checked with the chef. Then when I was in Arkansas AGAIN with my mom, I checked and they confirmed the same thing there. Yuck! I was so irritated. I guess we always have to be diligent. Dh felt the same way with Macaroni Grill's alfredo sauce. Come on - who puts chicken broth in alfredo sauce?!?!
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#30 of 41 Old 12-11-2006, 10:18 PM
 
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POTBELLY'S SANDWICH WORKS!

Can you tell I'm addicted? They're like Quizno's (toasted subs), but much cheaper and better tasting!

I'm an Orthodox Christian, and so I go essentially vegan (with maybe shellfish or some fish added in) about six months out of the year. I HATE Subway's veggie subs - too bland.

Now, Potbelly's on the other hand...

http://www.potbelly.com/stores3.0.asp

They're based in Chicago, but have other stores throughout the Midwest, and even DC.

I don't know about totally vegan (such as the bread), but get the veggie sub without cheese, add extra mushrooms, extra mustard, extra pickles, extra tomato - keep the normal amounts of lettuce, onions, and oil & vinegar seasoning, and you have a VERY tasty sandwich!

I used to live a less than 10-minute walk from their original location (antique store turned sandwich shop with some antique-y stuff still around) in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood (on Lincoln Avenue, south of Fullerton Avenue, right behind Children's Memorial Hospital), and used to be in their 4-5 times a week - they knew me!

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