Wednesday, July 13, 2011

One Vegan Dish Makes the Difference… Dining in Portland, Maine

One vegan dish and a waiter to tell me that it exists is, really, all I need.

Living in a food Mecca does present an odd balance of challenges when selecting a restaurant for dinner. Your business partners want seafood or beef, you want veggies, and it would be in your best interest to find a place that specializes in both.

Yes, I have my personal favorites with vegan fare in Portland, Maine - Silly’s, Portland Pie, Green Elephant. Restaurants I go into with casual dress with my boyfriend or best friends, which require a certain type of personality.

They have food that I love, however, they’re not exactly work appropriate for a large portion of my business partners? Why?

Because people who visit Portland, Maine want lobster and beef and chicken and fish AND they want it all cooked with butter! And as a host, I want them to enjoy their meal because making people that you work with happy is always a good thing. Plus, I’m the minority, usually the only vegan at the table. And surprisingly, usually the one that has to make the call on where to suggest a restaurant.

So while I choose a restaurant that can supply vegan fare and call ahead to make the chef aware of my dietary needs, my options are truly limited with ordering solely off the menu. Every now and then I “take one for the team” and select a restaurant that presents a challenge for vegan diners because of the inflexibility of their menu, their lack of customization, and their specialty in seafood that will please my business partners. I’ve learned that some restaurants are better then others for custom orders depending on the chef.

Grace, for instance, has a few vegan dishes available and labels them distinctively on their menu (Thank you!). Walter’s changes depending on the night, I’ve had custom dishes that were delicious and other nights where ordering off the menu was required. Emilista had one dish that was great and made vegan very easily, although the name escapes me now and I would assume the menu has changed since I last dined there.

The Room’s are usually OK. The Front Room doesn’t have anything on the menu for a Main Plate, but the last time I asked for a bunch of different veggies they presented everything on one dish for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the food and the experience. The Corner Room has very few vegan options and the Grill Room really just says it all in the name. It’s not vegan friendly. Our Corporate Marketing department had our holiday outing there and I had the salad.

Fore Street has a few salads and a couple sides that can be made vegan friendly quite easily, but no main dishes. Actually, the last time I dined there the sides of asparagus and cauliflower I ordered were delicious. However, the dishes they were presented in took up half of the table in front of my VP and it took me 15 minutes of chatting with the waiter to understand what items on the menu were actually vegan, even though I had called ahead.

Here’s my point. I live in a food mecca, and as the vegan of the department I am going to bring my business partners to places where food is crafted and supplied at the highest of standards. And I know that I don’t have to choose your restaurant, that I could walk back to my apartment and bake kale chips to clinch my hunger. However, if Portland restaurants could offer a vegan item, or a vegetarian item that could easily be made vegan (hold the cheese), my life would be infinitely easier. 

I wouldn’t get a blank stare from the wait staff or a sigh from my VP. You don’t even have to put it on your menu, just have your wait staff and hostess be aware that the option exists.

I’m not picky in these situations, if it’s vegan I’ll eat it. AND honestly, the quality of the other dishes on the menu are a testament to the quality of the veggies provided. Usually they’re wonderful.

I’m not going to miss a business dinner, they’re important to my career from a networking standpoint. I will go even if I have eat a piece of lettuce. But if I don’t have to eat a piece of lettuce, If I know that your restaurant supplies even ONE vegan dish that I like, I will be happy. And I will bring my business partners there, and I will recommend it to my friends visiting from out of town, and I will even recommend the place as a spot to take my boyfriend’s parents when we go out.

Your one vegan dish would, really, make the difference.



  1. Well said indeed!! That's all we ask for... Restaurants don't need to create an entire menu for us (vegans), just one dish clearly available is all we really need. Hope restaurants (and not just the ones in Portland) hear this message!

  2. Totally agree - I find it strange that Portland's resturants aren't more vegan friendly. There's actually a large population of us here (check out the Meet Up group)and perhaps many of us just aren't vocal enough. Who knows! You should post the link to this posting on some of their Facebook pages!

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