My Approach To Eating Out: Plant-Based Strategies While Traveling
Hello from San Miguel!
I am currently writing this from 10,000 feet in the air, somewhere over Texas, as we travel home from four glorious weeks away.
Away from the cold, snow, rain … did I mention cold, snow, and rain – of the Pacific Northwest.
Picture this … 2022, cold, snow, and rain from January first to the Fourth of July. I was fit to be tied! And I said, never again.
So late in 2022, my husband and I made a decision to resume our slow traveling in a place that has been high on our list for years. San Miguel de Allende. San Mike to the locals. Or just San Miguel.
However you choose to say it, what attracted us the most is its weather forecast. For the month we booked, it promised 40s and 50s for a low, and 70s and 80s for a high. LOTS of sunshine, very little rain.
Can you say … Sign me up!
My “take a break” mindset
Way back when we first started to slow travel, we booked a six-week vacation to Europe. We split our time between Spain and Italy, and we’ve never looked back.
First of all, let me define “slow travel.”
Most Americans barely take long weekends. A one-week journey seems almost exotic.
What I’ve never liked about traveling that way is zooming through the days with to-do lists in hand, checking off items at record speed.
And coming home more exhausted than before the vacation!
I read years ago how Europeans and Australians take a different approach. Many will head out for a month or more, enjoying travel on a more relaxed scale. I was hooked – that’s how I started planning my first European trip more than a decade ago.
When you travel slowly, you have a lot of time to get everything in. You can take a day off and stay home, read books, cook your own meals, and just enjoy a day off from running around.
You see more through the eyes of a local. And trust me, that’s where you start to feel different. Because you start changing your mindset based on what you see as you move slowly through each day.
And maybe one of the best reasons … you can select your favorite restaurants and eat there several times!
Let’s talk about eating out
One of the most difficult parts of being plant-based is … eating out. I know.
When my daughter declared herself vegetarian at 3, I nodded and went along with it, feeding her chicken and fish when I could. “It’s vegetarian chicken,” I’d say … until she caught on.
By the time she was six, I had agreed to feed her only vegetarian meals. And that’s when my true education started. I remember ordering meals early on and pulling the meat off. She’d complain – but I didn’t know what else to do.
The more I learned, the more I moved to a vegetarian lifestyle. Which converted to vegan a few years later. And to what I am today … enjoying a plant-based lifestyle.
There are two problems with going to traditional restaurants that don’t offer vegetarian or vegan food.
- First, they may use base products filled with animal-based products – dairy, eggs, chicken broth, animal fat, butter, cheese. You find yourself questioning everything; quite frankly, it takes away the fun. (I believe this is the most challenging thing to figure out as you move to a plant-rich diet.)
- Second, they don’t know how to cook exciting plant-rich food. The chefs find themselves in a “take away” mindset, which means they cook regularly and simply take away the meat. (There’s not much flavor in this method of cooking.)
But oh, when a chef “gets” it. Yum! That’s when you get the most gorgeous, delicious food you’re excited to put into your mouth.
A few simple tips for doing your research before you go out to dinner
Some people might say it’s a bit obsessive to research first, but I find it just a part of the process. Nothing is more frustrating than sitting down at a table with NOTHING to order.
(Especially in Mexico if you’re not entirely fluent in the language. Sesame Street Spanish, anyone?)
(Though I do have to say Google Translate is a lifesaver. Snap a photo of the menu, and it puts every ingredient into English. Best invention for traveling ever!)
Want to stick to plant-based eating wherever your travels take you? Here’s how I do it.
- I Google “best vegan restaurants [city].” I use vegan instead of other choices because it gives you results more committed to serving high-quality plant-based food. I add these to my travel documents, including links to menus and addresses, so we can easily find them.
- In a new city, especially a walking city like San Miguel, we’ll often start out with a restaurant as our destination. We get there, eat a gorgeous lunch, and have a new area to explore.
- Snap photos of restaurants that look interesting. We did that just last week as we passed a restaurant with outdoor tables. It looked like a gorgeous place to eat! Later that night, we Googled it … and discovered they had a variety of vegetarian and vegan options. We went there the very next day for lunch!
- Be willing to compromise a bit. One of the reasons I’ve moved to plant-based is because I try to eat as healthy as possible. Sometimes I may have to eat real cheese … and that’s okay. I connected with a fellow world traveler on IG who happened to be in San Miguel at the same time. A quick message, and we decided to meet for drinks and dinner. While they didn’t have vegan fare, they did have a margarita pizza. Done! And it was really good!
I believe plant-based living means owning your choices. I know where I’ll never compromise – no meat – and where I can – cheese is okay in a pinch.
I’m also aware of how moving away from plant-based makes me feel. I’m always surprised at how even a little cheese affects my system. So if I do eat it, I’ll be more careful about what I eat in the coming days.
It works for me! 🙂
My restaurant recommendations … In case you ever find yourself in San Miguel
I know, you’re waiting for the “good stuff.” If you’re planning a trip to San Miguel, you might want a few recommendations for places to eat.
Here’s what we fell in love with, where we ate more than once, and what we’ll remember when we visit here again.
Can you say Mediterranean … in Mexico? I love other countries’ perspectives on international food. And let’s face it, as a plant-based eater, you can never go wrong with Mediterranean. Falafel anyone?
In one word – yum! Another entirely plant-based restaurant that we kept by-passing for one reason or another. But once we ate there, it quickly became one of our favorites. (We fit it in twice during our last week there.) Get the pink lemonade with seltzer water – Gorgeous after a long hot day of peeking into the shops. And I always love, love, LOVE being able to select any item from the menu. Gorgeous food!
Climbing the stairs to the rooftop seating area is half the fun of this quaint little restaurant. As the name attests, they offer a full selection of vegan meals. This was the first vegan restaurant we visited after arriving in San Miguel, and it showed us how much of a foodie capital this city is becoming.
An entirely plant-based restaurant, we loved everything about this place, from the drinks to the entrees. They were obviously well-loved in the neighborhood as they were packed for both of our visits. They also bring in musicians at night on the weekends.
They had us when they brought freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice to our table. The vegan meals they served later were scrumptious in every way. We loved eating outside on the patio, enjoying the ambiance of the day.
Fabrica La Aurora is an incredible art district that should be on your “can’t miss” list. With dozens of art galleries, it’s a place we visited several times. And off in a corner sits a fabulous little restaurant called the Food Factory we happened into by chance. The vegetarian sandwich was superb! And the server was very patient while we practiced our Spanish.