As my long-time fellow vegans will know, there was a time when dining out while on road trips often meant settling for a salad or, if you were feeling particularly indulgent, a salad and french fries. We have always had grocery stores as an option for grabbing some fresh produce and making our own meals, but sometimes it is nice to sit down in a restaurant and eat a hot meal when you are on the road.
Fortunately, this has changed quite a bit and vegan travel is much easier these days. Plus, this latest road trip was mostly in Northern California, so I knew we would not have too much trouble finding vegan menu options for me.
My omnivore wife got the Santa Fe Crispy Chickin' (the top photo) and reported that if we were at a non-vegan restaurant and someone told her this was chicken, she would not question it. So that might be a good thing to keep in mind if you have an omnivore partner or are looking for a restaurant that will satisfy a mixed group of vegans and omnivores.
We both love corn more than we should, so got a little too excited about the Chargrilled Street Corn on the seasonal menu. The cashier suggested that we could order just one and break it in half to split it. My wife and I exchanged a look that both of us totally understood -- "I love you, but I'm not sharing my street corn with you."
We ordered two.
The Tempura Green Bean Stack wasn't bad, but it definitely wasn't our favorite dish, so we saved some calories there and took most of that dish home as leftovers.
I went for the Koreatown Tacos for my entree and was not disappointed. Totally de-lish.
For one thing, it is just so nice to be able to walk in a restaurant and order anything I see on the menu. That is something that I took for granted while living in the Pacific Northwest and that I miss very much now that we are back in SoCal.
The restaurant is open for lunch most days and offers an all-vegan menu. Visitors are welcome to come to this Buddhist community just for the restaurant, but if you are in the area and decide to stop by, I recommend also checking out the murals, the temple with walls lined with Buddha statues and the bookstore.
If you like to have junk food to munch on while you are driving, it is -- of course -- best to stock up before you head out on your journey.
For example, I stocked up on Jerquee from Vitacost to make sure I had some back-up snack options to help me fit in more protein and avoid fast food restaurants.
However, if you find yourself on a vegan road trip in an area that is not so vegan friendly and you run out of snacks, you may have a hard time finding a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's to replenish your stockpile.
While you can find plenty of healthy, plant-based options at a conventional grocery store, they are not likely to have vegan varieties of the good, old-fashioned junk food you want for a road trip. So when you want something a bit more sinful than a banana, head to the nearest HomeGoods, T.J. Maxx, Ross Dress for Less or Marshall's.
I know that it sounds strange to go to one of these stores better known for discount clothing and great bargains on kitchenware, but I have found gluten-free and vegan snacks at these stores that I have never before heard of or seen. Of course, they also often have well-known brands (I've even found Vega there), but I say go for the stuff you have never seen or heard of before to stick with the spirit of adventure on your road trip.
Some examples of vegan junk food I have found at these discount retailers include lentil chips, quinoa chips, macaroons, gluten-free cookies, hard candies, chocolate-coconut bars, and Mrs. May's awesome, nut-based snacks.
What are your favorite tips for vegan road trips? I will be on the road again soon and would love to hear them!