Editor's Note:Meatless in Miami columnist Lolo Reskin is ba-a-a-ack. In her first column, she talked about becoming a vegetarian. She'll be writing on the site regularly.
MYTH: It's hard to be a vegetarian in Miami.
REALITY: It's actually a breeze, and only getting breezier...
This is the main misconception that inspired this column. Just this past weekend during Bike Miami Days I stopped by Eleven Leprechauns, a fairly new Irish-themed restaurant in the Grove. Usually at these sort of places buffalo wings and fries-that-were-probably-fried-in-the-same-fryer-as-the-wings are the standard options, but this place had real live veggie burgers on the menu! Things are indeed looking up.
There are really only a small few restaurants where you'll literally end up eating a salad or nothing (Outback Steakhouse comes to mind, but really, why eat there anyway?). Even restaurants I've been to who offer say, chicken livers wrapped in pig bacon, also have a handful of tasty options to suit those who would rather starve for an evening than eat the aforementioned dish.
Any travel-savvy vegan or vegetarian will tell you that all it takes is a little politeness and creativity to get by just about anywhere in the world. Miami is no different, and most restaurants' waitstaffs will gladly adjust your order as long as you're not an a-hole about it.
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Nearly all ethnic cuisines are already veg-friendly and any other eatery could likely fashion you a pile of sauteed veggies over pasta or a stocked-up salad if you ask nicely. Those giant steakhouse baked potatoes can be loaded with protein-rich broccoli and cheese, and most places will have mushrooms or avocados, which can be sauced up and eaten with brown rice, beans, etc. At sushi places I rock crunchy veggie rolls, fried age tofu (minus the fishy bonito flakes) with seaweed salads and leave just as full as my sashimi'd up counterparts. Just peruse the menus with a keen eye and it'll be easy to work something out.
Admittedly, Miami is a far cry from cities like Portland, Oregon where even the happy hour menus at the local bars offer veggie grub, where they have an entirely vegan convenience store, and where the word "vegan" gets immediate nods of understanding instead of stares of bewildered disbelief. We're taking baby steps. Miami does have lots of vegetarian paradises and as the number of vegan, vegetarians and meat-reducers all over America increases, so will the width and breadth of options available. Huzzah!
In the end it comes down to being a good sport while not compromising on your stance. In all the years I've been a vegetarian, there was never one single time where it was either eat meat or die, and it probably won't happen to you either. Even Outback could probably make you a pretty decent salad.
Bonus list of meaty restaurants with considerable veggie options: P.F. Chang's, The Cafè at Books & Books, Soyka, any Mexican restaurant, any Italian restaurant, any Indian restaurant - you get the idea! My MeatlessMiami.com site also has a growing list of restaurants rated for veggie options to help you eat less meat.