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Vegetarian Journal Cover

Vegetarian Journal


Nov/Dec 1997

Volume XVI, Number 6

Vegan Menu Items at Fast Food and Family-Style Restaurants, Part I

By Jeanne Bartas

This page has been modified due to numerous changes to the previous information in our Guide to Fast Food.

Food served in restaurant chains has become a mainstay in the North American diet. Vegetarianism is also becoming increasingly popular. Where do these two trends meet?

We surveyed over one hundred fast food and family-style restaurant chains to find out the current answer to this question. Those chains who chose to respond did so with an intent to show that their establishments can be vegetarian- and vegan-friendly. We were pleasantly surprised to find out about all of the menu items which are suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Although we are not throwing all caution to the wind, we can say that a visit to many restaurant chains can make for a satisfying eating experience for vegetarians and vegans alike.

Sometimes vegetarian or vegan dishes are offered on the menus. Yet even if they are not, it is possible to order menu items without certain ingredients; you just need to ask. For instance, otherwise vegetarian tacos and pizzas can be ordered without cheese at some restaurant chains which serve these foods. Furthermore, many restaurants would be happy to make specially-requested items for guests. For example, Eat 'n Park Restaurants, which previously had a vegetable stir-fry on their menu but removed it because of low consumer interest, would prepare the dish on request.

Nevertheless, the vegetarian and vegan should be wary about "hidden" ingredients (such as gelatin in guacamole or a Danish), or objectionable preparation methods (such as frying hash browns in the same oil used to fry meat/seafood products). It is always best to ask at a particular restaurant. If the given answer is not satisfactory, try calling the corporate headquarters. Ask the manager at the particular restaurant for the phone number.

Likewise, if you are happy with a vegetarian or vegan meal at a restaurant chain or have suggestions on how a restaurant menu can be made more veggie-friendly, please let the manager or corporate headquarters know! Without a demand for vegetarian or vegan options, restaurants remove these offerings from their menus. This happened recently in the case of Denny's, which eliminated a vegetarian burger from its menu due to low sales volume.

Restaurant chains are realizing the importance of responding to the needs of vegetarians and vegans. For example, two major chains asked The VRG to prepare a list of ingredients which are of concern to vegetarians and vegans. They would like to further research the sources of their ingredients to serve their vegetarian and vegan guests better. Although these requests do not guarantee that restaurant chains will make changes in their ingredients or menus, they represent a first step toward this result. If you prefer not to support chains, order The VRG's Guide to Natural foods Restaurants in the US and Canada (see catalog on page 33).

Some chains are testing vegetarian options in a few of their restaurants. Shoney's, for example, has recently started to test-market a vegetarian burger. Burger King has been testing a vegan burger in parts of Canada since October 1996. Burger King continues to have a bean burger available in its British restaurants. If you are in any restaurant where a vegetarian or vegan option is being offered, show your support and try it! This is the primary way by which we can keep vegetarian and vegan options on the menus or put them there.

Below you will find a list of vegan items available in various restaurant chains. The restaurants are listed in alphabetical order. Part II will list the remaining establishments and will appear in the January/February 1998 issue of Vegetarian Journal. Please use this list of restaurant chains as a guide. Menus and ingredients do change, sometimes suddenly and without well-publicized notification. If you see something which you believe is incorrect, please let us know. We will look into it. Likewise, if you notice that something is missing, please let us know. We will add it to the next update. Bon appetit!

This page has been modified due to numerous changes to the previous information in our Guide to Fast Food.

Sample listing:

PIZZA HUT: Pizza Huts Thin n Crispy and dessert crusts are vegan. The Pan, Hand Tossed, and Stuffed Crust contain unspecified enzymes. Additionally, the Pan contains whey and the Stuffed contains mozzarella with unspecified enzymes. The Bread Sticks contain cheese with unspecified enzymes and the garlic spread contains butter flavor. All of the enzymes used in the cheeses at Pizza Hut are of unspecified sources.

The regular pizza sauce is now vegan. It no longer contains beef flavorings. The sweet pizza concen-trate sauce contains Romano cheese and buttermilk. The spaghetti marinara sauce is also vegan. However, there is a meat-based marinara sauce as well. Verify which one is being used. The Big New Yorker sauce contains cheese, cream, and butter. The Honey Mustard sauce contains eggs and honey. The White Pasta sauce is not vegetarian and contains chicken flavor and fat, as well as cheese, whey, milk, and cream. The Fajita sauce contains honey, chicken meat and fat, and whey. The Taco Bean sauce contains beef flavor. The pasta at Pizza Hut is vegan.

The sandwich cheese contains Swiss, American, and cheddar cheeses (all made with enzymes) and cream. The hoagie bun contains unspecified enzymes.

The Italian and French dressings are vegan. The blue cheese dressing contains enzymes, egg yolk, sour cream, and natural flavor. The ranch and buttermilk dressings contain cultured buttermilk, egg yolk, whey, and natural flavor. The Romano dressing contains cheese, egg yolk, and buttermilk powder. The creamy cucumber dressing contains nonfat dry milk and sour cream powder. The Thousand Island dressing contains natural flavorings, Worcestershire sauce, which usually contains anchovies, and egg yolk. The Creamy Caesar contains anchovies, eggs, and cheese. The garlic Parmesan mayonnaise dressing contains eggs, cheese, and natural flavors. The fat-free ranch contains whey, skim milk, and adipic acid.

The dessert pizza crust, cherry topping, and icing are vegan. The dessert pizza blueberry and apple toppings contain natural flavors. The dessert pizza crumb topping contains milk, mono- and diglycerides, and natural flavor.

Order a copy of the Guide to Fast Food now!
Ordering Information

The Vegetarian Resource Group has been providing information on vegetarian food offered at restaurant chains for over sixteen years. Readers should let us know if they hear of any new vegetarian items being offered at restaurant chains.  Write to The VRG at POB 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203. Our e-mail address is

To order a copy of The Guide to Fast Food send $4 to VRG, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203. You can also call (410) 366-8343 to join VRG or order books with a Mastercard or Visa card. You can also order online from our catalog .

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone wanting to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

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