'Don't Ask/Don't Tell', and keeping sane while ordering vegan in restaurants
When Burger King came out with the Impossible Whopper in 2018, it made news. While Burger King claimed the burger could be made vegan by ordering it without mayo, most vegan press/blogs derided it as not being truly vegan, since the burgers were cooked on the same broiler as chicken and beef products.
I, like the Bruce Willis characterization of Jimmy 'The Tulip' Tudeski in the movie "The Whole Nine Yards", can't stand mayo on burgers to begin with. For me, ordering an Impossible Whopper with no mayo was a given. I own a Tesla, which means that on road trips from Virginia to New England, I often stop at the Newark, DE supercharger, and have enjoyed many Impossible Whoppers sans mayo. I've even had fries with it, knowing (at least sub-consciously) that their chicken nuggets and chicken fries were fried in the same fryer. As I've said, I'm a 'vegan' because I eat plant-based for my health, not because of any adherence to a philosophy. From that comes the idea that when eating out, I make the best choices I can from what's available.
The concept of 'don't ask/don't tell' comes from a terrible policy made by the Clinton administration over the policy of homosexuals serving in the U.S. military at the time. The idea was basically that since homosexuality was a disqualification for service in the U.S. military, as long as the service member in question kept their nature to themselves, the military wasn't going to probe about their sexual orientation. Although this is dehumanizing in its original context, it does fairly represent how I deal with eating plant-based while dining out.
Basically, I review the menu and make the best choices I can. If nutritional information is available that lists allergens, I'll look at that too. For example, prior to being plant-based, I used to love eating at Bartaco in Reston. At the time, I moved to a plant-based diet, pretty much the only thing I could have was chips and salsa. Today, Bartaco offers many choices that are plant-based, and I particularly love both the cauliflower as well as the mushroom tacos. According to the nutrition information provided on the Bartaco website, you need to order the mushroom tacos without poblano sauce, since it contains queso fresco. However, with the concept of DA/DT, I'm not about to ask in the taco filling are cooked separately from the pork belly, crispy duck, etc.
I recently had to travel to Dallas, and while waiting to take my return flight to DC, I stopped into the TGI Friday's and had a Beyond Burger with fries before my flight. While I was waiting, a vegan woman stopped into the restaurant, sat down, and began to grill her server on how everything was prepared, and if her request to have her food prepared separately from any 'contaminants' could be met. The server made inquiries, and due to the small size of the kitchen at the DFW TGIF, as well as how busy it was, they could not reasonably accommodate her request. It seems that by following my mantra of don't ask, I got fed. And knowing the choices at DFW, the woman probably had to make due with some snacks from the news shop.
I was out with my wife, the GoodVeganGirl, and we ended up at a Bar Louie for some evening drinks. Perusing the menu, I spotted an Impossible burger, and was prepared to order it. However my wife decided to ask the server if there were any other menu options that could be made vegan. Not only did the server say no, but also told us that the Impossible Burger was not vegan because the bun was not vegan. Suffice to say, we promptly departed from Bar Louie. Unfortunately, many servers will gladly, even though inadvertently, torpedo your choices by telling you what's not vegan about them.
Look, I know that my policy of DA/DT while eating out will not sit with many true vegans out there, the same way I don't consider honey to be an issue in maintaining a plant-based lifestyle. But I find that as I mostly cook at home, doing the best you can with the choices at hand is the way to stay sane, while maintaining a plant-based diet.