Macaroni Grill’s vegan options


I rarely eat in chain restaurants. Not just because the food is usually lame and inventive, but because I prefer to give my money to small, local businesses battling against the Evil Chains. But every so often, I have to eat a chain. Whether it’s because I’m eating out with friends or co-workers, it’s unavoidable. The best I can hope for is that we don’t wind up at Sweetwater Tavern (where, as one former co-worker put it, the only thing vegetarian there is the napkins).

Romano’s Macaroni Grill is one place I end up a few times a year. And, truth be told, it’s not that bad. Their peasant bread loaf (vegan!) is hella tasty and they actually offer up a decent selection of pastas, including whole wheat penne. A co-worker, though, told me that when he asked the local Macaroni Grill what was vegan, he was told that nothing was and that even the capellini pomodoro (basically pasta with fresh tomatoes) wasn’t vegan because they used chicken stock. This made me wonder… chicken stock in what part of the process? I don’t get it.

So, I e-mailed corporate to confirm that the local manager was just a dimwit and to get a full rundown of their vegan options. Here’s a trimmed version of their response (I took out the lacto-ovo stuff and just left in the vegan stuff):

October 18, 2005

Dear Mr. MacMichael,

Thank you very much for taking the time to send us an email and for your interest in Macaroni Grill. We do have several options available for vegetarians. Since there is no single vegetarian eating pattern, our company dietitian has compiled the list below of suggested menu options for various levels of vegetarian diets. Please be aware that none of our food items are certified vegetarian, however.

We hope that you will find the list below helpful during your next visit to our restaurant. If an item you desire does not appear on the list below, please keep in mind that our chefs will gladly try to accommodate your special dietary needs by custom-preparing a meal using any ingredients that we have available in our kitchen. Prior to placing your order, we strongly suggest that you speak with one of our managers about your dietary needs as they are happy to assist you with menu recommendations and to ensure that special attention is given to the preparation of your meal. Please be aware that many of our recipes contain meat, fish, egg and dairy products and normal kitchen operations involve the sharing of cooking and preparation areas, including common fryer oil. Therefore, it is possible for any of our food items to come into contact with animal products. Additionally, please be aware that our tomato sauce contains butter.

Based on our supplier ingredient information, the menu items you may consider are as follows:

Suggested Menu Options for Vegans (contain no meat, dairy or egg):

  • Tomato Bruschetta – order with No Cheese
  • House or Garden Salad – order with No Cheese or Croutons
  • Salad Dressings: Balsamic Vinaigrette, Italian, Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette
  • Capellini Pomodoro – available through February 2006
  • Penne Arrabiatta – order with No Cheese; available through February 2006
  • Any Pasta with Garlic and Oil

Should you have any additional concerns or inquiries regarding our menu items, please contact Melinda Safir in our food and beverage quality assurance department at 972/980-9917 or email her at [email protected]

Macaroni Grill
Guest Relations

Not bad. Though, while I’ve resigned myself to “regular” restaurants sharing preparation space, I am a bit bothered by the part that reads “including common fryer oil.” It’s unclear as to how much this would affect the items being ordered by vegans.

It should also be noted that since all of their pasta is vegan (it’s probably a safe bet that most chain pasta doesn’t contain egg since generally only fresh pasta does), they have a “build-your-own” option that lets you choose the vegetables and sauces to include. There are, indeed, quite a few vegan options at the Macaroni Grill.

Especially if they don’t use chicken stock in making their pasta.

15 Responses to “Macaroni Grill’s vegan options”

  1. Isa

    The broth usually comes into play when the pasta is sauteed and the pan deglazed. What in the world is “certified vegetarian”?

  2. girl least likely to

    awww, i used to love macaroni grill back in the day. i haven’t eaten there since going vegan, though (we don’t have one in my town), and learning that the bread and the capellini are definitely vegan has made me hungry.

    now, however, i’m all worked up over the “available through february 2006” thing. they’re taking it off the menu? boo hoo.

  3. Running2Ks

    That is really encouraging. I’m usually stumped when I get stuck going to a chain restaurant. Thanks for that!

  4. Danielle

    Word. I hate eating at chain restaurants, but for a chain, Macaroni Grill isn’t half bad. I’ve had the bruschetta (minus the chees) and it’s incredibly filling and tasty, too.

  5. Tony

    Since when does tomato sauce contain butter? Isn’t that trying a little hard to make sure animal products end up in as many items as possible?

  6. alexthegirl

    RE: “certified vegetarian”
    I believe that that is in there to appease the lawyers. This way, if it is ever found out that a particular cook or region or the entire chain is doing something to compromise the vegetarian claim, the chain has a way out.

  7. Lee

    One of their servers said use beef stock in most of their “tomato” sauces, which is unnecessary. Also, I ordered pasta and someone oopsed and put slivers of meat in it, which was disgusting. It would not be my restaurant of choice more because of their attitude than their menu.

  8. Allie

    Hey, I just got hired at Macaroni grill and during my mange training I was told that a lot of the time it’s the noodles cooked with chicken stock in the water. So make sure to definately ask a manager or the head cook before ordering.

  9. Taryn

    I asked my server at MG about vegan options and he told me that only the pasta with the garlic and olive oil is vegan…he checked the ingredients on the bread and told me that all of their breads are made with eggs! I was so sad :( So that rules out the yummy bread they give you AND the bruschetta! This was just about two weeks ago sooo…I don’t know about the discrepancy between my server’s word and the email above…

  10. Marsi

    We usually ask waiters at “regular” (not vegetarian or vegan) restaurants if there is anything animal derived in the food…every time we visit there…usually only about the items we want to eat…! That said we asked about Macaroni Grill’s Arrabiatta sauce about 5 times…5 different times we were told that there is absolutely nothing in it. After having it for the 5th time we told our waiter how much we just love that sauce and he told us (that he sometimes works as a chef at that location and) how to make it…!

    Now here is the not so vegan fact he revealed while telling us how to make it…they add BUTTER at the end of the cooking process!!! Now I’m sure they can make it without…just add some olive oil at the end…or nothing at all…but if you ask a waiter about it…they might forget that in fact they do add that little bit of butter at the end to make it more creamy!

    (To be honest after that time we have only gone back to MG for salads…and even that’s been quite a while! Luckily I gave a recipe for Arrabiatta sauce from “Nonna’s Italian Kitchen” a try and it’s even better than Macaroni Grill’s…and it’s actually faster to prepare than to go to MG!)

  11. Taryn (again)

    Sooo…I went back to Macaroni Grill and asked the manager if I could get a print-out of the ingredients in their bread…he was very kind and printed it out for me and there were NOT eggs! (don’t know why my server said he looked and there were?) There was L-cysteine, which is questionable (animal or human? still gross either way…), but…some vegans don’t go that far… Ok that’s all! :)

  12. T

    It’s good that the manager was honest with you. If you watch some restaurant cooking shows, you’ll see that sauces are usually based with some type of stock, typically chicken stock. This is the case for all types of sauces. I’ve ordered simple vegetable stir frys only to later realize that they were coated in chicken stock somewhere between the steaming and the wok. Dairy powders, creams, and whey products can be used to base and flavor as well. When it comes to finding out what you are eating, it really comes down to the integrity of owners and management.

    With some of the places I’ve been, I’m pretty sure the kitchen won’t go out of their way to clean the entree pan just because a vegan meal comes in. There has to be a strong understanding. I prefer restaurants which provide only vegan options. But, I am glad there are others out there making their requests heard in regular chains. Maybe, these people will become monetarily invested in our consumer base.

  13. T

    Just like a vegan who visits a thai place, and asks about fish sauce specifically, you now understand that you must have knowledge of people’s limitations when it comes to understanding the vegan request. You now know that even simple american noodle and veggie dishes can contain animal stocks and butter. If you’re not in a specifically vegan restaurant, most people will think that because there’s no giant meat chunk in it, it qualifies as “no animal.” It’s a lot like 20 questions, which means you have to be informed of which questions to ask. That’s why I thought the manager was pretty cool for telling you what’s really going on in the kitchen. It shows knowledge plus integrity, and it’s something you can use in the future to make sure you do get served the right thing.

  14. Destiny

    I went to MG in December 2012. I never trusted them but my brothers wanted to eat there. I figured I could at least have a salad. When we sat down, I noticed that there were NO salads on the menu. I asked the waitress what could I have that was Vegan. She said, “honestly, there’s nothing vegan here, everything has animal products in one way or another.” I’ve had a similar experience with Olive Garden and since they’re related, I just avoid both of them altogether. I also think that although it’s a chain, it has franchises, so it depends on each restaurant. Since there’s no concrete answer in the e-mail above, they continue to be on my questionable list and I will just avoid them.

  15. Sara

    Ok. Just my two cents: it’s a bit silly to have any expectation on an italian restaurant that serves make any sauce, however particular, without animal products lol ;) having said this, my husband is a GM at a Macaroni Grill and it definitely takes some major effort on their part to prepare a vegan dish. I’m vegan AND I don’t eat pasta so what I usually get him to prepare me is the arrabbiata sauce (vegan) sauteed with whatever veggies he can summon up (the menu is constantly changing due to seasonal demand) mushrooms, pine nuts, broccolini, diced eggplant, peppers and onions, cherry tomatoes, large olives, etc. I know that the flatbreads are vegan (bread itself) and you could ask them to load it with veggies. But it does require them to be very proficient in knowing their ingredients (and running back to prep freshly diced veggies, and if they’re busy, this isn’t exactly fast) it’s a place that that prides itself on cheese and more cheese .. Which I’m sure is pure heaven for vegetarians ;) it can be done for vegans but you need to ask a lot of questions and do a little research :)

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