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]
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.