My purpose in starting this blog a couple of years ago was simply to identify vegan options in local non-vegan restaurants. I've used the blog to discuss food policy issues from time to time, but mostly, it's still just a resource for vegans who want to know what they can eat when dining at a Sacramento restaurant.
Occasionally, however, questions come up about the ethics of patronizing restaurants that are vegan-friendly from a menu standpoint, but where the chef or owner is identified with behavior that's anathema to vegans.
Let me give you some examples:
• Lucca Restaurant & Bar offers a wonderful vegan menu, but the restaurant's owners also own the ranch where they get their beef. Does owning a ranch make Lucca less worthy to serve vegan customers than other restaurants that offer beef on their menus?
• Broderick Roadhouse has several creative vegan menu options, but they post disturbing (to vegans) pictures on social media of whole animals being roasted. Is that somehow worse than the pictures of steaks, bacon, or chicken that other restaurants post?
• The chef at Mother, a restaurant opening next week that offers no meat on its menu, doesn't want the restaurant to be thought of as "vegetarian" because he believes a stigma is attached to the word. He was also one of the chefs seeking to overturn California's ban on foie gras, and he threw a foie gras party at Pangaea, another local restaurant, just before the ban took effect. Should discomfort about the chef's culinary views cause vegans to forego what promises to be an exceptional dining experience?
Everyone needs to draw their own ethical line, of course. If something about a restaurant offends you, by all means add it to your personal "do not patronize" list and dine instead at an establishment that better reflects your values.
From my perspective, making more vegan options available in non-vegan restaurants can only be a good thing, regardless of the motives of the restaurant in offering them or the personal philosophy of the chef preparing them. The more that non-vegans are exposed to well-made, high-quality vegan cuisine, the more likely they'll be to realize they don't need meat or other animal products in order to enjoy a satisfying meal.
On the other hand, if people don't order vegan items in these restaurants, they may be dropped from the menu because of a perception that there's no market for them. By patronizing these and other restaurants offering imaginative plant-based menu options, vegans can make the point that we're here to stay and we expect something more interesting to eat when we dine out than a microwaved veggie burger or a lackluster house salad.
What are your thoughts? Under what circumstances, if any, would you refuse to patronize a restaurant even though it makes a point of providing vegan menu options?