My family and I recently took an out-of-state trip: seven days touring the national and state parks of Utah. I was excited to see the amazing rock formations of Moab, Canyon Lands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion, couldn’t wait to stop at the Anasazi and Fremont Indian State Parks and Museums, but was concerned about finding something to eat. Our travel plans were going to take us through some very small towns in Utah and I didn’t think the odds of finding a meat, egg, and dairy free option were very high. I ordered a survival kit from Vitacost, instant meals, oatmeal, and individual packets of peanut butter, and packed it along with my traveling tea kettle. All I needed was hot water and then it wouldn’t matter if I couldn’t find a vegan option in a restaurant: I could cook my own. The other three members of my traveling party were not vegan so that was a concern as well. Three meat eaters and one vegan. How would we all get along?
The answer? Very well! I’m used to putting meals together from the side dish menu, ordering salads with no meat and cheese and adding beans and/or broccoli, so I figured I would do okay in the larger towns like Moab or Hurricane. There had to be a place all four of us could go to and all be happy. It turns out there is and it isn’t an exotic restaurant at all. It’s Denny’s.
Denny’s in Moab, UT became our go to restaurant. My family was willing to try vegan friendly places like the Ekleticafe but, every time we attempted to stop, the place was so packed there was hardly room to move much less a place to sit. Denny’s always had space and the booths accommodated all four of us. The best part? Breakfast was easy to put together. I could order four items from the Build-Your-Own-Breakfast menu. I would order oatmeal (made with water and they’ll leave the milk off the table if you ask), fresh fruit, a gluten-free English Muffin made protein-power-packing with the addition of one of my packets of peanut butter, and then, as that was enough food for me; I’d order sausage links or something for a family member. My family got what they liked and I saved money. So, breakfast was covered. What about lunch?
Denny’s also has a Build-Your-Own Burger option and they have a veggie patty. The veggie burger really is the only vegan option but it’s there and it’s tasty. Veggie burgers can be good or gross: it’s all about the texture. The burger at Denny’s is nice and firm and, with added avocado slices and a whole wheat bun, makes a filling lunch.
The veggie burger at Denny’s got me through but, after two days, we were on our way to Torrey and Capitol Reef. The sun had long set by the time we finished going through Capitol Reef and checked into our hotel and restaurant choices were sparse. We tried to get in to the the Rim Rock Restaurant but it turns out it’s a good idea to have a reservation. We couldn’t get the hostess to make eye contact with us as she ran here and there getting a bus load of tourists settled at tables and, after twenty minutes of standing inside the door, we left. Just down the hill is the Rim Rock Patio where we got right in. I perused the menu which is surprisingly vegetarian friendly and thought I was safe by ordering a salad (completely vegan and the berry dressing amazing) and pesto baked spaghetti (not vegan). I’d eaten veggie burgers for two days and was ready to try something else but the pesto sauce at Rim Rock Patio is a cream-based pesto-something I’d never heard of-and mozzarella cheese is baked right into the spaghetti-something NOT mentioned in the description. Note to self, ask more questions when ordering. Ah well. I did the best I could.
Our stop after Torrey was Tropic and the restaurants we passed, all of which were closed, didn’t give me much hope for a meal. I was ready to haul my survival kit back out and plug in the tea kettle when Clarke’s Restaurant was recommended to us. Clarke’s had a veggie burger. I was grateful for the option but not super excited about ANOTHER veggie burger. Still, I ordered and have to say the burger was flavorful and a great texture.
I was pleasantly surprised at how many veg, if not vegan, options were available in towns I was sure served nothing but steak, hamburgers, and chicken; even if that option was only a veggie burger. It gives me hope. If tiny towns in Utah are offering veg options, it means meat-free is becoming more main stream. I know it’s only a matter of time before egg-free and dairy-free follow. I did get a little sick of veggie burgers but there is no room for complaint: I ate well and, beyond two blips, kept my diet completely vegan.