Friday, February 20, 2009

Fast-food vegetarianism

Cheeseburgers, steaks, chicken burgers, fish fillets and bacon.

Cheap and delicious, meat is a great food stuff for fast food menus.

Terry and I used to order enough at Wendy's that I had a regular order. We would pull up in the drive-thru and Terry could order everything for us without any comment from me.

"Number 2 Combo - (double with cheese) no onions, extra pickles, fries and Sprite. And a Number 3 Combo - (triple with cheese) plain, just cheese add bacon. Fries and Coke."

Now that I'm vegetarian my order has had to change and since he prefers Wendy's and the local Burger King is less than sanitary, I've made a compromise.

Although good tasting it's less than filling (but it's cheap):
"Cheeseburger Deluxe combo, no meat, extra veggies, heated with fries or baked potato and Sprite." The first time I ordered this I got an extremely odd look.

"No meat?"
"Yes. No meat, extra veggies, please."

I imagine as soon as we left he started talking to his high school buddies (most of whom are younger siblings to people I went to school with) about this crazy woman that ordered no meat on a CHEESEBURGER.

That's right, they have no veggie burger. They have salads but they all seemed like dead leaf lettuce bowls. Apparently Wendy's even used to have a salad bar a while ago. I often wonder why they took that out, perhaps to increase speed. More customers through means more money in the tills.

You would think during this time of increased vegetarianism and veganism that more popular fast-food chains would offer vegetarian options that aren't salads. I have nothing against salads but I find that all fast-food salads around here are one of two things. 1) Boring, dead leaf lettuce bowls or 2) full of fat and dressing.

In my area, which is a small town (1500 people) and slightly bigger town (10000) the pickings are slim. It's about an hours drive to the next biggest city and while there I always stop at Harveys, which to me is one of the best veggie burgers around the Maritimes.

Of the various available fast food chains: Burger King, MacDonalds, Wendy's, KFC, Subway, A&W, and Tim Horton's there aren't many menu options. There are customizable options but for those looking to grab something off the menu, the choices are slim.

For veggie sandwiches we have Subway, with their Veggie Delight, available without cheese for vegans.

For veggie burgers we have: A&W, Burger King and KFC. A&W has the Swiss Veggie Deluxe, a horrible-tasting "low fat" and "healthy choice." It tastes horrible and although they cook it away from meat, mine had a burnt fat flavor.

Burger King has the BK Veggie Burger made by Sol Cusine which I still haven't tried thanks to the unsavory conditions of the local Burger King.

Finally, KFC after the PETA scandal introduced a vegetarian "unchicken" sandwich. Keep in mind that the KFC veggie burger will no doubt be cooked with all the other meat, it doesn't hurt to ask if your local KFC practises this if it bothers you.

Then we have Tim Horton's. This chain is so very Canadian and unfortunately hasn't made the same impact in the United States. Although a great lunch choice I don't find it filling enough for supper but there are tons of options for ovo-lacto vegetarians. Tim Hortons Nutritional Info. [Click Vegetarian in FAQ section.] They are also extremely revealing about animal content in their food and say this:
"The following Tim Hortons baked goods have been produced without the use of animal fats and by-products (including gelatin and rennet). Please note these products may contain milk or egg.

. Donuts & Timbits
. Danishes & Croissants (excluding Cheese)
. Muffins
. Tea biscuits (excluding Ham & cheese)
. Cookies
. Bagels

In addition:
. All donuts are cooked in 100% vegetable based fats
. All donut glaze is completely vegetable based
. All L-cysteine is from a synthetic source
. The mono- and diglycerides of all Tim Hortons products are vegetable based."

I've found that although quite a few sit-down restaurants (even a Truck Stop!) are more than happy to accommodate vegetarians and even offered vegan options as well if I was interested. Fast-food places however pretend to offer a "what you see is what you get" policy. If you ask, they'll sometimes try to do their best but I don't feel it's their responsibility. Ninety percent of the fast food places around here are staffed by people my age (high school to late-twenties) and make minimum wage, I'm sure the last thing they want to deal with is some vegetarian being picky at a burger joint.

However, it's also wrong for us to have to go to 2 or 3 different places to grab a "quick" bite to eat. I know home-cooking is best but I wish that small towns still offered choice when it comes to, let's face it, junk food.

What about you? What choices are offered in your hometowns for vegetarians or vegans? Know of a great veggie burger in a chain restaurant?

Let me know, share the quick veggie wealth.


  1. I gotta say, I have been very pleased with McDonald's salads. Just be careful of the ones that they sneak bacon bits onto!

    I also like McDonald's fruit and walnut thingy (I call it a fruit & walnut salad and they always seem to know what I mean, but it's not really a salad). It's vanilla yogurt, grapes and apple slices, and sugared walnuts. Yummy! though I dump the walnuts in the trash as I am not a fan. :]

  2. I always ask if there's bacon bits in salads although around here they're all simulated bacon bits, which are vegan. :)

    We don't have have that salad in Canada unfortunately, just went to the website and they discontinued it here. :( We've just got the Fruit and Yogurt Parfait (vanilla yogurt and berries essentially). Even worse since my Mom works backshift at the one here in town and might have been able to bring me home some.