By AAA Travel Editor Sherry Mims
October 13, 2021
Vegetarian meals are coming to a menu near you. For those interested in meatless options, there are plenty of ways to get started — and even initiatives geared toward reducing or eliminating animal products.
Eschewing meat is a key component of World Vegetarian Day, which was proposed in 1977 by the North American Vegetarian Society and then endorsed in 1978 by the International Vegetarian Union. Each Oct. 1, it ushers in Vegetarian Awareness Month “to promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism,” according to the organization’s website. The celebration is capped off by World Vegan Day on Nov. 1.
If you aren’t ready to change your diet yet, you have company. Numbers of plant-based eaters remain relatively small, according to Lizzy Freier, senior research manager of Technomic Inc., who cited Technomic’s 2019 Center of the Plate: Seafood and Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report—noting only 3 percent of 1,877 U.S. consumers surveyed self-describe as vegetarian (with 3 percent saying they’re vegan, 2 percent claiming pescatarian, 5 percent flexitarian and 5 percent semi-vegetarian). Still, others appear open to the experience, if only for a meal.
“The leading three reasons consumers point to as drivers for increased vegetarian meal consumption is that they’re … getting protein from other sources (51 percent), they are trying to eat healthier (46 percent) and there are a wider variety of options now available (37 percent),” said Freier.
According to Technomic’s Ignite menu data from the second quarter of 2020, “mentions of vegetarian entrees are up 2.6 percent in the past year.”
As consummate travelers (and eaters), AAA inspectors are at the forefront of changing consumer preferences. Many have seen more vegetarian offerings on menus firsthand. One AAA inspector said Himalaya Restaurant in Plattsburg, New York, has "lots of vegetarian and vegan options. Many items are steamed or light and lean."
Another AAA inspector recommended AAA Four DiamondLa Toque restaurant within AAA Four DiamondThe Westin Verasa Napa in Napa, California. “It offers tasting menus, including an all-vegetable one,” said the inspector. “I had it, and it was amazing.”
For those wanting to try a plant-based way of eating, whether for a day or longer, here are a few of the many AAA Diamond-designated vegetarian restaurants, as recommended by AAA inspectors and AAA editors, to introduce your palate to the cuisine.