The Pitfalls of Dining Out in Boston

Happy March, kids!

I had another low-key but productive weekend.  Sunday involved tons of cleaning and house organizing, while Saturday was more eventful.   I started the day with my new standard breakfast:
Weekend Eats 002Sprouted Ancient Maize Flakes with banana, hemp seeds, and unsweetened almond-coconut milk.  And coffee!

Turns out it’s great fuel for running!  About an hour and a half after having this, I set out to do 5.5 miles around town.  I finished it in 54:42, which I was pretty impressed with considering that I was constantly having to stop to walk or hop over giant patches of ice.  I know spring is coming but man does it still feel far away.

As soon as I got home I cooked up a great big tofu scramble with red bell peppers and lacinato kale and ate it with toast.  I was starving!
Weekend Eats 004

Then H and I headed over to Boston College to watch the men’s hockey team take on Notre Dame.
Weekend Eats 007
Unfortunately the Eagles lost in overtime, but it was still fun to get to take in a game.  We had awesome seats, too!

After the game, H and I fought our way through city traffic into South Boston to have dinner with his brother and sister-in-law at the Lincoln Tavern.  I do not recommend it. 

The rest of this post is going to get a little rant-y so you can feel free to skip it if you’re not into that sort of reading material.

Here’s the thing: I eat at omnivore restaurants all the time.  I am married to an omnivore, our families and all of our friends are omnivores (and usually pick the restaurant), and I live in a metro area that really kind of sucks for vegans.  Nevertheless I feel like I usually can get something decent to eat, and it’s usually not too painful of a process because I am a seasoned menu reader and modifier, and I go out of my way to be pleasant and appreciative when asking for accommodation.

Besides, even places that mainly cater to the wings and steak tips crowd usually achieve the bare minimum of veg-friendliness by including a veggie burger, right?

Well, not Lincoln Tavern.  I looked at their dinner menu online before H and I went into the city and my heart sunk a little.  But I figured I’d just have a salad or something (hold the inevitable cheese) and then eat a real dinner when I got home.

Except that I was really, really hungry by the time we got there.  So I decided to order a cheeseless pizza with veggies.  The vegetable pizza on their menu says that it has ricotta and pesto.  So when I ordered it, I asked whether they could do it without the cheese and pesto, basically just make a pizza of red sauce and vegetables.  I was told this would be no problem (and why should it be?).

Our food initially took a really long time to come out (but whatever, it was a very busy Saturday night), then two of the four entrees arrived, followed several minutes later by the other two (which btw, as I recall from my time waiting tables, is a big mistake).  And there was my pizza, covered in cheese.

I was so hungry at this point that I actually for a moment considered just eating it.

But instead we flagged down the waitress and I told her (pleasantly, as always), “I’m sorry, but this wasn’t supposed to have any cheese.”  And rather than just apologize, take it away, and replace it, she decided to argue with me, saying “You said no pesto, you didn’t say anything about cheese.”  Wtf?  If you misunderstood or didn’t hear me (it was loud as hell in that place), that’s okay, but don’t tell me that I didn’t say anything about the cheese when by this point it’s clear that that was something important to me.

They did replace it…
Weekend Eats 008…but the waitress was incredibly rude and refused to acknowledge me the rest of the meal.  Seriously, after I ate half the pizza (intending to take the other half home) and put it to the side with my silverware on the tray (indicating I was done), she cleared everyone else’s place at the table except for mine.  She came back 2 more times to bring drinks to the others in my party and still the pizza was left on the table.  Finally, exasperated, I got up and left the table, asking H to please ask for a box for the pizza because maybe she’d listen to him.  And sure enough, only when I was gone from the table did she finally clear my place.

It actually was a really tasty pizza (even though they left off the olives), but it was not worth being treated like a second-class customer and a troublemaker, especially when I wasn’t even angry or making a big deal about the mix-up.  They will never have business from me again.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered this kind of attitude at a Boston restaurant (nor will it be the last), and I truly cannot stand it.  Why is vegetarian or vegan food somehow beneath you?  Just because you’re trying to cater to the growing gentrified “foodie” truffle-mac-n-cheese-and-kobe-meatballs component of Southie, doesn’t mean that you can’t treat all of your customers with a consistent level of respect and professionalism.  After all, I’m still in your establishment, paying you full price for your food even though you are actually saving money on me by omitting ingredients.  And in the age of Internet reviews (and BLOGS–hello!) are you really so sure that you can treat your customers like garbage and still stay in business?

For the record, I’ve never had this problem in New York.  God I miss New York.

In Conclusion
Experiences like this make me even more appreciative of places that at least make an effort to accommodate different dietary choices and restrictions.  It’s one of the reasons that I include select omnivore restaurants on my Vegan Eating in Greater Boston page.  If you’re planning a trip to Boston, do me a favor and patronize one of those, and not Lincoln Tavern.  Please and thank you.

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6 thoughts on “The Pitfalls of Dining Out in Boston

  1. Oh, that’s so disappointing! I really would have assumed that Boston would be a great place for vegans. It seems that nowadays most larger and even mid-sized cities are stepping up their games as far as vegan cuisines go. I hate it when serving staff takes what is already uncomfortable (getting the wrong order and waiting while everyone else at the table eats uncomfortably) and makes it even worse.

    • It’s kind of hit or miss, and while I’ve had mostly positive experiences, it just really bums me out when I feel singled out. It really does make everyone uncomfortable!

  2. Wow. I found my blood pressure rising just reading your account. The waitress deserves to be reported to her supervisor. Maybe she had to pay for the mistake and was really down on her luck, but still — no excuse for treating you that way. Do you read Melody’s blog? (http://melomeals.blogspot.com/) She lives in Boston. She used to be vegan but is now vegetarian, and her boyfriend is omnivore. She’s found lots of good places to eat in Boston that you may find useful to know about.

    • The thing is, the manager (who was super-nice) actually came over to the table after she removed the wrong order (leaving me as the only one with no food) and said “Is everything okay?” and I told him “Oh yeah, it’s fine, she’s getting it,” in an effort to be understanding, not make a scene, and not get her in trouble. Part of what then bothered me so much was how she treated me after bringing the right order, when I had just gone out of my way to not complain about her. I just can’t stand being treated like I’m difficult when I am constantly striving to be the opposite.

      I actually do read Melody’s blog 🙂 I will check out her recommendations–it would be cool if we shared some favorites!

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