I Hope You Like the Salad Option

Whether you’re going to a sit-down restaurant with a large group or just meeting a friend at Dunkin for a drink, going out to eat should be simple. Everyone deserves to treat themselves every now and again – including people with dietary restrictions. However, the restaurants in Covington seem determined to make that impossible, as the menus fail to provide a good number of alternatives to meat, dairy and gluten-rich products.

The number of people with dietary restrictions in the United States is not a small one. Three million Americans suffer from Celiac’s disease, which prevents them from consuming gluten, but about a fifth of all Americans are trying to maintain a gluten-free diet even if they can actually consume gluten. Eight million Americans are vegetarian. One million are vegan. About six and a half million Americans are Jewish and therefore could only eat kosher meats, but, like with gluten, more Americans than just the Jewish population subscribe to a kosher diet. And this is just a brief list of all the types of dietary restrictions that exist. Some can only eat halal food. Some are lactose intolerant. Dietary restrictions cast a wide net into the population.

Oxford isn’t a big school, and it isn’t exactly surrounded by a wide range of restaurants. Additionally, transportation is incredibly limited if a student doesn’t have a car on campus. Covington and its restaurants are the only ones within walking distance of campus. And yet, for students with dietary restrictions, these restaurants are still inaccessible because there are barely any options that they could eat.

For example, a vegetarian going out to Covington for the weekend would be hard-pressed to find a place to eat out. When searching for vegetarian restaurants in Covington, TripAdvisor only lists nine options. The top restaurant, Mystic Grill, describes itself as having vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. However, a quick glance at its menu shows that it doesn’t have that many options. Someone looking to avoid meat can choose between three different salads (the other two contain either chicken or bacon), the vegetable plate or the pulled jackfruit. And this is better than what the restaurant offers to vegans and gluten-free dieters, who would have to ask for ingredients to be taken off each salad on the menu for it to be consumable. I hope you like your vegetables.

Most of the other restaurants on the TripAdvisor list don’t fare much better under scrutiny. Your Pie, the second option, offers vegan cheese and gluten-free pizza dough, plus a slew of vegetables that can be added to the pizza, but several of the other menu items either again require items to be removed to be accessible or simply cannot be eaten by people with a dietary restriction. Other restaurants down the list start dropping some of the labels – Bangkok Grill is not listed as gluten-free, and Amici Italian Café does not even claim to a vegan option on the site.

Perhaps why the lack of availability seems so ridiculous is because there are several options made available to us now. For example, black bean patties are a vegan-friendly alternative to traditional beef patties and can be cooked similarly. Tofu is actually decently popular and absorbs flavor incredibly well and can be prepared in a variety of ways to fit almost any meal from stews to full sandwiches. Options for meals can be easily made without any sort of bread or cheese. Everyone deserves to eat with as much variety as they desire. But restaurants pretty much singularly offer people who can’t eat these items a plate of vegetables to call a meal, and that’s not acceptable.

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