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  • Aug
  • 11

Turning a Steakhouse Vegan for a Day

Posted by at 4:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Yes, a steakhouse—and not just any steakhouse, but a stockyard steakhouse—went vegan for a day. That’s proof that PETA and other animal rights groups not only change the character of the location where they hold an event but also change minds and practices.

In its heyday, the Lancaster Stockyards in Pennsylvania was the largest facility of its kind east of Chicago. An inn was located at the edge of the vast complex, and over the years, it evolved into the Stockyard Inn, a locally prominent steakhouse owned and operated by the same family since 1952. In 1986, the first animal rescued by Farm Sanctuary, a farm animal advocacy and protection organization, was a sheep—later named Hilda—who was found barely alive on a pile of dead animals at the stockyards.

Twenty-five years later, I volunteered to help organize an event to honor Hilda’s legacy and mark Farm Sanctuary’s founding. What better place to hold this event than at the Stockyard Inn? Just one hitch: This needed to be an all-vegan event at a steakhouse. Because I live in Lancaster, I was recruited to work with the restaurant as the local vegan facilitator.

The first surprise was how willing the owners were to work with me. They were comfortable with the idea of veganizing their restaurant for a day and assured me that the food would be both vegan and exceptionally good. They enthusiastically embraced the challenge, wanting to prove that they could accommodate any dietary requirements.

For the main entrée, the kitchen staff experimented with several premium meat alternatives. It was decided that the vegan ground chicken from MATCH Foods would be perfect for creating a vegan version of one of the Stockyard Inn’s traditional house favorites, Chicken Marsala.

The event was held on a Monday, when the restaurant is normally closed, so it was easy to have the entire establishment go vegan. Every ingredient of each menu item was carefully scrutinized. The owners were amazed to discover that many of their cooking ingredients were already vegan and that most of those that weren’t were easily veganized. For example, the cooks could use soy milk and vegan butter to make garlic mashed potatoes. The owners also discovered that their distributors carried vegan products such as soy milk.

Sometimes the devil—along with wonderful educational opportunities—was in the details. The kitchen staff found that they could use organic sugar and nondairy creamer for coffee, nix the honey-wheat rolls, and place soy-based candles on the tables.

For dessert, the venerable Vegan Treats supplied several large chocolate layer cakes that were beautifully decorated.

A packed house of 100 diners enjoyed the vegan celebration, which received positive press coverage both locally and regionally. Among the highlights of the evening: The owners announced that they would permanently add a vegan entrée to their menu, and a painting of Hilda was auctioned off. Twenty-five years ago, this would have been an auction of Hilda, but now it was an auction for Hilda!

Have you helped to add vegetarian options at a restaurant? Tell us about it!

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  • Rick Thompson says:

    Just a brief update: When I shared this posting with the owner of the Stockyard Inn, he told me that they have several vegan diners each week, are now serving the MATCH chicken and beef, and also have MATCH burgers on their bar menu.

  • Toyya says:

    Oh wow, this is great! I spend a lot of time requesting that dishes be made meatless when I’m eating out, but it would be so much easier if there was already at least one meatless dish on the menu! I never thought to push for that to happen. Restaurants are constantly adding to their menus anyway.

  • Licia says:

    Fantastic! Thank you.

  • Jayfeather says:

    I would have a hard time getting people in West Virginia to go Vegen. They grew up on meat and think they should die on meat.

  • Rick Thompson says:

    For those of you who may be wondering what the shredded red item is on the platter, it is ribbon sliced, flash-fried red beet. And it is incredibly good! Just another example of one of the restaurant’s specialties that already was vegan.

  • Greg says:

    Great story! Thank you for sharing that with everyone.

  • RE Penney says:

    When everyone finds out how easy and how tasty the process is everybody is on board. What fun to go cruelty free!

  • Stacy A says:

    I have gone around my neighborhood and have asked several cafes to add a few non-dairy options to the menu – such as tofutti cream cheese. Some liked the idea others were indifferent. I figured a foot in the door is great with some of them. A friend recently got one to add a Tofurky sandwich to the menu! She’s challenging me now to oneup my game!!!

  • Amy L. says:

    Such a beautiful story! I feel like crying with gratitude that the world is lucky enough to have you in it, PETA, along with all the other organizations and people who care about the innocents of this world.

  • paul e doody says:

    awesome…. never thought i’d see the day

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