The Piper Pub can be a popular downtown lunch restaurant, due to its convenient location downtown on 8th Street in Boise. It has a pub-like atmosphere in some respects, sports on several TV screens, and there is nothing exceptional about the service or the decor.
I have been there about 10 times in the last two months because whenever a client was choosing our lunch location, they have picked the Piper Pub. Today was the most recent, and it got me thinking about the menu selection compared to other places in town. I've been concentrating on vegan or vegetarian selections lately, and that can be a real pain when eating out. I don't let it discourage me altogether though as I have a vegan friend who can find something to eat at nearly every restaurant in town except Cracker Barrel. She inspires me to keep trying at times when I would give up eating out with people altogether.
Piper Pub, however, is not very vegetarian/vegan friendly. They offer a portabello mushroom sandwich, and an appetizer which is a hummus plate, but neither is vegan. They have a half dozen salads, all with animal protein, and nearly all with cheese. You can have the meat and cheese left off, but then you are left paying a pretty high price for a very basic salad. I tried the hummus plate, and it was not bad, expect that it's too much for one person for a meal and nearly $10, and has a lot of feta cheese so if you're trying to do vegan not vegetarian, not a good choice. The mushroom sandwich was not very good in my opinion, but then I just don't much care for mushrooms to begin with, let alone in sandwich form, so if you like portabellos and you have them leave off the non-vegan sauce you may like it. (Though the bread gets so soggy it's kind of gross!) Several times I've had the coriander chicken salad sans chicken, but it isn't very good without the blue cheese so if you go vegan and leave that off too, you're paying a lot for a pretty bland salad. Today I tried the house salad, without shrimp, which was vegan with that modification, but not particularly worth the cost.
My lunch date was late and I was asking a few questions of the server about the menu and she made the comment that she was vegan and aware of the poor selection. "What do you eat here?" I asked her. "I get a side of black beans with avocado on top," she said. Not a bad suggestion, but since I have a black bean soup planned for dinner I gave that a pass. I was surprised that this is the second interaction in a week with waitstaff (at different restaurants) who are familiar with a vegan diet and following some form of it themselves. They both initiated use of the term in the conversation, not me. When I was a waitress I didn't know what vegan was, so I was pleased to see that they did - though I don't know if it's through training or being personally attentive to the issue due to their own lifestyle choices.
I completely understand that the vast majority of customers will not be vegetarian or vegan, but I do think that many dishes can be easily adapted at most restaurants, and that a menu completely designed around animal proteins is not very appealing when "adapted". In an ideal world, it would be nice if the nutritional information was on the menu for each dish and if at least a few dishes were non meat centric. I considered adapting a number of other things at Piper, but do I really want a Thai chicken roll without the chicken, which would be just lettuce and peanut sauce? The truth is when you remove the meat from most Piper dishes, there is not much of a dish left, and when there is no price reduction for no protein, you are really paying a high price for a not very filling lunch. I think I've exhausted the vegan/vegetarian adaptations at Piper I'm willing to try and will look elsewhere. I've clearly put a lot more thought into ways to make their menu work for vegetarians or vegans than they have.