It’s a special day for those who follow a plant-based diet. Lovers of legumes, sprouts, lettuces, nightshades, and a host of other goodies grown in the ground have cause to celebrate.  October 1st is World Vegetarian Day, and has been since 1977 when the North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS) deemed it such. According to NAVS, World Vegetarian Day is an “annual celebration to promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism.” World Vegetarian Day acts as the annual kick-off to Vegetarian Awareness Month.

Vegetarian Awareness Month isn’t just for those who already follow a plant-based diet. It’s more about the other side of vegetarianism—the outreach aspect. People choose to become vegetarians for a host of reasons ranging from belief in animal rights to own personal health. Across the globe certain cultures follow a vegetarian diet simply because it’s what they have available. In the United States, where, according to a 2008 Vegetarian Times study, a scant 3.2 percent of the population, or 7.3 million people, are vegetarian, it’s clear that the majority still prefer a diet that includes meat. Which is why organizations like NAVS see the need for a month dedicated to promoting the benefits of vegetarian diets, beyond one’s own personal inclination. NAVS is currently sponsoring a contest that asks non-vegetarians to go meat free for a day, a week, or for the entire month of October for a chance to win cash prizes. More on the contest and the benefits of a vegetarian diet can be found by visiting World Vegetarian Day’s website.

Now, let’s take this national/world movement and make it local. For those who already follow a vegetarian diet, especially on the Eastern Shore, it’s more of a lifestyle variation than simply a diet. The choice to go meat-free isn’t difficult if you primarily plan to cook at home. The plethora of farmer’s markets makes it an easy and even enjoyable process to select and then prepare seasonally fresh, delicious meals in one’s own kitchen. The challenging part is the social aspect.

Dining out as a vegetarian, especially as part of a larger group, or for business meetings for example—situations where individual dietary choices aren’t always considered—can be especially problematic. Who wants to order a side house salad—that in some restaurants isn’t anything more than some iceberg lettuce and carrots—as an ‘entrée’? But on the flip side, it’s also not favorable to always be the person who asks for special accommodations. Having to explain a vegetarian diet to wait staff in a restaurant that doesn’t cater to such things isn’t often met with the friendliest responses. Going out for a “quick bite” or just picking up the phone to order carry-out isn’t the immediate food fix it’s intended to be. Why? Quite simply, options are limited for those who are vegetarian-inclined on the Eastern Shore.

In more metropolitan areas, one can find restaurants that cater to vegetarians, and perhaps offer one or two choices for a meat-eater—the reverse of what more mainstream restaurants offer.  Ethnic restaurants, found in great quantities in cities, almost always offer a host of vegetarian options. Taking that mentality and applying it here, vegetarians should look for Indian, Middle Eastern, Thai, Greek, or Mediterranean restaurants that always offer vegetable appetizers, soups, and entrees—real, hearty choices.

Dining out is as much about the food as it is about the socialization. So what’s a veggie lover to do? To truly enjoy lunch or dinner where vegetables are the main component of a dish, rather than a ‘side,’ it’s worth it to know the places to go, locally. Below you’ll find a list of local restaurants close to the coast from Ocean City, MD to the Delaware beaches that offer real options for vegetarians. Many also will make accommodations for even

more specialized diets, such as vegan or gluten-free.

West Ocean City, MD

The Shark on the Harbor – their menu (which changes daily) lists what options are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free; more details in this Shorebread article.

Plaza Tapitia – Mexican offering vegetarian options like fajitas and quesadillas.

Ocean City, MD

Mother’s Cantina – has menu staples like portobella mushroom or veggie fajitas, burritos, and enchiladas. They will also accommodate vegan and gluten-free diets. (It’s okay to ask).

Ocean City Organics – this staple store has been catering to the health-conscious for years. They recently began carrying Raw Foods ready-to-eat products, perfect for those on the go. Gluten-free dieters should try Sami’s bagels (onion) – just like you remember, a big deal for anyone who hasn’t eaten a bagel in a long time.

Kim’s Café and Marketplace – veggie wraps, smoothies and juices.

Brianna’s Bananas – gluten-free options, veggie choices, and fruit.

Malia’s Café – very vegetarian-friendly. Great for lunch; more details in this Shorebread article.

O.C. Kabob – Falafel, hummus (really good), Greek Salad, and vegetable entrée option.

Berlin, MD:

Atlantic Hotel Drummer’s Café – vegetarian pasta, salads, hummus, eggplant stack.

The Globe – always carries at least one vegetarian soup option, salads, veggie sandwich, rotating risotto, and house-made black bean burger; find out more in this Shorebread article.

Baked Dessert Café – offering vegetarian and vegan lunch options and gluten-free treats.

Bethany Beach/Ocean View, DE area

14 Global – new tapas (small plates) restaurant with plenty of veggie options. Standouts include the cauliflower dish, green bean and strawberry salad, and the truffle fries.

The Café on 26 – Vegetarian and gluten-free options; more details in this Shorebread article.

Rehoboth Beach:

Planet X – staple restaurant that has been catering to vegetarians for over 15 years. The eggplant dish is out-of-this-world.

Hobos extensive, worldly menu offering a ton of vegetarian and gluten-free options. Many vegetarian dishes have the option of being vegan.

a (MUSE.) – a new-this-year creative restaurant with many veggie options.

Lilly Thai – their vegetable entrée section is larger than the individual meat choices. Standouts include the Thai Drunken Noodles and Summerside Salad.

Here’s another tip: If you happen to be a vegetarian planning a trip, visit happycow. This site is devoted to listing all vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free shops and restaurants all over the world.

If you have a vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free restaurant on the Eastern Shore you’d like to share, tell us about it in the comments below…

To read other vegitarian-related articles, check out these ShoreBread favorites:

Featured photo: Vegetarian black been soup from The Globe Theatre in Berlin, MD.