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“Someone changes their diet and it’s like, ‘Oh, now what do we do?’ There’s anxiety on both sides of the table,” she said.
That’s one reason that Dugan is spearheading the first ever St. Louis Plant-Based Restaurant Week, set to take place May 1 to 7, 2022, so plant-based eaters and their friends can go out to eat without worry.
The goal is not to highlight the area’s existing plant-based restaurants, she said, but to get establishments that aren’t wholly plant-based to highlight two to three vegan options for the week. Those could be items already on the menu, dishes made from existing ingredients, or even some new creations. Dugan says she wants everything to be as accessible as possible for restauranteurs, and has even urged them against buying speciality plant-based ingredients if they’re not likely to use them again.
“I’m really trying to make this very easy for everyone,” she said. “Hopefully, if there’s enough people that want those menu items that week they’ll think, ‘Maybe we’ll just leave it!’”
The plant-based eating scene in St. Louis is growing, but still a little smaller than it is in some metro areas, Dugan said.
“We’re in the middle of the country. As the trends come to us, we’re one of the last ones,” she said. “But in the last four or five years things have really started to pick up in St. Louis. We have such a diverse culinary scene in St. Louis and great chefs who are really up for the challenge.”
Dugan wanted to start small, with just two areas of greater St. Louis. So far 11 eateries have signed on and she said she’s been encouraged by the support. The establishments include bars, grills, taco restaurants, and creameries. The Center for Plant-Based Living will be promoting all the restaurants’ offerings on social media throughout the week.
Dugan said if the week is a success she’d like to expand to other parts of the St. Louis area next year. A few other cities, including Phoenix, Arizona and Providence, Rhode Island have already held their own Vegan Restaurant Weeks, indicating a potential trend on the rise.
“The real impetus behind this is to get everyone around the same table,” she said. “I’ve already told my husband that we’re not going to be at home all week for dinner.”