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Vegetarian sandwich actually cooked with meat

Salt Lake City is a city on the rise in many ways, one of which is catering to vegan and vegetarian diets. VegNews Magazine in April named Salt Lake City "The Next Great Vegan City." Dozens of restaurants feature entirely vegan or vegetarian fare, and many more offer vegetarian options.

The city's status as an up-and-comer is part of what surprised and upset Ian Rigby so much when he found that a sandwich from a well-known Salt Lake restaurant was labeled as vegetarian, but actually has an ingredient cooked with meat.

He said an employee at Moochie's told him their marinara sauce is also used to cook the meatballs after he asked about another menu item.

"Are you kidding? You're marking something on your menu as vegetarian clearly, and you're blatantly, knowingly putting meat in it without telling the consumer that a vegetarian option has meat in it," Rigby said.

Moochie's co-owner Joanna Rendi said she isn't much concerned, however, and hasn't had a problem with customers upset about the sandwich, especially considering the restaurant specializes in meaty items like cheesesteaks from her native Philadelphia. This is the first complaint she's heard about it.

It's not like we're trying to keep it from anybody," she said. "We do tell people that the sauce isn't strictly vegetarian."

Rigby, however, said he had eaten the sandwich four or five times before he was informed about how it was cooked.

Rendi said that while they used to have a separate pot for vegetarian sauce, space constraints in the small kitchen have forced them to use only one pot for both meatballs and marinara sauce.

"As far as I'm concerned, that is a vegetarian sandwich," she said.

Rigby won't be going back to Moochie's for a while, he said, especially if the restaurant continues to label the "Eggplant Parmigiana" sandwich as vegetarian.

"It's just really upsetting to vegetarians who probably frequent there, who are choosing a vegetarian option — so they're told," he said. "But it's not."

Rendi said that Moochie's tries "to accommodate people as much as we can," but that there is a limit to what they can do. She said people with dietary restrictions need to make sure and ask carefully about what they are being served.

She also said the sauce is strictly vegetarian for part of the day, before they add the meatballs, and said interested customers can ask. There are also several vegetarian menu items that don't contain the sauce in question.

"It's a gray area," she said.

Is this company in the wrong for listing it as vegetarian? Should they have explained the sauce has meat cooking in it? Or is it up to the consumer to ask the right questions?


Asked by LostSoul88 at 1:23 PM on May. 13, 2013 in Food & Drink

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Answers (12)
  • ""It's a gray area," she said"

    No, it's not a gray area. Vegetarian means made without any meat. That means meat by products, meat sauce, meat anything. This is really one of my pet peeves. Because those of us who ARE vegetarian are always a little suspicious that this happens and end up sticking to tiny restaurants that we know cater to true veggies.

    Answer by Mrs_Prissy at 1:33 PM on May. 13, 2013

  • I would say that if an item isn't "strictly vegetarian," don't label it as a vegetarian option. In other words, don't put a "V" symbol next to it, don't list it under a submenu of "vegetarian options." If you make no claims that your eggplant parmegiana is vegetarian, then the onus is on customers who want a strictly vegetarian option to ask about how it's made.

    Answer by SWasson at 1:36 PM on May. 13, 2013

  • Most vegetarian options at restaurants are cooked with meat, I kindof feel sorry for anyone who believes otherwise.

    This is true, and I think most of us know that, but most restaurants don't label their "meatless" foods as vegetarian. Like the eggplant parm at Olive Garden isn't listed as vegetarian, the broccoli cheese soup at Panera isn't listed a vegetarian, etc. if it does have meat in it somewhere (like the chicken broth I'm sure they use), they never claimed it was veggie, if I eat it because it's just broccoli and cheese, that's on me, but if they actually labeled it, as veggie that would be purposely misleading.


    Answer by Chrln06 at 1:46 PM on May. 13, 2013

  • They shouldn't label it vegetarian, because it's not. And, if the sauce is cooked with meatballs, it's no longer marinara.


    Answer by Chrln06 at 1:39 PM on May. 13, 2013

  • I'm not a vegetarian, but to me vegetarian means no meat. Period. Not in a sauce, not as a minor ingredient in any component of the dish. And, speaking as a nonvegetarian, I would say that if it's being advertised as vegetarian and has meat in it, then they are using false advertising. And they are wrong, in my opinion. While being a vegetarian is often simply a choice, it seems to me that if they're willing to cover up on this (or even just play the "don't ask, don't tell" game), what else are they willing to do this on? What if someone comes in with an egg allergy or a peanut allergy, looks at the menu and sees that this dish or that one is egg/peanut free and orders it, only to have a severe reaction? Is the owner still going to say, "oh, well, hey, we never claimed it was egg/peanut free!"? And choice or not, it should still be respected, by being clear about what's in your "vegetarian" dishes.

    Answer by wendythewriter at 2:36 PM on May. 13, 2013

  • Most vegetarian options at restaurants are cooked with meat, I kindof feel sorry for anyone who believes otherwise.

    Answer by funlovinlady at 1:30 PM on May. 13, 2013

  • What SWasson and Chrln06 said!

    Answer by maecntpntz219 at 2:24 PM on May. 13, 2013

  • I'm not up on these things, so I didn't realize an item would no longer be vegetarian if it had been cooked with meat but had no meat in it. So it never would have occurred to me that a sandwich with marinara sauce dipped out of a pot with meatballs in it, even though there are no meatballs on the sandwich, wouldn't be vegetarian. That might have been what the restaurant owner meant by "gray area." That being said, it's not my responsibility to know what foods are and are not vegetarian, since I don't follow that diet. But if a restaurant owner is going to offer vegetarian items, then she really ought to find out exactly what that means and stick to the proper cooking procedures if there are any standardized definitions of how things have to be prepared.

    Answer by Ballad at 4:02 PM on May. 13, 2013

  • Its good to always ask and research.

    Answer by virginiamama71 at 4:43 PM on May. 13, 2013

  • I always ask, but if the restaurant does this kind of thing it should not be labeled vegetarian. This is misleading and wrong! this is why I prefer to eat my own cooking...

    Answer by older at 4:51 PM on May. 13, 2013

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