If you look for vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free meals when you dine out, you’ll be pleased to learn about a new addition to Maine Restaurant Week.

This year, diners can go to the event website and sort the list of restaurants and their special menus so that only those eateries cooking up gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian meals show up.

Now in its third year, Maine Restaurant Week runs Tuesday to March 12 and features almost 100 restaurants offering specially priced three-course meals. Depending on the restaurant, the meals are priced at $20 to $40, plus drinks, tax and tip.

“The first year we didn’t offer it and we had a great number of e-mails, Facebook requests and calls asking for special diets,” said Jim Britt of gBritt PR, which organizes Maine Restaurant Week. “We put out a request to restaurants, and they agreed they’re seeing a continually increasing number of requests from guests for vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian dishes.”

Britt said the sorting tool debuted last year.

“However, it was added at the eleventh hour, so not many restaurants took advantage of it,” he said. “This year, restaurants had to review those options when they were putting their menus online.”

As a result, nearly 50 restaurants say they’ll offer vegetarian dishes, more than 30 say they’ll have gluten-free offerings, and more than a dozen say they’ll have vegan meals.

“We find as we go along that more and more people request (vegan and gluten-free meals),” said Garry Bowcott, manager of Local 188 in Portland, where the three-course Restaurant Week meals will cost $30. “We like to cater to everyone. In the last couple years, we got so many requests for vegan entrees that we added it to the regular menu.”

During Restaurant Week, Local 188 plans to offer vegan diners a green salad to start, an entree of Indian barbecued chickpeas baked inside delicata squash with a coconut cilantro chutney, and a house-made sorbet for dessert.

Gluten-free diners will also enjoy the salad, a choice of oven-roasted white fish, house paella or the vegan chickpea dish, and a choice of flourless chocolate torte, Spanish flan, ice cream or sorbet for dessert.

“We are always willing to accommodate any vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free guest, because chef Steve Corry thinks it’s important,” said Ryan Rush, who is manager of Five Fifty-Five and Five Fifty-Five Lounge in Portland, where the Restaurant Week meals will cost $40 and $30, respectively.

He added that the restaurant served 10 guests who requested vegan meals in the past few days.

Like many restaurants on the special lists, Five Fifty-Five does not include any specific meals that are vegan or gluten-free on its Restaurant Week menu. Instead, the kitchen staff will prepare something off-menu for these diners.

“We do what we call ‘vegetarian whims,’ ” Rush said. “We use what we have in the kitchen and provide a dish for them on the spot.”

Britt said in the future he hopes to tweak the Restaurant Week website (mainerestaurantweek.com) so it has additional fields for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free offerings.

“We’re going to keep perfecting it,” Britt said. “Ultimately, we’d like to have the restaurant prompted to enter the alternative options.”

In the years to come, Britt predicts we’ll see more restaurants preparing meals for folks with special diets.

“The leaders are definitely differentiating themselves by offering what their customers want,” Britt said.

In other words, it’s a fine time to be a diner who enjoys ordering vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free meals.

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

[email protected]

Follow her on Twitter at:

Twitter.com/AveryYaleKamila

 


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