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Dairy-free restaurants do not use dairy products, such as milk or cheese, in their recipes. Depending on the restaurant, food offerings may include items that are made from a variety of dairy substitutes, such as grain- or nut-based milks, cheeses, and ice creams. These restaurants typically cater to people who are avoiding dairy for a specific reason, such as those who have a milk allergy or suffer from lactose intolerance or who do not wish to consume dairy products for ethical or religious reasons. Some of the most common types of dairy-free restaurants include both vegan and some kosher restaurants.
For those who cannot or choose not to consume dairy products, finding a restaurant can be difficult. While it is often possible to order foods that do not contain dairy products at standard restaurants, there is the strong possibility of cross-contamination between different types of food during the preparation stage. In addition, many seasonings, breading, and condiments contain dairy or dairy byproducts, which can result in someone consuming dairy without knowing about it. For those with health problems caused by exposure to dairy, these hidden dairy ingredients and dairy-exposed foods can present significant risks. Staunch vegans or those who follow a kosher diet may prefer to avoid even trace amounts of dairy in their food.
Vegan restaurants do not use any animal products in their cooking, including dairy. While it can be difficult to find a vegan restaurant in some areas, some medium- and large-sized cities boast multiple vegan dining options. It is also possible to find vegan restaurants that specialize in various types of ethnic cuisine. Chefs in vegan dairy-free restaurants are often quite good at creating substituting non-dairy ingredients in many common recipes, offering such specialties as vegan pizza, ice cream, and cheesecake. Some vegetarian restaurants also offer dairy-free options, though diners should ask about what steps are taken to keep vegan and dairy products separate.
Other types of dairy-free restaurants include kosher restaurants that serve meat. There are two types of kosher restaurants. Kosher dairy restaurants serve dairy products, foods that contain dairy byproducts, as well as fish. Non-dairy restaurants sell kosher meals that contain meat but do not include any type of dairy product or byproduct. As this segregation of dairy and meat products is based on a religious observance, kosher restaurants are very strict about taking measures that would prevent diners from consuming products that contain any form of dairy. It’s a good idea to call a kosher restaurant before visiting to verify the type of food that it serves.