Eating in Non-Kosher Restaurant
I would like to keep kosher but am concerned about how to sustain social interaction with friends and business associates who do not. There aren't too many kosher restaurants where we could meet. Is there anything I would be able to consume in a non-kosher establishment?
The Aish Rabbi Replies
There are a number of problems with eating in a non-kosher restaurant, even if you order (for example) just a salad.
1) Since insects are not kosher, and frequently bugs attach themselves to leafy vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, etc., ordering a salad would be a problem of kashrut.
2) The knives and countertops used to prepare your salad may have residue of non-kosher ingredients.
3) Sitting at a table in a non-kosher restaurant is a problem of "marit ayin," which means that we have a responsibility to avoid creating a situation where others may draw the wrong conclusion – i.e. a passerby might see you and think that the restaurant is really kosher and it's okay to eat there. Or others might think that since you (who purports to keep kosher) are lax in observance, then somehow it's okay for them, too.
So it would be best for you to try to meet at one of the kosher places. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein does consider the possibility of an exception where agony or financial loss is involved. (Igrot Moshe O.C. 2:40) You should speak with your own local rabbi regarding what circumstances could be considered an exception.