Not a meat-lover? Not a problem

Dining halls and restaurants offer plenty of options to keep you from living off Ramen and Easy Mac.
Shakespeare's Pizza, a popular hangout for hungry students, offers many options for vegetarians.

It was my first time in my life setting foot in Missouri, and I asked the lady at the rental car place for a good restaurant recommendation. She recommended a barbecue-style restaurant, where I’m almost positive the only non-meat food on the menu was a side of corn.

“Great,” I thought. “I’m going to spend at least four years of my life forced to eat sides of corn.”

What was this vegetarian girl from California going to do? Thankfully, that changed as soon as I stopped listening to the rental car lady and set foot in Columbia.

So that you won’t go through the same mini-trauma I went through upon hearing that I was living off corn for four years, I’m sharing with you some of my choices when eating at the dining halls. Plus, I threw in some ethic, vegetarian or all-around awesome restaurants located off campus.

On Campus Eats

Baja Grill: Is it the best Mexican food in the world? Probably not, but you can still get your ethnic fix here. Baja Grill serves its food a la carte, which takes away the obligation to eat a whole meal. Vegetarians should look toward the quesadilla with a side of beans. Every item is made fresh, so you can ask for any dish without meat. My favorite is the burrito; just ask to substitute extra beans for meat.

Dobbs: After swiping in, cruise to the left side for the vegetarian section. The area is always stocked with a vegetarian entrée comparable to the main dish. Bonus: It’s generally serve-yourself, which means on toasted ravioli day you can grab as many spoonfuls as you want.

Mark Twain Market: This dining hall scores the highest on ethic foods, offering a different ethnic dish every day. Don’t get too attached, though. It closes after the fall semester.

Plaza 900: Our favorite part of Plaza is the “On Stage” section, which serves more unique dishes like stir-fry, dubbed Bangkok Bowls (which can be cooked with tofu), and tikka masala. The deli is a sure bet for healthy or vegetarian foods. Sandwiches are customized to your order. Try a veggie wrap, and don’t forget to ask for hummus!

Rollins: It houses our favorite grill in a dining hall. But don’t worry if you’re vegetarian; just ask for a veggie burger. When that gets old, pasta is usually on the menu. A safe bet for vegetarians.

MU Student Center: The student center offers the widest array of dishes, ranging from your average slice of pizza to fresh sandwiches to sushi. Unlike the dining halls, food from the student center must be purchased with cash or E.Z. Charge.

Off-Campus Eats

Bangkok Gardens: This Thai restaurant is perfect for a classy night out, but it’s also really spicy. I’m not kidding on this one. They have a hotness scale, and rumor has it that they can make you dishes that exceed the hotness scale. As a vegetarian, I love that dishes can be made with your choice of beef, pork, chicken, or (of course) tofu, so you don’t have to ask for a specially made dish.

Casablanca: This Mediterranean-style restaurant is located just off Peace Park on Fifth Street and Elm Street. Menu items include gyros, falafel and Greek salad. Plus, they’ve got a large and colorful aquarium, so you can’t help but feel relaxed while dining.

The Coffee Zone: More than just a coffee shop, the Coffee Zone offers Middle Eastern and Mediterranean-style food. The menu includes baklava, gyros and tea. With a brick wall covered in vintage photographs on one side and Middle Eastern style lanterns hanging from the ceiling, The Coffee Zone has a great atmosphere, which makes coffee shop studying instantly more enjoyable.

Clover’s Natural Market: This locally owned grocery store has natural and organic products that have many gluten-free or sugar-free products. Visit the market's website before you shop to get free, printable coupons.

Jingo’s Chinatown: Whether it’s Chinese takeout or just eating out, Jingo’s Chinatown is a great place to get your Asian food fix. With typical Chinese fare like lo mein, dumplings, fried rice and wontons, you can’t go wrong. The menu is easily marked by symbols noting spicy or vegetarian selections.

Main Squeeze: By far my favorite vegetarian restaurant in town, Main Squeeze has delicious natural foods and isn’t too far from campus. Located on Ninth Street, the restaurant really supports sustainable living. Menu items include sandwiches, wraps and juice drinks. I recommend the tofu tacos. You can’t top the homemade salsa!

Shakespeare’s Pizza: I know what you’re thinking. Why would I throw the most stereotypical college hangout that serves one of the most basic college staples (pizza) in this mix? It’s because Shakespeare’s is actually quite vegetarian-friendly. Ask for a whole-wheat crust topped with an array of veggies like artichokes, broccoli, mushrooms and olives. They even have almonds as a topping, which means you can still get your protein fix.

Of course, there are many more fantastic places to eat in Columbia, but hopefully this list will get you through the year long enough that you won’t have to resort back to Top Ramen, Easy Mac, or the dreaded side dish of corn. Bon appetit!

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