Becker Dining Hall on October 7, 2021 (Julia Nagel/Sun Assistant Photography Editor).

October 24, 2021

Dining Halls as a Vegan

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One of my favorite daily activities is checking the Eatery app to scope out the various dining hall menus. Somehow, there is nothing more exciting than investigating which dining hall has the best dinner choices that day. I always start the search with high hopes and then end up circling back to my go-to’s: Risley and Keeton. As a vegan, I have never had trouble finding delicious, satisfying and healthy food within Cornell Dining. However, sometimes it takes a keen eye and some good luck to get it.

Cornell Dining is consistently ranked in the Princeton Review’s top ten for best campus food and was rated the number two most vegan-friendly food service program. They consistently offer a variety of foods for all different dietary restrictions and label foods clearly — even water — so that there is no confusion. As I’ve aged, my dining hall preferences have changed. Freshman year, I stuck mostly to RPCC and Appel. Sophomore year, I was all about Risley, Keeton and using BRBs at Terrace. Junior year, I didn’t step foot in a dining hall. Now that I’m a senior, I have been dabbling in all the dining halls to make the most of the time I have left with Cornell Dining.

In my adventures thus far, I’ve found that some dining halls are much more accommodating than others for different dietary restrictions. I surveyed a few friends and found that the dining hall with the best options for multiple dietary restrictions (pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free) was Risley, as expected. Risley has somewhat of a cult following. I have been to Risley at least 5 times in the last two weeks, and each time I’m there, I see the same people. 

Their “hot traditional” station always has something vegetarian and the joint stir-fry and poke bowl station always has something vegan — of course, the entire place is gluten-free. Their salad bar has hummus and veggies, and they always offer their vegan plantain brownie which is amazing when warm. A few disappointments include their vegan grilled cheese consisting of barely toasted bread with barely melted shredded cheese and the loss of vegan waffles; I’ve spoken with Dining management and they said they are looking for a new waffle batter.

A poorly made vegan grilled cheese from Risley (Melanie Metz / Sun Staff Writer).

Recently, I’ve tried to branch out and try other dining halls for the purpose of this article. Keeton continues to be a consistently good option due to their grain salads, fun hummus and rotating roasted vegetables. If you ever see the sweet chili broccoli, run to Keeton. 

The quality and creativity of foods that Rose produces is unmatched. It doesn’t always have vegan options, but when it does, they are well worth it. And if you want to head up North, Appel has a new vegan Dole whip and so many stations that there is always an option for everyone.

There are times where none of the menus have sufficient vegan options, or when there is a great roasted vegetable but no protein. Yet overall, the dining halls provide delectable and healthy food for vegan students.

My parting advice is to read the menus ahead of time, try to find the eatery that works best for you and feel free to reach out to the dining staff with questions. Cornell Dining is extremely accommodating and kind, and they want you to enjoy your food. Happy dining!

Melanie Metz is a current senior in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at [email protected]