After attending a tour of the new Valley Dining Center on Western Michigan University’s campus, my curiosity sent me in search of vegan-friendly options.
Beginning with a bit of Google magic, I located WMU’s vegan dining hall guide. This guide served as a wonderful reference to the many micro-restaurants the dining center has to offer.
I started with the salad bar. With so many fresh veggies and plant proteins, I was ecstatic! I topped my salad creation with balsamic vinaigrette, the vegan-friendly choice of the day.
It was on to Cilantro’s, a Qdoba-esque micro-restaurant featuring customizable, Mexican-inspired fare. I created my own burrito bowl with cilantro rice, pinto and black beans, fajita vegetables, tomatoes, onions, and guacamole. I stopped at the salsa bar before heading to my seat and topped my dish with a flavorful, fiery kick.
Next, I tried the stir-fry at Pacific Plate. I chose tofu as my protein option and added a variety of vegetables, including baby corns and water chestnuts. The staff cooked my food in teriyaki sauce utilizing a single-use wok. I opted for a side of rice to complete my meal. Modeled after Mongolian BBQ, this was by far my favorite station and dish of the day.
Although my research ended there, Valley Dining Center offers other vegan-friendly options including vegetable spaghetti (located at the create-your-own pasta bar, Pastaria), vegetable and grain-based comfort foods including ratatouille (served at Traditions), and a Kalamazoo favorite, Ope’s Vegan Burgers served with a vegan bun and fries (found at Blazin’ Bronco). For those with a sweet tooth, the salad bar houses a variety of sliced, fresh fruit each day, and Sweet Sensations occasionally serves Ope’s cookies.
Whether you are a student, a Kalamazoo local, or a WMU alumni, Valley Dining Center does not disappoint. All WMU dining halls are open to the public for an all-you-can eat plant-based experience. I recommend downloading the guide, talking to the staff, and checking the menus for the green triangle signifying an item is vegan.
Anja Grommons is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and a Graduate Teaching Assistant at WMU currently working toward a Masters of Arts in Family and Consumer Science. Growing up in her parents’ restaurant in northern Michigan instilled in her a lifelong passion for both nutrition and cooking. She is currently loving the Fall weather and enjoying “veganizing” traditional season-specific comfort foods at home.