Vegetarian and Vegan Dining at MIT
Part I: MIT Dining and Grocery StoresBy Sonja A. Sharpe
This is the first in a two-part series on vegetarian eating options. Next week: vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the Boston area.
Now that classes have begun in earnest at MIT, a student’s thoughts typically turn to where to go to find the fastest, cheapest food in the area. Often, vegetarians and vegans have difficulty in this regard, since restaurants on MIT’s campus and in the general Boston and Cambridge area do not all offer a large selection of vegetarian/vegan options.
This guide, updated from last year, was created to demonstrate the wide variety of vegetarian and vegan cuisine that is indeed available in the Boston/Cambridge area. It should prove most helpful for those incoming students who are new to Boston, but it can also serve as a wonderful tool for those who are just beginning to explore a vegetarian diet, and for veterans of vegetarianism or veganism, as well.
The guide first lists the best places to go on campus for vegetarian/vegan fare, followed by a list of grocery stores where vegetarian/vegan items can be easily purchased.
For the purposes of this guide, vegetarian is taken to mean no meat or fish products, but including dairy and eggs. Vegan is taken to mean no animal products at all, but including honey.
For more general information about vegetarianism/veganism, there are many vegetarian groups active in the Boston area that provide information about events, recipes, and other related issues. The Boston Vegetarian Society is an excellent example of this. Their Web site, found at <http://www.bostonveg.org/index.html>, is a great place to find out what vegetarian-related events are going on in Boston (for example, the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival will be held on Oct. 19 this year). The site also hosts a long list of links to other vegetarian/vegan-related web sites.
MIT even has its own MIT Vegetarian Group. Students are free to subscribe to any of its many e-mail lists, which cover topics from recipes to planned activities and group dinners. The group’s Web site, <http://web.mit.edu/vsg/www>, is rather informative and provides a very comprehensive list of links related to vegetarian/vegan issues.
A comprehensive list of all of MIT’s dining locations, including brief descriptions of the type of food served, can be found at <http://web.mit.edu/dining/locations/index.html>. Exact hours of operation are listed at <http://web.mit.edu/dining/hours/index.html>. The places mentioned below offer a variety of vegetarian options, as opposed to just one or two items.
In general, MIT Dining is pretty good about providing vegetarian meals, but vegans will have a more difficult time finding much variety in pre-prepared foods. However, the choices for vegans at MIT’s restaurants are much improved over last year. In addition, MIT Dining has confirmed that the breads, pita, bagels, and wraps used to make sandwiches are all vegan, and so is the white rice served in the oriental venues on campus.
Students who have any suggestions or even recipes that they would like to share with MIT Dining are encouraged to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alpine Bagel CafÉ and Cambridge Grill
New to MIT this year, Bagel CafÉ and Cambridge Grill is an independently owned company featuring fresh bagels, sandwiches, burgers, salads, pizza, and smoothies. It’s probably the most vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurant on campus; vegetarians can find a variety of salads, veggie wraps, veggie pizzas, and a few veggie bagel sandwiches. In addition, most of the burger options can be made vegetarian simply by selecting a veggie burger for the patty instead of a meat burger. Vegans will find that virtually all of the vegetarian options on the menu can be made vegan simply by omitting the cheese, and the staff will happily make a cheese-less pizza for anyone. The bagels themselves are also vegan, and made fresh from scratch every morning
Lobdell Food Court
The food court certainly gets the award for most improved selection, compared to the offerings for vegetarians and vegans last year. The Garden was essentially designed for vegetarians and vegans, and offers vegetable wraps, Asian noodle bowls, and much more. Pesto’s serves veggie pizza and pasta dishes, and vegetarians and vegans can also find meals at Fusion. Homestyles can make you a hummus sandwich, and even Burger King offers their veggie burger here, with an all vegan patty; all you have to do is ask for it. The rice and beans at Quixote’s are vegan, and the Salad Bar is much improved this year with the nice addition of vegan and vegetarian pasta salads and bean salads, in addition to the usual salad makings. Kettle Cuisine also features a daily vegetarian soup, although it is not always vegan.
The food court in Walker has not improved tits veggie selection much from last year. There are a few vegetarian dishes offered each day, including pasta, veggie pizza, and a vegetarian soup-of-the-day. The biggest change from last year is the addition of sushi to the menu, including a couple of all veggie sushi selections, which are also vegan. The food court here also sells Odwalla Bars, which are essentially vegan power bars.
CafÉs and Coffee Shops
MIT’s campus boasts several small cafÉs and coffee shops: Dome CafÉ (Building 7, 4th Floor), Building 4 Coffee Shop (Building 4, Infinite Corridor), Bio CafÉ (Building 68, 1st Floor), The Coffeehouse (Student Center), East Side CafÉ (Building E19, 3rd Floor), and Refresher Course (Sloan Building, 1st Floor)
These cafÉs offer only limited vegetarian fare, typically in the form of bagels, pastries, pizza, yogurt, and a few pre-prepared salads and veggie wraps. The East Side cafÉ does offer several vegetarian breakfast options. There is little available for vegans at these locations, however, typically only a couple of the pre-prepared salads and maybe one of the veggie wraps, although even that is an improvement over last year.
The food trucks on campus offer a decent variety of vegetarian meals, similar to the Food Courts in Walker and Lobdell, but cheaper. Four food trucks are located just off of Ames Street on the parking lot side of the Biology Building (Building 68). The options here include Yona’s pizza, which offers several veggie pizzas; Jerusalem CafÉ, which offers a variety of vegetarian and vegan Middle Eastern food, typically wraps and salads; Goosebeary’s, which provides many vegetarian and vegan options, and JosÉ’s Mexican Restaurant; which offers vegetarian burritos, enchiladas, and nachos. The rice and beans at Jose’s are also vegan. A fifth food truck, Couscous Kitchen, is usually parked on Massachusetts Avenue across from the Student Center. Couscous offers Middle Eastern food of the same type as Jerusalem CafÉ, but is slightly cheaper. There is also a second Chinese food truck parked on Massachusetts Avenue, but it is slightly more expensive than Goosebeary’s, and offers fewer vegetarian selections. Food truck hours are generally 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
This grocery store is conveniently located on the first floor of the student center, but it is a bit pricey. The store does have a veggie-friendly deli and pre-prepared vegetarian baguette sandwiches, but it offers only limited produce, none of which is organic. However, the Sant’s selection of sandwiches (located with the prepared sandwiches at the front of the store) are made with some organic ingredients and are all outstanding. All of the varieties (including hummus and black olive, tofu salad, tempeh Reuben, etc.) are vegan except for the eggplant Parmesan and the seitan Parmesan. LaVerde’s also sells tofu, soy yogurt, veggie hotdogs, soy and rice milk of several varieties, organic milk yogurt from Stonyfield Farms, sorbets, vegetarian sushi, vegan Odwalla Bars, and vegan cookies made by Boston Cookies, a company based in Somerville, MA.
MIT Stratton Student Center
Hours: Mon - Fri, 7:00 a.m. - midnight
Sat - Sun, 7:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.
Walker/Pritchett Convenience Store
This convenience store, located behind Pritchett Grill in Walker Memorial, offers an excellent variety of frozen organic, vegan meals (the Amy’s brand frozen meals, for those who are familiar with them), although they are more expensive here than at Star Market. The Pritchett store also sells organic miso, organic cola, and organic pasta sauce, in addition to stocking a variety of other vegan friendly, non-organic items. The Pritchett Grill restaurant itself, however, is less vegan friendly, offering only the basic vegetarian menu options, such as a garden burger, a pasta dish, and a grilled cheese sandwich.
Walker Memorial (Building 50), 2nd Floor
Hours: Mon - Fri, 6 p.m. - 1 a.m.
Sat - Sun, 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Harvest Co-operative Supermarket
Harvest is a wonderful source for vegetarian, vegan, and organic foods, and it is the most convenient health food store to MIT, located right next to the Central Square MBTA subway stop. Harvest has a wide selection of pre-packaged, easy-to-prepare vegetarian and vegan foods, and membership is not required to shop there. They also have an excellent bulk section, including many different spices, which you can buy in any quantity from a pinch to a pound or more.
581 Massachusetts Avenue (Central Square)
Subway: Central Square (Red Line)
Hours: Mon - Sun, 9 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Bread and Circus
Bread and Circus is a national chain of whole and natural food supermarkets. It offers excellent produce and organically grown foods, as well as a variety of eco-friendly household and personal care products, very similar to Harvest Co-op.
115 Prospect Street, between Massachusetts Avenue and Harvard Street (Central Square)
Subway: Central Square (Red Line)
Hours: Mon-Sat, 9 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Sun, 9 a.m. -9 p.m.
Trader Joe’s stores also offer upscale products such as health foods, organic produce, packaged vegan and vegetarian foods, and nutritional supplements, again very similar to Harvest Co-op.
899 Boylston Street (Back Bay)
Subway: Hynes Convention Center (Green Line) or just walk over the bridge from MIT
Hours: Mon - Sun, 9 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Although it is a regular chain supermarket, Star offers a rather large selection of health/vegetarian/vegan foods in its Wild Harvest section. Organic produce is also available sometimes, but the selection is usually limited. The closest one to MIT (address below) does carry Wild Harvest products, as does the one at Porter Square, but not all Star Markets offer Wild Harvest selections.
20 Sidney Street, next to University Park Plaza, off of Massachusetts Avenue
Subway: Central Square (Red Line) or just walk down Massachusetts Avenue from MIT
Hours: Mon - Sun, 7 a.m. - midnight