So You Have a Special Diet?
Tuscaloosa has its fair share of noteworthy attributes, and as those attributes continue to grow, so does the University of Alabama. Consistently, the university’s out-of-state student percentage creeps upwards. Our campus is diversifying; no longer is UA a school of primarily in-state residents. With new backgrounds and cultures comes a crossing of many other things as well, dietary needs being one of them. Various foodies from around the nation shared the best places and methods to eating your way through Tuscaloosa: vegan, vegetarian, gluten, or dairy-free style.
Vegan & Vegetarian
Sophomore Julia Alaimo from Detroit is a vegan of almost two years. When asked to list a few of her favorite restaurants within Tuscaloosa, she quickly rattled off a lengthy list. Finding food as a vegan in Tuscaloosa is not seriously difficult for Alaimo, nor does it keep her from eating out with friends. The initial adjustment period was tricky for her, but she soon found vegan options in almost any place she went. “I could find something pretty much anywhere,” Alaimo said.
A veggie burger at the infamous Strip take-out restaurant Quick Grill, vegan ice cream at the liquid nitrogen creamery Frostbite, or even falafel at the all-time Tuscaloosa favorite Glorybound—Alaimo’s options are far more broad than non-vegans realize.
“Asian or Thai food,” Alaimo said about her favorite places. “They usually have tofu so I can easily get my protein in and I can always count on a rice or noodle dish. That’s the easiest.”
On campus, Alaimo raved of the accommodations in the dining hall, how willing they were to help when she asked, and how vegan and vegetarian options were slowly but surely popping up on the normal menus.
“Since I’ve started going to school here, Tuscaloosa has definitely moved in a more restrictive diet friendly direction,” Alaimo said.
Gluten – Free & Dairy – Free
Peyton Badura, a sophomore from Richmond, Virginia, follows a diet that requires cutting out several things, including many people’s favorites: gluten and dairy. Badura mentioned with hope that the number of gluten friendly menus in Tuscaloosa were “on the up” day after day. She agreed that food here was different, and sometimes more difficult to find than in the North, but that she always has plenty of options.
“No, I actually had way too much to eat,” said Badura, adding that on-campus gluten and dairy- free options were endless.
“People need to know about this new Lakeside: it has everything.”
She claims that the new Lakeside Dining Hall’s gluten-free area was “a gluten-free, dairy-free heaven.” And although Badura did share that she chooses not to eat out much, she guaranteed that when she does, she has options. Some of her favorites are quick and easy restaurants like Chipotle, were she can get a chicken and rice bowl, or Pyro’s, where she can have a gluten-free personal pizza prepared for her complete with dairy-free cheese, which is often hard to come by.
“I usually can’t even find a dairy-free and gluten-free pizza in stores. So Pyro’s is a definite go-to for me,” Badura said.
“With new backgrounds and cultures
comes a crossing of many other
things as well, dietary needs
being one of them.”
Restaurants like these, and others Badura mentioned, are ideal for her allergy and are knowledgeable enough to avoid cross contamination of her food. However, Badura did mention that she’s not really one to eat out much due to worries of cross contamination, but she has had no problem whatsoever stacking her pantry with gluten-free grocery finds from Tuscaloosa’s Publix.
Carb – free
Emma Brown, a sophomore from Houston, is carb-free for medical reasons. However, this is a diet choice that is common among the university’s students, and one that has more options available than many may realize. Brown mentioned that she can order off of any menu, as this is not a cross-contamination sensitive restriction like gluten, and almost any menu item can be tweaked to be carb-free.
However, Brown’s favorite dishes are at restaurants where she doesn’t have to work to create her own dish; instead, a carb-free one is already on the menu. Brown’s go-to is Chicken Salad Chick, where she can get a combo of chicken salad and a soup, free of carbs. Another favorite is Real and Rosemary, a more upscale restaurant option that has a healthy, clearly labeled menu for dieters and those with allergies.
All three foodies emphasized one thing: do not be afraid to ask. Alaimo, Badura, and Brown all mentioned that they could almost always find something on a menu in Tuscaloosa. Sometimes it takes asking a question. Some menus may or may not be labeled clearly, sometimes food locations may be on or off-campus but none of them struggle to find food or eat less than normal.
Coming to a new state can be intimidating, especially to such a large campus with so many unfamiliar places. However, Tuscaloosa offers a surprising amount of diet friendly options. Both new and old eateries are revamping their menus and methods to better serve those with dietary restrictions, celebrating a more diverse demographic and bringing southern hospitality to the table.