Vegetarian and Vegan Options Increase at Off Campus Dining Locations

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Camryn Schumacher/The Fordham Ram

Dunkin' Donuts Beyond Sausage sandwich is the latest off-campus plant-based option.

Eliot Schiaparelli, Assistant News Editor

In 2018, Urban Kitchen introduced the Beyond Burger, a plant-based burger that was supposed to taste like real meat, and did away with their traditional veggie burger made of beans and grains. Around that time, the introduction of Beyond and Impossible meat sparked a debate in both the greater vegan and vegetarian communities, as well as at Fordham, over whether plant based alternatives need to actually taste like animal protein.

On campus, vegetarian and vegan Fordham students can get by with a little creativity, as one Fordham Ram writer explained last year. But what about off campus? What about those vegans and vegetarians without meal plans, or those who crave something a little greasier and less healthy?

Off campus, Fordham students have an ever-growing selection of plant-based options to satiate those fast food cravings. Recently, Dunkin’ Donuts introduced the Beyond Sausage served on an English muffin with egg and cheese. While this is vegetarian and not vegan, it’s a step toward a more plant-based diet and has less fat and sodium than Dunkin’s traditional sausage.

Dunkin’ Donuts is just the latest fast food restaurant to introduce Beyond or Impossible meat. White Castle started serving Impossible sliders last year, and Burger King started offering the Impossible Whopper, which gave them one of their best quarters in the past few years.
Impossible and Beyond meats are alternatives to the traditional veggie burger brands like MorningStar or Boca. They try to mimic the texture and taste of animal protein to cater to meat-eaters who may want to be more plant-based and plant-based individuals who still crave meat.

Nora Thomas, FCRH ’21, is a vegetarian, but she tries to cut out animal-based products when possible. She said when she tried the Beyond Sausage, she was not sure what to think.

“It feels too much like meat for a vegetarian,” said Thomas. “It tastes good. I just don’t want meat. Same with the Impossible burger. I feel like these things are better marketed toward meat-eaters who want to be more environmentally friendly or health conscious.”

Thomas’ observation is exactly what Burger King found when it started offering its plant-based option. The company debuted the Impossible Whopper with the slogan “100% Whopper, 0% beef” but found that 90% of those who ordered it in its test run ate meat. They also ran into an issue that many Fordham students said they run into when looking for meat alternatives just off campus: Meat alternatives are cooked on the same surface as meat, meaning they have some meat product residue on them.

One man in California even went as far as to sue Burger King over this, claiming it was not made clear when he ordered the Impossible Whopper that it was cooked on the same grill as beef and chicken products. The company responded by saying customers can ask specifically for a meat-free cooking style and ask for the mayonnaise to be left off the burger, making it totally vegan. For Fordham students, there is a Burger King near the D train stop on East Fordham Road.

Substitutions and changes to orders are a way of life for Fordham’s plant-based community. Thomas pointed out that at Chipotle, one gets free guacamole on their burrito if they don’t order a plant- or animal-based protein. So, even though Chipotle offers sofritas (tofu) she often just gets double beans so her order costs less. Thomas also said Sake II has a sweet potato tempura roll that is vegan, and she sometimes orders that when she wants a fried option.

Grace Janosik, GSB ’21, is a vegan and suggested the Impossible Sliders from White Castle (right across from Bathgate on East Fordham Road), although she said for the most part she eats hummus or falafel from Ram’s and Best Deli.

“I’ll get a vegan sandwich with falafel or like a bagel with hummus. Or I’ll go to Chipotle and get the tofu option,” said Janosik. “I’m definitely satisfied with these options, but it would be good to have more variety so I don’t eat the same things all the time. Also, I think we are lacking in vegan desserts in the area, whereas downtown there are a lot of vegan bakeries.”

Pugsley’s can also be made vegan if one gets garlic knots sans butter and cheese, and marinara for dipping sauce. For vegetarians who want to order from the delis, an egg and cheese is also a less expensive option.

Carsyn Fisher, FCRH ’21, said she took a picture of all the pescetarian options on the menu at Ram’s Deli over the summer. There are about eight items on her list besides the different takes on an egg and cheese. As a pescetarian, Fisher has slightly more options than a vegetarian or vegan.

Only about half of the pescetarian menu items at Ram’s are vegetarian, and none are vegan without a change or substitution. So far, Fischer recommends the Fizzy Lizzy and Nobil Wrap.

Many of Fordham’s vegetarians and vegans said they make the majority of their food in their on- and off-campus apartments. Fisher estimated she makes 95% of what she eats and gets most of the rest at on-campus events that serve food.

Some Fordham students, however, want to be plant-based but either do not want to or do not feel they could cook for themselves. Sarah Kowaleski, FCRH ’21, has been trying to eat less meat but is hesitant to be fully vegetarian because she does not like to cook and does not have the time. As an environmental science major, Kowalski said she recognizes the environmental impact of eating meat.

“Maybe if I had more plant-based options I could go totally vegetarian,” said Kowaleski. “I tried the Beyond Burger last year at Urban, but I didn’t like it, so I was hesitant to try the new Dunkin option. I’ve heard it’s good, though, and I’ve been eating at Healthy Fresh a lot recently and they have vegetarian stuff.”

Anita Gitta, FCRH ’21, is on the executive board for Students for Environmental Awareness and Justice (SEAJ). She said she is happy plant-based options are becoming more accessible and affordable.

“It’s great that plant-based options are popping up at fast food locations,” said Gitta. “Having the option available at an affordable price erases the idea that plant-based diets are only for people with high income. My hope is that as more people start embracing plant-based foods, the conversation of where our food comes from will become more mainstream, and thus restaurants will increase plant-based options and support local sustainable agriculture.”