There are so many wonderful facts people learn about themselves in college — it’s a time for growth, to experience new things, and to blossom into a real, live, functioning member of society. Unfortunately for me, the only useful thing I’ve learned about myself in the past two years of college is that I am allergic to dairy. And it sucks.
I’m a lover of all things cheese. I ate a yogurt and granola parfait for lunch four out of seven days a week throughout my entire second semester of freshman year. What could be better than finishing off a meal with a huge bowl of ice cream (or six) from D-Hall? Well, of course, the only thing better would be having E-Hall’s freshly made ice cream for dinner.
I was the queen of making brownie sundaes. Emphasis on “was.” Now I have fruit for dessert. FRUIT. Life is getting harder for me. But luckily, I’m getting smarter on how to handle this dairy-deficit. And lucky for you, I’m going to share my wealth of knowledge of the best dairy-free things to eat at JMU.
Though I personally feel that the salad bars in D-Hall and E-Hall are somewhat lacking, the salad bar at Mrs. Greens is a phenomenal choice for any dairy-free human (also, perfect for a detox). The non-dairy options easily outweigh the dairy ones, and they truly offer a variety of flavors so you aren’t stuck eating the same sad cheese-less salad day in and day out.
Market One also dominates the salad game with their fan favorite pasta bowl. It’s likely this is one of JMU’s favorite salads because its half-pasta/half-lettuce, and everyone knows pasta is better than lettuce. Regardless of the base, ditch the Feta cheese that comes on it and you’re in for an awesome dairy-less meal.
*Pro-Tip: Put pasta from the pasta bar in Mrs. Greens on your salad for a pasta bowl-like experience.
You may be thinking, “No cheese on my sandwiches? How can I LIVE?” It’s hard. Cheese is a star in all sandwiches, but we will just have to make do without it. The first thing I’ve noticed is that since there is no longer an option for melted, stringy cheese on your sandwich, putting the bread and the meat alone in the toaster is really subpar.
Next time you’re at Market One or Dukes ask them to toast the bread before loading the meat on. This way you get a nice crunchy bite without weird, warm meat. (Although if you’re a fan of warm cold cuts, by all means continue toasting it up).
Another sandwich tip I’ve picked up on brings us to Top Dog. In addition to the almost completely dairy-free Mongolian Grill, the Madison Bread section offers tons of delicious, customizable paninis. My personal favorite is the Tuscan Vegetable. Just ask for it without Mozzarella (*tear*) and it’s still really good. I promise.
Something else that us dairy-free folks are missing out on is pizza. I don’t know about you, but I am literally always craving pizza. I’ve been known to peel back the cheese off my friends’ slices because I just need a bite — even if it’s without that vital top layer. So here are the fortunate pizza hacks I’ve acquired.
First, Bistro 1908 in the Student Success Center has vegan cheese! I could not tell you what it’s made of and I don’t necessarily want to ask, but they have it. It’s no Mozzarella or Parmesan, but it definitely gets the job done when your pizza craving is coming on strong. I’ve had the vegan cheese Farmer’s Pizza more than once and honestly, I’m not mad at it.
The second, and possibly more important thing I’ve learned is that Chanello’s — yes, Chanello’s, the holy grail of late night cheesy bread and pizza — will make you a pizza with no cheese. And it’s actually not that depressing.
Of course, when you get a medium pizza half smothered with extra cheese and the other half looking like the kid who gets picked last for dodge ball, you’re going to feel sad. But cheer up, sailor. You’re still getting the majority of a Chanello’s pizza.
Finally, I’ve come to the hardest part about being dairy-free. Dessert. How could a dessert without butter, milk, or cream compare to the indulgence of slow churned ice cream, a six layer chocolate cake, or freshly made whipped cream?
The answer is the unfortunate truth that desserts lacking dairy are just not ones that should exist. However, this does not mean I didn’t try to find the best worst dessert I could here at JMU. I think I’ve done a pretty good job, too.
First, D-Hall has a little tray of vegan desserts all the way at the end of the buffet. Truthfully, almost every thing I’ve tried is actually really delicious. I strongly encourage you to try any of the cookies they put out, especially the weird lumpy tan ones that you may think will taste like cardboard — those are the best.
Also on campus, Mr. Chips and Grace Street Market in the Student Success Center sell pints of dairy-free ice cream. PINTS. There are varieties of flavors, too, that don’t taste like dirt — which is always a plus.
Another little known non-dairy dessert fact is that Sweet Bee has several dairy-free sorbet options. This is a great choice for when all your friends decide they want to get creamy frozen yogurt and don’t care about your feelings.
So there you have it, the ways I’ve been coping with this unfortunate situation while living on campus at JMU. I’ve come a long way and I’m happy if my knowledge helps others suffering from lack of cheese and ice cream feel happiness again.