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Vegan Eats as a Carl

Zoë compiles a list of vegan eats she's scoped out on campus, in Northfield, and in the Twin Cities.

Zoë compiles a list of vegan eats she's scoped out on campus, in Northfield, and in the Twin Cities.

As a vegan coming to college, one of the aspects of residential living that most preoccupied me was the availability of food options that I would have. A true foodie (I dedicated a whole tab on my travel blog to document the meals I consumed), a campus that had a tasty, diverse array of vegan options available to me in the dining halls and cafes, as well as some restaurants nearby campus that could accommodate my dietary needs was super important. Carleton checked these boxes, and I think that our dining service’s commitment to providing staple foods as well as creative options makes all the difference.

Luckily, the options provided by Carleton’s 2 dining halls and 3 cafes, in combination with the various cafes and restaurants nearby in downtown Northfield, make for a vegan-friendly food scene! If you can make a visit to the Twin Cities to treat yourself, I highly recommend that as well. Below I spotlight some of my favorite food options—on campus, in downtown Northfield, and in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Carleton Classics

I should note that among our dining halls and cafes, you will have access to a fully stocked salad bar, sandwich-making station, cereal dispensers, bread and bagel shelf, and dessert section. Additionally, pasta, pizza, grilled vegetables (and meats), rice, stir fry, fries/tater tots are available every day. What I highlight below are simply my favorite selections.

Wild Thymes

This is the main vegan/vegetarian food stall located in The Language and Dining Center (LDC), one of the 2 dining halls on campus. With a modern, airy atmosphere and tons of natural light, I love grabbing my meals in this setting. Wild Thymes regularly serves up dishes like vegan mac and cheese, roasted vegetables, grilled polenta, and falafel, but my favorite meal they serve are the several variations of coconut curry. People will line up for the curries served at Wild Thymes, regardless if they’re vegan themselves!

A Green2Go Container from LDC, full of Wild Thymes curry and salad.

Chopsticks and Wok

This is a reliably good station that has white and brown rice. Veggie stir fries with tempeh and tofu also are common options. My first year at Carleton, my friends and I made our own signature “rice bowls,” using the rice from Chopsticks and Wok and filling up the bowls with accoutrements from the salad bar. Rice topped with tofu, shredded carrots, squash, edamame, radish, sesame seeds, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sriracha was a meal we’d eat together.

Showing off our rice bowl creations. Note: photo was taken pre-pandemic.

Burton Taco Night

Every so often Burton Dining Hall puts on a Taco Night. There are always vegan options, and I load up on beans, rice, seasoned tofu, veggies, pico de gallo, cilantro, and hot sauce. It’s such a special, satisfying treat during the week.

Sayles Sushi

If I’m in a pinch, snagging a container of veggie sushi from the Sayles campus cafe is a great option. I love avocado, carrot, and cucumber sushi, but there are also usually vegan rice spring rolls with dipping sauce that I enjoy for a meal or snack.

Vegan Desserts

There is a huge array of desserts at every meal in the dining halls, but the main rotating vegan options are a treat. The vegan brownies are super moist and chocolatey, the mini fruit-filled pastries are delectable, and a couple varieties of oatmeal cookies are a satisfying way to round out a meal.

Noteworthy in Northfield

As you’ve seen above, there are plenty of food options right on campus. However, if you’d like to get off campus and take a quick walk downtown, there are even more food places at your fingertips, including family-owned businesses and a nice variety of cuisines to explore.

Just Food Co-op

In addition to your standard grocery stores, Just Food Co-op is a lovely local specialty food store. I love swinging by the co-op for special items like vegan cheese and mock meats, non-dairy yogurt and cheese, as well as other fun treats. I’ve heard the peanut butter granola is a popular option!

Goodbye Blue Monday

One of my favorite cafes in downtown Northfield, Blue Monday has a variety of drinks to choose from. Whether you like hot cocoa, coffee, tea, or smoothies, there is definitely an option for you. My favorites are probably the iced matcha lattes and chai. The shop has such a cozy, warm feel and whenever I visit I love hunkering down to do some homework.

Tandem Bagels

This is likely the shop I frequent most! With a fantastic assortment of fresh bagels daily, if you’re craving a bagel or breakfast sandwich Tandem is the place to go. My most common order is the avocado toast on a salt bagel—it always hits the spot.

tandem bagels
An avocado toast bagel and iced latte from Tandem.

Hogan Brothers

Your standard yummy sandwich shop, my go-to order at Hogan is the veggie pita stuffed with hummus, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and pickles. You really can’t go wrong.


A microbrewery, Tanzenwald has delicious vegan brats and sweet potato fries. I’ve come to the restaurant with my family on multiple occasions, and my friends have even made a couple of trips together.

Above: My friends and me at Tanzenwald, Below: a vegan brat with sweet potato fries. Note: photo was taken pre-pandemic.

The Blast

A seasonal ice cream shop that recently opened in Northfield, Blast sells huge portions of ice cream at an incredibly low price. The pineapple Dole Whip, my personal favorite, is $1.50 for a huge cup. I’ve visited Blast with my club soccer team, parents, housemates, and coworkers. It’s a perfect place to hang out with friends and enjoy a delicious cold treat.

Twin Cities Recommendations

I’ve only traveled to the cities a handful of times, just because there’s so much to do on campus. However, this summer I’ve ventured out of Northfield a few more times and discovered some amazing places with tons of vegan/vegetarian options. About a 45-minute drive from campus, visiting a restaurant in the cities can be a fun, special activity.

J. Selby’s

J. Selby’s is your quintessential vegan restaurant. You can order plant-based mozzarella sticks, cauliflower wings, crunch wraps, mac n cheese, rice bowls, sandwiches, soft serve, and more. 

MN Nice Cream

I recently visited this ice cream shop and was wowed. I ordered the oat milk cake batter soft serve with cookie dough and peanut butter cups. My friend Kelly ordered a non-vegan option with oreos, peanut butter, brownies, and sprinkles and she had rave reviews as well.

mn nicecream
Our indulgent ice cream desserts!

French Meadow Bakery and Café

This cafe has a vast variety of vegan options to order. I decided on the vegan breakfast sampler with tofu scramble, sausage, and potatoes. They also had tons of vegan desserts and I luxuriated in eating the vegan chocolate caramel cake.

french meadow
Vegan breakfast, quesadilla, and reuben.

The Red Sea

This Ethiopian restaurant in Minneapolis was incredible. My parents and I ordered the vegetarian sampler and devoured it! I rarely come by Ethiopian food where I live, so it is always super special.

Ethiopian food from The Red Sea.

There are honestly so many ways to nurture your inner-foodie on campus, in Northfield, and in the surrounding area. If you are concerned about what types of food you might find as a Carl, especially if you have any dietary restrictions, I encourage you to take a look at what cafes and restaurants inhabit downtown Northfield. Check out Joe’s blog post for a more in-depth explanation of our dining halls, or, reach out to me with any specific questions!

Zoë is a junior Sociology-Anthropology major who loves traveling and studying abroad, taking photos, and luxuriating in long walks in the glorious Arb. At Carleton, some of Zoë’s favorite pastimes include frequenting the various coffee shops in downtown Northfield, playing cello in the orchestra, participating in club soccer, and spending time with friends. Meet the other Bloggers!