Words and Photo by Paige Baxter
College is not exactly the most flourishing monetary time for students. Most students do not have money overflowing their bank accounts or wallets. It’s understandable; school is a full time job. Not to mention, at times, it can be even harder for vegetarians because alternative meat products are not the cheapest items in the world. So I’m going to give you all a few ideas for easy veg meals.
We’ll start with a few classic college foods. First off, Oriental Flavor Ramen. It’s incredibly cheap and pretty tasty. Here’s a quick and easy, recipe from PETA2. The whole meal is only 32 cents! You can’t beat that. In order to hit some of the other food groups, they suggest adding some vegetables to the spicy peanut buttery ramen. You can easily microwave broccoli or carrots and toss them in depending on whether you don’t own a stove or not. You could also make a little fruit salad on the side or just cut up some bananas to make sure your hit all the food groups.
Another incredibly easy poor college kid delicacy is rice and beans. Both are cheap and can make a decent amount of servings. I like to spice mine up with some chili powder and a little pepper. You can even mix it up and add grilled tofu or if you want to go for a Mexican-style dish you can add taco seasoning and crushed tortilla chips, pepper jack cheese and your other favorite Mexican-style toppings.
Grilled Cheeses are always nice and easy too. Grilled bread and cheese, how cheap is that? Not to mention it can be varied up so easily. You can add tomato, avocado, or even tofurkey, which is just a turkey substitute. A pack of tofurkey can range from $3 to $4 and it lasts for a week or so. Then when all else fails, pasta is always affordable and quick to make. You can add fresh vegetables and any type of fake meat if you’re feeling fancy.
If you want to seem even fancier you can make a vegetarian version of Chicken Parmesan. All you need is a Morning Star fake chicken patty ($4 for a pack of four) or another alternative chicken subsitute , spaghetti sauce and a lot of Parmesan cheese. If you want to be frugal, you can use shredded mozzarella. Another option for protein is tofu, which you could fry and add some seasoning of your choice.
As you can see, there are a lot of options for vegetarians on a budget to still eat something fairly easy to make and delicious. Some times you just have to be creative and use your noodle (the one inside your head, not on your plate). Most things are pretty cheap if you keep your eye out for the bargains.
Disclaimer: I do not support everything PETA stands for. However, they came out with a college cookbook for vegetarian college students, which I thought is really beneficial for vegetarian students on a budget. There’s a few of the recipes on the website and can be found here. Don’t hate.
Valentines Day, one of the most loved and hated days of the year. For some, it is a chance to go out and spend way too much money on food and flowers. Others hide in their rooms with a box of tissues, ice cream and sappy Netflix titles.
For those participating this year, it can be a very stressful, high-pressure day. Whether you are having some anxiety or don’t know what you are doing yet, with these three tips, your day will run much smoother.
1. Don’t be cliché
There is nothing wrong with sticking with the “traditional” flowers, chocolate and card combo. If you decide to go this route, do not show up with a box of Russell Stover chocolates in a heart, a bouquet of Kroger flowers and a store-made card with nothing but your signature. There are more creative and thoughtful ways to spice up the classics. Try hitting up For the Love of Chocolate in Carytown for a mix and match set of candy. It will taste better than massed produced grocery store candy, and you can say “I hand picked these out for you.” Also, visit a local flower shop like Pat’s Florist or Vogue Flowers and try something out other than red roses. Finally, make the card do-it-yourself style. Even if you aren’t crafty or artistic, an adorable handmade card is a great way to melt hearts.
2. Cook at home
Some people will straight up demand to be taken out on the 14th. If you are in that situation, you might be stuck. If you are still up in the air about what to do for dinner, try cooking the meal at home. Foods like steak and salmon aren’t difficult to cook and online recipes and tutorials can help guide you if you need the help. Do not be afraid to try cooking, even if you aren’t confident in the kitchen, working together can be a great experience and a great way to bond.
3. Don’t get hung up on the element of surprise
Surprising your significant other is great. However, if you are worried about your choices do not be afraid to communicate and pick something that you know they will love. It is better to have a successful and “safe” evening than to hide your plans only to disappoint. Valentines Day should be about happiness and spending time together, not about stress and let down.
Words and Photos by Tommy Dale McPhail
File Under: Desperate Times Call for Desperate Toppings
Ladies and gentlemen, one of the worst kept secrets in the collegiate world is the toll that eating out can take on both your wallet and your stomach. In attempt to minimize collateral damage, we often sacrifice the quality of our nom-related exploits to save a few bones. However, one can only swipe so many Shafer pies before the struggle becomes wholeheartedly real, and the inevitable fiscal-irresponsibility monster in all of us takes over.
Pizza pirates, I understand that times are tough, but by no means should that be an excuse to subject your selves to mediocre pizza. Regardless of your favorite toppings or stance on the Papa John’s debate, never should you question your right to enjoy the highest caliber in America’s mealtime foodstuff of choice*. This month, despite a reasonable degree of objection, I crossed Extreme Pizza off my list in hopes that your search may too be narrowed forevermore.
Extreme Pizza corners the niche VCU market in two key ways: by being arguably the closest pizza distributor to the freshmen residence halls besides 7-11, and by staying open until 3 a.m. on the weekends.
Words and Photos by Cory Johnson
In the spirit of Halloween, this Battle of the Burgers pits two restaurants better known for their aesthetic than their food against each other. At one end of town, Galaxy Diner is a 1950s space-aged eatery in the heart of Carytown that is better known for being a hip place to grab a drink than having a great burger. On the other side of the fan, just inside VCU’s Monroe Park Campus, is Strange Matter. Not a diner, but also not a bar, Strange Matter does have a budget burger night on Tuesdays and gets most of its traffic during band shows and other events on the weekends.
Both aren’t rightly famous for their burgers, but feature them prominently on their menus. With that in mind, the battle begins.
In this issue of Comment Cards our staff discusses the Nile; good and bad but mainly bad.
Words and Photos by Tommy Dale McPhail
We meet again, pizza pirates! Since our last, we’ve weathered quite a storm of blasphemies. Bath salts nearly brought the zombie apocalypse to our doorsteps. News of the upcoming bacon shortage left us weeping. Somewhere, someone signed off on new albums from Chris Brown and Nickelback. These are trying times indeed, but fear not! The most trusted pizza purveyor in Richmond is officially back with a vengeance. He will not let your tomato-y flatbread knowledge falter to the terrible onslaught of troublesome headlines and pop-culture faux pas!
A true campus favorite, how Piccola Pizza managed to fly under my radar for so long is beyond me. Despite many brief lunchtime visits, I had yet to actually do the damn thing. A classic slice of cheese can only be so satisfying. Given the tales of Piccola’s signature special that run rampant amongst my cronies and comrades, ‘twas my sworn duty to vanquish it once and for all.
Two steps in the door, and a number of descriptors jump to mind: quaint, rough around the edges and aromatic to the last. A native New Yorker may feel right at home. A native Richmonder, on the other hand, is probably more preoccupied with taking their order back to the porch. Personally, I wasn’t too keen on the in-house experience. The quick-service section served its purpose, but wasn’t particularly inviting. The sit-down restaurant section, which is located towards the back, was a tad desolate for a Sunday evening. Props to the staff for their friendly vibes and speedy service, though.
Logistics aside, the real proof is in the goods. The Piccola Special (pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, sausage) is a force to be reckoned with. The mozzarella? Superb, no matter your personal cheese preferences. Likewise, the succulent toppings overcompensated for what I found to be a severe sauce shortage (nothing can spell bum-out faster than skimping on the sauce!) On the crust front, durability was abundant. For such a hefty concoction of topside “OOMPH!” this crust delivered. After two bites, my verdict was absolute. Piccola, shut up and take my money.
I gotta say, this is my kind of pizza. Normally, I’m a staunch advocate for moderation. The slice-a-day life, if abused, can ruin even the most righteous of ‘za. However, the Piccola Special is the definite exception to that rule. Savory flavor overload combined with student-friendly prices and maximum campus proximity? Looks like you and your wallet have one dangerous combo on your hands.
Not even a blistering foray into RVA’s pizza underbelly could stop this column. (No, seriously. Watch this) Check back next month for another rousing round of adventure into delicious abandon!
Dining Experience: Meh/4
Overall Deliciousness Index: 3/4
Words by Sam Isaacs
Eating out is awesome. Getting served something (hopefully) delicious while enjoying the company of friends or family can be a refreshing and fulfilling experience.
With that being said, one of my biggest gripes with the restaurant scene in Richmond is people giving establishments way more credit than they deserve. Yes, some of the places here make really incredible dishes, but the food is only a part of what makes a restaurant great.
When eating out, particularly at more upscale places, one of the reasons why the prices are so high is that you as the customer are also paying for the name and the experience. With that being said, do not accept and make excuses for mediocre service, or a dirty restaurant.
The service and atmosphere are just as important as the overall food when dining out and should be taken just as seriously. I’m not saying walk into a place and treat everyone horribly, but as a paying customer you are owed great service and a good atmosphere.
Too many times in this city have I been served food by someone who looks like they could care less whether I live or die when I walk out the door or other times, eaten at a place with a filthy dining room and borderline inhumane bathroom. There is one phrase that I hear all the time that makes my skin crawl, “Well it’s good for Richmond.”
What does that even mean? Why can’t something just be universally good? Getting mediocre treatment from a wait staff and eating off filthy plates on a dirty table in a disgusting restaurant does not make the place “chic,” “urban” or “cozy.”
As a college student, every penny to my name is precious and if I am going to give my time and money to a business then I expect to be treated like a guest and be comfortable while doing so. There is no reason why you should accept anything less.
On the contrary, if you do run into a great server, always tip well and personally let them know that you enjoyed their service. As one of the most thankless jobs out there, a few extra dollars and kind words go a long way.
So get out there, explore all of places Richmond has to offer and make sure never sell your dining experience short.
This is the first column of Comment Cards. In each card you will get our opinion on various dishes and foods at VCU Dining locations plus restaurants in Richmond. Each comment comes directly from your beloved Shafer Bird staff.