WHITE: Even during a pandemic, Grins is still the gem of campus dining

Grins is some of the best food you can get, regardless if you are vegetarian, vegan or just very hungry.

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Alexa White

Grins (Pronounced ‘Greens’) is a meal swipe dining location in the Schulman Center for Jewish Life near Branscomb Quad. (Hustler Staff/Alexa White)

Alexa White

Sometimes when I’m on campus, I crave a meal that feels homemade. Whether I’m just missing my family or I don’t feel like eating another tex-mex bowl from Rand, Grins never seems to disappoint me. During the pandemic when many options on campus became limited, Grins stepped up and provided a consistent dining experience for students with personal dietary preferences and needs.

Grins (Pronounced ‘Greens’) is a meal swipe dining location in the Schulman Center for Jewish Life near Branscomb Quad, and it offers an all-vegetarian cuisine with vegan and kosher options. Grins has always been a popular option with students, and before the pandemic hit, it was bustling with students getting dinner together every night. It has always been the gem of campus dining, and it kept that up even during the pandemic.

For starters, Grins is one of the most painless dining experiences; they transitioned seamlessly to orders through the GET app during the pandemic. The way that they manage online orders is by offering only ASAP pick-up. This means that students cannot order ahead, which prevents a huge build-up of preorders and limits the food waste created by students forgetting to pick up the food they ordered a day ahead. At Grins, after you order, your food will be ready in around 10 minutes, and you are unlikely to forget to pick it up. 

The location accepts 15 orders every 15 minutes, which means that if online orders are full for that quarter-hour, you just need to wait until the next 15-minute increment. This negates a lot of the dining frustrations that the rest of campus dining has been experiencing. The downside to this system is that if you have a short break between classes, you’ll have to pull out your phone during the end of your class and order. However, taking that one minute during class to order is a better alternative to having to order days in advance to get a slot like one has to do to get a Randwich or Zeppos Flatbread.

In addition to a seamless ordering process, Grins also has top-tier staff members that are always friendly and very helpful. If you have any issue with your order, they will offer replacements, and they always tell you to have a great day on your way out of the pick-up area. When waiting for your food, I can always hear laughter emanating from the back of the kitchen, and it brightens my day. 

The classic dining hall food that Vanderbilt Dining offers is not specifically made with vegetarians and vegans in mind. While Vanderbilt does a good job offering options for vegetarians, there are still a lot more meat-based entrees available that vegetarians have to avoid. With limited options across campus due to the pandemic, those with special dietary needs or preferences have been hit harder than the rest of us. 

That’s why it is so important that Grins is a meat-free zone on campus. Vegetarians do not need to worry if any of the meals that they get secretly have meat inside because nothing Grins makes includes meat. The items that are vegan are also clearly labeled in the GET app with a ‘V’.

Knowing that you are getting food that matches your dietary needs or your values and beliefs is very important, and Grins offers many students peace of mind in this way.

However, you do not need to be a vegetarian or vegan to eat at Grins; many students are simply looking to limit their animal product consumption or just to enjoy delicious food.

One of my favorite things about Grins is the variety the menu has. Like many places on campus, there are staples that are always available. These include a breakfast bagel, the apple PBG (a wrap with apples, bananas, granola and peanut butter), a superfood wrap and a black bean burger, along with a few others. 

The fun part about Grins is the rest of the menu. While it is great to have consistency if you love one of their menu items, nothing is more exciting than checking the GET app to see their daily specials. Specials are sometimes posted to their Instagram, but they are always viewable in the GET app. These specials include interesting soups, delicious cookies, a huge variety of salads and lots of other entrees. Last semester, one of the specials was a huge breakfast complete with delicious vegan pancakes.

If you have never tried Grins before, I would recommend you try it as soon as possible. There are so many items I could recommend, but here are a few of my absolute favorites:

The Breakfast Bagel: It is a delicious combo of vegetarian sausage, egg and cheese on a toasted everything bagel. If you pick it up right as it’s ready, it’s warm and delicious, and if you aren’t hungry when you pick it up, it reheats beautifully. I am a big fan of everything bagels, and the vegetarian sausage is quite delicious with the cheese and egg.

The Mac and Cheese and Vegan Mac: This is a Grins classic in my opinion. While they do not have it every day, they do have it as an entree quite frequently. You receive a huge pan of hot baked mac and cheese. The non-vegan mac and cheese tastes just like someone in your family made it, and the vegan version is made with creamy cashew cheese.

Any baked good from Grins: I get very excited when one of the options for sides is a baked good. These range from cupcakes to muffins to huge cookies. My all-time favorites are the vegan blueberry muffin and the snickerdoodle cookie. 

You really can’t go wrong when you order from Grins. Get yourself a vegan snickerdoodle cookie and celebrate.