I’d say I’ve faced two great challenges in my college career thus far. The first is taking Chinese it’s a huge pain in the ass. The second is being some semblance of kosher. For those of you who don’t know what that means, it’s that I can’t eat most good foods. Blimpie meatball subs? Can’t do it. Pit chicken tenders? Nope. The classic breakfast sandwich bagel, egg, cheese and bacon definitely a no go.

The low down: kosher means you can’t eat meat unless it’s specifically designated with the inexplicable symbol for kosher a ‘u” with a circle around it on the packaging. It means you can’t eat any meat with any dairy at the same time. That’s right; no cheeseburgers or veal parmesan. No shellfish and nothing from an animal with hooves on it (no pig meat; I’ve always wondered what bacon tastes like. Its aroma is at once both strongly intoxicating and slightly disgusting). That’s not all, but I think you get the point it royally sucks.

So I thought I might slowly wither away when I got to college. In fact, if it weren’t for my passionate devotion to pizza, fried foods, toasted bagels and Blimpie’s stomach-wrenching vegimax, it’s quite possible that I would have avoided gaining weight freshman year.
But in truth, I’ve done all right. For all you kosher people, vegetarians or slightly adventurous members of other faiths, this is how to survive off-campus at UR:

My first discovery was Marketplace Mall’s food court. Besides being easily accessible by Zipcars and buses, it’s cheap. There’s pizza and even some edible vegetarian Chinese options (as long as your friend doesn’t decide to pour meat sauce over your rice). Top that all off with an Auntie Anne’s pretzel, and you could call that day a success.

That brings me to a side note. Everyone orders from Yummy Garden there’s no escaping it. So, if you’re looking for some good nonmeat options and trying to get away from the Vegetable Lo Mein, try out the Sesame Tofu. It’s no General Tso’s Chicken, but you learn to compromise.

If you’re looking for more middle-of-the-road, start with the chain restaurants. The Cheesecake Factory is my personal favorite. Their menu weighs more than my ECO 108 textbook did, and the waitresses (and waiters, or so I’m told) are usually pretty hot, which is always a plus. I’m a big fan of the Four Cheese Pasta. If you have an unhealthy obsession with cheese, pasta or both, you definitely don’t want to skip out on this guy. Also, don’t forget a slice of the Oreo Cheesecake you won’t regret it.

If you’re a fan of middle-of-the-road-vegetarian pasta, you might also want to try the Macaroni Grill. Their menu isn’t nearly as weighty (or kosher-friendly) as Cheesecake’s, but you can make your own pasta or order some classic eggplant parmesan.

Your next stop should be Red Lobster. Those cheesy biscuits, while about 600 calories a pop, are sick. You may not be able to eat the lobster or shrimp your friends are ordering, but their fresh fish is usually pretty good. And don’t underestimate the power of cheesy biscuits.

Here are two restaurants you should not go to: first, Carraba’s. Last I saw, it had one option (eggplant parmesan) and it’s really just not that good. If that’s all you want, order some Mr. Shoes or something. Don’t waste your time there. The other is Bazil. It’s more pricy, and its food is just not that much better than what you could get almost anywhere else.

If you are looking to take some nice Jewish girl out on a nice date, don’t be scared of Black and Blue. It may be a steak and lobster restaurant, but that doesn’t stop them from carrying fresh fish. Even when the menu says salmon with lobster, you can ask for it without the latter, especially when you’re paying out of your gut for it. In the end, it’s absolutely delicious. Black and Blue: the key to a short, brown-haired girl’s mother’s heart.

Lastly, do not, under any circumstances, try Nick Tahoe’s vegetarian garbage plate unless you want bodily fluids mixed in with your mac salad all because you made them cook something besides a meat garbage plate. This is what you do: find some place else in Rochester, such as Mr. Shoes or Wimpy’s, to take two examples, that have garbage plates. Order a grilled-cheese garbage plate with home fries, mac salad, onions and no meat sauce. Put some salt and a little Frank’s hot sauce on there and you’ve got yourself a 1,500-calorie Rochester special. It’s like Hebrew Hammer meets unhealthy food. Great success!

Epstein is a member of the class of 2010.

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