What once seemed like an offering for a niche market of Denton is, today, drawing big crowds to dine-in with something different at the University of North Texas.
The Mean Greens Café debuted back in 2011 and got national attention as the first all vegan university dining hall in the country.
5 years later, the idea’s proving to be anything but a flavor of the week.
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The café located behind Maple Hall draws lines most days for lunch; some days the lines of eager diners even stretch outside the front doors. Chef Carla Trujillo said they’ll often draw a thousand customers a day to eat between breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
That’s likely because inside you’ll find a lot more than trays of veggies.
Trujillo’s staff takes it upon themselves to show the gourmet side of vegan cooking; a style that doesn’t use any foods that come from an animal like meats, cheeses, or dairy products.
On Friday that included some very unique selections like sliced kumquat with dragon fruit jam along with some more standard foods with a vegan twist like pizza, sandwiches, and even ice cream.
Trujillo said they’ve earned a reputation for being a place vegans, folks with food allergies, and those from meat-free cultures can rely on as well as a place people can just get some good food.
"You don't have to even think twice about it here,” said Trujillo. "We focus on having vegan ingredients, but the food is world cuisine."
The dining hall often draws non-student visitors too who say the all-vegan menu is a rare find.
Though staff will tell you it’s not just for those making a lifestyle out of it.
"Most of our vegan population here, there's probably only 3 percent,” said cook Cris Williams, “the other 97 just like to eat here."
For those who do subscribe to the vegan lifestyle though, the café’s earned its chops.
PETA2, the youth branch of the national organization pushing for the protection of animals, gave UNT an “A” rating on its Vegan Report Card, 1 of only 2 schools out of 65 in Texas to receive the distinction, and the only one to also make the organization’s Dean’s List for making “exceptional strides in vegan dining.”
This month students and staff who have built up the café from nothing celebrated their five year anniversary and pledged to keep growing and keep offering it as a place for everyone.