Most days, being vegan means being creative with food items gathered, prepared and consumed. And even more, one must be creative when dining out at restaurant — especially in a barely urban context like central Illinois. To me, this poses a challenge, but never a hardship. Most people question what a vegan is supposed to eat; many cannot possibly figure out how to eat a deliciously satisfying meal beyond the realm of meat, cheese, eggs or other animal products.

I would venture to guess that more would eat even just a semi-vegan diet if they were only aware of the possibilities for delightful food. Thus, I have come to share my experiences with finding and creating vegan meals in Champaign-Urbana.

I have decided to begin with House of Gourmet Chinese and Thai Restaurant. If you are a student, it is conveniently located near the quad on Daniel and Sixth. I will voice my love for this little establishment until the day I die. In fact, I am certain I will crave it's cuisine long after I have graduated and left Champaign. The first time I visited this gem was shortly after going vegan. I had never really noticed the restaurant nestled between Espresso Royale and what remains of C.O. Daniels. It's not beautiful, but the food is outstanding and owner is one of the sweetest women I have ever had the pleasure to meet. She will remember you every time you return.

From the beginning, my choice has always been the Broccoli Tofu in Peanut Sauce with steamed rice. I have never strayed from this dish despite several other vegetarian options on the menu. The price is affordable and the food is absolutely divine. The portions are large as with a lot of Asian restaurants on campus, but the ratio of sauce to rice to broccoli is consistently outstanding. One is never left wanting for any of them.

My suggestion is this: overlook the building's slightly eccentric aesthetics and stop in to try this dish. I guarantee you will be both surprised and pleasurably satiated.

General Disclaimer: The foods featured in this article are vegan to the best of the author's knowledge. If you follow the vegan diet strictly, always ask before trying the recommended dishes.