In a town like Tuscaloosa, home to pulled pork and wings, being a vegetarian can be hard. The answer, my fellow herbivores (and omnivores), is Manna Grocery and Deli. Manna is separated into two sections: the grocery section located at the front of the store and the deli/restaurant section near the back of the store and is a fabulous spot to eat whether you are grabbing lunch for the afternoon or for the next week.
The grocery section, while not large, is adequately stocked with products you can’t find in most other stores around Tuscaloosa. While Manna is slightly pricier than say Target or Publix on products you can get around town (primarily Morningstar and Boca products), it is only a dollar or so difference and you are supporting a local business rather than a chain store (not to mention the selection of vegan/vegetarian/organic options is much larger). Also, Manna offers more than just organic food, sporting organic beauty products, supplements, and some other miscellaneous items like jewelry and candles.
If you venture out of the grocery section, you will find the small deli in the back. The deli section offers cheeses, cold vegetarian and vegan snacks, limited fresh produce (you should note that this is all the fresh produce that is offered), and to-go wraps, sandwiches and burritos. If you aren’t in the mood for cold selections, however, you can order something hot from the restaurant area.
The restaurant area is right next to the deli and offers four types of vegetarian pizza and all vegetarian burgers. But fear not, my meat-loving friends, there’s plenty for you too (and it’s healthier than anything you can get from a crinkly paper bag)! Manna offers both vegetarian and non-vegetarian paninis, sandwiches, burritos, and salad and soup plates, as well as daily specials, which vary from day to day (you can find them on their website). The restaurant, like the store, isn’t large, but there is ample room. I ate there at around 11:30 a.m. and though it was busy, there were still tables available.
For lunch, I chose the veggie and goat cheese panini. I should note that I’d never had goat cheese before and subsequently discovered that I am not a fan, but the panini was still very flavorful. The portabella mushroom added a tangy taste that mixed well with the other veggies and ingredients. The bread was well toasted and really added to the flavor. The panini was also very filling but if you’re still hungry you get your choice of chips to go with it—not to mention you can add dessert to your meal. Chocolate or mint chocolate pie, anyone?
The staff there is also very helpful. Anytime I’ve been in the grocery section I’ve received assistance and found the same to be true when ordering food. With great food and a helpful staff, Manna is a nice place to visit if you’re looking for a quick meal between classes. As a vegetarian I feel lucky to have a place like Manna that offers alternatives to the limited selection of vegetarian foods found in larger stores around town. It’s a good place to go if you’re a vegetarian looking for variety or if you’re just looking for healthier alternatives to Tuscaloosa’s usual fare.
Manna’s store hours are Monday-Saturday 9am-7pm.
Their deli/restaurant/lunch hours are from 11am-2:3opm Monday-Friday and 11am-2pm on Saturdays.