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Elaine Forbush for Spectator

Customers line up at Dig Inn on Feb. 19, when the store opened in the space previously occupied by Card-O-Mat. The chain focuses on working with local farmers to provide fresh, healthy food options.

Columbia students have long enjoyed a panoply of off-campus culinary options for every mood and taste in Morningside Heights. One vital niche, however, has been heretofore unfulfilled: an eatery that offers affordable, healthy, humane, and locally sourced food to college students. Enter Dig Inn Seasonal Market.

Founded in 1997 under a different name, Dig Inn's mission statement says that it strives to offer an alternative to the “fat-free, sodium-free, joy-free” fare that has dominated popular conceptions of health food. On Feb. 19, the restaurant chain opened its seventh Manhattan location between on Broadway 112th and 113th streets, welcoming 1,500 customers at its ribbon-cutting.

First and foremost, Dig Inn showcases its options. Whether you're a staunch vegan or a voracious carnivore, a kale nut or a sucker for chocolate, a gazelle-like grazer or the vacuum from Teletubbies, Dig Inn has something for you. 

The exposed brick walls, rustic wood and close-to-communal seating—which lends itself to a cozy, farmside vibe—is built around the major conceit of the “market plate.” Patrons make selections from Dig Inn's bar of vegetarian sides and meat- or tofu-based main courses to create their own custom, balanced meals for about $7 to $10 . This model conveniently allows college students operating under budgets or dietary constraints to construct a meal from basic components with their own desires in mind.

Also featured is a wall of refrigerators boasting a variety of beverages to fit every need. For the ascetic, there are “Serious Green” juices containing spinach and kale, and for the indulgent there are thick peanut butter shakes on the adjacent shelf. Look to the bracingly tart ginger mint lemonade as a cheaper alternative to Dig Inn's cold press juice offerings, which are healthy but pricey at $9 a bottle. 

An exciting part of Dig Inn is that it consciously shakes up its menu every couple of months, based on the seasonal offerings of the local farms it works closely with. So if you fail to find anything to your liking at the eatery, simply check back after the snow melts. Consistent favorites are the piquant roasted Brussels sprouts and the crisp kale and apple salad. The salmon bathed in lemon and olive oil is a main course standout, but the blustery February weather makes Dig Inn's hearty braised beef a go-to. 

Dig Inn, in short, has the makings of a Morningside mainstay: It's conveniently located, comfortably priced, and fills a neighborhood need. Be sure to beat the inevitable lines in the coming weeks to get your fix of farm-fresh butternut squash, broccoli, and beets, and look out for Dig Inn's delivery and catering systems slated to arrive this spring.

Dig Inn is located at 2884 Broadway, between 112th and 113th streets. | @ColumbiaSpec

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