HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


Should I sneak into your college's cafeteria for lunch?

It just occured to me that most of the meals "eaten out" in this city (and surrounding environs) are consumed by college students. So, how's the grub nowadays? Which cafeterias (if any) are worth a trip? Now, I'm curious.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Harvard's Thanksgiving dinner is definitely worth it - $10 will get you everything you want (even better if you can sneak in). It's a traditional dinner, including a lot of pie. I haven't heard about the annual lobsterbake and if it's still happening. I used to sneak in for Sunday brunch on my boyfriend-now-husband's RA card, which was great for the belgian waffles topped with soft-serve ice cream and strawberry sauce.

    1 Reply
    1. re: meuri

      as a resident tutor in one of harvard's residedntial houses i'm sad to report that they no longer do their annual lobsterbake. in fact, with the rising costs of food the pickings are becoming slim, very slim. generic cereals, too much pasta, and way too much chicken. the made to order omlets are still great and the turkey burger at the grill is one of my favorite things but overall the food is becoming more and more bleh. Luckily my wife and I also have a kitchen.

    2. Definitely not Simmons College. MIT supposedly has a falafel restaurant.. one that was in Watertown. It is delicious and I totally forget the name. But if it is there, it is absolutely worth sneaking on to MIT!

      3 Replies
      1. re: heard

        Yes, Sepal is on the second floor of the MIT student center. No sneaking in necessary or required --- it's open to the public but everyone, students included, pays in cash.

        1. re: heard

          I work and attend graduate school at Simmons. The food is not that bad. They are doing a huge expanision in the Fens on the Main Campus and re-doing Bartol Hall on the res. campus in the next year. Even better things to come!

          1. re: saltyair

            Really? B/c I think it is pretty nasty. It is Amarack after all... there is nothing fresh, nothing local. At least they have veggie burgers for a somewhat healthy alternative.

        2. Harvard Business School has a cafeteria worthy of captains of industry in training. Fresh sushi, line chefs doing sautes to order, incredible salad bar, sinful desserts, beautiful room. Truth be told, the food is pretty good, not great. But by school cafeteria standards, it's worth a detour.

          1. Emerson has a great salad bar. Of course, all you can eat. And each week a different specialty is featured. Sometimes it's Asian soups, burritos, etc.

            1. Any Campus Convenience, like the one on Commonwealth and Hinsdale, has BU's excellent clam chowder on most Fridays. And you don't have to sneak in --you can just buy it there!

              1. Lot's of vocational high schools culinary programs offer lunches at a deal in the teachers cafeteria. I've been to one as a guest and it was pretty good considering high schoolers made everything from scratch.

                2 Replies
                1. re: treb

                  You can have a weird and somewhat formal lunch at Newbury College for not much money. They prefer reservations. When I say weird, it's because often the staff is in two's or even three's, like teams taking orders. The food used to be kind of stuffy but now they're on a cuisines of the world thing and every day is some other place.

                  Otherwise, I like eating in the BU food court. Some of the options are good and the atmosphere is completely alive. Plus I see my daughter.

                  1. re: lergnom

                    Here's where you can find out more about lunch and dinner at Newbury College: http://www.newbury.edu/weltman/index....

                    I've heard generally good things (with the caveat that they are students and it can be inconsistent) but never made it there. $25 for a 4 course prixe fixe with BYO wine is worth the risk, though!

                2. Boston College has fantastic food! The paninis at the hillside cafe are really good, as are most of the seafood dishes served at lower. The BC catered food they give you as a freshman at orientation (while your parents and their checkbooks are still in the room) is comparable to a good meal out at a restaurant, but alas that food is only served to you once.

                  1. These are not college cafs but high school ones with restaurants (you don't eat with the students!).
                    Lynn Vocational High School has a different menu every day. The food is good - selection of two to three main meals, then choice of sandwiches and burgers. The kids make and serve the food. They are very laid back about serving. I get a chuckle from it. Worth a trip.

                    Another good school rest. is the Northeast Metro Vocational Technical High School behind Wakefield High. Need ressies here. They have quite a selection of meals and a fantastic
                    assortment of delicious bakery items.

                    Prices are so reasonable at both places.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: taxi

                      taxi, I've wondered if Northeast Metro Votech had something like that but have never seen any info about it. Do you have a link or phone number where I could find out more? Is it lunch or dinner?

                      1. re: Chris VR

                        I"m still hoping taxi (or someone else in the know) can chime in with more info on Northeast Metro Votech's chow. Lunch only? Website/phone? Exact location? Eat in or takeout?

                      2. re: taxi

                        Minuteman Tech in Lexington does this (restaurant and bakery) as well.

                        1. re: taxi

                          for the adventurous, how about the Fife and Drum, run by the Concord Inmates?

                        2. Slightly different point, doctor friends tell me the cafeteria at Mass. General is quite good. Only tried it once but it was above average. Also the cafeteria at Mass. Eye and Ear is supposed to be good but I have not been there. It has the advantage of being on the 7th floor with a terrific view of the Charles and Cambridge.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: BBHound

                            MGH is good for a hospital. They recently revamped the salad bar (I think Whole Foods is providing some competition there), but the replenishment could be better at peak times. They offer 3 homemade soups each day, baked goods are made on the premises. They have a fresh fruit bar at breakfast, and a decent variety at all meals. Problem is, it's getting pricey. Lately, soup, salad bar, sm. carton of skim milk, and a piece of fruit is hitting the $10 mark. Eating out wouldn't necessarily be cheaper, but for that $ I feel like I should be. Wish I was more motivated to bring lunch. MEEI is supposed to be good, nice view, but haven't been for a long time.

                            1. re: AnnieP

                              The cafeteria in the Simches center, which isn't remotely as worthwhile as the main cafeteria is pretty hard to eat for under $7-$8 (including a drink) ... and the selection is both much smaller and crappier.

                              The area isn't all that good for a cheap lunch though, pretty much everywhere in the immediate area I end up paying $7-$10 and generally don't feel like I got a good value (either it is terrible or too small - although I could probably stand to eat less)

                              1. re: jgg13

                                Speaking of MGH cafeterias - for those with a partners ID (you'll need it to log in to the page it appears), there's a new website with all of the different menus up:


                                edit: this is the worst website I've ever seen, almost completely unusable.

                            2. re: BBHound

                              The main cafeteria isn't bad at all (and having worked at a variety of medical centers in the area, its one of, if not the best) - but it tends to get super crowded.

                              My experience with the non-main MGH cafeterias has been poor at best (although haven't tried ME&E)

                              1. re: jgg13

                                There's a decent grab and go salad option at Yawkey sometimes with pears, bleu cheese, and walnuts for under $5, but they don't have it all the time. That cafeteria is a nightmare if you want to wait for anything they prepare, such as the individual pizzas- there's just no place to stand. I wish I could get my act together to bring lunch, but it's not as if I ever could/would pull a salad together from home with the variety of a salad bar. And even though I can't pull that together here for much less than $10, at Whole Foods, it would be worse. As for the crowds, there is apparently some psychological thing associated with eating at noon; if you go at even 11:45, it's amazing how much less crowded it is. I know someone who makes his salad as soon as the salad bar is available (around 11), and saves it for a couple of hours, just because it's so much less crowded and picked over.

                            3. I go to BU and the food is pretty decent. If you go the George Sherman Union, it is open to everyone and is basically a food court. There is pizza (very good, thin crust), Panda Express (not my favorite, but many like it), Copper Kettle (very good soups), Cranberry Farms (like Boston Market with Rotisserie Chickens and turkey), Caprito Burrito, Charles River Bread Company (sandwiches), Sushi, and a make your own salad place. There is also a starbucks, jamba juice, and aesop's bagels. In four years, I have yet to have a bad meal there!

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: NiKoLe1625

                                in 4 years i've yet to have a good meal there! i mean - ok, as far as on-campus food goes it's certainly not the worst i've encountered. but my no-longer-college-age body barely survived the couple of years i had to eat at GSU on a regular basis. definitely not worth a trip. oh, and don't expect any sort of discount there. a number of things are actually marked up.

                                1. re: mikhail

                                  i thought i was the only one eating in college cafs! Havent done it in several years since I moved from Newton, but used to like Lasell Jr. College. Mostly cuz of the make your own Belgian Waffles. Since you make em, they were always delicious and hot and liked the ice cream choices. Entrees werent bad. Usually decent non meat options and a good salad bar and cheap. We also used to eat at Brandeis too. They have a fancy room where the public goes for lunch, but we used to go downstairs to the no atmosphere student caf. Mostly because they had one of the best vegetarian selections around. Only place I know to get veggie burger, veggie dogs and other fake meat things and great veggie soups and then you could make a fluffernutter for dessert. Any student cafs on the 128 north stretch?? Havent made it to Northeast Voc cuz they only seem to be open weekday lunch when we're working. I used to go to Blue Hill Voc and they had really great meals and baked goods for very very cheap but havent been for many many years.

                                  1. re: chompie

                                    You PURPOSEFULLY went to Sherman? Why? Why?
                                    Or do you mean downstairs at Usdan?

                                    Either way, I'm not sure why you subjected yourself to that. It's horrendously overpriced if you're not forced to use a meal plan. The food is decent for a college campus really. We enjoy the grilled options during the week. The sushi has gotten significantly better this year, but I would never ever suggest you sneak into the dining halls if you didn't live/work/study here.

                                    Alright, they have an absurd selection of vegan/vegetarian options all the time. It's a good option, but the vegetarian plate at Usdan is what? $6ish? That's money better spent somewhere on Moody Street.

                                2. re: NiKoLe1625

                                  who does the pizza at the BU foodcourt? I've had their square slices a few times and they really are very tasty. it always surprises me.

                                3. The pizza at the "Greenhouse Cafe" in the Harvard Science Center is pretty decent, since they're made in a brick oven.

                                  1. Not a cafeteria, but Harvard now has the Cambridge Queen's Head, a pub in the basement of Memorial Hall. I've only had the food once, and it was not memorable (quite literally, I don't remember what I had which puts it somewhere between acceptable and very good--I tend to only remember the unacceptable and the legendary).

                                    BUT, it is worth sneaking in for the 1636 Ale, brewed by Harpoon and only available here. Its a decent porter, very rich and full. They also typically have a great draft selection, including Weihenstephaner hefe...

                                    On busy evenings they check id's at the door (both legal ID and Harvard) though you can get in with any member of the Harvard community (student, faculty, staff, etc). I've been in on Saturday afternoons and weekday nights where you could just walk in and sit at the bar, no problem. It is student run, and in my experience the bartenders don't care if you're "harvard" or not, they won't ask for a school id.