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Jan 10, 2011 09:03 AM

College dorm cafeteria food -- which ones are the best?

For parents who have been touring college campuses, have you been able to sample the food served by the college dorm cafeterias?

About 15-20 years ago, I always thought that Cornell had pretty good dorm food. Not sure if that's still the case, and I hear they no longer serve lunch? Anyone know, or can comment on Cornell's food offerings?

UCLA, unfortunately, has not improved much in the past 2 decades or so, and now I understand that all dorm cafeterias will stop serving beef (though not dairy products).

That said, USC is probably worse.

Both Cal and Stanford are extraordinary in my opinion, although I may get stoned by this from Golden Bear alums, but Stanford is probably better.

Any recent experiences at college dorms? And have any of you, or your Chow pups, made (or will make) a decision in part based on the campus food?

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  1. My son is a junior at Emory University in Atlanta. As their website says

    "dining hall menus emphasize organic, local, natural and sustainable choices.

    The university is moving toward a goal of using local or sustainable sources for three-quarters of the food served on campus by 2015. "

    My son finds plenty of choices at the main dining hall. They have a huge salad bar, several serving stations including international, vegetarian, pizza and deli. In the morning, they have an omelet station where they custom make your omelet while you wait.
    He didn't go to Emory for the food, but it has been a nice benefit.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jmcarthur8

      Yeah, I had a friend who got her MPH at Emory and she raved about their salad bar.

    2. Not sure if this helps, but I know there are quite a few lists online for "Best College Meals/Meal Plans" along these lines:

      1. Not a parent, but I graduated UCLA in 2007 and I have to say that the dorm food was pretty darn good, especially when compared to the other UC system schools I visited. Although I will admit that while food quality hasn't improved, the options have over the years. Just looking at the online menus seems to indicate they've expanded their vegetarian and vegan offerings and the various dorms have more diversity in their menus.

        3 Replies
        1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

          Which dining hall did you find the best? I thougt Covel was very nice. Not there when I was a student, unfortunately.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            At it's height, Hedrick was very good but went downhill as construction sprang up and hours/services changed. Covel was definitely the most consistent during my four years although the Mediterranean theme can get tired rather quickly.

          2. re: taiwanesesmalleats

            I graduated the same year and I agree, it may not have been restaurant-quality but for dorm food, I thought it was pretty great. I honestly didn't see much distinction between any of the dorms, they mostly served the same stuff with a little variation (Covel had more pasta as I recall? And Hedrick had sushi on certain days). The desserts were pretty lacking, but as far as the other options went, well, let's just say I would kill to be able to have easy access to any of those cafeterias now.

            I remember visiting UC Santa Barbara and it was absolute dreck. I was actually astonished that their food could be so much worse than ours. I literally only ate ice cream for like three days.

          3. Washington University in St. Louis uses a company called Bon Appetit, which also services other schools like MIT. They've installed a tandoori oven, for example, do lots of local foods and are very green-conscious. They also have consulting chefs like Jim Dodge and Raghavan Iyer. As much money as they charge for tuition, they ought to be serving good food, and in this case, they are, at least what I've tried at on-campus functions.

            1. ipsedixit, could you please post what you know about Stanford's dorm food? (I see it's on the dailybeast's list.) We recently visited a freshman dorm and peeked in at its cafeteria, but didn't see, let alone taste, the food.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Glencora

                We only visited Ricker, but from what I see it was very impressive. Completely renovated (back in 2007 or 2008), huge salad bar, made-to-order chef's station, and a rather initimidating dessert bar. Biggest complaint we heard about the dining halls was that they were too repetitive, but I suppose that would go for just about any on-capmis facility.

                By the way, lots of seasonal fruits and veggies; also many vegan and vegetarian options in/around campus from what I could see.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I'm not surprised that Stanford's dorm food is good. As I understand it, there's really not off-campus housing so the undergrads will be eating it for at least four years.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    That's my understanding, too, but there are co-ops where students do their own cooking and also houses with chefs (!) -- and apparently they cost the same. I'm not sure when students are able to move from the dorms into the houses, though. Sophomore year? Junior? I should have paid more attention during that tour.