60 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2013 (Slideshow)
September 19, 2013
These colleges go above and beyond to make sure their students are well-fed
60. University of Washington, Seattle
With food truck options like Siganos, a taco truck, and Motosurf, a truck serving island cuisine, students at UW have some of the state’s tastiest food right on campus. With a downloadable dining map featuring the more than 15 locations easily accessible, the dining options on campus are seemingly limitless. UW also takes sustainability and nutrition very seriously. In accordance with the school's motto, "sustainable is obtainable," students are encouraged to eat locally and limit their amount of food waste by recycling and composting.
59. Boston College, Boston
Where can you find a dining program that has its own video series? Boston College, that’s where. In the school's exciting new Web series, students can watch behind-the-scenes footage about the dining facilities and the way the food prepared at these locations is processed and served. Along with that, students can also take a virtual nutrition tour that analyzes popular nutrition facts and topics in order to lead the students to a life of healthy eating. With nine dining locations, BC provides its students with food that’s not only high-quality, but delicious, too.
58. William & Mary, Williamsburg, Va.
William & Mary is a college with a lot of history, and they are sure making their own history through their dining services. With 10 dining facilities for roughly 8,200 students, the college is set on having the dining experience be as likeable as possible. With a dining blog updating the campus on upcoming dining events, students constantly feel in the loop about the happenings at William & Mary. W&M values student feedback, which they take into account when making changes to their dining program. What originally spawned that idea was the growing number of gluten- and dairy-intolerant students arriving on campus, so they created a program called "Outside of the Box" designed to give students with strong allergies or dietary restrictions the best possible meals.
57. University of Richmond, Richmond, Va.
With one main dining hall called Heilman Dining Center, students at Richmond can find just about any type of food they want in this buffet-style eatery. However, if they happen to be unsatisfied, they can check out The Cellar, which is more of a dining hangout spot. Or if they want a fast grab-to-go option, Tyler’s serves fast-casual meals like a General Tso’s wrap or a pesto turkey burger that students could grab on their way to class or band practice. If you’re trying to please your sweet tooth, look into Lou’s gourmet cupcakes, which are an instant hit each day. And by popular demand, Richmond implemented special programs, like extra meal swipes on your plan in case you want to dine with your professor, making the dining experience here something truly unique to Richmond’s college experience.
56. Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H.
At Dartmouth’s main dining hall, called the 1953 Commons, there are eight distinct stations serving food styles ranging from kosher options to vegan and vegetarian meals. Additionally, the Commons houses a state-of-the-art wood-burning pizza oven, providing some of the best pizza in the area. It’s easy to feel at home with all these differentlocations, because besides Commons, most are café-style dining. Visitors to campus find many students casually sipping their smoothies or leisurely eating while simultaneously doing work because at Dartmouth, the concept of collegiate dining parallels that of a relaxed, friendly dining experience.
55. Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
Miami University in Ohio, a top-notch liberal arts college, also has one of the best dining programs in the country. Their online menu that determines the nutrition of available meals, it is an easy yet effective way to instill healthy eating across the campus. Additionally, MiamiU provides students with their own resources, like weight management guidelines and nutrition resources. But while that is crucial to maintaining a well-rounded diet, there still needs to be some fun. Thanks to Miami’s Dining Facebook page, students are constantly updated on upcoming events or just fun facts that make dining at Miami University enjoyable.
54. Scripps College, Claremont, Calif.
At this women’s college, there are seemingly endless dining choices and possibilities: pork carnitas, tandoori chicken thighs, Philly steak pizza, quinoa-stuffed zucchini, marinated artichokes, garlic roasted grape tomatoes, bean and cheese chimichangas… the list goes on. However, if you’re off campus and want to feel like you’re still at school, check out the recipes posted online, which give you full instructions for some of your favorite meals from Scripps’ Malott Commons.
53. Roger Williams University, Bristol, R.I.
At Roger Williams University, under the management of Bon Appétit, they are committed to following sustainable practices and healthy eating. By participating in the Eat Local Challenge and Low Carbon Diet Day, along with making all carryout containers compostable and using cage-free eggs and humane ground beef, RWU is sticking to their plan. "Chef Bob" finds it of the utmost importance to have the flow of constant communication open between the staff and students. He encourages and completely welcomes student suggestions about anything regarding his dining program or their dietary needs. With menu items like smoked turkey, yellow tomato, and fontina cheese with red pepper spread panini; penne with Italian sausage and marinara; chicken scaloppini with lemon butter sauce; and vegetable and egg fried rice, you’re bound to leave not only completely satisfied, but already planning the next time you’ll return for a meal.
52. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
At this Utah-based school with more than six different dining facilities, you can find anything and everything that your heart desires: a Hawaiian burger at Legends Grille; mac and cheese at the Blue Line; Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell, and Subway at the Cougareat Food Court; chicken curry salad or French dip panini at MOA café; and chicken wings at Orville and Wilbur’s. And the Creamery on Ninth East (CONE) acts as a full-service grocery store, which is the first of its kind at any college campus in America. Additionally, every Thursday through October, there is an on-campus farmers' market where students can pick from the freshest produce. All you’d need to know about nutrition, cooking tips, and dining would be right in MIX, the dining services newsletter, which circulates throughout the campus.
51. Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz.
Students at ASU can probably think of any type of food their hearts desire and they will be able to find some variation of it on their campus. ASU has done a great job feeding the large minds and appetites of these passionate undergrads, with menu items including Peking-style rotisserie chicken, chicken-fried beef steak with gravy, loaded potato pizza, and crispy breaded pork cutlet. And that’s just for the Tempe campus eateries alone. While that might seem overwhelming, the themed events are scheduled well in advance to accommodate everyone, like a school-wide barbecue bash and a create-your-own-nachos night.
50. St Lawrence University, Canton, N.Y.
St. Lawrence University, home of the Saints, offers a unique take on collegiate dining. While the dining staff emphasizes sustainable preparation and local ingredients, they’re also focused on the students’ desires — what do they want from their dining experience? Through that mindset they created the "Recipes from Home" program in 1987 that keeps the menu current and fresh. New this fall to the Dana Dining Center and Northstar Café are River Rat cheeses, Potsdam Co-op bakery products, fresh sushi, gluten-free and vegan cookies from Vermont, and Silk milk dispensers. Similarly, themed dinners are a hit, with Canadian Thanksgiving dinner coming this October. But don’t worry about that fried greasy hankering of yours — the on-campus pub serves onion rings, mac and cheese bites, and fries, all covered on your meal plan.
49. Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y.
Operated by Bon Appétit since 1995, Hamilton College sources more than 20 percent of their ingredients from local farms, and cage-free eggs and humanely raised meats are the only ones they use. Through the newly introduced eco-friendly culinary program called Stem to Root, Hamilton avoids food waste by using parts of vegetables that are often discarded to make something else, like broccoli slaw out of the stems. Popular menu items featured are acorn squash stuffed with vegetables and herbs; chive buttered egg noodles; stuffed cabbage with rice, quinoa, shallots, and onions; and spicy ginger orange chicken with broccoli and carrots. New additions to the main dining facility include a high-end pasta-making machine, where students can watch the pasta being made right before their eyes, and the Little Pub Smoke House, now offering lunch and serving roughly 150 students per day.
48. Rollins College, Winter Park, Fla.
Situated in Winter Park, Fla., Rollins College is known for its outstanding dining services. Managed by the major corporation Sodexo, Rollins has five dining facilities on campus, with the major one being the Rose Skillman Dining Hall, containing six stations serving dishes like diver scallops, ginger tofu stir-fry, shrimp Portofino, and chipotle chicken Veracruz. Along with the other locations, Rollins will open a café featuring a Starbucks and grab-and-go meal options this fall. However, making strides with the food is just as important as sustainability nowadays. Named the first Fair Trade College in the state of Florida, Rollins uses entirely biodegradable disposables (containers, cups, napkins, utensils), participates in the local food bank’s food recovery program, and annually helps the local Ronald McDonald House with meal preparations. In 2013, Rollins celebrated their first Farm-to-Table event, where local farmers came to the dining hall to give their produce to the chefs to whip up an amazing meal.
47. Saint Anselm College, Manchester, N.H.
Just because Saint Anselm is small doesn’t mean it can’t have a great dining program. Saint Anselm is home to three main dining halls that all feature homemade food prepared in-house by renowned chefs. Some of the menu items include broiled swordfish steak, gnocchi with summer vegetables, boneless pork loin with gravy, sage sautéed butternut squash gratin, and risotto cakes with roasted tomatoes and arugula. The main dining hall, Davison Hall, boasts 11 different stations, accommodating just about any dietary need, preference, or desire.
46. University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn.
At such a large university, it might seem hard to please any and all requests that students make about their dining preferences, but UConn seems to have everything under control. The schools starts off each semester with an enormous number of themed dining events, like a Scooby Doo-themed Halloween dinner, a New England clam bake, a s’mores bar, and an event called Men in Black, where dinner showcases street food from New York City. Say you want to learn how to cook like the chefs in the dining hall but you don’t know where to begin. How about on YouTube? UConn offers cooking demos that are posted right to the university’s channel so students and community members alike can enjoy the culinary stylings of the college at home. Additionally, sustainability initiatives at the school include U-Recycle, Real Slow Food at UConn, and the Earth Day Spring Fling. And menu items like shrimp Caesar wrap, vegan steak tacos topped with salsa fresca, and crispy Dijon scrod help UConn stand out from the pack as having an exemplary dining service.
45. University of California, San Diego, San Diego, Calif.
With trained chefs from award-winning culinary schools, UCSD has done an exceptional job with their dining services and we think they deserve the slew of awards they've racked up regarding their food’s quality, taste, and freshness. The food truck on campus called Torero Tu Go serves favorite dishes like chicken skewers and skirt steak tacos. Similarly, UCSD dining hosts many themed events like food fairs and the annual spring Chocolate Festival, filled with chocolate fountains and tons of delicious dipping items.
44. Brown University, Providence, R.I.
With 11 eateries on campus, Brown has been consistently lauded for its great food. With the main dining hall offering more than 1,500 students their meals, the "Ratty" is the dining hot spot on campus, serving buffet-style meals and hosting many themed dinners per year. Menu items include Italian meatballs, vegan paella, carrot ginger soup, cheese tortellini, and raspberry and white chocolate muffins. But don’t worry; Brown caters to just about all dietary needs as well as environmental ones. Reusable containers, partnerships with local farms, and the encouragement of student composting are just a few things tied into Brown’s sustainability plan, as well as the very successful on-campus farmers' market on Thursdays every fall.
43. Mills College, Oakland, Calif.
Managed by Bon Appétit, Mills College’s main goal is to nourish the mind in the classroom and the body in the dining hall. Not only does this Oakland-based college buy all its produce locally, but they make sure students are making a conscious effort to compost and recycle. With the Founders Commons, the main dining hall, serving an all-you-can-eat-buffet-style, and the Tea Shop, a campus hot spot, Mills does a great job providing its students with tasty dishes as well as tips for sustainable lifestyles.
42. Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
Johns Hopkins views the dining experience as both the social and cultural soul of campus, which implies they know their responsibility is to the students and the community. Through that knowledge, JHU only purchases cage-free eggs, hormone-free milk, locally grown produce, and biodegradable products. However, the menu dishes themselves are not ignored in the slightest. Serving manicotti puttanesca with a side salad, house-smoked beef brisket sandwich, Texas-style French toast, oven-roasted meatloaf with honey carrots and steamed peas, and a Southwestern barbecue burger, Hopkins has discovered the dining preferences of the student body and catered exactly to their liking. This dining program is entirely nut-free, trans-fat-free, vegan- and vegetarian-friendly, and kosher-friendly.
41. Pitzer College, Claremont, Calif.
With Bon Appétit’s help, Pitzer has created a dining service that allows students to truly enjoy eating campus food. Featuring dishes like heirloom tomato salad, chicken Marsala, fettuccine Alfredo casserole, barbecue baby back ribs, grilled polenta in a white bean and tomato ragù, steamed rainbow cauliflower, and grilled tandoori chicken with yellow lentil and saffron stew, Pitzer’s menu sounds mouthwatering. Another thing Pitzer does right: theme nights are not special occasions, they happen every weeknight with Mongolian Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Wild Card Wednesdays, Steak Night Thursdays, and Farm-to-Fork Fridays. Excitement is always abundant in this school’s dining program.
40. Colby College, Waterville, Maine
BLT pizza, fried wontons, braised beef tips, shrimp hush puppies with tartar sauce, jasmine rice and red beans, meatball flatbread melt, tomato grilled cheese, hash brown quiche, grilled bourbon pork chop with Dijon roasted potatoes… are you drooling yet? Colby College’s dining menu sounds nothing short of delicious. Run by Sodexo, Colby caters to students’ likes and dislikes, and uses that feedback to expand and improve their current menu. And Colby also vowed to source their produce locally. In addition to buying local, the college also sends produce from its student-run garden, 2 Feet 2 Bedrock, to local food pantries — as well as on-campus dining facilities.
39. College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine
Based in Maine, the College of the Atlantic sees its food as an amazing aspect of the college community. Regardless of students' dietary preferences, they will eat well at COA. While it’s obvious the COA dining staff is passionate about providing their students with the best dining experience possible, the students love cooking and eating just as much. The main dining hall, called "TAB" for Take a Break, is open around the clock, and serves students dishes like shrimp cakes with grilled portobello mushrooms, steamed green beans, and couscous; Thai red and green curry with beef, rice, and vegetables alongside fresh spring rolls; and roasted vegetable and black bean burritos with avocado soup and brown rice. With all meals mainly cooked in-house, they have an environmental focus: the meat is raised humanely and the seafood is caught sustainably. Similarly, students can find a healthy vending machine in the Sea Urchin Café, selling sandwiches, soup, cookies, yogurts, and fruit.
38. Connecticut College, New London, Conn.
"We understand that just because you have to eat on campus doesn’t mean we won’t treat you like a customer," a dining rep from Connecticut College told us. "Customer satisfaction is our number one concern." And that dedication is apparent, not only in the dishes they serve, but in the dining services’ mission statement as well. If you’re craving New England clam chowder, chicken tenders, teriyaki pork tenderloin, vegetable lasagna, baked cod, Israeli couscous with vegetables, Moroccan stew with quinoa, or white cheese broccoli pizza, you’ve met your match. But prepare your stomach for the semester dining events, like the Happy Halloween Celebration that includes all meals in October, international (Italian, Greek, French, Indian) themed dinners, and the Festivus celebration in December. Additionally, Conn boasts its pride regarding its environmental stewardship, "with programs that help reduce waste and support local farmers." Seen through their on-campus organic garden, Sprout, the dining program values reducing waste and composting. Dining services also runs the Cro Bar, an on-campus bar for students of legal drinking age!
37. University of Delaware, Newark, Del.
At University of Delaware’s dining program, the staff believes in giving their students the best possible dining experience. And they have. You’ll never have to go hungry with more than 15 campus eateries, all serving dishes that will definitely satisfy your cravings. Homemade butternut squash and apple soup, herb-crusted flounder, baked Italian lasagna, bruschetta calzone, grilled potato and cheese pierogies, and black and white sesame chicken with sweet Asian sauce are all dishes found on UDel’s menu. Students can check what’s being served and all the nutritional facts with that dish on their Web menus. And while you may think food this delicious couldn't be healthy, UDel is entirely devoted to providing their students with the most sustainable and healthy food through their Healthy for Life initiative. Well done, UDel, well done.
36. Boston University, Boston
One thing BU dining does better than the rest is its presence on social media. The school has an entire YouTube channel devoted to advertising upcoming special events like Oktoberfest and Lobster Night, so BU students and staff alike know that social media outlets are the places to voice their opinions. Last year the university "had a few students tweet at us that they missed our cookies in the dining hall while they were studying abroad in Europe," a dining rep for the school told us. "Because we do social media like nobody’s business we were able to track down these students and send them a care package with some cookies and other treats." Their main dining facility — two enormous levels that can hold more than 900 people — has three different ovens, two kitchens, and more than a dozen different stations. Want to know what they’re serving? BBQ chicken and caramelized onion pizza, stuffed shells, Rhode Island-style clam fritters, grilled pastrami on rye, and rosemary polenta with broccoli rabe are just some of the dishes served at Marciano Commons alone. With 32 other facilities, all we can say is watch out for the Freshman 15.
35. Purdue University, Lafayette, Ind.
Purdue understands the hectic life of a college student, which is why their dining program is designed to keep students fueled and ready to tackle their next endeavor. Serving roughly 3.5 million meals per year, and buying the majority of their food directly from the producers, Purdue believes in their commitment to not only purchase organic produce, but also to feed their students the best ingredients possible. Posting fun facts on their website about how much their students consume per year means only one thing: if the students are eating a lot, then the program must be achieving its mission. And with dishes including beef and broccoli stir-fry with mini spring rolls, Cajun-seasoned grilled chicken breast, bacon corn chowder soup, and tilapia with Serbian tomato relish, baby carrots, and roasted potatoes, it’s no surprise.
34. Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.
Serving dishes like chile-rubbed tilapia with asparagus, grilled mustard chicken with polenta, red lentils with kale and miso, braised short ribs with collard greens and candied sweet potatoes, chicken-fried steak with white gravy and green peas, and roasted salmon with sweet chipotle glaze, Vanderbilt is giving its students a glimpse into world-class dining. Luckily, Vandy knows stressed undergrads are always hungry, so four of the dining locations are open 24 hours, including the Commons, the central buffet-style dining hall. However, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to leave campus for food, have no fear. Vandy gives students the opportunity to take part in a Taste of Nashville, where students can venture into Nashville’s growing food mecca and eat at participating restaurants for just a meal swipe.
33. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Run under Bon Appétit’s management, Penn’s dining service follows the farm-to-fork philosophy closely. Making sure all dishes are made with locally sourced and fresh ingredients, Penn takes its commitment to collegiate food and sustainable practices very seriously. As seen in their new program, Green2Go, students can help the university reduce their waste by using disposable to-go containers, in addition to Low Carbon Diet Day and the Eat Local Challenge. What can be found on their menu? Buffalo hot wings; Italian sausage served with peppers and onions; vegan chili made with local squash, onion, peppers, tomatoes, cumin and cilantro; gnocchi with roasted vegetables in garlic; and roast beef with rosemary gravy, horseradish mashed potatoes, and honey-glazed carrots.
32. Bates College, Lewiston, Maine
Bates College’s dining program states on their website that one of their primary goals is to be recognized as one of the finest collegiate-level dining services in the nation, and they sure have. Gluten-free baked tilapia, tofu and vegetable cacciatore, ricotta-stuffed manicotti, chipotle-rubbed beef, grilled gingered tuna, and grilled polenta with roasted vegetables are just some of the delicious items Bates’ dining services provides its students. Their special events are just as fantastic, with their annual Harvest Meal and the Valentine’s Day Poem Contest coming in 2014. One thing is for sure, the staff is devoted to hearing student feedback. Their virtual napkin board has not only worked in the past, but also continues to allow the students a chance to make their voices heard.
31. Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pa.
If you want a wide variety of dishes offered each day, as well as a range of themed events per semester, then take a peek at Bryn Mawr College. Each semester is crammed with tons of special dining events, like the Milkshake Mania lunch, where students create their own milkshakes, and the French Peasants lunch, complete with assorted cheeses, breads, and grapes. And while those are special occasions, the dishes whipped up on a daily basis are just as spectacular. The school consistently receives awards for its food, and we can see why. Chocolate chip pancakes, banana nut muffins, turkey sausage patties, and donuts for breakfast? Yes. Chicken cheesesteak with vegetable grillers, Tex-Mex eggrolls, and shrimp and corn bisque for lunch? Absolutely. White bean stuffed peppers, home-style meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, and baked flounder with braised mushrooms for dinner? Don’t mind if we do.
30. Carleton College, Northfield, Minn.
Carleton College might be small, but its dining program is big and bold. With dishes like boneless pork chops with roasted red potatoes, steamed cauliflower, caramelized red onions, and warm cinnamon apple sauce; eggplant Parmesan with roasted red pepper polenta fries beside a kale and cranberry salad with fresh vegetables; roasted butternut squash soup with wilted kale; and cherry-glazed ham steaks with Yukon potatoes and creamed corn, there’s not much not to like here. With more than 20 percent local produce purchasing, Carleton is making a conscious effort to reduce its carbon footprint and compost. Carleton also offers eXpress lunches, where students can order their meal and grab it on the go. But nothing seems as exciting as their themed dinners, including the Mardi Gras celebration, Valentine’s Day dinner, and "May the 4th Be with You," a Star Wars-themed dinner. Additionally, they are very into picnics, with a fall Corn Roaster picnic and a buffet picnic to kick off the college’s annual spring concert. After collaborating with the student-run culinary club Firebellies, Carleton has instituted various classes during the year to give students a taste of upscale cooking.
29. Wesleyan University, Middletown, Conn.
Wesleyan was named the number one vegan program by PETA for the 2012-2013 school year, and the school's dining halls offer delicious meal options like fresh tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar, tandoori chicken with basmati rice and stewed chickpeas, and an apple dessert pizza topped with sweetened cream. Although it’s shocking to think this is normal campus fare, Wesleyan’s dining events are even more highly anticipated. On Halloween, the vegan chef prepares an enormous dessert tray, and Cinco de Mayo and Thanksgiving dinners are always a hit. Additionally, the executive chef holds a biweekly Chef’s Table, a discussion panel intended to establish current and future plans for the dining program, and students wait in line to sample the freshest ingredients presented at this round-table, as well as participate in a cooking course focusing on sustainable culinary practices.
28. University of Chicago, Chicago
The University of Chicago has it all when it comes to collegiate dining. Dish options ranging from ancho chipotle chicken stew to BLT bruschetta to fried pollock in Creole sauce will definitely satisfy hungry undergrads. With three residential dining halls, more than 10 cafés, and two markets, UChicago also makes sure to provide meal options for vegetarians and those who have kosher, gluten-free, and other dietary preferences. They post a master list of all the ingredients in each served dish, making it hard to doubt their sustainability. The dining staff really values the students’ opinion above all else. Therefore, UChicago implements a "Mystery Diner" program, which asks students, faculty, and staff about their dining experience. Similarly, the Campus Dining Advisory Board convenes at least twice per semester to discuss what’s working in their program and what they could change. The dedication of the UChicago dining staff to ensuring student satisfaction is one of the most impressive we’ve seen.
27. Wheaton College, Wheaton, Ill.
Illinois’ Wheaton College whips up some mighty tasty offerings. Some include a balsamic roasted pork loin, vegetable and mushroom pot pie, ham macaroni and cheese pizza, and chicken pad thai, and it’s almost guaranteed that something will tickle your fancy. Managed by Bon Appétit, the dining program strives for the ultimate freshness factor, with more than 20 percent of the purchased ingredients coming from local vendors. Raul Delgado, general manager of Bon Appétit, told us that Wheaton added visible grills and woks so students could see the fresh food being made from scratch. With a list of the favorite dining hall recipes right on their website, we can’t seem to find anything wrong with this dining program.
26. Duke University, Durham, N.C.
Duke’s dining program is so incredible that students honestly don’t ever need to leave campus to eat. Campus establishments serve dishes like pan-seared diver scallops with a basil pistou; carved-to-order porchetta topped with salsa verde; and gnocchi and sage au gratin, dishes more likely to be found in a fine dining establishment.
With more than 30 dining options on campus, an additional 17 will deliver food right to your dorm. But seeing as the Blue Devils have a large appetite, the staff has come up with an incredibly unique way to improve the dining experience using two words: Food. Trucks. Seven of them, to be exact. By using a Google calendar to find the times and locations of trucks serving, for example, Greek cuisine, tacos, and crepes, students never will go hungry again.
Additionally, the new Penn Pavilion features seven new Duke Dining venues: Bistro (carved meats and sides), Comforts (comfort food), Stacks (deli-style sandwiches), Cilantro (made-to-order Mexican), Alforno (pizza and pasta), Greens (soup and salad), Dash (grab and go), as well as a local vendor, Sitar, serving Indian cuisine and sushi.
25. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.
MIT — the name itself implies that they’re at the top of everything, and once you see their dining program, you’ll understand why. Under Bon Appétit’s management, MIT promotes the healthiest and most delicious dishes in almost any collegiate dining service. Squash ratatouille with quinoa, sautéed chicken in a prosciutto wine sauce with a hint of sage, eggplant stuffed with herbed tofu and a side of garlic-roasted string beans, fish tacos with chipotle sauce, lime coleslaw and black beans over rice, truffled roast beef with buttered leeks… the list is endless. All these dishes are made as delicious as they are through MIT’s Farm-to-Fork program, where menu items are chosen on a seasonal basis based on available ingredients, as well as making sure all produce is locally sourced. On top of that, their dining staff promises to offer whole-grain alternatives, encourage protein consumption, reduce sodium, and offer professional nutrition advice about portion control and general healthy eating. If you need more convincing, check out the virtual tours of the kitchen, cafés, and loading docks.
24. James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va.
Recently rated number two in Princeton Review’s ranking of Great Campus Food, JMU dining services can be differentiated above the rest. With 6,000 total residents, and ARAMARK, the university’s main service provider, serving food in more than 20 dining facilities, students use this opportunity to taste all the campus has to offer. For example, chains like Quiznos, Starbucks, and Red Mango allow students the comforts of fast-casual dining in a campus setting. Mrs. Green’s, Let’s Get Local, and Madison Grill take campus dining to a new level with only local, organic, and fresh dishes. But the major food-court-style dining halls, like D-Hall and Market One, call for the hungriest of hearts and usually are where you can find many Dukes. Additionally, the tray-less initiative at a handful of these locations really highlights the school's devotion to environmental conservation.
23. University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.
Want to eat whatever you want, whenever you want? Check out UGA’s dining program, where you can get breakfast all day, desserts all evening, and wings 24/7. Life in Athens could not get better. Even the enthusiasm of game day can't suppress the appetite of these hungry Bulldogs. As if these staple college foods weren’t exciting enough, UGA’s buffet choices include pork chops and stuffing, rustic chicken pot pie, and coconut shrimp. And dining events like five-star dinners and game-day-inspired meals really take this dining program off the ground. Jeanne J. Fry, the executive director of UGA Food Services, thinks student feedback given via comment cards and social media postings is of the utmost importance to the dining staff. And a typical Saturday night must end "snellebrating" — that is, feasting on late-night bites in Snelling dining hall with your friends. We’re so in.
22. Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vt.
The chilly weather in Vermont can’t dampen the things this sizzling dining service has to offer. Even their mission statement, "nourish and nurture today and tomorrow, sustaining mind, body, and earth," holds true. With appealing menu items like quinoa stuffed peppers, loaded nachos, marinated Italian chicken thighs, and lamb scaloppini, Middlebury students have plenty of world-class options. And students can constantly be up-to-date with a downloadable dining services calendar, with one of the first events being a welcome back barbecue in the fall. However, Middlebury does not overlook sustainability. They take the origins of the foods they purchase very seriously, only supporting local vendors, and try to educate their students on the benefits of doing the same. Bravo!
21. Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
Not only do exceptional students flock to this renowned university, but the school's dining service is just as remarkable. With a huge array of engaging and exciting dining events including "Top Chef Harvard," "Brain Breaks" that occur during finals, and monthly barbecues, Harvard makes sure the students enjoy their time spent away from the library. Not only do they offer food classes in food writing and food history, they also publish a weekly Food Literacy Project Newsletter, highlighting food events both on and off campus, available cooking classes, and local food job listings. And satisfying a campus of 21,000 is not an easy task, but with 13 dining facilities, a kosher kitchen, and 14 retail locations, Harvard pulls it off. However, if you’re somehow unhappy with their menu choices, the dining staff takes student feedback very seriously, and tracks each student’s personal dining preferences.
20. Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.
With more than 22 dining locations on campus, it’s not surprising that Stanford is on this list. One of the main goals in establishing their dining services was getting both students and community involved. Stanford hires students to act as dining ambassadors, who work with the campus population and community to encourage wellness, sustainability, and healthy eating. Through exposure to their organic gardens, educational farm, and their farm stand that provides seasonal produce, Stanford stands above the pack for environmental conservation and stewardship. But that’s not all they offer. Rotisserie chicken seasoned with cumin, herbs, and mango mole sauce; cabbage and jicama salad with bacon cilantro dressing; and balsamic braised pork chops with smothered onions are only some of the menu items offered at this outstanding institution.
19. Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.
Home to the Tigers, Princeton is known for excelling academically, but they also know exactly what they’re doing in the kitchen. With numerous themed meals and dining activities throughout the year, the dining staff believes each day is an opportunity to present their creations to the Princeton population. Chef Brad Ortega told us, "The focus is always on quality." With featured dishes like mushroom and spinach quesadillas, pesto pork chops, and panzanella salad, Princeton cooks to impress. On the menu, the specific labels of foods for vegans, health-conscious, and level of carbon emissions add to the university’s already helpful and extremely cool dining program. With a newly implemented Lunch-to-Go program, students can order their lunches in a bag so they can pick it up and eat it where they want. And that's not to mention the Visiting Chefs Program, which features a recreation of a chef’s restaurant fare, served buffet-style.
18. Columbia University, New York City
New York, the city of dreams. And with dreamy menu options like eggplant roulettes, Thai chile wings, chipotle potato soup, and JJ’s Philly cheesesteak, Columbia University just might be the place to make those dreams come true. With so many restaurants in New York, Columbia’s dining staff has convinced students through their delicious dishes that their dining hall can rival any establishment. Specialties found in the Columbia dining hall — including kosher, halal, vegetarian, gluten-free dishes — make it easy for students to want to stay on campus to eat. Additionally, they have completely eliminated the use of trans fat while cooking, choosing to serve healthier fries and peanut butter. Through their consistent donations to City Harvest (both food and money), nutrition, health, and charity seem to top the importance scale at Columbia’s dining program.
17. University of California, Davis, Davis, Calif.
If dishes like falafel lentil cakes, mandarin chicken salad, vegetable focaccia Panini, and white chocolate raspberry scones don’t strike your fancy, there are two ways to get the school to take your complaint seriously: First, you could participate in "Take a Taste," an event that allows students to sample certain dishes and explain their likes or dislikes, which the staff takes into consideration when creating menus. Or you could go the more tech-savvy route and download Aggie Dish V 2.5, UC Davis’ mobile app that allows students to communicate directly with the dining services. Rarely do students ever ditch the theme nights, like a Harry Potter-themed dinner, bread and cheese fondue night, and sushi night. Additionally, Aggies can get involved in sustainable food choices through the unique Eco Food Corps Program. UC Davis is a huge advocate for environmental stewardship, and their Field-to-Table program successfully teaches students and community members the meaning of healthy living. UC Davis offers students extremely tasty food along with a deliciously sustainable lifestyle.
16. University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, Calif.
Blackened fried catfish, red pepper and spinach pizza, jerk chicken sandwiches, banana brownies… the list goes on at Berkeley’s dining hall. With dishes like these, it’s no surprise students can’t wait to return to school each semester. As Sean LaPean, the Cal dining director, told us, "Dining is not solely about the food that is presented on the plate, but the total experience." That’s why they’re entirely committed to the Farm-to-Table initiative, Chews to Reuse, and purchasing only environmentally friendly items. And if those aren’t powerful enough, read the Naked Bear, designed to educate and inform Cal students about food sustainability. Looks like the Bears are grabbing the bull by its horns!
15. Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa
Grinnell’s dining program provides its students with top-tier fare. Offering delicious menu options as well as gluten-free, halal, and vegan specials, Grinnell’s food will surely have something to strike your fancy. Grinnell believes in purchasing local produce to support nearby businesses, but also to ensure their students are being fed the best ingredients possible. Similarly, Grinnell received an outstanding grade in Food and Recycling, one subject they do not take lightly. Make sure to catch all the exciting upcoming news published in the Marketplace Messenger, their dining services newsletter, like the Holiday Dessert Extravaganza. While this is definitely unique, the hands-down coolest part of Grinnell’s dining services is their Culinary Intern Program. There is no better way to get a glimpse into the workings of collegiate dining than to sign up for this internship. Kudos to you, Grinnell!
14. Occidental College, Los Angeles
Located in bustling Los Angeles, Occidental’s dining program shouldn’t be overlooked. While they might be new to this list, they’ve impressed us on all fronts. Taking the Real Food Challenge in 2008 with the goal of purchasing more than 20 percent "Real Food" by 2020, Occidental has already exceeded expectations by achieving the goal in 2013. With menu choices like balsamic-glazed chicken, butternut risotto, and braised beef ribs, their dishes sound nothing short of mouthwatering. And if students aren’t satisfied by huevos rancheros or sautéed organic Moroccan squash, they can custom order exactly what they’re in the mood for, and everything will be made completely from scratch in small batches. Therefore, students play an important role in shaping the dining program. Through constant communication with the staff, students can freely speak their opinions on what they like or want to see during their dining experience. The Veg Club (a student-run organization that speaks as the voice of the student body), Meatless Mondays, Wednesday’s Baked Potato Bar, and Thursday’s Organic Dinner bar have brought even more enthusiasm to their campus dining. Themed meals revolving around National Real Food Day, Chinese New Year, and even Earth Day have become staples in Occidental’s dining program. And we can’t forget the Chef’s Showcase, where staff chefs prepare their favorite recipes for students to enjoy. Oxy Iron Chef, where students face off in an in-house cooking competition, is one of the most talked-about nights of the year. Emma Sorrell, the leader of Occidental’s sustainable research and implementation in their dining services, gave us insight into how the dining program is luring students: "Students love our food and it has been cited as a deciding factor in choosing Oxy over other schools!" We’re ready to enroll.
13. Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pa.
With its historic background, Gettysburg’s campus food has definitely made a lasting impression. Gary Brautigam, the director of dining services, told us that one of their main focuses is providing healthy food choices for the students. "Fresh produce, the best quality meats, and using cook-to-order as a method of preparation is what we try to do as much as we can," he said. And that’s not all they have to offer. Students rave about the themed dinners, especially their Thanksgiving dinner, which Brautigam mentions even alumni return to campus for. "We prepare more than 200 turkeys, one turkey for each table. The students carve their own bird!" Talk about an awesome dining program. And what could be more exciting than an on-campus food truck? SERVO Express, an extension of their main dining hall, rolls onto campus three nights a week during the late-night hours, offering students a nighttime option. And by receiving fresh produce six days a week, buying freshly caught seafood from Sea to Table, and cooking in small batches, Gettysburg shows us that they know how to please. As Brautigam says, "The Gettysburg experience is about the people on campus, and dining reaches out to make people feel like home."
12. Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.
If Buffalo chicken nuggets, spinach lasagna with marinara sauce, Tuscan kale salad, and curried rice with lentils are making your mouth water, then you should definitely check out Northwestern’s dining facilities. At the home of the Wildcats, students dine like kings of the jungle. All meals are made with an eye on freshness and quality, not to mention originality. The dining staff does its best to provide students with the most authentic international dishes at dining events like Moroccan Night and Reggae Night. And if students happen to somehow get bored with those options, there are plenty of other choices, like Einstein Bros. Bagels, Starbucks, and a brand-new Subway on campus. NuCuisine makes a point to say they support and endorse all different diets, making it easy and fun to dine on campus. And with their pacts to cut down waste reduction, implement recycling, and conserve energy and water, Northwestern really knows how to balance fueling the planet as well as their students. Also, they have their own YouTube channel. Does it get any better?
11. St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn.
St. Olaf College might be a small liberal arts school, but they’ve left a big impact through their dining program. Run largely under Bon Appétit’s management, St. Olaf still ensures their ingredients come fresh daily from local vendors. Sage-crusted turkey with rustic raisin stuffing and local corn and peas, beef- and rice-stuffed peppers, and chicken Florentine with penne pasta, artichokes, spinach, crimini mushrooms, tomatoes, and feta cheese all in a garlic sauce are just a few of the unbelievable menu options just from Stav Hall, the main dining hall. And St Olaf’s caters to all types of culinary needs, with four different venues to choose from, so students can enjoy all the dining program has to offer. Just in case the average day’s meals weren’t mouthwatering enough, St. Olaf’s hosts numerous theme meals to spice up their students' dining experience. And St. Olaf’s knows their food is good — they allow and even encourage outsiders to dine here. Lucky for us!
10. Yale University, New Haven, Conn.
Yale’s dining program couldn’t be more impressive if it tried. With menu items ranging from roasted pork chops to potato pancakes, beer-battered fish and chips, and vegan ravioli, you’d be hard-pressed to find a student leaving the dining hall unsatisfied. And why shouldn’t they be? They offer so many dining events, like a student culinary competition and a Spring Fling catered meal, not to mention an entire dining series called "Reality Bites" that offers the students programs on mixology, the best wine and meal pairings, and formal dining etiquette. And the best part is that new information is being constantly updated through their mobile app, website, and their dining newsletter, the D.I.S.H. While that’s all fun, Yale has very serious values when it comes to sustainability. Through STEP, their nutrition education program, students can take part in the Local 2 Yale and Erase the Waste programs. It seems like the Bulldogs are on top of their game!
9. Tufts University, Boston
Tufts University, home to the Jumbos, is just as passionate about its academics and athletics as it is about its campus food. With menu items ranging from old-fashioned rolled oats and fresh mozzarella ovallini with roasted red peppers and basil pesto to their delicious roast beef sandwich with crunchy slaw and smoky bistro sauce, students never feel unsatisfied. Intensely committed to environmental initiatives, Tufts is a front-runner for ensuring its students know how to live and eat sustainably. Abiding by their well-known motto, Think Global but Buy Local, Tufts’ dining services creates an atmosphere where students are amped to embody the slogan. For example, their fall farmers' markets give students the opportunity to purchase fresh produce right on campus. Tufts serves 100 percent cage-free eggs and sustainable fish, like salmon and tilapia. Patti Klos, the dining services director for more than 20 years, told us their secret: taking immediate action on students’ needs and desires through menu changes, dining events, and sustainable dining. Talk about top-notch service!
8. Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Ga.
If you needed to describe Kennesaw State University’s dining services in one word, it would be "originality." They do everything they can to provide their students with the most exciting dining services possible, and they’re doing a great job. Jenifer Duggan, the school's director of culinary and hospitality services, told us that KSU’s dining services changes menus constantly, providing students with more than 150 new dishes each day. One way KSU showcases their exemplary dining program is through their dining events: Black and Gold dining, which occurs twice a month, has students dining on steak, lobster, and king crab, and the Cram Jam, their kick-off event for finals, features mocktails, a DJ and dancing, and even a Jell-O-eating contest. And as if they aren’t already serving five-star dishes, like chipotle ribs and Louisiana seafood gumbo, their "Get Wild" event features exotic meats like kangaroo, rattlesnake, and emu right in their main dining hall! And many ingredients are sourced through their Farm-to-Campus Program, featuring three on-campus farms, multiple herb and vegetable gardens, and locally sourced meats and fishes. KSU seeks to pave the way for students to truly enjoy eating healthily and living sustainably.
7. UMass Amherst, Amherst, Mass.
UMass Amherst might seem like another large school with plenty of food options, but their dining service program really knows how to please its students. Late-night dining is found in almost every dining hall on campus (as well as one delivering food as late as 4 a.m.)! And why wouldn’t you want to order this campus’ food around the clock? Blackened tilapia, chicken breast schnitzel with chipotle salsa, and Irish coffee bread pudding with Kahlúa sauce are only a few of the delicious dining hall offerings. While many students rave about Baby Berk, the burger and taco food truck conveniently located on campus, the school's pledge to stay local and organic is not overlooked. Through their "Real Food Challenge Campus Commitment," UMass Amherst hopes their food will be at least 20 percent locally grown and fairly traded. And if their Composting Program and Local Purchasing Program didn’t convince you enough, there’s a farmers' market on campus that is entirely student-run. Additionally, students can enjoy a slew of social dining events every semester, such as the Spring Fling BBQ that precedes an intense Dance Dance Revolution competition. Their highly impressive dedication to satisfying the student body and the planet places them high in our rankings.
6. Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
Cornell might be known as an Ivy League school with top-notch academics, but they’re more than just that. As the runner-up for PETA’s most vegan-friendly college award, Cornell’s dedication to local foods and environmental conservation is something to be noted. By implementing initiatives like supporting Local Food Growth, Take Back the Tap (choosing tap water over bottled), and responsible coffee sourcing to lessen a chemical footprint, Cornell students are not just educated through their studies, but in their lives. And while this is commendable, Cornell’s dining service is all about their events. Happenings like The New York Times columnist Mark Bittman dropping by to discuss his book about nutrition, the National Association of College & University Food Services (NACUFS) annual chef competition, and themed dinners like "A Night at Hogwarts," offering nothing better than chocolate frogs and butter beer, bring excitement to an incredibly hard-working student body. With more than 30 eateries on campus alone, Cornell offers incentives to encourage students to lead sustainable lifestyles: if you buy a mug on campus, you can get a large coffee, tea, or hot chocolate for the price of a small one. Overall, it seems that Cornellians are more than happy to participate in all their collegiate dining services has to offer.
5. University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles
With more than 500 staff members on UCLA’s dining team, it can’t be surprising that the university is committed to making sure their students receive the best collegiate food experience possible. UCLA has received numerous awards, including the PETA award for most vegan-friendly university due to their dedication to nutritional education. From the Student Nutrition Awareness Campaign (SNAC) to their "Here’s to Health" initiative that provides students with a broad list of healthy and tasty ingredients that they should be enjoying, UCLA is above the pack. Taking feedback very seriously, the chefs methodically chose their recipes based on student preferences. Seafood pizza, chicken and dumplings, chicken chile verde — all mouthwatering dishes found on this campus. And if students are still unsure, Dolores, the residing dietician on campus, provides any and all answers through her extensive program.
4. Emory University, Atlanta
Emory’s dining services has gone above and beyond the call of duty. Not only do they offer an extensive list of dining events — homecoming weekend barbecue, heirloom tomato festival and Valentine’s Day dinner — they aim to provide the ultimate dining experience filled with excitement and variety. Although kitchens whip up specialty dishes like toasted grilled vegetable and balsamic panini, many students stick to the basic but stocked dining hall salad bar to satisfy their palates (check out their hilarious video). This university also recognizes students’ desire to munch on Chick-fil-A and sip Starbucks while still providing local and fresh produce in their dining halls. With a student-run food advisory committee running the show, Emory falls near the top our list for understanding how to please their students through their dining services.
3. Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.
Virginia Tech is no stranger to landing at the top of collegiate food service rankings. Through their award-winning dining plan, this university showcases outstanding dishes like polenta with spicy vegetables, Buffalo chicken pizza, and whole-wheat pasta with sun-dried tomatoes. The regular faculty-student dining days and backyard barbecues have students excited to form relationships with their professors outside the classroom. And as if the campus isn’t already filled with passion, VT’s dining services take sustainability very seriously. Their project Farms and Fields provides all the best local and organic meals. Delicious examples include apple chutney and Cheddar panini — organic Granny Smith apples with onion, red-wine vinegar, brown sugar, orange peels, fresh ginger, and local cheese served on locally made organic bread. Additionally, their on-campus garden, filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, receives regular visits from the community. However, meat lovers shouldn’t fear: Virginia Tech’s Meat Science Center serves meats that are produced and processed right on campus grounds. Through VT's Y.E.S (You’re Eating (and Living) Smarter) Nutrition Program, Hokies are genuinely interested in living sustainably as well as eating deliciously.
2. Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis
With themed dinners like Dr. Seuss Night and Low Carbon Diet Day, WashU is at the top of their game in terms of dining hall entertainment. This university takes the extra step to make sure their students are not only satisfied with what their dining services offer, but also what they can get from it. By hosting more than five events per week, including interactive cooking classes and chef demonstrations in Studio 40, it’s clear that providing their students with a top-notch dining experience is a major priority for the school. Under Bon Appétit’s management, WashU features dishes like orange pork stir-fry, an exemplary fresh fruit bar, and deliciously satisfying barbecue, not to mention the Bear’s Den stocked with two carefully tended tandoori ovens. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, their dining service program is completely committed to sustainability: turning their wasted oil into biofuel, composting food, and only sourcing their ingredients from local vendors. With facilities like these, it’s easy to understand why students at WashU have so much school spirit.
1. Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine
As our top dog this year, Bowdoin College is used to receiving praise for their outstanding food. Serving dishes like mussels in butter sauce, haddock with jalapeños, squash fettuccine, and roasted root vegetables with polenta, it has been ranked near the top of the Best College Food list by Princeton Review, as well as other national lists. "Our dining program has kept pace [with student tastes] without forgetting the basics, which are to provide a welcoming, comfortable counterpoint to the stresses of college life and help students develop a lifelong relationship with healthy, delicious, 'real' food," Michelle Gaillard, the associate director of Operations and Dining Service-Administration, told us. With an emphasis on local purchasing at the on-campus farmers' markets and locally sustainable produce, their kitchen is preparing some truly gourmet fare. And because of this, Bowdoin features some favorite recipes right on their website for students to enjoy at their home away from home. If that wasn’t exciting enough, check out their iPhone app. "If our checkers and servers feel like family, if our dining halls feel like home, if students look forward to relaxing with their best friends over a delicious meal cooked especially for them, then we’re doing our part to enhance the overall educational experience," Gaillard said.