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Colleges with the Best Dining Halls

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Stock photo of the hand of a man getting salad at a self-service. Lifestyle

While meal choices shouldn’t be the biggest factor when it comes to enrollment decisions, top-tier dining options are always an asset. Many universities have revamped their menu offerings to provide students with diverse and high-quality food choices.

Whether you’re a die-hard carnivore or a passionate vegan, the best campus dining halls are dedicated to serving students with a variety of dietary preferences and lifestyles. Keep reading to learn more about the colleges with the best dining hall options. 

University of California, Los Angeles 

The UCLA campus has dining halls, restaurants, and cafes for every palate and dietary need. Students living in residence halls have access to dining halls and food trucks. Anyone can enjoy a meal from any of the boutique restaurants on campus — each with a different ambience and menu. For example, Café 1919 serves up vegan and vegetarian fare with a European vibe. Bruin Café offers a casual menu of sandwiches, wraps, salads, and soups, with an inviting atmosphere that encourages students to stay and study. Students can even have food delivered by robot!

University of Massachusetts Amherst  

The award-winning dining program at UMass is the largest of any U.S. college. Students enjoy healthy, globally inspired options made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. The campus features four residential dining halls, more than 20 cafes, two food trucks, 12 Campus Center eateries, and more. With that many dining spots, students can easily fuel their study sessions.

Stanford University 

In addition to being one of the most prestigious and selective schools in the country, Stanford University is also a top destination for foodies. The University houses over 30 different dining options conveniently located throughout campus, each with their own distinct ambiance and unique menu offerings. Students who are craving Mexican food may choose to stop by Stern Dining, while those looking for comforting classics can opt for a sandwich at Jimmy V’s. There are vegan, vegetarian, kosher, halal, and peanut-free offerings as well.

Vanderbilt University 

Students at Vanderbilt can indulge in a variety of dining events, and consequently enjoy a rotating list of specialties. Dining hall themes range from “Back to Childhood” to Thanksgiving feasts. Vanderbilt’s award-winning dining halls are also committed to sustainability, prioritizing waste-reduction by reducing plastic and composting. Students have endless options for healthy, globally inspired meals that suit their dietary preferences, and those on meal plans can also purchase food at participating off-campus restaurants through the Taste of Nashville program.

New York University 

In a city known for being “on” at all hours, it’s important to provide students with top-quality dining options around the clock. New York University does not disappoint and includes a variety of food choices scattered throughout the city. Brunch buffets at Palladium on Sundays are a campus-wide favorite and include a diverse array of breakfast options as well as a chocolate fountain. NYU Eats is committed to sustainability and to accommodating the dietary needs of all guests.

Washington University in St. Louis 

Students at this top-tier research institution do not need to worry about going hungry, as Washington University in St. Louis provides a multitude of unique and enticing options. Students craving St. Louis-style barbecue can choose to visit the on-campus Beast Craft BBQ, while those looking for Asian choices can stop by WashU Wok. Allergen-friendly, vegan, vegetarian, kosher, and halal dining options are also available.

Cornell University 

This Ivy League institution also earns top marks for its dining hall offerings. The school has more than 20 different choices, which range from a bagel shop to a dairy bar to a marketplace. The award-winning Cornell dining team provides a diverse array of daily selections with a focus on sustainability. The staff also completes annual food allergy training.

Bowdoin College 

Students at Bowdoin College have diverse options when it comes to on-campus dining, including the popular SuperSnack meals at Thorne Hall on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Students can enjoy a variety of themed food nights throughout their time on campus, from Mardi Gras to Thanksgiving dinners and more. The dining services team can accommodate all dietary needs, and full-time staff receive training in food safety and allergens. The produce used in the dining halls comes from the organic garden on campus, which is frequently tended by students. As for the rest of its ingredients, Bowdoin strives to source as much as possible from areas in/around Maine.

Pitzer College 

Pitzer College is on our list because they offer something unique — a student-run restaurant called The Grove House that serves meals made with locally sourced ingredients. Other dining options include the McConnell Bistro, the Pit-Stop Café, and the Shakedown Café, all of which focus on serving a variety of fresh meals made with regionally grown, seasonal ingredients. Students can also enjoy weekend brunch at McConnell.

Virginia Tech 

When it comes to variety, Hokies have it in spades. Virginia Tech boasts 49 dining options, including Au Bon Pain, Dunkin’, Pizza Hut, Chick-fil-A, and numerous unique campus eateries. Students can find something to satisfy any craving. Dining Services also hosts numerous events throughout the academic year, such as National Taco Day, Oktoberfest, Gingerbread House Building, National Grilled Cheese Day, and more.

There are many factors that go into every student’s decision about  where to enroll in college. While menu options may not be top of mind, a highly regarded dining hall is always a significant plus for incoming college students. If you are in the midst of your own college search process and need additional guidance, our team of college admissions experts can provide personalized advice and recommendations.



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