10 Reasons AU Students Skip the Cafeteria

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Summer lurks just around the corner, so by this point, looking at college food makes you sick. You probably ran out of your Eagle Bucks and dining dollars (because let’s face it, Starbucks every morning gets expensive) and now you’re stuck with a bunch of meal swipes you can only use at a select few venues. Translation: You can only eat at American University’s cafeteria, known as the Terrace Dining Room (AKA TDR). No wonder American University students opt to eat hoarded Ramen in their apartments.

1. It all tastes the same.

How can you get excited about the same salads, sandwiches and pizza when you’ve eaten them four months straight? You can always skip TDR and go to “Tav” (AU’s food court), but you can only eat so many chicken tenders and Subway subs. No matter how hard the university tries, the food might as well dance on your plate to keep you interested for a whole semester.

2. The afternoon off-time.

“I hate going to TDR around 3 p.m.,” said freshman Michael Glaser. “There’s no food.” If you happen to get out of class at this time or just slept in really late on the weekend, you’ll find all the entrée stations taunt you with their closed signs. This leaves you left to eat a sandwich or salad bar, which aren’t exactly ideal when you crave roast chicken or tacos.

3. The lines go on for miles.

AU has places like Freshii or Einstein Brother’s, where you can pick up a salad with teriyaki chicken or a pizza bagel. If you’re looking to grab a quick lunch before your afternoon classes, prepare to feel nothing but cold, hard disappointment. Students flood these places as soon as their morning classes end, so you have to know the best times to go (like mid-afternoon for Freshii). Or you can ignore this advice and wait in line while your stomach grumbles.

4. D.C. offers way better food.

Eating out gets expensive, and AU students aren’t made of diamonds. Even so, the quality food only a short walk away always seems to call my name. A wilted salad or pre-made sandwich on campus can’t compete with a bowl from Cava or mashed potatoes from Nando’s. When you know these foods wait for you a short walk away, it feels like pure torture to eat on campus. Plus, you might run into Joe Biden at the local Wagshal’s.

5. You can’t eat past 9 p.m.

Like Cinderella leaving at the stroke of midnight, you’ll get kicked out of TDR once the clock strikes 9 p.m. “They need better hours,” said senior Janu Sonthi, a business administration major. “It’s hard for people who have late block classes.” If your professor likes to hear the sound of her own voice, good luck finding food, especially since nearly all of the other food places close around 9 p.m.

6. You can’t do TDR alone.

Ever sat by yourself in a cafeteria? I thought so. Everything feels more fun with friends, but a stigma exists about going to the cafeteria alone (I blame Mean Girls). If my friends are in class and I just want to grab something quick, I generally forgo the cafeteria. No, I don’t hide in the bathroom like Cady, but I’ll just grab something from Subway and eat in the library.

7. The new Dessert Desert sucks.

TDR used to offer more dessert options—even cake—before they renovated. Now, the dessert options might as well be a desert. I’m not quite sure why this happened., but it’s like watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory backwards where the cabbage soup came after the chocolate river. Yuck.

8. Lack of Healthy Food

TDR serves your basic college fare: pizza, fries, bacon, etc. “I think TDR did a decent job improving over the past few years,” said senior Grey O’Reilly, an education major. “But they need more healthy options like fresh fruit.” Tav does serve some healthier options, like Freshii and Global Fresh, which sells vegan food. If you don’t want to die early from a heart attack, you’re better off avoiding TDR.

9. Megabytes

You hit up Megabytes when the Starbucks line is too long but your caffeine withdrawal symptoms already started. They got shut down for a health code violation two years ago (apparently, rodents were part of the reason) and reopened, so some of the older students still feel wary about going back. Plus, it smells weird. The best word I can use to describe this stink is “boiled onions.”

10. But it’s not all bad…

Some students actually consider AU’s dining experience fine. “I haven’t had a lot of problems,” said junior Will Soboroff, a major in international studies. He also commented on how friendly the workers are, something I noticed myself. So while I’d give the food three stars, the service deserves five.

Elizabeth Lowman is a senior journalism major at the American University. She can usually be found eating cupcakes or petting other people’s dogs, sometimes at the same time.

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