Heading off to college can be one of the most exciting experiences of a person’s life… until they remember that mom or dad won’t always have a delicious meal waiting for them when they feel hungry. When searching for the perfect university, students must not only take campus location, major compatibility and the graduation rates into consideration – they must also consider the meal plans. Since the best college food remains something that is not often considered right away, it’s still a valuable piece of knowledge to know what on and off campus food the school offers directly and indirectly with the local restaurants in the area. Knowing these delicious factors can help future students make the final decision about the right university for them.
Read on for the top 10 colleges with delicious dining options.
10. Temple University
Temple University offers an abundance of food options for particularly picky students. With 14 different meal plans to choose from, usable at the two main dining halls, students are offered a variety of non-stop food. Some of the plan options range from a five-meal-a-week plan to an unlimited meal plan in which students can visit the dining halls whenever they please.
Equivalent to real money accepted at most food venues on and around campus, many of these plans also come with Temple’s student cash known as “Diamond Dollars.” Not only can these plans be used at the dining halls, but at two more food courts with multiple fast-food options including Chick-Fil-A and Panda Bistro, along with 11 small-owned restaurants that are located on campus.
“The best dining options at Temple are the food trucks and small businesses around campus. Places like the Honey truck, the Halal carts, the bagel huts and others provide so many options for whatever you might want,” Temple graduate Bonnie Giberson said
Tired of the dining hall already? Some go-to locations for students include Richie’s, where everyone will direct you for the best iced-coffee on campus. Make sure to also check out Maxi’s, a fan-favorite pizza place by day and the most popular bar on campus by night. There’s also the Draught Horse Pub, a bar known for its deals on wings and for the hours-long line during the infamous “White Girl Wednesday” nights.
You can’t forget about all of the food trucks that line the streets of campus, providing options of every type of food imaginable. Averaging at around nine dollars per meal, food around Temple won’t break the bank for students. Any time of day or night, Temple has something nearby to suit your cravings, from sweet to savory.
9. Tulane University
Tulane finds itself smack-dab in middle of New Orleans, a rather expensive city when it comes to dining at around $14 per meal. Commonly flaunted as one of the most extravagant cities in the country regarding food, New Orleans offers students so many delicious food options they’ll need more than two hands to keep count. Tulane offers students the option to purchase a meal plan which come in the options of eight meals a week, 10 meals a week, 15 meals a week, or an unlimited meal option.
With dozens of places for off-campus dining, over 20 surrounding restaurants such as Bruno’s Tavern, Broadway Pizza and Empanola accept the school’s “NOLA Bucks,” which are worth the same as cash and come in handy when the dining hall food gets old. Students will definitely look forward to their next meal more often than not. If you want the true Tulane experience, a few token venues around campus that you must visit include The Rum House, a Caribbean and Latin American cocktail bar where there’s always a party going down and The Dough Bowl, one of the only New York style pizza places in New Orleans.
Tulane students also find themselves with many on-campus options, with 25 on-campus food venues including the “City Diner”, open from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. and known for its 16-inch Big City Pancake which was recently renovated and replaced by a new area called “The Rathskeller Lounge.” The school also added a new taco bar, which offers students the chance to build their own Latin rice bowls, salads, tacos and burritos. A new food truck called “Roulez,” one of the first food trucks in the nation to accept student meal-plans, recently found itself on campus as well.
Aside from the new additions to the Bruff Commons dining hall, along with the food court that includes multiple food shops such as Panera Bread, Tulane also holds special themed nights where they serve New Orleans staple dishes. Delicious meals include Red Bean Mondays, Fried Chicken Wednesdays and Gumbo Fridays — just some of the over 100 various dining events that they hold on campus each year. If you end up in New Orleans, just know that you will end up satisfied with your daily food options.
8. University of Pennsylvania
Situated minutes from the chopped beef and cheese whiz-filled heart of Philadelphia, The University of Pennsylvania sits in one of the most convenient areas for food lovers. With dozens of options to choose from right on campus, dining at UPenn surely will leave you facing one of the hardest decisions of your life: what should you eat? The school offers seven meal plans, including one that allows 51 visits to the dining halls per semester, to the biggest plan which allows 301 visits.
Students can choose to use their plans at one of the five on-campus dining halls such as Hill House, Lauder College House and 1920 Commons along with multiple retail locations like Starbucks and an off-campus market. With the cost of food around University of Pennsylvania falling on the pretty expensive side (some around $15 per meal) students with a meal plan find themselves set when it comes to dinner time.
“Even though Penn is right in a city with one of the largest selections of food, I feel as though I don’t have to go too far off-campus to find a reasonably priced meal that both fills me and tastes wonderful at the same time,” UPenn senior Joseph Leibowitz said
Some staple locations around Penn include Lyn’s Food Truck, always tightly packed with long lines, and the popular pizza joint Allegro’s. The White Dog Café, known for its delicious and award-winning modern American Cuisine, is a nearby hotspot where every student will visit at least once during their time at Penn. UPenn also aims to be as environmentally friendly as possible by putting immense effort into sourcing their food locally. What a way to stick to the idea of farm-to-plate!
UPenn additionally gives students the option to take part in the Green2Go program, which means to help recycle and reduce waste. The program asks students to use reusable containers for their food. If your search for the perfect college included having great dining options available, the University of Pennsylvania will not leave you disappointed.
7. University of California, Los Angeles
With over 50 restaurants just within a mile of campus, it comes as no surprise that the dining options on and around campus at the University of California, Los Angeles seem so vast. Students thrive in one of the most populated areas in the country, with multiple different delicious options to keep them satisfied until their next meal. The university offers six different meal plans, all ranging in flexibility, such as allowing unused meals from one week to carry over to the next week.
For those who work hard to maintain a healthy diet, UCLA offers four of its own outstanding on-campus restaurants such as the Bruin Plate, a Green-Certified restaurant that offers healthy meals for students. The Covel Commons provides delicious Mediterranean inspired dishes such as Greek salad and their Falafel plate, along with options from countries that border the coast of the Mediterranean. UCLA has seven smaller restaurants for quicker food service, such as Rendezvous and Bruin Bowl. With more fine dining options around the area like Napa Valley Grille, Skylight Gardens and West Restaurant & Lounge if you desire a fancy night out, your date will certainly find themselves impressed.
“Rendezvous is by far my favorite dining option at UCLA, though all of them are pretty impressive. What I enjoy most is that there are so many options every time you go there. I also like how you have the choice to either sit down and eat or take your food to go, because most college students usually need to be somewhere,” UCLA junior Hassan Naseem said.
Many dining locations off-campus that students often visit for their meals exist as well, such as Fat Sal’s Deli, which serves massively filling portions. Diddy Riese, known for its customizable ice cream sandwiches also stands out as a hot spot for students. Stan’s Donuts, labeled as one of the best doughnut stores in the entire country, also sits quite close to campus.
As a member of the Healthy Campus Initiative, Menus of Change and the Global Food Initiative, UCLA has programs called the Student Nutrition Awareness Campaign (SNAC) and the Here’s to Health initiative, both of which assist students with healthy eating. A registered dietitian always resides on campus for who students to come to with any questions or concerns. While Los Angeles may not be the cheapest place to attend college, the incredible food might make it worth the price, which on average comes to around $14 per meal. Living your best life in school in one of the hottest cities in the nation, both physically and metaphorically, includes eating the best food possible and UCLA will help with that.
6. Cornell University
Cornell University offers their students quite a variety of great dining options for being such a small college town. Cornell offers five meal plans for their students, along with the option to purchase “City Bucks,” equivalent to real money, which students can use at locations around Ithaca. On campus, Cornell’s dining halls have options for every person’s dietary needs — whether they are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, kosher, halal, Seventh Day Adventist, Cornell will make sure you can eat.
Their Risley Dining Room, a gluten, peanut and tree-nut-free dining hall, exists on campus to ensure that every student feels as safe as possible. Like many other schools, Cornell actively tries to help reduce its carbon footprint on the planet. In recent years, Cornell University slowly but surely switched over to using as much locally grown food as their ingredients as possible. The dining halls even removed nonreusable plastic trays to reduce waste.
Cornell also hosts themed food nights such as Nutritionland, Peanut Butter Month, A Night at Hogwarts, Baseball Night and Chinese New Year. Cooking these feasts are Cornell’s highly ranked chefs who often come in top places in the National Association of College and University Food Services’ yearly chef contest.
“The themed dining nights at Cornell were incredibly well thought out and always so interesting and fun! I’m the biggest Harry Potter nerd so I obviously loved the Night at Hogwarts event. I never thought I would have such a good time during dinner at college, but I assure you, it was quite the experience,” Cornell alumnus Lillian Royce said
If the dining halls and other on-campus locations don’t tickle your fancy, no need to fret! The surrounding Ithaca area offers a vast amount of food options as well. With the price sitting at around $15 per meal around the area, ordering quicker options every now and then may save you time and money. If times get tough and money gets tight, luckily a Wendy’s, McDonalds, Chipotle, Five Guys plus much more all sit not too far from campus. For those nights to celebrate passing seemingly impossible exams, definitely check out Taverna Banfi, North Star Dining Room or Gola Osteria, all of which will serve you a four-star meal which you’ll surely remember far beyond your years at school.
Collegetown Bagels sticks out as the most iconic name in food around Cornell, with students finding themselves there at least two or three times a week to buy one of their outstanding bagel concoctions. But by far one of the most interesting food-related places on campus is The Cornell Dairy Bar, Cornell’s personal dairy-processing plant. They produce milk, yogurt, pudding and cheese and sell them back to the public. Attending Cornell will leave your brain full of great knowledge… and your stomach full of great food.
5. University of San Diego
As a southern city close to the beach, students who attend The University of San Diego will never need to settle when it comes to dining. San Diego sticks out as a rather expensive city, with the average meal costing about $15; however, at a nearby college you can bite off more than you can chew. The University of San Diego offers its students the option of choosing from over a dozen meal plans, which can be used at the multiple dining venues sat both on and off campus.
Students also can purchase University of SD “Campus Cash”, valued at the same price as cash, which they can spend at 17 off-campus dining locations including Domino’s Pizza, Olive Café and Linda Vista Farmers Market. There are also multiple food trucks, such as Torero Tu Go, which holds claim as the first college self-operated food truck on the West Coast. Many food places around campus such as McDonalds, Sonic, Arby’s and Wendy’s stay open for late night dining, so students will not need to fret or worry about going hungry late at night.
When visiting U San Diego, restaurants that will surely leave your taste buds in a food coma include La Paloma and Neighborhood. At Casa Guadalaraja, you will delight your stomach with some of the finest Mexican food that you could possibly try anywhere. Other locations to make sure to stop at include Truluck’s, Addison Restaurant, Juniper & Ivy, Cowboy Star Restaurant and Butcher Shop and Top of the Market.
The school also holds various food events throughout the year, including Fall’s Applefest and the Strawberry Festival that takes place in the spring. U San Diego even holds a yearly cooking competition for students in which the winner gets their creation featured in the campus dining halls. The University of San Diego instilled many programs to try and become a more environmentally friendly campus. The school uses a bio-digester to turn its food waste into energy in order to be more sustainable overall. Dining at the University of San Diego surely leaves you yearning to return for more delicious cravings as soon as possible.
4. New York University
New York University resides in one of the most ideal locations for anyone who loves food. With restaurants in everywhere you look, the dining options in New York City indeed reign endless. NYU students can choose to purchase a meal-plan, which they can use at any one of the school’s 14 on-campus dining locations. Students can choose to visit the Palladium Dining Hall where they can find a variety of food, or shop at the Bridgeview Market for ingredients. Students can also use “Campus Cash” at off-campus locations like Whole Foods and Starbucks.
Some common staples for NYU students include 5 Napkin Burger, Argo Tea, The Grey Dog, Tortaria, Taboonette and B & H Dairy. Dozens of fast-food options such as Dairy Queen, McDonalds, Wendy’s and Chick-Fil A reside not too far from campus. For nice nights out, many options also exist as well. Some of these include Gotham, Eleven Madison Park and La Lanterna di Vittorio, where you may encounter a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience eating in the grand atmosphere of the grandest city in the nation. All of the restaurants around campus provide students with countless unforgettable nights out to dinner
“I always wanted to attend NYU, everything about the city just speaks to me. I knew that the food around school was something to look forward to, and after being here for almost four years I can say that I have not even tried half of the restaurants close to the main area I’ve stayed in,” NYU senior Lara Lennon said
The university also offers the opportunity for students to learn how to make their own food. NYU recently created a community garden for students to learn how to grow, care for and harvest different fruits and vegetables. Boasting the title of one of the original schools to offer a master’s degree in food studies, NYU allows the inspiration of new generations of chefs and nutritionists.
They care so much about their dining options that they even write a dining services newsletter called “The Scoop”, where students can check out menus and upcoming dining events. If you attend New York University, you absolutely should not need to worry about food variety. Price on the other hand? Well, that’s a different story. Costing around $15 per meal, the city makes it quite expensive to grab a bite to eat. Even so, this doesn’t outweigh the fact that so many options to eat exist in and around the city.
3. University of Michigan
The University of Michigan doesn’t only deserve fame because of its sports teams and rivalries; the school upholds one of the most advanced programs when it comes to dining. Ann Arbor Michigan boasts a quite diverse food scene, and paired with the fact that the average price per meal is only around $11, Ann Arbor makes for a fantastic night out. With hundreds of restaurants, anyone finding something to eat that they will enjoy shouldn’t prove a challenge.
The university offers multiple meal-plans to select from for use at the different dining halls across campus, such as East Quad, Mosher-Jordan, North Quad and South Quad. They also can choose to purchase Michigan’s “Blue Bucks,” which virtually every on-campus café, market and dining hall accept, making it unnecessary for students to leave campus to find something to fill their appetite.
“Living in Ann Arbor there are just a ridiculous number of restaurants to eat out at, all within walking distance of central campus. I have a list of all the places I’ve been the last three and a half years and its insane how many great restaurants, like Aventura and Chapala, I still have to go to before I graduate. But I’d say the staple restaurants of campus are definitely the likes of Savas, Frita Batidos, Mani Osteria and, of course, Zingerman’s Delicatessen,” Michigan senior Bennett Bramson said.
Dining on campus leaves many students satisfied with all their nearby options. However, if you do end up visiting Ann Arbor, it’s highly important that you visit Frita Batidos, along with the nationally famous Zingerman’s Delicatessen. Opened in 1982, people claim that Zingerman’s makes some of the best mac and cheese in America, which helped to solidify their spot as one of the most well-known delis in America. So, if you’re a fan of delicious mac and cheese, it’s not something you want to miss.
Vegetarians and vegans are also highly accommodated in the overall Ann Arbor area, with several restaurants solely serving plant-based food. Tasty Bakery, an entirely gluten-free bakery, also sits very close to campus, allowing for a quick and easy snack. Michigan’s highly diverse dining options ensure that students’ stomachs stay satisfied.
2. Northeastern University
The inner harbor area in Boston houses many prestigious universities in and around the small quadrant. As one of the many Universities situated in Boston, Northeastern neighbors an immense number of places to eat. Northeastern University’s three dining halls stand out from most, each which hosts a theme totally different from the others.
First, The International Village gives students the option of various foods from countries all over the world, from sushi to samosas. Secondly, students can visit Levine Marketplace, housing a classic, college dining hall that serves burgers, breakfast food and the school-wide classic chocolate chip cookies. Finally, at Stetson West you will find customizable stir-fries, pizzas and calzones cooked in a brick oven, personalized sandwiches, hot entrées and more to satisfy your rumbling stomach. Though all three dining halls differ when it comes to what they serve, they all offer a number of options for vegetarian and vegans.
When you visit, don’t forget to check out Trident Booksellers & Café, an Indie bookstore and cafe with an all-day breakfast menu. Cappy’s Pizza and Subs, a casual stop for pizza, calzones and cheesesteaks, proves a delicious local favorite. Fast food options include Popeyes, Wendy’s, McDonalds, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers and Subway. A variety of vendors in Boston, such as Whole foods, accept Northeastern’s meal-plan dollars, so if on-campus dining doesn’t suit you, more options exist in the area.
The school also owns a display kitchen, Xhibition Kitchen, which includes cameras that record presentations, state-of-the-art stovetops and tables for an audience to view the works in progress. Many famous chefs cooked there before, including Jacques Pépin, Ming Tsai, Alex Guarnaschelli and Kristen Kish, a winner of the TV show “Top Chef.” At $13 per meal, Boston rests on the more expensive side of the bar. Though the education should stand as good enough, the food scene in Boston absolutely plays a role in getting many future students to fall in love with Northeastern University.
1. Columbia University
Planting its roots in the Big Apple, one of the most expensive cities at $15 per person, the food will not let you down. Columbia University, a school that dwells in the food capital of the country, sits at the heart of it all. You know, from the iconic one-dollar pizza to the meals that will leave you bankrupt. Not only does the city offer universal options for dining, but Columbia itself hooks its students up well with hundreds of menu options served every day throughout campus.
Columbia offers meal-plans and “Flex Dollars,” spent at off campus locations such as Chipotle, Five Guys and Whole Foods. Enjoy a meal at Ferris Booth Commons or John Jay Dining Hall, both on-campus food venues that accommodate basically every dietary restriction. Columbia additionally includes halal and kosher dining options; they offer a completely kosher dining hall that serves various kosher items, along with an entire halal meal-plan that includes homemade classic halal dishes.
“I think I would agree that Columbia is for sure one of the best schools if you’re looking to expand your palate. I mean we’re right outside the Upper West Side, and not too far from Hell’s Kitchen either. There’s no way you’re ever going to run out of places to eat,” Columbia sophomore Dan Vickers said.
In a rush? There are plenty of quick places around campus to grab a bite like McDonalds, Taco Bell, White Castle, Chipotle, Arby’s and Checkers. For nice nights out, check out places such as Pisticci, Le Monde, Friedman’s at Columbia and Tartina. Some iconic places around the area that most students go to include Koronet Pizza, Kitchenette Uptown and Mel’s Burger Bar, where you can try their bottomless brunch. Columbia’s dining halls stay open during break, so any students staying in town do not need to worry about spending extra on food they already paid for.
Columbia also tries to stay very environmentally aware, as they donate mass amounts of food and money to City Harvest, along with purchasing about 52% of all the food they use from local vendors. The school recognizes that not everyone has the proper resources to feed themselves, and offers free food to students who need it without asking any questions. Columbia’s staff includes a registered dietitian who stays available on campus and online for one-on-one meetings with students who request them. Though many schools in the country can brag about a lot when it comes to food programs, none hold more of a right than Columbia University.