Introduction: Looking Back on my Dining Experience
It is now Winter Term, and I have completed my first semester at Oberlin. Looking back on the time I’ve spent here so far, there are many experiences that stand out to me. One I want to share in particular is my experience with Oberlin’s plentiful on-campus dining options. This post will explain to you the many things you can get using meal swipes and flex dollars at Oberlin and where to get them. In fact, there was so much I wanted to write about these options that I felt I needed to split this post into two parts. This post contains my first dining experience and the dining options on the north side of campus, while the next part will detail the options on the south side of campus, so check back to hear more!
When I began experiencing the dining at Oberlin, I hadn’t been here for long at all, so my experiences from home were fresh in my mind. Particularly held in my mind was that I came from a family that placed great value on dining together each day. Food was an important part of our routine that stayed consistent. Because of this, I had some concerns about dining on a college campus.
The chaos of dining during orientation (which was my first time eating at an Oberlin dining hall) felt overwhelming to me—from the long line outside the dining hall to the rush of people looking for spots to take their to-go food (all food was to be eaten outside during orientation as an additional COVID precaution) to the multitude of meal options available in Stevenson Dining Hall (the only campus dining location I knew was available to me at the time). Although I try to keep a positive outlook on all things, I can’t say I didn’t have concerns then about how my experience around the Oberlin dining situation would progress. I am happy to report, however, that after orientation ended I discovered the grand array of options available to me on campus and fell in love with Oberlin dining. I made a point of making it to every location a meal plan could apply to, and now, knowing all the options, I’m excited most days about where I’ll decide to eat. It was wonderful that something I was apprehensive about became something to find solace in.
North Campus Dining Locations
Now without further ado, here are my experiences with the dining locations on the north side of Oberlin’s campus:
Stevenson Dining Hall
Firstly, I must elaborate on the aforementioned main dining hall, Stevenson (known colloquially as “Stevie”). Stevie has contained within it a total of seven dining stations which specialize in different food categories and concepts for their rotating menus to provide students with a plethora of choices. One meal swipe (which a first-year dining plan provides you with four of per day!) used at Stevie will result in unlimited food from any station, including the ability to mix and match items from various stations together.
Upon walking into Stevie, one first sees the quaint kiosk designated as the Bake Shoppe where you can find cookies, brownies, and pastries of all sorts as the finale for your dinner, or to eat on the go in a paper bag if you prefer. Having taken items from the Bake Shoppe several times, I’ve found I love their luscious brownies and strawberry-flavored slices of cake. More times than most, however, I fill myself up with the abundance of entrees before I have time to think of dessert.
The second station in Stevie is the most consistent of the bunch, sticking to a narrow but dependable Italian menu suitable for the station’s name: Trattoria. I’ve loved the spaghetti in alfredo sauce you can find there and I was delighted to once try their mac and cheese pizza slices (although for those who crave traditional pizza flavors, rest assured that cheese and pepperoni slices are readily available as well).
Further down the line, one will find Roots, where plant-forward food options are located. Although this station isn’t often my go-to, they once had a delicious sweet potato shepherd's pie I got a slice of when I saw the option displayed on the menu screen, and this station is, of course, a great bet for vegetarian dining.
The Salad Bar nearby provides consistent vegetable options which I attempt to make a habit of adding to my meals, but on occasion run out of space for.
Smoke and Fire—the grill next to the salads in Stevie—has been equipped with all manner of entrees to fit the moment in the times I’ve attended. You can always tell something good is cooking there when the line starts lengthening into the main thoroughfare (although it never rivals the line during orientation, which constituted a wait I haven’t since had to deal with). It was at Smoke and Fire that I found the most delicious item I have ever tasted on campus, which was their Korean beef tacos. A good burger is also a safe bet to find from this part of Stevie (though the burgers here will never compare with those at another one of Oberlin’s excellent dining locations).
From the Blue Fin station, I’ve loved a variety of spiced fish dishes, clam chowder, and the first shrimp jambalaya I’d ever tasted.
And last but not least, Nutribar is always ready with calorie-smart and natural options that students can access.
From time to time in Stevie, students can also find the opposite of nutritious options—delicious ice cream.
No matter where I may have cobbled together my food from in Stevie, I can always count on the condiments and drinks provided on the way to the dining area to top off what I’ve already got. I especially have loved the locally sourced Hartzler Farm’s chocolate milk that is in plentiful supply.
Aside from the options within Stevie, though, Oberlin students can find more variety in their experience by accessing the other dining locations.
The Rathskeller Grill
The second dining spot I discovered, not at all too far from my Dascomb dorm with its location in the basement of Wilder Hall, was the Rathskeller Grill. “The Rat,” as it’s often referred to, maintains a line through most of the day packed with students wanting their burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken strips, chicken sandwiches, and more. A meal swipe at the Rat provides you with an entree and your choice of standard or sweet potato fries along with any sauces you desire (including ketchup, honey mustard, ranch, etc…). You can grab a drink too and take your bag of food to go (as many students do) or stick around in the Rat’s aesthetic dining area of polished dark wood. This year, the Rat’s menu has adopted some weekly rotations as well including that every morning (and all day on Mondays as per a student request!) they feature breakfast options of sandwiches, burritos, oatmeal, fresh fruit, and tater tots. In the evenings, after closing at 7 pm, the Rat reopens starting at 8 for their famous fourth meal that changes by the day: Mediterranean on Mondays, tacos on Tuesdays, wings on Wednesdays, meatball subs on Thursdays, and finger food on Fridays (featuring chicken strips, corn dogs, and the like). The new fourth meal option has gained huge popularity on campus and commands long lines while the breakfast hours remain a time to get Rathskeller food before the rush (which I frequently have done and am glad for!).
Not far from the Rat and also within the Wilder basement are the connected locations of Umami and Decafé and Market. Umami is open every day of the week (while Rathskeller closes over the weekends) and features “Umami cuisine” as they refer to it, which consists of rice or noodles with the meat of your choice (chicken, beef, etc..) in your choice of sauce for a hot bowl, or a variety of cold options from poké bowls to California rolls. Umami dishes come with a drink as well and are meant for eating on the go. This establishment has resulted in my obligation to master the use of their provided chopsticks, at which I seem to still be a novice.
Decafé and Market
Decafé and Market is a convenience-store-like spot where I’ll often spend my fourth meal swipe if I have it left over to grab water, nature-valley bars, and yogurt with granola that I can save for breakfast the next morning. Mixing and matching items here is the best way to ensure you get the full value of your meal plan at the day’s end.
Even closer to Dascomb dorm than the Rat is Azariah’s Café located in Mudd Library. This mellow coffee-shop-style location allows you to use your meal swipes on caffeinated or caffeine-free drinks of varying sorts, bagels, sandwiches, and delicious avocado toast for which the location is known. Either the everything seasoning avocado toast or a cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese is my go-to order if I’m looking for a light breakfast before my earliest class (my first-year seminar was at 8:35, but I didn’t mind since it got me up and ready for my day early) along with an iced chai tea.
Biggs GoYeo and Market
The dining location it took me the longest to visit (but I certainly don’t like the least) turned out to be tucked away right next to Stevie. Biggs GoYeo and Market is the spot students can spend a meal swipe or some flex dollars for a deliciously blended fruit smoothie. Although a smoothie certainly isn’t a main entree dish, it makes for a great addition to your daily consumptions if you have your fourth meal swipe to spare.
This concludes my summary of and experiences to share about the dining locations on the north side of campus. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about the options to eat here, and remember that the next post to come soon will complete my description of the choices with those on the campus’s south side!
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