Is college dining something you're worried about? If so, you're not alone. Most people will tell you to lower your expectations for dining once you arrive on campus. College food is known to be . . . well, less than satisfactory and certainly not on par with homemade meals if you come from a family that likes to cook. I’m a self-described foodie, someone who relishes mealtimes and eagerly scans the menus for the upcoming week to plan where I want to go. I had a pretty underwhelming experience at a summer camp located on another college campus, where the food was so unappetizing that I regularly skipped meals and thus, gave everyone a near heart attack when I fainted one afternoon.
So coming to Oberlin, I suppose I had low expectations and was worried about not having many enticing options, but I have been pleasantly surprised so far! In general, I think there are many good qualities about Oberlin’s on-campus dining options. First of all, I did say options, and by that, I do mean more than one dining hall. There are a lot of perks that come with having multiple on-campus dining locations with different menus. For one, there is guaranteed variety. I’m not too particular when it comes to food, and I can usually find at least one thing on campus that I would gladly chow down on.
Stevenson, aka Stevie - The main dining hall that features buffet-style, all-you-can-eat stations, including: Smoke & Fire with fresh grill and traditional entree choices; the Carvery offering deli meats and homemade or locally sourced breads; Trattoria consistently serving pizza and pastas; Roots, the entirely plant-based station; a fresh salad bar; Blue Fin Seafood offering ethically sourced fresh seafood, house-made chowders, seafood entree salads; and Bake Shoppe, offering a variety of homemade breads, pastries, cakes, and cookies to take home or eat in-house.
Lord-Saunders - Located in African Heritage House on south campus, this dining hall offers cuisine reflective of the African diaspora and is well worth the walk even if you live on north campus!
Heritage Kosher Kitchen - Located in Talcott, this is our Kosher Certified kitchen, in partnership with Chabad at Oberlin.
Clarity - Located in Fairchild, Clarity is the allergen-free dining hall, with entrées available in both meat- and plant-based options. Clarity is absent of the eight common food allergens.
Rathskeller in Wilder - Traditional American grill options, including burgers, chicken tenders, grilled cheese, and fries, including plant-based options.
Umami in Wilder - hot rice and noodle bowls, poke, sushi!
DeCafé in Wilder - small student market where you can use meal swipes and Flex points from your meal plan to get sandwiches and wraps, salads, snacks, beverages, dessert pastries, candy, and baking ingredients!
Biggs GoYeo - Below Stevie, the perfect place to get afternoon smoothies!
Azariah’s Café in Mudd - when I need a chai latte fix!
Sky Bar - more sandwiches, wraps, snacks, and beverages!
Co-ops - While I'm not part of a co-op, many co-ops are quite generous and often invite non-members over to dine, especially for special weekly meals. Last year, I was invited to Pyle for Friday Pizza Night, which was delicious! I also ate at the Third World Co-op (TWC) for an Open House dinner with several friends, which was really fun.
At the dining hall locations above, some reliable regulars include sushi, noodle, and rice bowls at Umami, pasta bar and sandwiches at Stevenson, burgers and fries at Rathskeller, and other weekly traditions like Taco Tuesday at Heritage and fried chicken at Lord-Saunders on Sunday.
I thought it might be fun to share some food pics and examples of weekly menu items here on campus. Before I came to college, I was very curious about what college students ate or had available to them, so I enjoyed reading similar blog posts or scrolling through Instagram to see what college dining was all about. Some of my favorite meals so far:
1. Caprese French Toast - My first meal back was brunch and I went in with low expectations, still feeling a bit sad about leaving home. I had arrived early to help out with first-year orientation, so most of the other students on campus were fall athletes or residential assistants (RAs). Luckily, Stevenson was still offering meals at the usual time, so I wandered over after moving into my dorm room. I was excited to see a new menu item that seemed to have been made for me: pesto caprese French toast! It was really good, and made me feel a lot better about being back on campus!
2. Chicken and Tofu Tikka Masala - I'm always excited to see what Heritage has on their weekly menu! To me, the meals are pretty reminiscent of homecooked dishes and the dining hall staff is really nice. Heritage always has both omnivorous and plant-based entree options, so on this day, I got both chicken and tofu tikka masala, one of my favorite meals on campus! I was so hungry that I ate half of it before stopping to take a picture for this blog!
3. Thai Green Curry Chicken and Stir-Fried Vegetables - I haven't made the trek over to Clarity too often this semester, but for certain menu items like this, I have to go! Similar to Heritage, it tastes a little bit more like homecooking, which I appreciate. I also like that many of the dining options incorporate fresh fruit and vegetables into their entrees and sides.
4. Stuffed Eggplant and Pasta Bolognese - I'm realizing now that the latter half of this post just consists of food pics from Heritage, but what can I say? It's that good. On this day, I went for the main entrees of stuffed eggplant and pasta bolognese and also got sides like cabbage, noodle kugel, and quinoa. I'm basically reliving this meal as I'm writing this, and it was sooooo good. Some of these dishes are similar to what I would eat at home and while it's hard to beat my family's cooking, it's pretty darn good for college food. If the line isn't too long, getting a second helping is also encouraged at Heritage!
5. Tomato-Egg and Tofu Hot Bowls - I sent this photo to my roommate from last year, who loves tomato-egg and used to make it in the dorm kitchen! She was very excited to hear that Umami offered its own version. Umami is one of those staples that you can rely on when nothing else on the menu catches your attention and beckons you. I often find myself going to Umami after class with friends if we can't decide where to go!
6. Enchiladas and Sweet & Sour Tofu - Okay, this is the last Heritage food pic that I will post. Heritage is one of those places that you can go to, even if the daily menu doesn't scream your name. The culinary staff does an amazing job at making delicious meals. The enchiladas were somewhat of a surprise on this day since I don't think they were originally on the menu. But once again, it was a pleasant surprise and one that even proved worthy of being included in this post. The meals at Heritage also make you feel relatively healthy, given the simple ingredients, homecooked quality, and fresh veggie sides!
Thanks for reading! Hopefully, this post gave you some insight into what college dining can look like at Oberlin and assuaged some of your concerns. I couldn't resist posting some honorable mentions below:
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