DDS Hacks: Optimizing your dining experience

by Emma Chiu | 8/13/17 11:30pm

This article was featured in the 2017 Freshman Issue.

As you can probably tell by now, Dartmouth uses quite a few acronyms. Although all of them are important for you to learn at some point, certain ones will come up far more often in your daily life than others will. One such acronym is DDS — the abbreviated form of Dartmouth Dining Services. As its title would imply, DDS runs the dining facilities on campus as well as the meal plans that students use to eat at said dining locations.

Although I’ve personally been very satisfied with the “food aspect” of my college experience, it took me many terms to figure out how to navigate my termly meal plan in a tactful manner. When you’re paying $2,230 for your first term meal plan, it becomes very easy to internalize the age-old maxim that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Therefore, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about food here: DDS hacks are inherently life hacks. At least, Dartmouth life hacks.

During your first term on campus, you are required to be on a meal plan called the SmartChoice20, more commonly referred to as “the 20” because it includes 20 meal swipes per week as well as $200 of DBA (i.e. dining dollars) for the entire term. Before we get too deep into the details, I suggest that you first hop onto the College’s website and search for Dartmouth Dining’s frequently asked questions. DDS does a good job of explaining the overall concept of meal swipes and how the dollar value of a meal swipe varies depending on the meal period and dining facility itself. However, what they don’t tell you is that maximizing your DBA and meal swipes is an art form.

Class of 1953 Commons: Frequently (read: only) referred to as Foco, this location is the only all-you-can-eat buffet option and it’s open for three meals a day, seven days a week. When you’re feeling especially hungry, this is your go-to place for a meal. As a general rule of thumb, always use a meal swipe (as opposed to DBA) when you go to Foco, except perhaps breakfast. Speaking of Foco breakfast, it’s a great place for those who like to start their morning early (or for athletes who have morning practice) since it opens at 7 a.m. While you’re at it, pick up a free copy of The New York Times and read it as you sip on a cup of morning joe. As you enter the College on the 20, you will be using many of your meal swipes here.

Collis Café: Although the Collis Center is a large building and consists of many different offices and facilities, if someone says “I’m going to Collis,” they’re most likely talking about getting a meal the building’s dining café. Because of it’s à la carte options, Collis tends to be frequented by upperclassmen on meals with fewer meal swipes and more DBA. The lines can get pretty long at Collis, particularly after popular classes get out around lunch time (e.g. when 10As end on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon, the place becomes a zoo). I’m personally partial to the fresh food quality of Collis, but it comes at the price of a potentially intimidating methodology of weighing vegetables and understanding what’s even available in the first place. If you find the system overwhelming, don’t be afraid to ask the random student next to you or even the cooks themselves how to order a particular type of dish, such as stir fry or pasta. You’ll learn the ways in which you can combine all the meals that Collis offers, including vegetables from the salad bar to your eggs or even in your smoothie! TAKE NOTE: Collis is closed on Saturday and Sunday except for Late Night which opens every night starting at 9:30 p.m.

KAF: Technically named “King Arthur Flour” (whoa, more acronyms!), KAF is located in Baker-Berry Library. It is a smaller café version of the bakery and restaurant in Norwich. The most important thing to remember about KAF is that it never accepts meal swipes. The only way you can pay with your student ID there is by using DBA. When you only have $200 of DBA for the entire term, going to KAF every day will probably put you into negative DBA by week 5. But don’t let that deter you from stopping by once in a while for a nice pick-me-up – especially if you decide to order a chocolate milk with an added shot of espresso.

The Hop: If you ever read anything from DDS referencing the Courtyard Café, they’re really talking about the Hop, which is located in the lower level of the Hopkins Center for the Arts. One of the most commonly raved about items at the Hop is the “tender queso,” which is a quesadilla stuffed with chicken tenders and salsa. The tender queso gives a pretty good indication of Hop food in general, but it also has a solid salad bar that often goes unnoticed because it’s tucked in a corner beyond the cash register!

Novack Café: Located within Baker-Berry Library, Novack is generally used in situations when you need food on the go, such as a pre-made sandwich, cup of Greek yogurt or hummus and carrots. Novak is one of the two 24-hour study spaces in the library and the café serves food until 2 a.m. daily. If you’re someone who drinks tea every day and also enjoys being extra, you can save $100 a term by ordering a cup of hot water and then whipping out a tea bag that conveniently saved in your backpack. (You will frequently see me doing this.)

The final piece of advice I’ll leave you with is that you should download the “GET Mobile” app on your phone. It will tell you how many meal swipes you have left for the week and total dining dollars that you have left for the term! It also tells you how, when and where you’ve been spending your swipes and DBA. Bon appétit, friends.