Who's At The Bottom of The Food Chain? Dining On Campus

by Nelly Mendoza-Mendoza | 9/26/18 2:05am

Dartmouth Dining Services is known to students for holding a monopoly over dining options on campus. However, DDS is not alone ­ it faces tough competition from alternative options, such as King Arthur Flour Café on campus and Domino’s Pizza in town.

How do these places stand on the list? These (subjective) rankings are based on food quality, overall service, and friendliness of staff.

1. Collis Café: Located in the Collis Center and home to the eye-catching white and red paper straws first introduced in the spring. While students soon realized the straws were not designed to stand the lifetime of a made-to-order Collis fruit smoothie, Collis is still loved by freshmen and upperclassmen alike for its food variety. Several students interviewed consider Collis to be one of the best dining halls on campus. Benjamin Citow ’22 says he enjoys Collis pasta, stir-fry and sushi.

However, students did not fail to point out the long lines at Collis. Nalini Ramanathan ’19 said that adding another dining hall similar to Collis somewhere else on campus with ready-to-go food might help reduce the lines. Sometimes it can take close to half an hour to get through the pasta or stir-fry lines during peak times.

2. King Arthur Flour Café: KAF, located next to the lobby of Baker-Berry, features high-quality food at high prices. Getting lunch at KAF every day is the easiest way for students to spend more Dining Dollars than what their meal plan allows. The line is usually out the door, and it is not uncommon to wait more than 20 minutes to get a pre-made sandwich or a more elaborate drink order.

Freshman are the most restricted from going to KAF during their freshman fall because of their dining plan, which features $250 in Dining Dollars. KAF seems to be more popular with older students, who can buy meal plans with more Dining Dollars. Most of the people interviewed ranked KAF close to the top, such as Tracy Mutoni ’20 and Ramanathan. On the other hand, Citow says he has never been to KAF.

3. The Courtyard Café: Located in the Hopkins Center for the Arts and referred to by students as “The Hop,” is best known for its grilled food and overpriced fruit cups. One of my favorite features of the Hop is the television that displays students’ comments and the Hop’s light-hearted responses. Last fall, students were surprised to see the Hop, popular for its fries, burgers and other sandwiches, try to push for healthier options. It did this by adding an employee-served salad bar, encouraging students to replace their regular beef patties with patties partially made with mushroom and removing the popular “Bob” wraps from its menu. However, Dining Services received so much backlash against the decision to remove the “Bob” wraps and other items from the menu that they decided to bring some of the options back.

4. Class of 1953 Commons: Formerly known as Thayer Hall and known by many students as “Foco.” Many students eat at ’53 Commons their freshman fall. This is often the result of the mandatory dining plan required for all freshman in their first term. For example, Mutoni explained how being on the Smart Choice 20 meal plan her freshman year forced her to mostly go to ’53 Commons. But that it is no longer the case. She still goes to ’53 Commons, but mostly because the setting is ideal for group dinners. “I go to the Hop and Foco when I am meeting a lot of friends,” she said.

Unlike any of the other dining halls on campus, ’53 Commons features all-you-can-eat dining for one set price, their famous freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and multiple dining areas. Luis Rodriguez ’20 pointed out that if he had to choose one place to eat for the rest of his time at Dartmouth, he would choose ‘53 Commons because of the food variety.

5. Novack Café: Located in Baker Library. Often used as a student’s last resort for a quick bite during study marathons, Novack is open 24 hours a day during finals. Novack’s line goes much faster than KAF’s. However, unlike KAF, Novack is not known for its food quality. The benefits of going to Novack lie in the convenience of its location and its extended hours compared to KAF.

Patrons can get anything from iced cappuccinos to strawberry gum and maybe some tunes courtesy of the student workers at Novack. However, most students still ranked Novack closer to the bottom of the list. Although Rodriguez also ranks Novack on the lower end, he expressed another side of the story. “If you are going by convenience, number one is Novack, always,” he said.

6. Snack Bars: A new addition to the Dartmouth community, these rooms are stocked full of candy, chips and more, with four different locations on campus. Students prefer these spots because of their proximity to popular study spots and the convenience. However, they do not offer a wide variety of dinner options. “Really the only options are ramen and Lunchables,” Rodriguez said. “Not really a good meal.” Ramanathan expressed her appreciation for the snacks bar convenience when she is far away from all of the other dining facilities and is looking for a quick snack.

Honorable mentions:

Domino’s Pizza: Located in Hanover, but not really on campus or owned by DDS. Although Domino’s is not on campus, it still deserves a mention for being the only food service that is open past 2 a.m. and delivers right to your door. There are probably more Domino’s cars driving on campus past midnight than there are Safety and Security and Hanover police cars combined driving around at that time. Mutoni expressed that if Collis Late Night was closed and she was hungry, she would just order Domino’s instead. More than a few students depend on Domino’s to sustain their late-night cravings when the vending machines are too far or there is no other option for a past-mindnight feast.

Byrne Hall: Located at the Tuck School of Business, it serves everything from made-to-order Boar’s Head sandwiches to smoothies. Byrne is at the bottom of the list because undergraduate students cannot use their Dining Dollars there. The space is mostly utilized by Tuck students. However, it outweighs most of the other food options because the dining hall combines some of the best features of the other dining halls into one. There is even a café, Joe’s Coffee, in the facility, featuring KAF pastries.

Ramanathan is a former member of The Dartmouth Senior Staff.