Diving into Dartmouth Dining: A look at every campus cafe
Spread across campus, Dartmouth Dining cafes offer a vast selection of menu items and specialties.
Ramekin, a new cafe located in Dana Hall, opened this term.
This article is featured in the 2023 Winter Carnival special issue.
Dartmouth Dining Services operates 13 locations across campus, including a dining hall, a market, three snack bars and seven cafes. Its cafes — composing the majority of on-campus eateries — extend from the Hopkins Center for the Arts all the way down College Street to Anonymous Hall.
Cafes dot undergraduate and graduate program locations alike. A testament to their prominence, two cafes are situated at opposite ends of Baker-Berry Library, just a minute walk apart. The Dartmouth ventured to every on-campus cafe to ask Dartmouth Dining workers — and the students who frequent their businesses — what sets each location apart.
Situated inside the Hopkins Center, Courtyard Cafe offers an exclusive selection of made-to-order menu items, according to location manager Rachel Sperry. Colloquially known as “The Hop,” Sperry said that the location offers menu items from three distinct stations: the grill — which provides student favorites like breakfast burritos and quesadillas — the salad bar and pre-prepared Grab-N-Go options.
Sperry added that Courtyard Cafe provides an interpersonal dynamic between students and employees, where those manning the grill are sometimes able to recognize students by name even before an order is placed.
“We get to know the students,” she said. “Students that are here every day, we get to know them, more than so if they were eating at [’53 Commons].”
Annmarie Allos ’23, who ordered a “Bob Marley” — a sandwich that includes steak, hash browns, egg and cheese — said she usually eats at the Courtyard Cafe twice a week and praised the level of customization at the salad bar.
“There’s just a lot more variety with the options that they have here” as compared to other campus eateries, she said.
In Collis Cafe, located inside the eponymous Collis Center for Student Involvement, the constant flow of student activity contributes to the dining location’s atmosphere, according to supervisor Susan DiPadova.
“It makes it pretty social, and I think that makes [Collis] a little different,” DiPadova said. “It’s just small and everybody talks to everybody here.”
DiPadova said that made-to-order and pre-made breakfast sandwiches, homemade soups and the cafe’s pasta bar are all meals that keep students coming back to Collis. Additionally, the cafe has paired with local vendor Boloco for catered meals on Monday and Wednesday evenings, DiPadova added.
Though Alexandra Cadet ’26 said she prefers ’53 Commons for practicality and the Hop for its menu selection, she said certain menu items at Collis ensure she returns.
“I absolutely love the smoothies,” Cadet said. “They’re a good way to start my day occasionally.”
Past the entrance of Baker lobby, in a rightside alcove, is Cafe@Baker — one of Baker-Berry Library’s two cafe locations. Supervisor and barista Melissa Dauphinais said that Cafe@Baker has the feel of a true-natured study spot more than other dining options, with its location tucked away in the library along with its baked goods and hand pies.
“You come to Baker [because] you want to study… you just kind of want a chill place to relax and just get away from everything,” Dauphinais said.
A Dartmouth Dining employee since his freshman year, Bernardo De Nardi ’23 said that compared to his employment at other on-campus dining locations, Cafe@Baker is a more relaxed environment.
“Because you have more students coming and going [at other locations]... it feels a little bit more rushed because you have to serve everybody as fast as [you] can, because people have classes — they’re always in a rush,” De Nardi said. “And here, it’s a little bit more laid back because we have less people coming.”
At the opposite end of Baker-Berry, adjacent to Carson Hall, is Novack Cafe, the second of the library’s two in-house cafes. According to student worker Elvio Polanco Jr. ’24, the location receives constant student traffic and can be “a little crazy.” Starbucks refresher drinks, like strawberry acai lemonades, are a popular order, according to Polcano Jr.
“It’s just like a workplace, somewhere where [students] can always just sit down, do their work, and if they need to get coffee in a very quick second, they can just pull up real quick,” he said.
Working at a table in Novack, Leonhardt Fuchs ’24 said he likes that the cafe is “pretty quick” and an easy location to grab a snack — especially since he studies in the area.
“It’s right in the library and it’s pretty big — and has its own spacious seating and all of that,” Fuchs said.
The Fern Coffee and Tea Bar
At the end of Tuck Drive, inside the Irving Institute for Energy and Society, sits The Fern — one of two cafes that opened last year on the West End of campus. Alina Menard, a barista who has been working at The Fern since its arrival last March, said the location tries to offer exclusive meal products, including Italian sodas, bubble tea and acai bowls.
In addition, the location strives to promote sustainability, with a focus on all-natural products and reduced packaging.
Currently closing at 3:30 p.m., Menard said she hopes that The Fern is able to stay open later in the future to offer students more readily accessible, made-to-order meals into the evening.
Though she has an espresso machine in her dorm room, Miaoxuan Huang ’26 said stopping by The Fern for coffee is convenient, especially when compared to the prospect of walking back to her dorm room during the day to brew a cup for herself.
“I would say usually the line in The Fern is not [as] long as Novack, and I do appreciate that they have the option of light roast coffee,” Huang said.
Back of the Napkin
At the lowest level of the Engineering and Computer Science Center is Back of the Napkin, the newest Dartmouth Dining location and the second to open on the West End of campus.
Supervisor Magdalini Nanopoulos said the importance of Back of the Napkin lies in its convenience, allowing students who study in the West End buildings food and drink options without going across campus.
“Besides the location and the convenience, the other part is that…it’s very fast,” Nanopolous said. “I mean, we have hot food, burgers, fried food and we have cold sandwiches [and] sushi. So [students] can come in and out within a minute.”
According to Nanopoulos, students and faculty take advantage of the location’s late operating hours, as the cafe stays open until 9 p.m. most nights.
Sara Lydon ’23 said that as a student who works in the Engineering and Computer Science Center often, Back of the Napkin is a convenient dining location.
“Its hours are better than [The Fern],” Lydon said. “That’s nice.”
Named after the ramekin dishes in which it serves food to customers, Ramekin is located at the base level of Anonymous Hall on the North End of campus. Supervisor Alexis Lensing said that the cafe is a particular favorite of graduate students at the nearby Geisel School of Medicine.
“It’s definitely hard during the colder times of the year — we definitely get less traffic,” Lensing said. “But, I think we have our people that love to come here and just like to eat here and enjoy the mac and cheese,” she added, referencing what Lensing described as the cafe’s signature meal.
Tanaka Chikati ’25 has been working at Ramekin since her freshman fall and said that the cafe offers what she considers to be “the best mac and cheese on the campus.”