The best cafeteria food: 10 universities with amazing dining (2024)

Choosing which university to attend can be a difficult choice. Most people tend to weigh factors like rankings, location, affordability and available programmes.

These are important things to consider. But there are around 40% of students who take into account a lesser-known factor: campus food.

While it may not be the defining factor, the best cafeteria food could skew your decision.

When you’re thousands of miles away from home, that dining hall becomes your go-to for good food to power you through your 8 a.m. lectures or 10,000-word essay.

Tasty, nutritious food improves our mood and gives our body all the energy and sustenance it needs.

This is especially important for international students who can’t just pop home for a taste of familiarity.

You’re spending three years away from home, sometimes in campuses far from any shops or restaurants.

Imagine if you have to eat bad food or just instant noodles throughout your time abroad.

Universities with the worst food

1. Fordham University

Fordham University is notorious for its bad cafeteria food. Most complaints stem from the flavourless food, overpriced meal plans and dirty cafeterias. But this is nothing new for Fordham students. The food has been an ongoing issue at the school for some time now.

Thankfully, Fordham is located in New York City, so there are many off-campus food choices.

2. Wells College

At Wells College, the food is as unpredictable as the weather. Students have been known to complain about the lack of variety, the uninspired menu choices and the occasional mishaps.

The good news is that Wells College has Taco Tuesdays, which are a big hit and might just be the highlight of your week.

3. New College of Florida

Many students from New College of Florida have complained about the quality of the food. According to College Prowler, the students of New College of Florida give their school cafeteria a D+.

Thankfully, there are many cheap, local options nearby. Unfortunately, you will definitely need a car to get there.

10 universities with the best cafeteria food in the US

The best cafeteria food: 10 universities with amazing dining (1)

Having good quality food on campus is essential to ensure you are healthy and happy. Source: AFP

1. University of California, Los Angeles

UCLA is known to have one of the best cafeteria foods in the US.

The university doesn’t just serve up the same old boring cafeteria food. Here, you will find dining halls, restaurants and cafes. Whether you’re craving vegan meals or meaty feasts, there’s something for everyone. There are even halal and gluten-free options.

At UCLA, they are all about keeping it green, with trayless dining and sourcing fruits, veggies, and seafood from local vendors.

Love pasta? Get the Linguine w/ Limone Sauce at Epicuria. Want something spicier? Try the
Honey Gochujang Fried Chicken at The Spice Kitchen.

The best cafeteria food: 10 universities with amazing dining (2)

As good as eomonis. Source: AFP

2. University of Massachusetts Amherst

Whether you’re burning the midnight oil or need a quick bite between classes, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, there’s always something delicious to munch on.

With over 22 dining locations scattered around campus, you have so many choices, including sushi, pizza, burritos and even gelato.

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, Franklin Dining Commons is your go-to spot. Known for serving up nutritious goodness, this place takes healthy eating seriously, with menu items such as:

  • Baked Apple Cinnamon French Toast
  • Lentil Mushroom Casserole
  • Black Bean Burger
  • African Peri Peri Chicken
  • Jollof
  • Plant Based Pulmuone Steak & Pepper Quesadilla
  • Gluten-free Vegetarian Hummus Wrap

And they source their ingredients straight from UMass Amherst permaculture.

The best cafeteria food: 10 universities with amazing dining (3)

Say goodbye to ramen and fast food when you have delicious meals on campus. Source: AFP

3. Cornell University

At Cornell University you’re getting an Ivy League education, the experience of a lifetime living in New York and delicious meals from one of the best cafeterias in the US.

With over 30 dining locations open from dawn until the wee hours of the night, you will be spoilt for choice.

Whether you’re craving a hearty bagel breakfast to kickstart your day, a vegan tomato bisque for lunch or a late-night snack to fuel those study sessions, Cornell has got it.

And of course, no meal is complete without a sweet treat. Head over to The Cornell Dairy, where you can enjoy decadent desserts like ice cream, milkshakes, yoghurt and pudding.

Their “Alumni Swirl” ice cream flavour is described as “premium white chocolate ice cream with a tart cherry swirl, and old fashioned fudge pieces – made once a year for reunion weekend events.”

Milk comes from the Cornell Veterinary College Dairy Teaching Barn, only one-half mile away from the fully licensed, Kosher certified Dairy plant.

4. Washington University in St. Louis

At Washington University in St. Louis, you’re in for a treat when it comes to campus food. You can enjoy delicious food without even stepping off campus. In fact, it’s been ranked as one of the universities with the best cafeteria food in the US.

There are many options to choose from that fit different dietary preferences. Beast Craft BBQ offers tender, smoky meats that melt in your mouth.

If you are from Asia and are feeling homesick, head over to WashU, where you will find stir-fries, noodles, fried rice and more. There are even allergen-friendly, vegan, vegetarian and halal options available.

The best cafeteria food: 10 universities with amazing dining (4)

The best cafeterias offer a diverse range of food options for all dietary requirements. Source: AFP

5. Pitzer College

Pitzer College has earned a reputation for having one of the best cafeteria foods in the US. What sets Pitzer apart is its dedication to providing not just tasty meals but also nutritious and sustainable options that cater to many dietary preferences.

The Grove House is a student-run restaurant where you can feast on dishes created from locally sourced ingredients. There are also other dining spots like the McConnell Bistro, the Pit-Stop Café and the Shakedown Café, each offering their own delicious meals.

If you are craving some Italian food, head over to the pasta bar, where the chefs whip up personalised pasta dishes for you.

For coffee lovers, Pit-Stop Café is the go-to spot for a caffeine fix. Whether you’re in need of a morning pick-me-up or a cup for a late-night study session, Pit-Stop Café is the place to get your fix.

6. Bowdoin College

From Italian to Chinese, American classics to Mexican delights, you name it, Bowdoin College serves it. They even have special-themed nights like Mardi Gras, Thanksgiving feasts and more.

The college is all about supporting local vendors, and with their in-house meat shop and organic garden, you always get nutritious food.

Whether you’re craving comfort food or something unique, Bowdoin’s got you covered. With delicious meals and a commitment to local sourcing it’s no wonder they’re known for having some of the best cafeteria food in the US.

The best cafeteria food: 10 universities with amazing dining (5)

Some universities even have themed days on campus, like Taco Tuesday or Pasta Thursdays. Source: AFP

7. Yale University

Yale University isn’t just renowned for ranking #16 in QS World University Rankings 2024, it’s also got a reputation for having the best cafeteria food in the US.

Here, you will find many options to suit every palate. From comfort foods like mac and cheese to fresh salads and even pancakes, there’s something for everyone.

The university’s dining services are committed to providing balanced meals that fuel both body and mind.

According to a survey conducted by The Princeton Review, Yale consistently ranks among the top universities for best campus food.

If you’re worried about surviving on bland cafeteria food during your college years, at Yale University, you don’t have to worry about that.

8. Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech is one of the universities with the best cafeteria food in the US. When it comes to options, Virginia Tech doesn’t mess around.

With over 49 dining spots on campus, you’ve got many choices to choose from.

Aside from Dunkin’, Chick-fil-A and Pizza Hut, you’ll also find food trucks. The Grillfield dishes out delicious Latin fusion, while Periodic Table serves Asian-fusion meals.

Inside the dining halls, you’ll find places to eat that start serving from as early as 7 a.m. to as late as 2 a.m.

Virginia Tech’s food is not just delicious but also nutritious. Most ingredients are sourced locally, such as eggs from their own campus flock and meat from nearby farms.

The best cafeteria food: 10 universities with amazing dining (6)

A healthy diet is essential to power you through 8 a.m. lectures. Source: AFP

9. St. John Fisher University

When you attend St. John Fisher University, you aren’t just nourishing your mind but your body as well.

Home to one of the best cafeterias, here you will enjoy cuisines from all around the world.

From hearty comfort meals like a sizzling stir-fry to fresh and healthy options at the salad bar, St. John Fisher’s cafeteria has it all.

You won’t find yourself stuck in a food rut here.

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No McDonald’s and McPlant burgers nearby campus? No problem. Source: AFP

10. Vanderbilt University

When it comes to satisfying your taste buds, Vanderbilt University doesn’t disappoint.

From Indian, Chinese, a classic American burger or even a delicious vegan or vegetarian dish, Vanderbilt has got you covered.

With 22 dining commons, you’ll never find yourself out of options. And it’s not just about the variety; it’s about the quality too.

And if you have late-night cravings? Don’t worry, Vanderbilt has 24-hour options like the Commons. From crunchy to salty and spicy, there are many snacks to choose from.

Vanderbilt’s Taste of Nashville programme lets you enjoy meals off-campus from restaurants collaborating with the school.

The best cafeteria food: 10 universities with amazing dining (2024)


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