The 15 best college food in America, according to students

Business Insider Lifestyle 3 weeks ago

College dining halls are usually large, cafeteria-style establishments that feed thousands of students quickly three times a day. That is to say, they're not typically seen as producing restaurant-caliber food.

But at some college dining halls, the food is a step above the rest.

Niche, a company that researches and compiles information on schools, published a ranking of the 2020 Best College Food in America.

Niche reviewed 1,385 four-year colleges and universities and compiled its ranking by looking to student surveys about the quality of the campus food, and by comparing the average cost of meal plans.

Read below to see the 15 best dining halls in America.

Abby Jackson contributed to a previous version of this article.

15. Hendrix College in Conway, AR

15. Hendrix College in Conway, AR
The Burrow, part of Hendrix College's dining options, offers everything from mozzarella sticks to specialty smoothies.

Average student rating: 4.2 out of 5

Average meal plan cost: $3,956/year

14. The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY

14. The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY
Food prepared by students at The Culinary Institute of America.

Perhaps not surprising for a culinary school, The Culinary Institute of America takes on-campus dining seriously. The Egg, the school's on-campus dining venue, provides seating for nearly 500 students and a variety of different menu items. Students can also taste-test student food in their classes.

Average student rating for campus food: A+

Overall Niche grade: B-

13. University of Georgia in Athens, GA

13. University of Georgia in Athens, GA
University of Georgia can eat at Panda Express on campus.

Students at the University of Georgia love to brag about the incredible dining options on campus. According to one student's review, "Georgia does a really good job of having...lots of healthy variety. You can always get the food you are craving.

The student also touts a popular on-campus dining spot, The Niche. "The Niche is legendary and so good. People will wait to get into the Niche because it's that good---wood-fired personal pizzas, ready to made sandwiches, sweet potato fries, Jittery Joe's coffee, soft gooey homemade cookies, and gelato. People not on the meal plan will pay for the Niche."

Average student rating for campus food: A+

Overall Niche grade: A+

12. Kendall College in Chicago, IL

12. Kendall College in Chicago, IL
Kendall College has a fine dining restaurant on campus where you can eat Michelin-rated meals.

Kendall College in Chicago, Illinois, has an expensive culinary and hospitality program. The Dining Room is a student-run restaurant where guests can eat a Michelin-rated meal prepared by actual Kendall College students.

Average student rating for campus food: A+

Overall Niche grade: B

11. Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME

11. Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME
Each fall, Bowdoin College hosts its annual lobster bake where students can enjoy cracked claws and fresh corn.

If this campus tradition doesn't convince you that Bowdoin College has one of the best campus dining programs in the country, I'm not sure what will. Each fall, Bowdoin College hosts its annual lobster bake where students can enjoy cracked claws and fresh corn.

Average student rating for campus food: A+

Overall Niche grade: A+

10. James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA

10. James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA
James Madison University dining hall.

James Madison University offers its students a number of exciting dining options. Not only does the school have on-campus Chick-Fila, Qdoba, Steak 'n Shake, and Starbucks locations, they also offer a number of healthy delis, markets, and traditional college-style dining halls.

Average student rating for campus food: A+

Overall Niche grade: A

9. St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI

9. St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI
The Lodi Dodi Smoke Burger at Ruth's Marketplace on St. Norbert College's campus.

Ranked as No. 1 for the Best College Food in Wisconsin and No. 9 in the country, St. Norbert College takes pride in bringing innovative and delicious food to its students. The Lodi Dodi Smoke Burger concocted by St. Norbert College's campus dining chefs is a favorite among students and was a finalist in the James Beard Foundation's 2017 Blended Burger Project.

Average student rating for campus food: A+

Overall Niche grade: B+

8. University of San Diego in San Diego, CA

8. University of San Diego in San Diego, CA
University of San Diego dining hall.

Students love the dining options at the University of San Diego. One Niche review reads: "I am a current student on the campus and truly love the experience I am having. My dorms are very nice and well kept. The food is great. There is a variety of options ranging from cultures all over the world to burgers and fries."

Average student rating for campus food: A+

Overall Niche grade: A

7. California Baptist University in Riverside, CA

7. California Baptist University in Riverside, CA
California Baptist University has a Chick-Fil-A on campus.

Does eating a Chick-Fil-A spicy chicken sandwich in study hall sound like pure bliss? For students at California Baptist University, that may be a reality. The university offers a number of exciting dining options including Brisco's Cafe, Chick-Fil-A, Mexican food spot El Monte Grill, and The Habit Burger Grill.

Average student rating for campus food: A+

Overall Niche grade: B+

6. St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY

6. St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY
The St. John Fisher College campus.

Located in Rochester, NY, St. John Fisher College received great reviews for on-campus dining. Students can choose between the main dining hall, Ward-Haffey Dining Hall, which offers a sauté bar, pasta and pizza station, and a stocked salad bar, as well as a wide selection of café retail locations offering smoothies, deli sandwiches, and more.

Average student rating for campus food: A+

Overall Niche grade: A-

5. Bates College in Lewiston, ME

5. Bates College in Lewiston, ME
Kelly Perrault, a food-services worker at Bates College in Lewiston, refills the gluten-free bagel bin in the dining hall. Bates gets its bagels from Spelt Right Bakery in Yarmouth, a company that makes its products from organic spelt flour and other all-natural ingredients.

Bates College lands at No. 5 for Best College Food in America and at No. 14 for Best Small Colleges in America. One senior at the school says, "the food in [the] commons is always great, but if you're not feeling anything at the vegan bar or brick oven, there's always 30 plus types of cereal to choose from on a daily basis."

Average student rating for campus food: A+

Overall Niche grade: A+

Average meal plan cost: NA

4. Washington University in St. Louis, MO

4. Washington University in St. Louis, MO
A Washington University in St. Louis dining hall staff member talks with students.

Although Washington University in St. Louis is small — the school only has 7,074 undergraduate students — they offer incredible dining and housing options to students. "The campus food offers a variety of dishes ranging from your traditional burgers to Asian, Indian, and Hispanic food," one student said on Niche.

Average student rating for campus food: A+

Overall Niche grade: A+

3. University of Massachusetts — Amherst in Amherst, MA

3. University of Massachusetts — Amherst in Amherst, MA
Manuel Morocho pulls roasted chickens from the oven at a UMass Amherst dining hall in Amherst, MA on Oct. 4, 2017.

UMass Amherst is renowned for its dining options. UMass Dining is the largest collegiate dining services program in the US and offers its students a number of healthy and delicious dining options. According to the university, UMass Dining creates 4,000 sushi rolls a day.

Average student rating for campus food: A+

Overall Niche grade: A

2. Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA

2. Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA
An omelet station at Virginia Tech's dining hall.

Students highlighted Virginia Tech's food in the reviews section of Niche. A sophomore attending the school said, "I love my experience at Virginia Tech. I am currently a Sophomore and am having a great time! The food is outstanding and there is always something to do!"

Average student rating for campus food: A+

Overall Niche grade: A+

1. University of California — Los Angeles in Los Angeles, CA

1. University of California — Los Angeles in Los Angeles, CA
University of California — Los Angeles offers a number of healthy options.

Students at UCLA can enjoy the best dining hall food in the country. When Business Insider's Ciara Appelbaum ate at the university's dining hall in 2017, she was impressed by the selection and quality of the food.

"B-Plate's Greens & More salad bar focuses on seasonal ingredients, including a variety of greens and toppings, along with homemade dressings," she reported. "With all the fresh toppings, students can make a pretty epic salad — and even get it tossed by a server."

Average student rating: A+

Overall Niche grade: A+


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