At the very top of any O-Week FAQ has to be, “Can I change my dining plan? I don’t need ‘unlimited’ access to the dining halls.” Sorry, guys. You’re stuck with this all year. But hey, dining halls have feelings too, so you shouldn’t be too quick to judge them by their reputation, which frankly, isn’t too good these days. Like it or not, your House table is located in one of the three dining commons on campus—Bartlett, Pierce, or South Campus—so it’s best to get to know your dining hall and give it fair shot a bit before hunting around for other meal options.
Bartlett Dining Commons » Bartlett is arguably the best of the three dining halls (The Wall Street Journal even gave it an award). Eleven dining stations offer a diverse range of fresh dishes—think pasta, burritos, sushi, a kosher deli, the works. With the new residential meal plan, you will have unlimited access to Bartlett and both of the other dining halls from opening to closing. Sure, it’s expensive but you get what you pay for: literally, more food than you can eat
Pierce Dining Commons » Pierce resembles your average cafeteria. The usual meal options are all there, including vegetarian and vegan entrées, Center Stage, and the grill, but Pierce also has the Wok, where you can create your own stir-fry dish from an array of fresh vegetables and meat, rice, and noodles.
South Campus Dining Commons » The new South Campus Dining Hall, which finished its first year in operation last June, was a significant improvement over its predecessor, the Burton-Judson Dining Commons. “The variety was impressive,” one student said, referring to the options available at the myriad stations, like the Grill, Kosher, and World. Meals were solid-to-great during most of the week, until about Friday night dinner, when there was a noticeable drop in quality (the same can be expected of student performance in classes that meet Friday afternoons). Residents at South Campus really should not be concerned at all—they will have a satisfying and above average campus dining experience, and one that will leave them well-fortified for those long treks through the Midway’s howling winds in the depths of winter.
Hutchinson Commons/C-Shop » Those prepaid credits (you get $100 per quarter) are good at any campus dining location (not including student-run cafés), but one of the most popular spots to spend them is Hutch Dining Commons (a.k.a. Hutch), located right inside the Reynolds Club, which offers Subway, Connie’s Pizza, and other on-the-go meals.
A little farther inside the Reynolds Club is Einstein Brothers Bagels (a.k.a. the C-Shop), which offers a dozen bagel varieties and an assortment of spreads, from shmears to hummus to PB&J. As for their drinks, a cup of chai is a good bet in the winter; however, you'll probably find yourself taking advantage of the Wednesday $1 shake days even when the air temperature is colder than your drink.
Tip: Use your flex dollars for a 10-percent discount at Hutch and the C-Shop, and for a 5 percent discount at Bart Mart—er, “Maroon Market.” No discount is given at Midway Market, a.k.a. the Sewer Shop, the Bart Mart-esqe store underneath South Campus.
If neither the dining halls nor other campus dining options sounds appealing, one of the many cafés and coffee shops littered around campus should do the trick. Each sports a unique atmosphere, despite a big overlap in their meal choices. Most cafés and coffee shops on campus sell affordable entrées from Hyde Park restaurants, including favorites like the Snail, Cedars, Thai 55, Rajun Cajun, and the Nile. Most are cash-only.
Cobb Coffee Shop » Cobb Coffee Shop, located in the lower level of Cobb Hall, is a well-lit, spacious spot that sells the cheapest bagels and coffee on campus—making it a nice breakfast stop before your first class of the morning. Cobb employees are well known for broadcasting their music tastes; the newest indie rock outfit can often be heard throbbing down there. There's ample seating, which is handy during the lunchtime rush, when students, faculty, and hospital employees stream in. Accepts credit cards.
Ex Libris » For the bookish types who prefer to spend their time in the Reg, Ex Libris offers snacks and meals to those too busy studying to leave the library. Connected to the shop is a large seating area perfect for meeting study partners and friends.
Hallowed Grounds » A third dining option in the Reynolds Club is Hallowed Grounds, styled as a coffee bar and offering not only specialty coffee drinks and pastries, but also a spread-out study area and a pool lounge. The shop boasts cable television, and during happy hour (5:30 to 6:30 p.m. every weekday) sodas are 30 cents and coffee is just 50 cents. Accepts credit cards.
Classics Café » The Classics Café, on the second floor of the Classics building, features soups, salads, pastries, and a comfortable setting for those who want to do a little reading between classes. Visit in the afternoon; the sun slanting through the windows bordered by wood-paneled walls creates a wonderfully academic atmosphere.
Grounds of Being » Ever wonder where God drinks coffee? Well, the Div School coffee shop, Grounds of Being (located in the basement of Swift Hall), can boast that particular VIP. Usually crowded, it’s best to make your purchase—the coffee shop provides a great selection of tea and many entrées—and head outside to eat on the quad, weather permitting, of course.
Law School and Booth School Cafés» First-years with high aspirations and sophisticated taste might want to trek over to the Law School Café, a small shop with paninis and other made-to-order sandwiches. The Harper Center of the Booth School sports a larger cafeteria—the Everett Kovler Café, officially—with a grill, a fresh sandwich and panini station, sushi, salads, and continental breakfast. Both the Law School and Booth accept credit cards.