After living off-campus for a semester and cooking my own food (aside from my daily Chick-fil-a nugget lunch in the HUB), I decided to make my way back to the dining halls to see if anything has changed. Having lived in Simmons for three years, Redifer Commons in South was always my most frequently visited dining commons, but I would probably have to say that Waring Commons in West was my favorite. Here’s an assessment of all five campus dining halls from a picky eater senior who has been thriving off of Easy Mac and frozen dinners for the majority of the semester:
North: I could definitely count on one hand how many times I visited North in the three years that I was living in the dorms. When I went, they had awesome pasta, a ton of desserts to choose from, and also top notch Creamery flavors (shout out to Peanut Butter Swirl). Pros: North is really small and private so it’s nice for meeting up with study groups or if you’re looking for some place more secluded. I have never waited in line here. You also won’t lose your friends because you are most likely within eyesight of them at all times. Cons: It’s definitely not the place to go if you’re looking for a hopping social scene. They also don’t have nearly as big of a variety as other dining halls because it’s just so much smaller.
South: A place that I hold near and dear to my heart, I have so many great memories here. I was disappointed to see that there were no fortune cookies available, which was part of my daily routine. I’m still bummed that the crepe and icecream place is now sushi because I used to get crepes and icecream for dinner sometimes (I’ll do a post about gym memberships later!). I got City Grill, which is one of the á-la-carte options. I wasn’t in the mood for the buffet. Pros: Redifer has different options for everyone from salads, Mexican, and Asian to American grill, cafe food, and Italian, so if you and all of your friends want different things for dinner you can easily do that and still all sit together. They also have the BEST brunch on Sunday mornings and late night or “Fourth Meal” buffet from 9pm-1am on weeknights. Cons: Redifer gets really crowded and during peak meal times can have crazy lines, especially during Greek rush/recruitment. It can be hard to find tables and noisy if you like quiet when you study.
East: I sometimes get free lunch in East when I give tours for Admissions and I’m always very impressed by all of the options that they have available. Pros: East always has the most dessert options by far. They’re also the only dining hall with 8 Creamery flavors. They are the only dining hall that always has a waffle iron out for those of us who enjoy breakfast for dinner, and even better– the waffle iron prints the Nittany Lion on the waffle! Also, pretty much everyone is a freshman, which is great if you are also a freshman! Cons: While all freshmen all the time is certainly a pro for freshmen, if you are not a freshman, you will probably not run into your friends while eating at East. East is also a hike– it’s nice that there are bus stops nearby, but most students don’t find themselves on that side of campus besides at Beaver Stadium or the BJC.
West: When you hear of West, it’s pretty much impossible not to think of the magical gooey wonder that is West cookies. However, they also have Sisu, which is the cafe downstairs with yummy smoothies and the West Wing, which has a Wawa/Sheetz (don’t want to offend anyone!) style order-on-the-screen and wait for your sandwich fast food type of thing. Pros: The buffet is delicious and it usually has lots of options without being too crowded. West had fortune cookies (ahem, South). West also doesn’t usually have lines. And let’s not forget cookies, my friend. Unlimited cookies on cookies on cookies. Cons: For basically all other dorms (East, South, Pollock, North) it is very out of the way. But worth it, I guarantee.
Pollock: Pollock’s renovations were completed at the beginning of my freshman year, so we went there a ton– everyone really liked it. Pros: It’s definitely the most aesthetically pleasing of all the dining halls, probably because it’s the newest. It has a fresh and funky feel to the design inside with bright colors and comics on the walls. There are a lot of food options to choose from in the buffet, and they have delicious smoothies and crepes in the furthest room. Cons: Pollock gets so crowded. Every time that I have gone there have been lines and because the layout is not a full circle all the way around, it gets very backed up trying to get food on either side of the stairs so you are constantly bumping into people with your tray and worrying that your going to launch your triple berry smoothie all over the guy next to you.
In conclusion, I think South and West are still both on the top of my list, but Penn Staters have it pretty good when it comes to on-campus dining. I definitely miss my on-campus meal plan!