Friday, July 7, 2017

The Student Side: Food Options on Campus

This week’s post is going to be about something I’m sure is on all of your minds…

FOOD! As some of you may know, there are four main dining halls on campus. One at Barnard --Hewitt -- and three at Columbia: Ferris Booth, John Jay’s, and JJ’s Place. We’re going to break down for you some info about those dining halls, other cafes on campus, and dietary restrictions. LET’S GET STARTED.

If you ask a lot of Columbia and Barnard students, they will argue fervently for their favorite of these four dining halls. There is no main consensus across the board on which is the best which tells you 1) that there must be good things at all of them and 2) that they satisfy different tastes. Also, while some dining halls are closed on some days/hours of those days, starting THIS YEAR there will always be at least one dining hall open to make sure students have access to food no matter how unconventional your meal times are. So how do you decide which you wanna go to on any given day?  

Here’s a breakdown of our thoughts on the differences between the campus dining halls.

Hewitt is great because if you’re living in the quad it’s SUPER convenient. The amount of times I’ve gone to Hewitt brunch in my pajamas and slippers is… more than one. Hewitt has a couple of stations: pizza, homezone, grill, sandwich, action, salad bar, baked goods. The pizza station almost always has a few different types of pizza during lunch and oftentimes dinner though sometimes it’s a pasta bar instead. Homezone is where the most amount of fluctuation happens. Basically whatever they’re serving that day is served up there, if it’s brunch it’s probably scrambled eggs, bacon, home fries, tofu scramble, etc. During lunch and dinner they have things like different pasta dishes, veggies, chili, all sorts of yummy goodness. You can get french fries and a burger, including a veggie burger, with any toppings you want at the grill, and make your own sandwich at the sandwich bar with all kinds of protein options including hummus, egg salad, and tofurkey.

Then there’s the action station which has a “make your own” whatever they’re offering for the day. Stir fry is a frequent option, where you pick which veggies go in and which sauce, served over rice or rice noodles. Sometimes there’s make your own nachos, omelette, the list goes on. There’s also always a salad bar, bagels, cereal, frozen yogurt, and desserts like mini donuts and croissants in the mornings and slices of cake at lunch and dinner. It should also be noted that Hewitt is the best option for Kosher students, as they have an entire section dedicated for those who eat Kosher, which we’ll get into more in the dietary restrictions section.

Overall, Hewitt is convenient, with some really solid food options for people across all dietary needs. It’s smaller than Columbia’s dining halls which means smaller lines and oftentimes more available seating. You can also get take away boxes for lunch if you’re running in between classes.

Ferris is where all your carbohydrate dreams can come true.

Pasta bar? Check. Baskets overflowing with bread? Check. Glorious pizza station? Check. Endless displays of desserts? Double check. If you’re like me and consider bread to be one of the best foods ever, Ferris is a great option. During breakfast, which is served well into the afternoon, there are often scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits, home fries OR crispy hash browns. That same station during lunch and dinner will often have pasta dishes including stuffed shells and buttery linguine, veggies, meats, potatoes, and other entrees. They also have a make your own section next to the pizza where they will have things like burritos, fish tacos, and veggie lo mein.

If you’re looking for something on the lighter side, Ferris also has a salad bar with a variety of choices. Popular menu items at Ferris include wraps, sandwiches, paninis, and the ever-popular dessert bar. Ferris also has different vegan and vegetarian dishes available at every meal. During breakfast, Ferris also features an omelet station and tons of fresh cut fruit.
Ferris is located at Columbia on the 3rd floor of Lerner Hall and has seating outdoor seating and seating on both the third and fourth floor of Lerner Hall. Keep in mind that Ferris can get pretty busy around lunch and dinner time and seats fill up quick. But Ferris serves all of its food on disposable plates and has disposable utensils and cups, making Ferris a popular choice for people grabbing a meal on the go. Alas, just like Chick-Fil-A, Ferris is closed on Sundays.
Want to lowkey feel like you’re eating a meal at Hogwarts?

Then John Jay is the place for you. Featuring long, dark wooden tables and wood paneled walls, John Jay is the main dining hall on Columbia’s campus. John Jay features the most diverse options of food out of the dining halls but has its staples, like a sushi bar, stir fry, and burgers. John Jay features an entire gluten free zone, a huge salad bar, and Wilma’s grill, a grill station where you can get made to order burgers, pancakes, and omelets.

John Jay changes it up quite often, and has various theme days throughout the year, like Star Wars, Valentine’s Day, and Cupcake Day. John Jay also has a section featuring bottled drinks and packaged food that you can buy with points for quick dining. Also they almost always have a full sundae bar during dinner along with a huge variety of desserts. Just sayin’.

Looking to eat away your problems with some nice quality junk food at 1am?

JJ’s is your guy. JJ’s is mostly a grill where you can get grilled cheese, burgers, fries, moz sticks, chicken fingers, eggs on a croissant, all sorts of carby fried goodness. They have a small salad bar if you wanna combat the fried food with some greens, but more importantly, there’s ice cream, frozen fruit slushie drinks, and candy. JJ’s is the best for a late night meal after a long rehearsal with your cast or dance troupe, or a long study/paper writing session. JJ’s is the friend you can count on at all hours of the night to anticipate all of your unhealthy cravings and not judge you for them.

There are also several cafes on campus where you can either use cash/credit card or, for some of them, use points. The main ones on campus are Liz’s Place, Diana Cafe, Cafe East, and Blue Java. Let’s break it down.

Do you take after your idol and fellow Barnard alum Lauren Graham/Lorelai Gilmore and have a slightly concerning coffee addiction? Liz’s Place is here to bolster that habit.

Fully stocked with a Starbucks menu and some of the loveliest baristas you will ever meet, Liz’s is a great place for a casual friend date, actual date, interview, or place to go over your notes, watch an episode on Netflix, and just hang out before class. Not only do they have all the caffeinated drinks, but also bottles of juice, bagels, croissants, pastries, chips, yogurt, and in the afternoons they open up a prepared food section of salads, wraps, and even… L.U.N.C.H.A.B.L.E.S

Basically Liz’s is amazing. It’s also hecka convenient for those late night tech rehearsals in the GMT, just pop up two floors and get an extra shot of espresso and some yogurt to get you through to the end of the night.

Diana has undergone some amazing changes over the last year, making it one of the hottest food spots on campus.

Let’s start with breakfast. An egg and cheese plain or with bacon or sausage, on a roll, a cup of yogurt (strawberry or vanilla) or oatmeal, a cup of fresh squeezed juice (orange, grapefruit, cranberry) coffee, and a piece of fruit (banana, apple, orange) all for ONE MEAL SWIPE or like 5 points. WHAT A DEEAAAL.

During lunch they have thin crust brick oven pizza, including choices like margherita, goat cheese/pesto/tomato, pepperoni, and barbecue chicken. Homemade soups, a full salad bar, french fries (including, if you’re lucky, curly fries), burgers, a really solid sandwich bar, sushi, chips, drinks, and their daily special which ranges from eggplant or chicken parm to samosas and naan. Also in my opinion as a resident vegetarian, this is the best place for veggie burgers on campus.
They also have dinner and late night where you can make your own smoothies from a variety of options including mangoes, peaches, kale, spinach, blueberries, strawberries, yogurt, soy milk, etc. etc. While lunch is points only you can use points or a meal swipe during dinner and late night making Diana a great choice for folks with all different meal plans.

Coffee is a magical liquid that many people, like myself, consume copious amounts of, especially on nights where I meant to leave all my work until the last minute. But anytime of day is a good time for a coffee break, and there’s two other options on Columbia’s side of the street where you can get your caffeine fix: Blue Java and Joe.

Blue Java is located on the ground floor of Butler Library, serving all those kiddos working in the biggest library on campus with coffee and food. Joe is located in the sleek and modern NoCo building, located on the northwest corner of campus, hence it’s name. If you’re lucky enough to snag a table in the building to do your work, you can keep hitting up Joe for delicious coffee and pastries alike.

Cafe East is located on the ground floor of Lerner Hall, one floor below Ferris, and is a little pricey but is a great study spot and has bubble tea.

For all you boba fans, there’s also a solid bubble tea place called Tea Magic between 112th and 111th. But for something a little closer to home, Cafe East has got you covered. They’ve also got hot tea, sushi, dumplings, milkshakes, and smoothies. But remember: no points or meal swipes can be used here so you’re gonna have to dip into your wallet if you want Cafe East’s yummy goodness.

Dietary Concerns
If you have food allergies, are gluten free, vegan/vegetarian, and/or keep a kosher or halal diet, don’t fret! There’s options available. All dining halls will have signs alerting you if a food contains a common allergen or if it’s vegetarian/vegan. For halal food, both Hewitt and John Jay have halal options. Hewitt Dining Hall has a full kosher kitchen and many other dining halls and cafes on campus have kosher food readily available, either fresh or pre-packaged.

You can also request things in occasions, such as vegan pizza at Hewitt and they will be in contact with you personally on which days they plan to make them especially for YOU. Hewitt also has non-dairy cream cheese tubs, milks, and gluten free cereals available in the fridge near the Action station. Both Hewitt and John Jay feature a gluten free section of food where absolutely no gluten is placed.
If you have a serious food allergy, be sure to be in contact with the dining halls upon getting to campus so they can help accommodate you and prevent cross-contamination issues when possible.

If you ever have a question about the food and if it contains an allergen or not, feel free to ask one of the dining hall staff members! You’ll soon find out that the dining hall staff are some the nicest and kindest people on campus.

Okay that was a lot of information and your mind might be a little blown right now.

Or you might just be really hungry now.

Keep in mind these last few things. As first-years, you’ll be put on a premium meal plan which gives you more meals than you will probably need. USE THEM! You’ll be glad you did when you’re an upperclassmen and might not have as many meal swipes or points and grow to appreciate the joys of having pre-made food with countless options and no clean up afterwards even more. The great thing about having so many choices is that you can easily switch it up and not get tired of the same thing over and over again. Find the dining hall(s) that fit your taste best but leave yourself open to options.

Dining halls can be scary and lonely, especially during the first few weeks of the semester. Find a group of people to go and get meals with! They can be from your NSOP group, your roommate, a random person in your first-year writing class, or someone you met at the activities fair. Having other people to socialize with and make plans with for meals makes them so much more enjoyable. Decide to go on a food tour of the different dining halls once classes start so you all have people to go to new places with and don’t have to face the scary unknown by yourself. Don’t let the stress of eating alone prevent you from nourishing your body when it’s needed. Eating by yourself can actually be a very calming and centering time if you’re introverted or just need a few moments of quiet.

If quiet alone time doesn’t sound appealing to you, don’t be afraid to ask random people if you can sit with them, especially if they’re alone. Chances are, they’re also shy and wishing they had someone to share their meal with as well. Maybe you’ll meet your new meal buddy in doing so!