As my first semester at Cornell wanes, I have had moments where I felt like I have known everything about dining here. I can proudly say that I have been to most of the dining halls and eateries on or around campus. But alas, I am only a freshman. Many seniors — those who have braved the Ithaca winter for four years, somehow continued to go back to Okenshields repeatedly and have experienced everything that Cornell has thrown at them, are the ones with the actual knowledge. Although the COVID-19 era of Cornell Dining may taint their opinions, I decided to sit down with a few to hear their views on Cornell Dining eateries around campus.
First, I asked Jasper Weed ’21, majoring in information science and philosophy, to provide a run-through of his experience in the dining halls as a Cornell student.
“Freshman year, Robert Purcell Community Center actually wasn’t bad if you knew the right things to get,” Weed said. “The pizza is the main thing that people talk about, but I actually thought it was pretty mediocre. The stir fry is very solid, great-tasting and pretty filling. I would give RPCC a 6.5/10.”
A bit of a harsh rating from Weed on one of the classic North Campus dining halls, but I was intrigued if he thought any better of West Campus dining.
“Honestly, I think that West is a bit worse. There are fewer options in each house, but I do like the theme days during the week.” Weed said. “But that’s not my issue with eating here. The main issue is that there is nowhere cheap and easy to eat at Collegetown. Subway is fine but all you need is a Chipotle or Taco Bell. Everywhere else it is hard to get a meal for under $14.”
Weed was omitting one thing from his review of the food at Cornell, and that was the non-swipe eateries such as Trillium or Terrace.
“Terrace is fire. It is easily 8.5/10. The burrito bowls are super good with a lot of add-ins, but no one knows about the curry. In the curry line they usually will give you a lot of meat so you end up very full. I like Trillium a bit less, 6.5/10. Nasties is a classic, but no one goes to nasties for the food, they go for the 2 am vibes.”
Finally, I needed to know what Weed’s overall rating of Cornell Dining was.
“My final overall rating of Cornell Dining is 6.5. Definitely the food is a lot better than other schools. We have a lot of options and something for everyone on campus, but Collegetown eating needs to drastically improve. Just taking the dining halls into consideration, I would give it a 7.5.”
I needed to hear from more voices to evaluate how the graduating class has experienced Cornell through the lens of food.
Alison Landry ’21, an operations research and engineering major, is gluten-free and has had positive and negative experiences with Cornell Dining.
“Freshman year I enjoyed RPCC and Appel a lot. I thought they did a good job accommodating different allergies. However, at the end of Freshman year, I transitioned to Risley. It’s now my favorite dining hall, and it always has different, healthy options.”
Being a massive fan of Risley myself, I was psyched to encounter another Risley enjoyer. However, not every dining hall can be Risley. I wanted to hear about some negative experiences.
“Some downsides with Cornell Dining is that sometimes I feel sketched out eating the fish. Also I have not fully cooked red meat a few times.”
I, too, am astonished at how much Cornell Dining halls serve fish when the ocean is over four hours away, but I suppose it serves as a healthy, consistent option. I wondered if Landry shared Weed’s love for Terrace.
“I am a big fan of the Terrace salads and Mac’s Café salads — most of their stuff is pretty affordable for the amount of food you get. One dining hall that is lacking is Mattin’s, which is one of the only places to eat on the engineering quad. Since I’m an engineer, I often walk over to the Statler to get a better meal.
As an Arts & Sciences student, I rarely frequent the Engineering Quad, and Mattins was one of the only eateries that I had never been to, possibly for the best.
“Also, for some athletes that I know, it’s hard to eat meals on campus when the dining halls close relatively early. They get out of practice and don’t have many options besides ordering food.”
This was a fascinating point that Landry brought up. I do notice that some dining halls close somewhat early, and they usually run low on food around an hour before closing.
“Overall I can’t complain. There’s good food and a lot of options but there are a few places that can improve.”
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
After hearing these two different perspectives that ended in relatively similar ratings, I needed to interview one more person to see if the class of 2022 has reached a consensus on Cornell Dining.
Yicong Wu ’21, an ILR major, was my last subject. Young emphasized that most of his experience in Cornell Dining was during his first and second years, before COVID-19 affected food at Cornell.
“Freshman year, Appel was my spot. I would always go workout in the morning and then sit in Appel all day eating fish. Fish was my favorite dish from Appel. My sophomore year I lived in Bethe house, which I still go to now as a senior. Overall, West dining is pretty solid no matter where you go.”
The high talk of North dining was constant with the previous two interviewees, perhaps serving as a source of nostalgia. Additionally, these three seniors agree West Campus is a pretty solid spot no matter which house you go to.
“Okenshields can sometimes be a little questionable: sometimes the pizza is weird and undercooked, but that’s one of the only bad spots. I think Terrace and Trillium are both good, but Trillium has gone downhill after getting rid of their ramen. The ramen at Trillium was one of the best dishes on campus.”
It seemed as if the dealbreaker would be the food in Collegetown.
“Collegetown has pretty solid food, but it can be pricey. I like Pokelava and Collegetown Pizza. I also think a lot of the Asian food places are good. I do think that there needs to be one or two quicker and cheaper options.”
Weed and Wu agree that there needs to be an addition or two to Collegetown. I was curious if their final ratings equated to similar scores.
“Overall I would rate Cornell food at 7.5/10. it is always consistent; you can always get something good once you know what you like, and price-wise it’s not terrible for a middle class college student.”
Well, there you have it, folks. The class of 2022 agrees that food on the Cornell campus, specifically Cornell Dining, is around 6.5-7.5/10. Although this opinion is likely affected by years of COVID-19, it is by no means bad marks for Cornell. I think it is imperative to remember that Cornell Dining stacks up very well against other universities by all measures. Cornell Dining works exceptionally hard to ensure that it can feed an undergraduate student body of nearly 15,000 students. We must recognize their consistent variety of choices and tasty, accessible meals.
Jimmy Cawley is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]