Our guide to fine campus dining

It is a universally accepted fact that all first-years are required to be on a meal plan because otherwise, Columbia Dining wouldn’t make any money. And supping together, just like cohabitation, is a fantastic way to bond with each other. If Downton Abbey is to be trusted as a realistic portrayal of life (and of course it is, silly), family feuds are born, estates are managed, and marriages are settled within the space of a single meal–so with your 15 to 19 mandatory meals per week, it’s best that you know what you’re doing, lest your family find out about your illicit affair with John Jay sushi, or your unstoppable addiction to Nutella.

1. John Jay Dining Hall is populous enough that you’ll always find someone you know there, but never enough space to sit with them.

What to eat:
The “Asian station” located in the corner serves delicious, if inauthentic, curry over rice. Watch yourself come back for seconds. And then thirds. Hear your intestines make strange and alarming noises for the rest of the day.
On your way out, be sure to grab a slice of coffee cake in a napkin

What to avoid:
Does the phrase “sushi station” get you excited? Yes? Lose that excitement. Now.
The tomatoes at the salad bar always taste like they’ve been microwaved, then left to cool. It’s a mystery. Anyway, avoid.

On nice days, bring out your plates for a picnic on the grass.
When you can’t find a seat and the only option is to join a table of strangers (eeep!), here are some opening lines to help you break the ice: (1) “Hey, mind if we join you?”; (2) “Is your bland, white polo shirt an expression of your solidarity with Derrida’s post-structuralist worldview?”; (3) “So, it looks like the administration stole our Bacchanal. Can we make it a party here instead?”

2. Ferris Booth Commons is where you’ll probably be hanging out the second week of school, after John Jay Disillusionment Syndrome kicks in. Ferris is also the only dining hall that serves breakfast.

What to eat:
Get your own made-to-order pasta at the pasta station. Try to arrive early or you’ll be staying in line so long your descendants will be waiting for it. Tip: you can ask to mix the sauces instead of just picking one.
Their New England clam chowder is both creamy and flavorful.

What to avoid:
The salads and sandwiches sitting sadly behind the glass.
The bagels. Give up trying to magic them into tastiness at the toaster, and just head to Nussbaum instead.

Just don’t start a conversation in the middle of the Ferris Staircase of Doom.

3. JJ’s Place can inspire belief in the mythical freshman 15 into even the most ardent nonbelievers. Its menu of mostly fried food will make sure that your belly is full, your fingertips are stained with grease, and there’s a huge, guilty grin on your face by the time you walk out.

What to eat:
Almost anything, really. The mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, burgers, curly fries, and Jamba Juice are eternal favorites.

What to avoid:
The “healthy section” in the corner is taboo. Who the heck gets salad at JJ’s Place?

Can’t get enough of those curly fries? Take some home in a reusable eco-container, which you can obtain in exchange for that weird, coin-shaped token that came along with your orientation packet.

4. Columbia meal swipes can also be used at Barnard’s Hewitt Dining Hall (and vice versa for Barnard meal plans). Compared to the other dining halls, Hewitt features a much smaller selection, but better quality food overall. There is almost a cult-like quality to Hewitt: Some will pronounce eternal devotion after their first meal here, while others just can’t see what all the fuss is about.

What to eat:
The quiche is an unsung hero of the kosher section.
Thin-crust pizza day is like the Diana Cafe coming to hug you when your points have run out.

What to avoid:
Any fish unless it’s salmon.
Arriving just before closing. The hot food just won't be as hot or as food as it was in its youth.

Getting to Hewitt involves navigating the Barnard tunnels, which means you’ll get lost the first time you try to find it. Don’t worry, though—it happens to everyone.
Late night dinner (served from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday) is when the good fruit appears and is when you have the best chance of finding pasta.
Hewitt is the only dining hall where it's completely acceptable to wear bedroom slippers.


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Elizabeth Bennet posted on

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that all first-years are required to be on the meal plan..."

Anonymous posted on

This review could be more helpful. I actually like some of the food items you said were crap. Please don't criticize food categorically, but rather describe your experiences. Did the rice in the sushi feel soggy? Is there a reason you tell us to avoid the "sandwiches behind the glass"? Without explaining your experiences, I really have no context to understand your reviews.

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