Gone are the days of baby laxative–laced mystery meats, prepared exclusively for our country's educational institutions (and prisons). Today, colleges across the nation are stepping up their game more than ever, serving homemade meals from scratch and featuring a variety of cuisines and unique presentations. Just look at Washington University in St. Louis, which runs weekly themed dinners (Low Carbon Diet Day was a recent event) and hosts daily cooking classes and chef demonstrations. It's no wonder that college tuition is at an all-time high!
The Daily Meal recently released its annual list of the country’s 60 best colleges for food. The meal choices are judged based on ingredients, accessibility, service, creativity and student feedback. While there are representatives from all over the United States, the state of California appears to have a particularly strong collegiate dining program (multiple UC schools make the cut). The East Coast also merits a number of inclusions, with Maine’s Bowdoin College taking the top prize.
We’re not exactly experts on the marriage of food and education here at Food Republic, but members of our editorial staff were quick to weigh in on this year’s selections. My alma mater of Vanderbilt University snagged a spot in the middle of the pack, thanks largely in part to its Taste of Nashville program, which allows students to pay for meals (read: deplete their parents' funds) at nearby restaurants with a campus card. And I was glad to see Cornell University get a nod in the top 10, having spent a weekend there that resulted in my gaining of around five pounds due to their (incredible) around the world, all-you-can-eat buffet.
Here are the Daily Meal's top 10 best colleges and universities for food in the U.S:
10. Yale University, New Haven, Conn.
9. Tufts University, Boston
8. Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Ga.
7. UMass Amherst, Amherst, Mass.
6. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
5. University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles
4. Emory University, Atlanta
3. Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.
2. Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis
1. Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine
Meanwhile, a couple editors defend their alma maters:
Defend! Okay, so USC is in the middle of one of the most dangerous areas of Los Angeles and despite its bougie reputation, the university's cafeteria food is downright unadulterated garbage. Thankfully, the nearby Mexican food, fried chicken, massive styrofoam containers full of spicy barbecued Korean meat, pastrami burgers and bacon-wrapped hot dogs smothered in mustard, raw onions and pickled jalapenos are all beyond comparison. If it's fine dining you're looking for, you will not find it — read: it does not exist — within a three-mile radius. Which is great, 'cause nobody, not even me, needs that in a hungry football victory-fueled rage at 2 a.m. – Associate Editor Jess Kapadia
Beyond the fact that it was recently named the best city for food in the COUNTRY, and barbecue master Adam Perry Lang sings its praise, the University of Wisconsin – Madison is a hell of a place to be introduced to food culture as an 18 year old. Brats, cheese and beer is of course the cliché, but there’s an abundance of Asian restaurants operating downtown and on the city’s East side. Laotian, Chinese and Tibetan. There’s the rustic Mediterranean excellence of Nostrono (run by former Blackbird and Boka line cooks) and a craft cocktail bar and store, Merchant, stirring rye cocktails with maple syrup, bitters and pipe tobacco tincture. And you can drink beer at the student union. – Contributing Editor Matt Rodbard
Read these stories about university eating on Food Republic: