Anyone who has ever attended college can tell you that each institution has its own unique vibe and culture. The specific school that you call your alma mater can also say scores about you, too. And we strongly believe that few things strike the core of a college's essence than where its students choose to hang out and chow down.
So in order to show this huge diversity in cultures and dining preferences, we asked students from 39 of the most well-known colleges in the U.S. (and Canada!) to pick one food joint in their college town that best embodies their school's singular vibe, and this is what they told us.
These places aren't the ones you'll find on "Must-Eat Restaurant Hit Lists" based on high-quality food and famous chefs. These are the honest, down-to-earth joints you'll find packed with #BrokeCollegeStudents at all hours of the day and night. And honestly, they're probably just as excellent.
INTRODUCING THE ULTIMATE COLLEGE KID EATS HIT LIST:
1. American University (Cava Mezze Grill)
2. Binghamton University (Binghamton Hots)
3. Boston College (Fin's Sushi & Grill)
4. Boston University (T. Anthony's)
5. Bowdoin College (Wild Oats Bakery & Café)
6. Brown University (Louis Family Restaurant)
7. Columbia University (Koronet Pizza)
8. Cornell University (Collegetown Bagels)
9. Dartmouth College (Lou's Restaurant & Bakery)
10. Franklin & Marshall College (The Fridge)
11. Fordham University (Pugsley Pizza)
12. Georgetown University (Farmers Fishers Bakers)
13. George Washington University (Founding Farmers)
14. Harvard University (Border Cafe)
15. Hamilton College (Nola's Restaurant)
16. Lafayette College (Campus Pizza)
17. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (The Friendly Toast)
18. McGill University (Lola Rosa)
19. Miami University (Bagel & Deli Shop)
20. Northwestern University (Bat 17)
21. New York University (The Grey Dog)
22. Princeton University (Infini-T Café and Spice Souk)
23. Stanford University (Stanford Coffee House)
24. Tufts University (Helen's Roast Beef & Pizzeria)
25. Tulane University (The Rum House)
26. University of California, Los Angeles (Diddy Riese)
27. University of Chicago (Valois Cafeteria)
28. University of Delaware (Newark Deli & Bagel)
29. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Burrito King)
30. University of Michigan (Frita Batidos)
31. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery)
32. University of Pennsylvania (Lyn's Food Truck)
33. University of Pittsburgh (Fuel and Fuddle)
34. University of Tennessee (Cook-Out)
35. University of Texas at Austin (Hopdoddy Burger Bar)
36. Vanderbilt University (Cabana)
37. Wake Forest University (Mozelle's Fresh Southern Bistro)
38. Washington University in St. Louis (Kayak's Coffee)
39. Yale University (Yorkside Pizza and Restaurant)
American University (Washington, DC): Cava Mezze Grill
Photo by Lila Seeley
Cava Grill is known around AU as "the Chipotle of Greek food," and its fast-casual vibe makes it the go-to site for Greek organization and club fundraisers. Plus, its focus on sourcing sustainable, local ingredients reinforces its status as a true DC staple and parallels AU students' dedication to going green.
What you're getting: "Crazy Feta" (a feta mousse infused with jalapeños) and falafel, washed down with one of their seasonal house-made juices (kale apple cucumber ginger lemon is a winter favorite).
Perfect For: Quick Bite, Lunch Break
Location: 4237 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016
Hours of operation: Mon-Sun: 11 am-10 pm
Binghamton University (Binghamton, NY): Binghamton Hots
Photo by Jason Cruz
At Binghamton, nightlife consists of two steps: one, making rounds at the local bars; and two, stopping by Binghamton Hots to soak up the alcohol you consumed at said local bars.
And rather than get pissed off when you shout a nonsense order at them in your drunken haze, the extremely hospitable restaurant staff have been known to just give you a free plate of fries with your hot plate to settle you down.
If you want to experience the real Binghamton nightlife experience, you can't go wrong with Hots at night. They also serve slightly lighter fare for lunch... if you're into that.
What you're getting: A hot plate, Binghamton's take on the nearby town of Rochester's infamous "garbage plate," the ultimate drunchies cure. Favorites include the pulled pork and sweet potato fries hot plate and the cheeseburger and mashed potatoes hot plate. Each plate comes with a housemade hot sauce, onions, mustard and a side of Italian bread if you happen to desire more carbs.
Perfect For: Quick Bite, Lunch, Late Night Drunchies, Cheap Eats
Location: 128 Washington Street, Binghamton, NY 13901
Hours of operation: Mon: 11 am-3 am; Tues-Thu: 11 am-1:30 am; Fri: 11 am-3:30 am; Sat: 4 pm-3:30 am
Boston College (Newton, MA): Fin's Sushi & Grill
Photo courtesy of boston.com
A Japanese restaurant located in the heart of Cleveland Circle--one of the main BC hangouts, a shuttle stop away from campus--Fin's is a popular, not-too-expensive choice for birthday parties, celebrations and taking a break from the school's rigorous academics. You'll see BC students in their best light, laughing and sharing anecdotes, surrounded by friends.
Plus, Fin's simple decor includes two plasma screen TVs perfect for the sports enthusiasts that make up the majority of BC's spirited campus. For everyone else, the fish tank is pretty amusing, too. Side note: Fin's also delivers to your dorm, which is pretty clutch.
What you're getting: The Spicy Combo and the Crazy Maki because, as one sophomore poetically explains, "that shit is cracking."
Perfect For: Dates, Big Groups, Celebrations, Dinner With Parents
Location: 354 Chestnut Hill Ave, Brighton MA 02135
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat: 11:30 am-11:30 pm; Sun: 12 pm-10:30 pm
Boston University (Boston, MA): T. Anthony's
Photo courtesy of Seamless
Located right across the street from campus, T. Anthony's is an iconic BU hangout. On weekend nights, the authentic Italian-style pizzeria is flooded with hungry students, many of whom have gotten to know the owner, Joe, and his wife personally, and photographs of the college's athletic teams line the walls.
T. Anthony's is a BU rite of passage: it's the first place you go as a wide-eyed lil' frosh. The pizzeria thrives off the fierce loyalty of its collegiate patrons. Ask any BU student, and they'll insist that T. Anthony's is "the best pizza in Boston." And probably fight you if you disagree.
What you're getting: You can't go wrong with the classic cheese pizza, but the eggplant parm is also magnificent if you aren't feeling a pie.
Perfect For: Late Night Drunchies, Big Groups, Quick Bite
Location: 1016 Commonwealth Ave, Boston MA 02215
Hours of operation: Mon-Thu: 7 am-1 am, Fri-Sat: 7 am-2 am, Sun: 8 am-1 am
Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME): Wild Oats Bakery & Cafe
Photo courtesy of the Portland Press Herald
At first glance, Brunswick seems to be made up of two incompatible populations: the older locals and the budding young college students at Bowdoin. But they coexist harmoniously partly thanks to Wild Oats, which provides a warm, central hub where "all are welcome."
There, you'll find bubbly staff (often in costume), college students and Brunswick residents intermingling and chatting over freshly baked pastries and sandwiches. As one student notes, Wild Oats captures Bowdoin's (and the college town's) "goofy, community-oriented and driven" nature.
What you're getting: A green smoothie (with local veggies) and the avocado & cheddar sandwich on made-from-scratch maple oat bread (made with Maine maple syrup).
Perfect For: Lunch Break, Study Spot, Quick Eats
Location: Tontine Mall, 149 Maine St, Brunswick, ME 04011
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat: 7 am-5 pm; Sun: 8 am-5 pm
Brown University (Providence, RI): Louis Family Restaurant
Photo courtesy of the Food Network
Louis' was founded in 1963 by ex-World War II army cook and Italian immigrant, Louis Gianfrancesco. Since then, the diner has transformed into a local hotspot for hungry Providence residents and Brown students alike, all of whom enjoy the lively atmosphere and hearty breakfast food.
Louis' has even hosted an eclectic crew of notable guests, like John F. Kennedy, filmmaker Steven Spielberg, the Beatles' George Harrison and, in 2009, Guy Fieri, when it was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. And its odd hours inspired the "Louis' Challenge," a Brown tradition entailing staying up all night and getting your breakfast on when the diner opens at 5 am.
What you're getting: The "Number Two" breakfast special (two eggs, toast, home fries and your choice of breakfast meat) with a side of Fieri-approved pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes.
Perfect For: Late Night Drunchies, Hangover Helper, Big Groups
Location: 286 Brook St, Providence RI 02906
Hours of operation: Mon-Sun: 5 am-3 pm
Columbia University (New York, NY): Koronet Pizza
Photo courtesy of Koronet Pizza
In a city that's famous for its pizza, Koronet's is definitely not even close to the best (though its ingredients are remarkably fresh), but it might have the highest size-to-cost ratio in the city.
On Thursday, Friday or Saturday night, you'll find hordes of Columbia students competing to scarf down greasy slices "as long as your forearm and as wide as two iPhone 6's end to end," all while gazing at themselves in the mirrors that line the counters (there's that indulgent, competitive Columbia vibe!).
Chances are you'll run into the kid in your LitHum class, half of your freshman floor and your RA, and they'll all probably be blackout drunk. If you're looking to have a classy meal with your parents, maybe head to Community Food & Juice instead; but if you're looking to cure mad drunchies, Koronet's is the place.
What you're getting: For $6, a jumbo slice of pepperoni pizza that could feed half a family, folded so you can fit it in your face. The regular slice is still big, but wholly manageable. And after a certain time of night, the wait staff pretty much stops asking for your preference and just assumes you're going jumbo.
Perfect For: Drunchies, Big Groups, Quick Bite, Cheap Eats
Location: 2848 Broadway, New York NY, 10025
Hours of operation: Mon-Sun: 11 am-4 am
Cornell University (Ithaca, NY): Collegetown Bagels
Photo courtesy of the Cornell Daily Sun
In an isolated college town like Ithaca, building a strong community becomes especially important. And thanks to its central location at the intersection of Collegetown and campus, as well as its focus on sourcing ingredients and staff locally, Collegetown Bagels (or CTB) is essential in uniting the town and the college.
The family-owned bagel shop is the center of Cornell daily life: kids stop by for eccentrically-named bagels (many invented by past students) and quality coffee in the morning before class, during the day while studying (thanks free WiFi!) or at night, after the bars have closed.
CTB is one of the first places you go as a freshman during orientation, and you'll keep coming back throughout your four years. It's as much a part of the Cornell experience as the classes, the parties and the traditions.
What you're getting: The classic Nova Lox & Cream Cheese on a "Long Island Bagel," CTB's local twist on an everything bagel.
Perfect For: Quick Bite, Late Night Drunchies, Cheap Eats, Hangover Helper, Big Groups, Brunch, Study Spot, Caffeine Fix
Location: 415 College Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850
Hours of operation: Mon-Sun: 6:30 am-2 am
Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH): Lou's Restaurant & Bakery
Photo by Josh Renaud
Dartmouth prides itself on three main things: its tight-knit community, its long-standing traditions and its president's sweet 'stache, and Lou's definitely embodies the first two. A minute from the college's main green, the diner has satisfied hungry locals, remedied hangovers and provided cakes for student birthdays since 1947.
The wait for a table can get egregiously long during prime weekend brunch hours (similar to line for pong at night in frat basements), but there's a to-go counter and counter seating if you're looking for something quicker.
Lou's has become such a Dartmouth institution that it has earned its own place in the college's repertoire of traditions. Before graduating, most students will complete the "Lou's Challenge," where you pull an all-nighter with your friends, then head to Lou's for a hearty breakfast when it opens in the morning.
What you're getting: The "Big Green," which comes with buttermilk pancakes or French toast, eggs, breakfast meats, home fries and a choice of toast, an English muffin or a muffin. If you're all about going big or going home (like Dartmouth students), get it with "Lou's Cruller Donut French Toast," which is exactly as terrifying and delicious as it sounds.
Perfect For: Brunch, Big Groups, Hangover Helper
Location: 30 Main St, Hanover NH 03755
Hours of operation: Mon-Fri: 6 am-3 pm, Sat-Sun: 7 am-3 pm
Franklin & Marshall College (Lancaster, PA): The Fridge
Photo courtesy of The Fridge
In Lancaster, one of the oldest settlements in the USA, you'll find an interesting interplay between old and new. The city itself is humming with locals and young F&M students, but drive for less than ten minutes and you'll probably come across an Amish resident in a horse-drawn carriage.
This strange dichotomy finds equilibrium at The Fridge, a gourmet pizza and craft beer café. Here, locals and students intermingle, and you'll frequently run into a classmate, teammate, professor or coach unwinding over an artisanal brewski.
What you're getting: The Fridge is famous for its 500+ types of craft beer and cider, all of which live in the giant refrigerator that spans the entire back wall (and gives the eatery its name), but their wines and cocktails are also good options. Also, the porcini mushroom, kale and gruyere flatbread pizza, made with locally-sourced ingredients, is a must-try.
Perfect For: Quick Bite, Casual Drinks
Location: 534 N Mulberry St, Lancaster, PA 17603
Hours of operation: Tue-Thu: 11 am-11 pm, Fri & Sat: 11 am-12 am, Sun: 12 pm-8 pm
WANT TO SEE THE REST OF THE TOP COLLEGE TOWN FOOD JOINTS? HEAD OVER TO SPOON UNIVERSITY TO READ THIS ARTICLE IN ITS ENTIRETY
This article originally appeared on Spoon University and was written by Tarika Narain.