Where to Go and What to Eat
The beginning of freshman year can be overwhelming—there are endless orientation events, hundreds of new people to meet, hours of unpacking to do, and then you have to worry about food. Where should you go? Where is the best food—the stuff that almost reminds you of home—and what is the meal you should never ever get? And what, exactly, is the Star & Crescent?
Welcome to the Food Section of The Argus. Below you will find the hits, misses, highlights, and strategies to help you navigate each of the on-campus dining options, as well as a few off-campus eateries.
The Low-down: The largest place to eat on campus. All-you-can-eat, cafeteria style, with a satisfying variety of options.
The Hits: Vegan apple crisp on Friday. Hands down everyone’s favorite dessert—even the omnivores can’t stay away. This dish is best à la mode (that’s with ice cream).
The Misses: Sunday dinner. Consistently the worst meal ever served. Also, the pasta tends to be a letdown, so don’t bother waiting in line.
What to know: The two sides of Usdan have different atmospheres. The left side—also called athlete side, conveyor side, and music side—and the right side—also known as the hipster side, quiet side, or non-music side—both have their ups and downs, but know that the drinks and dessert are different at the entrances to both.
Strategy: Make sure to avoid the noon lunch rush. Also, a once-over browse to check all of the stations—from classics to salad bar, vegan to Mongolian grill, with a pass over Kosher—ensures that you won’t regret your choice or miss out on anything good.
Local celebrity: Mert the pizza guy. Make friends with him, both in real life and Facebook life. I promise you he will write happy birthday on your Facebook timeline.
The Low-down: Called the ‘restaurant-style’ option on campus; salads, sandwiches, and taqueria; hiding on the first floor of Butt C.
The Hits: The Summerfields salad is my personal favorite, but for those who like heartier fare, there are many a fan of the taqueria. Diners can customize their options—meat or tofu, bowl or salad, additions or subtractions—like at any fast food chain.
The Misses: Whatever special is available that night. Almost never a good option.
What to know: You can text your taqueria order to Summerfields, which is great for an on-the-go meal. No waiting in line!
Strategy: Snag extra desserts, tea, hot chocolate, or fruit to take back to your dorm room.
Highlights: Ordering to-go gives your meal some wheels.
The Lowdown: The à la carte option of Usdan, on the first floor of the Usdan University Center.
The Hits: There isn’t really an outstanding dining option from this convenient place to buy your grab-n-go lunch. However, it has fun packaged snacks and candies at the register; the ginger chew and stroopwafle are two delicious choices.
The Misses: If you want to get lunch from here, the prepackaged sandwiches are rarely satisfying. Wraps and sometimes sushi are better bets if you are getting lunch from the café.
What to know: For such a small location, it has a surprising variety of prepackaged meals—Indian pasta, Chinese dumplings, yogurt and yogurt drinks, bagels, and muffins. Plus, it also makes smoothies. There is probably something there that will strike your fancy.
Strategy: After buying your food, sit down in the comfy chairs by the windows to eat and relax with some friends or do some last-minute work. The light streaming in from the outside is a bright spot in anyone’s day.
Highlights: Being able to get your caffeine fix on your way to Fisk makes life much simpler than if you always have to make a stop by Pi.
The Lowdown: Wesleyan’s ‘grocery store’ sells prepacked sandwiches, wraps, and most things you need to stock your dorm room or apartment.
The Hits: Candy wall. No contest. The dream of all 5-year-olds and Wesleyan students with impending exams.
The Misses: The sushi is never as good as it looks—just be warned. The late 2 p.m. opening time on Friday and Saturday is also a bummer.
What to know: If you bring your own bag, you don’t need to pay the five extra cents for a paper bag. Also, the line gets very long at closing time on Friday and Saturday (6 p.m.), so try to get your shopping done before then.
Strategy: Check out all of the frozen dinners and desserts on the far right. There are oodles of options and something for everyone from the huge athlete starving after practice to the inebriated freshman looking for an answer to their craving.
Highlights: Again, candy wall. Need I say more?
The Hits: Pi Café’s special drinks are more delectable than any Starbucks concoction. First on your list should be the Chai Charger—a chai tea latte with an espresso shot.
The Misses: Pierce Brothers coffee, the purveyor of Wesleyan coffee, tastes like delightfully roasted acid with a great ashy finish. Really, it barely passes as mediocre. It is, however, free trade.
What to know: Despite the lackluster beans, the special coffee flavors from Pierce Brothers are always pretty decent—caramel, eggnog, cinnamon hazelnut, mocha java, or any seasonal special is definitely the way to go.
Strategy: Whenever the big science lecture in Tischler Hall gets out (at 8:50, 9:50, and 10:50) the line grows to epic proportions. Go 15 minutes before the hour, or just after, to cut your wait in half.
Highlights: The free New York Times stack just outside the front door (admittedly, these can be found in several other spots around campus). Also, after ordering your drink and relaxing at one of the tables by the windows, drinking a coffee and reading the Times, you feel like you could be in a real-life café! Well, almost.
The Hits: Anything. No, seriously anything. I love the fish tacos, but you can’t go wrong with S&C. Mole, soup, grilled cheese, and tomato soup—you name it.
The Misses: Especially on days that feature particularly popular dishes, S&C often sells out of food. Don’t wait until the last minute to get in line.
What to know: The first three freshmen to any meal get their plate free. That’s right, totally free of charge. Also, lunch is cheaper but includes less food—just an entrée and a simple sweet. Dinner, which is more expensive, includes a salad, an entrée, and a more elaborate dessert.
Strategy: Get your meal to go for a couple of extra points so you don’t have to wait in line for a table, which can take a while.
Highlights: Almost everyone who works there is a student. The wait-staff is from the Alpha Delta Phi society and all of the kitchen staff are students. The one exception is Ryan Talbot, head chef and a former vegan Rastafarian.
The Hits: While Wesleyan students are frequently divided on hot-button issues, everyone I spoke to about late night insisted I talk about the sweet potato fries. They are the bomb.
The Misses: Chicken fingers are a rip-off, reports one disgruntled diner.
What to know: It’s open during the week too, so if you don’t like what Weshop has to offer, check out the options from Late Night for your midnight fix.
Strategy: Go after a long (or short) night of drinking (or not) to satisfy your late-night munchies. Also, you are allowed to just walk in without ordering, and fruit in the fridge is free to grab.
Highlights: Freddy, the guy who works at the late night register, is fun to talk to during your journey to an evening snack.
The Hits: Omelets on the weekend for brunch. De-li-cious. Also, smoothies here are a definite yes.
The Misses: The paninis are quite oily. Actually, much of the food there is too greasy for some students.
What to know: Their coffee is far superior to Pi’s—both the drip and the fancy concoctions. If you can get your caffeine fix here, it’s preferable to Pi or the Grab-n-Go cafe.
Strategy: The space is small, and the omelets can take up to 20 minutes to arrive, since they are so popular on the weekends. Make sure you time your arrival well, avoiding when all of the hungover LoRise and HiRise residents try to get their orders in.
Highlights: The magazine rack is great to peruse while waiting for your meal to arrive, as it boasts everything from obscure technology to music magazines to Cosmopolitan to Time. You are sure to find something that interests you. It’s also a good choice if you want to feel like you are off-campus without actually spending real money.
The Hits: The brunch Breakfast Pail, also called the hangover cure. The soups are also usually a good choice.
The Misses: You need to pay for a cup to get water. Bring a bottle and fill it up for free to skip the extra cost.
What to know: Prices are exorbitant, and sometimes not worth the drain it takes on your WesCard.
Strategy: Since some of the specials are huge—and expensive—either split with a friend and save the cost, or ask for a to-go box to save it for later. You won’t regret it when you come home at 1 a.m. and are craving something yummy. Also, have one of your friends scope out an empty table as soon as you enter the restaurant—space can be hard to come by.
Highlights: Running into people you haven’t seen in months. WesWings is like the watering hole of random interactions.
The Hits: They have really good sandwiches that are made to order. The menu is extensive, so everyone can find something they like, from the carnivore to the vegetarian to the picky eater.
The Misses: Any and all of the pre-prepared deli options. Just sketchy. Don’t even go there.
What to know: Be polite with the staff. Their history with Wesleyan students is not the best.
Strategy: Head over on the weekends if you want a quick and satisfying dinner before an arts event. Usdan isn’t good on the weekends, and the other places can get crowded.
Highlights: It’s technically off-campus, but practically on campus, located just across from Freeman.
The Hits: Loaded waffle fries are “super good,” says one diner.
The Misses: According to one informant, “some of their appetizers look like they came out of a frozen bag.” Chicken fingers are to be especially avoided.
What to know: It’s a good place for a casual dinner if the Wesleyan options are dragging you down, and it takes no time to get there. They also deliver!
Strategy: Don’t go on Wednesday night. Upperclassmen head to The Nest for bar night, so it may get crowded.
Highlights: Going there makes you feel like a real person at a real restaurant and not a college student living off of fake money and limited meals.
The Hits: From Mamoun’s restaurant falafel truck: the standard falafel wrap. You can’t go wrong. Next door at The Whey Station: The Ella. Brie cheese, caramelized onions, and pruscuito. It’s pretty epic.
The Misses: The inevitability of tahini sauce dripping down your shirt when you’re drunkenly devouring your falafel wrap. Also, the only things you can order are greasy—not many healthful choices here.
What to know: There are sometimes other trucks that sporadically visit Wesleyan’s campus. One hangs out by the Bayit sometimes, and there were rumors this summer of a cupcake truck. Keep your eyes open; maybe you’ll have a sighting.
Strategy: Fold up the ten-dollar bill you need for your late night snack very small, and slide it into your WesCard holder so you don’t lose it. Your tummy will thank you later.
Highlights: Blissfully munching your hot falafel/grilled cheese/French fries, while sitting on the grass, lit by the street lamps, with the dozens of other students who are as content as you are with their delicious snacks.