c/o fipconstruction.com

c/o fipconstruction.com

Campus Dining in a Nutshell

As we all acclimate back to the Wesleyan campus lifestyle and find ourselves sarcastically exclaiming to our friends in Usdan, “Ah, I missed Mongolian stir fry,” I thought I’d throw my own two cents into the mix. Now, I definitely am not the premier food authority on this campus, but as the editor of the Food Section, I deserve to have and publish my opinions and overviews of all the different dining options that our campus offers. 


The one meal that has never failed to excite me in my four years at Wesleyan is the Thursday-night bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches from our beloved main dining hall. Others might have their own unexplainable weekly favorites, like Wednesday’s grilled cheese or Monday’s performance bowls (rumored to enhance performance in any single field by 200%). I never really hear people talking about Fish Fridays, but then again, what makes this “fresh fish of the day” any different than Swings salmon? Usdan is bound to fill up your stomach expeditiously, and the overarching flavor that finds its way into every dish could be seen as suspicious. Still, it’s loyal, filled with your friends, and offers a surprising variety of dishes, especially during lunch. 


Before I start, I need to let everyone know that the turkey-chipotle avocado is gone, and in its stead is a turkey Cuban sandwich! I have neglected my duties as a thorough food reviewer and have not tried it yet, but the thought of a new item itself is exciting enough. For Butts first years, Summies is a necessity that can’t be overly relied upon, as one will risk complete disillusionment halfway through the semester. It’s a back-and-forth battle. For upperclassmen, going to Summies is like meeting up with an old friend after years and years: you’re astonished to see them again but then realize it’s for the better that you parted ways. Overall, the late-night breakfast burrito hits the sweet spot of Saturday night craving, the salad-in-a-wrap hack emboldens Summies veterans, and the burgers are always above average. 


Complete with all the American classics and some surprisingly innovative specials, this 30+ year Wesleyan institution is appreciated by all (but especially by the athletic side of campus). During lunch hours, many find their perfect sandwich combination through the well-stocked Swings sandwich station or enjoy innovations like the birria tacos or clam po’ boys. Dinner gives way to classic pasta dishes like pesto penne or the infamous grilled salmon dinner. And if you want a hearty brunch on the weekend, the breakfast pail stuffed to the brim with hash browns, eggs, and breakfast meat will hit the spot. Swings is an institution above all else, unchanging in its college food that still fits the Wesleyan archetype, with falafel, seitan, and tofu available to substitute in most dishes. The fresh fries are addictive, the booths are cozy, and you will miss it all in some way when you go home over winter break. 

(Chef G Secret Menu Item: If tuna doesn’t make you queasy, you can ask for a tuna melt any time, any day. Simply modify your grilled cheese! Ask for it on rye with cheddar, tomato, and tuna.)

Red and Black:

Opened by Swings’ owners about a decade after the original restaurant, this café-style restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch and offers many similar items to Swings with a few twists. First, specials reside almost solely in the sandwich department, with grilled cheese variations reigning supreme and egg dishes making occasional appearances. Delicious smoothies are offered, with a necessary build-your-own option, something the recently opened athletic center mini-café has yet to include in its equally pleasing smoothie menu. Red and Black is a bit farther off campus but is still a great place to get some work done with a coffee. (There are daily drink specials.) Another fan favorite is the cold peanut noodles (which are really just streamlined Swings Wednesday night soba).

Story and Soil:

To the dismay of many early risers and breakfast lovers, Story and Soil’s delicious selection of breakfast sandwiches, bagels, and burritos has only been available after 11 a.m. for the first couple weeks of school. However, this is subject to change as Wesleyan’s premier higher-end café enters its third year of operation. The sandwiches/burritos are small in size but bold in flavor, with gourmet combinations like smoked chicken salad and espresso BBQ sauce, or chorizo, black beans, and aioli. Coffee or tea lovers can up their game with a Spanish Latte or a Golden Milk, as seasonal specials also find their way into the rotation. Story and Soil feel like an off-campus restaurant, making it all the more exciting that it accepts points; it’s a nice way to treat yourself on the weekend without spending real money. 

Star and Crescent:

This “student eating club” is the best way to feast on homemade but upscale family-style dishes without actually having to cook yourself. Like Story and Soil, it’ll break a first year’s budget of points, but it’ll be well worth it. Star and Crescent operates like a pop-up: It only offers dinner on Mondays and lunch and dinner Tuesday through Thursday, with a singular dish for each meal along with a freshly made dessert (Friday lunch is an all-you-can-eat buffet of leftovers). The extra care necessary to create 200 plates of Korean beef salad or a curried lentil soup with flatbread means that you must settle for whatever they offer. But it’s never settling since Star and Crescent has been known to leave you licking your plate and praying your lunch date will return with you next week. Eating in the ADP dining room, too, is a calming change from the hustle and bustle of Usdan, as is being waited on…albeit by your friends.  

Note to the wise: On nights with salmon, you should arrive at 5:15 p.m. if you want a spot at 6:00 p.m. It’s a drop akin to the iPhone in 2007.

Usdan Café and Pi

For those amongst us who need their stomachs filled without the frill of lunchtime social hour, Usdan Café and Pi are the places to go. Pi has pseudo-frappuccinos and smoothies, recalling memories of middle school Jamba Juice and Starbucks outings. For those who prefer their food solid, the bagels at Pi are a favorite, and Usdan Café has an ever-expanding range of sushi, salads, wraps, and charcuterie boxes (Lunchables). Pi can always turn into more of a social outing, but the Café is perfect for the quickest grab-and-go on campus.

Lewis Woloch can be reached at lwoloch@wesleyan.edu

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