Picking the best dining hall on campus was a daunting task. With ten “all you care to eat” cafterias spread across West, Central and North campus, it took a little bit of leg work, and a lot bit of an iron stomach to muscle my way through all of them. But through perseverance and a true passion for eating, I persevered.
I soon came to realize that even my bias towards North Campus could not dissuade my preference for West Campus dining. The food, facilities and overall quality of West were above and beyond those of North, or even Okenshields, so to West I trecked, over and over again.
But within West I found a myriad of excellent dining choices. Spread out across the bottom of Libe Slope were Rose, Becker, Bethe, Cook, 104 West and Keeton House. In my quest to find the superior, I spent each night checking buffet menus,and going to the places which seemed to have the greatest variety of choices. By the third week I found myself consistently returning to Bethe, Cook and Keeton, and at that point the competition became increasingly competitive. Monday nights were ruled by Bethe’s wing night and Keaton’s thai night, but Cook’s quality of each specific entre every single other night made it a consistent bet for excellence.
So after narrowing my options down one last time, the final two dining halls I needed to decide between were Cook and Keeton. I spent five consecutive nights forcing myself to eat at both places, and had to unfortunately indulge in desserts every time (to make sure I got the full experience of course). That meant two dinners, and two desserts per night for a full week. Being the food critic is pretty tough sometimes...
But alas, upon careful deliberation, feedback from West Campus diners and the help of a few favorite dishes, Keeton House Dining won my vote as “best dining hall on campus.”
For those who are not familiar with West Campus dining halls, their interiors are set up as if they are about to host a professional banquet. While frequent diners often take West’s amenities for granted, those who eat their less regularly often appreciate the nuances. Even the classiness of the plates, forks and knives prepare one for the quality of food they are about to consume. The only problem I’ve run in to in regards to Keeton’s facilities is its lack of capacity. It is often hard to find a table for a group of friends due to the hall’s popularity and lack of size.
But once one has found a table and is waiting in line, the smells and sights draw forth a grumbling in the stomach. The very average salad bar that stands at the front of the food area is easily ignored in favor of the hot items. On thai night, the first station is full of fried rice, followed by an option of three types of curry. The fried rice is excellent, though it could use some meat, and the curry sauce, while sweet and tasty, is a bit rich. But mix the two together, and you suddenly have a pretty deadly combo. The sweet noodles on the other end of the buffet also go well with the curry, and are even good alone. They’re sweet and smooth and definitely complete the meal. I really have no complaints about thai nights. They are honestly some of my favorite and most filling nights of the week.
Tuesdays at Keeton are borderline patriotic. They have Smoke House BBQ days, and I have had mixed experiences with these. The first time I went to a Smoke House BBQ day... it blew my mind. The chicken was moist, the corn muffins were sweet, and the pulled pork was so very flavorful I could hardly stop eating. But last week the chicken tasted like nothing more than some low grade meat smothered in a bit of sauce. Even the pulled pork was not up to its standards, and this almost lost Keeton the top spot on Campus. Despite the chicken’s lackluster quality, the corn muffins maintained their rich sweetness that made it worth the trip. I don’t even think Paula Deen could have made them any better.
Wednesday nights are catering nights, and while good, they are pretty equal at any of the West Campus dining halls. To be perfectly honest, I’d rather dig in to Cornell’s own chipotle glazed chicken which was served the next night. Again, Keeton’s signature moist chicken fell off the bone as easily as its sauce fell on to my lap. I couldn’t help but wonder how Keeton managed to serve so many people such high quality of food every single night, and while I am certainty grateful for it... my BMI might not be...
My weeks of serious deliberation were not easy, but through a diverse menu, excellent quality of flavors, an inviting atmosphere, and an overall air of excellence, Keeton reigns supreme at Cornell. If you live on West, remember how lucky you are, and if you live on North or in Collegetown, it’s worth the walk. Treat yourself sometime, give yourself a study break. I promise you wont regret it. Keeton is where it’s at.
Overall Experience: *****