September 22, 2005

Cornell's Finest

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Lunch is undeniably the best part of the day. Lunchtime is the perfect opportunity to relax with your friends, eat good food and break away from thinking about class. Some students even think about lunch while they are still in class. Granted, it’s four weeks into the semester and most of you have probably already developed lunchtime rituals.

We Cornellians are creatures of habit: we sit in the same seats at each lecture and we eat lunch at specific dining halls with specific groups of people on specific days. I see the same students in Trillium at 1 p.m. on Wednesdays and fight against the same groups of people for tables at Terrace on Thursdays. Why not break it up a bit? While many universities have one food court or, even more offensive, one dining hall, Cornell offers 19 on campus eateries. We are unknowingly enrolled at the dining mecca of universities. It has taken three and a half years, but I have finally tried all of the lunch places on this campus. Now I am going to impart this carefully honed knowledge to you, the Cornell community.

Best Sandwich

This one’s a tie between Cascadeli and the Big Red Barn. Cascadeli offers copious toppings and the freshest bread, but the service can be a bit slow. The Big Red Barn offers great seating and an appealing menu. In the deep winter months of January-March, however, the steps that lead to this eatery are just too frozen to scale.

Best Soup

Temple of Zeus, hands down. Its soup selections are homemade daily. Check out for weekly soup offerings. Located in the bottom of Goldwin Smith, the Temple of Zeus is not run through Cornell dining, so make sure to bring cash.

Best Hot Food

The new Trillium definitely shines in its hot food offerings. More traditional “stick to your ribs” food like quesadillas, personal pan pizzas and super nachos, are still offered. But it’s the new menu items like the Mediterranean line, the Asian soup line and the chipotle macaroni and cheese that make this place such a novelty.

Best Place to Chill

Ivy Room and Okenshields are the perfect places for those who like to expand their “lunch hour” into two hours. Both eateries are open throughout the day, so there is no rush and plenty of seating.

Best Grab and Go

For engineers, Mattin’s is the new hotspot for a quick bite. The dining atrium is spacious and offers plenty of tables. Grab and go foods are well-stocked and include the full range of sushi, sandwiches, smoothies, fresh fruits and desserts (cheesecake!). Biotech’s and Martha’s grab and go are great alternatives for those who want to avoid the Trillium rush.

Best Hangover Food

Hughes Dining in the law school takes the sub and fries concept to a new level; portions are simply enormous. Fries typically fall off the plate and toppings ooze out of buns. Hot sandwiches at Hughes are a special treat; the bread is toasted to a golden brown and the cheese is melted to perfection.

Best Kept Secret

Cul de Snack in Anabel Taylor is simply adorable. The seating is reminiscent of a cozy cottage and the staff is unbelievably friendly. Food offerings are pretty typical of other eateries including a soup bar, grab and go section and grill. However, the sandwich of the day sets this place apart – unadvertised online, this offering tends to be unique and interesting (various combinations of deli meats or salmon, veggies and spreads in pita/wrap/cibatta).

Best Latte

Tower Cafe still reigns supreme to Libe Cafe. The foam is taller, the drink is smoother and the lines are shorter. Trillium Express, the Terrace and Mattin’s all offer espresso drinks this year, but the latte ritual is one that I indulge in after class when these places are closed.

Wish it was Closer

The Cornell Dairy Bar is a great place for lunch, but unless you inhabit Stocking Hall, you probably won’t have time to go there for lunch on a normal class day. The dairy bar offers made-to-order sandwiches, pizzas and hot soups. But unlike any other lunch place on campus, the dairy bar serves up a full Cornell Dairy ice cream menu with quirky names and all.

Most Over-Rated

I write this at the risk of facing hotelie wrath, but Terrace and Mac’s both carry inflated reputations. True, Terrace offers a stellar salad bar and generous wraps. The lines, however, are too long for anyone with less than a one and a half hour lunch break to order either of these items. Mac’s also has its endearing qualities – the pasta of the day, the soup combos and the gooey pizza. However, space is also an issue. Pushing against a hundred other people in the cashier line and fighting like vultures over seats does not make lunch an enjoyable experience (no matter how good the food is!).

Cornell’s central campus is not massive. For all of you territorial lunch-eaters: an extra five minutes out of your way can open up a new world of dining possibilities. So the next time you’re out of class and thinking about where to eat, go discover your own favorites!

Archived article by Anna Fishman
Sun Contributor