I thought it couldn’t get better than CTB. This is probably a familiar sentiment among Cornell students. As freshmen relegated to Appel and Robert Purcell dining, we are practically denied access to some of the campus’s best eats. We all pass it every weekend, but few of us know that Cornell Law School is home to one of the University’s best-kept culinary secrets, Hughes Dining.
Located in Myron Taylor Hall right across the bridge from Collegetown, Hughes Dining, open from 8am to 2pm Monday through Friday, is home to some of the most delicious local barbecue, available without the 15-minute bus ride. That doesn’t mean a little exploration isn’t necessary though: ten minutes after entering the building, asking multiple people and exploring a labyrinth of hallways with a few of my friends, we finally took an elevator down to the basement. A large sign welcomed us, foreshadowing with its whimsical handwritten logo the Hughes Dining experience we were about to discover.
The decor of the hall is a play on a picnic environment, in perfect sync with the food served. The space it occupies is relatively small, with only one cash register, contributing to the feeling of hominess. There are wooden tables, wooden chairs, crates and picnic baskets with red-checkered napkins holding plastic cutlery. Food is served on disposable plates. And, best of all, each table is covered in white paper tablecloth, complimented by a small aluminum pail of crayons. When we first sat down, we weren’t sure if it was a joke, a gambit to weed out freshmen by their immaturity. Looking around though, graduate law students scribbled away at imaginative designs and questionable looking shapes. We didn’t feel out of place as we began drawing our own creations, eventually leading to an animal drawing contest and comedic likenesses of people in the room and at our table.
We all gathered our foods, paid our very affordable Big Red Bucks charges and sat down. I tasted the coffee-rubbed Angus burger, BBQ brisket sandwich, fried chicken with gravy and waffles, jalapeno corn muffin, chipotle mac and cheese and a few of their breakfast options. The subtle notes of coffee pushed through a tender, excellently marbled cut of meat while the chicken was lightly fried, with an excellent, crisp airiness. The BBQ brisket was slow-cooked to perfection with a tangy, savory sauce rivaling that of any barbecue I’ve ever had before. The only low point was the mac and cheese, the supposed spice of which was only evident in the large chipotle chunks swimming in an otherwise heavy and overly creamy dish.
Despite that disappointment, however, the meal achieved what I believe it attempted to: a genuine barbecue bonding experience with great food and a friendly environment. The fried chicken with gravy and waffles, in hindsight, is the single best meal I have had since I have gotten here and I would make the journey to Myron Taylor Hall every day if I had time — and if I didn’t fear gaining the freshmen 15 — just to get them. After the meal, we exited through a different door to the back of the building. The courtyard of the law school is one of the most beautiful places on campus and I would recommend getting your food to go and eating there if it didn’t mean sacrificing the whole barbecue experience Hughes Dining offers. Next time you’re heading down to Collegetown to get a bite at CTB, stop yourself right before the bridge and turn into the nearest building to have one of the best dining experiences on campus, sold on BRBs.
Original Author: A.J. Nickas