August 25, 2014

FISCHER | Don’t Eat at Okenshields

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Described as an “All You Care to Eat dining room with beautiful views of the Slope and Ithaca hillsides,” Okenshields Dining Room attracts unknowing freshmen with its unique status as the only dining hall on Central Campus that accepts meal swipes. Lured in by the Siren’s song of not needing to waste highly-prized BRBs that could otherwise be used for late-night calzones at Nasties, many have been bewitched into the depths of Willard Straight Hall for an underwhelming assortment of what might be scornfully called culinary creations. The only truly consistently decent food in the dining hall is the lo mein at the “Wok/Asian Station,” so if you’re only looking for some nice noodles and veggies, Okenshields’ culinary offerings may be for you.

At this point, you may be wondering why I’ve been so passionately bashing a campus dining hall. After all, saying that the food on a college campus is bad is hardly a novel sentiment. There are certainly some great things about Okenshields. As I mentioned before, the lo mein is pretty great, and Happy Dave, the always-cheery man who swipes cards and enthusiastically greets all who enter is a welcome addition to any day. However, the lackluster food means that Okenshields is not an ideal everyday lunch spot.

For any new students who have picked up this paper on the first day of classes, or for older students who are just looking for a bit of unsolicited advice on how to enjoy your Cornell experience to the fullest, I’m not going to repeat what you’ve all been told about getting involved and signing up for as many clubs as you can. My advice: Don’t go to Okenshields.

Granted, Okenshields is very convenient. It’s a place where, in exchange for a meal swipe, you’re granted free reign over any of the foods that are laid out in a buffet. A meal swipe is a nice, standardized and convenient option that doesn’t require much thought. However, there are plenty of better options for food on Central Campus if you’re willing to jump out of the comfortable world of meal swipes and use your Big Red Bucks.

Since I’d hate to outline a problem and not provide a solution, I’d like to get to provide a few examples of excellent eateries on campus before I dive in to the more abstract conclusion of what this battle between meal swipes and BRBs really means for your college experience.

Let’s start with my absolute favorite place to eat on campus, Synapsis Café. Located in Weill Hall on the Biology Quad, it has arguably the best pizzas and best grilled cheeses on Central Campus. The Hot Italian flatbread is a must-try and blows the standard chicken from Okenshields out of its coup.

Moving a bit further down campus, Trillium has the dining room atmosphere of Okenshields with more delicious food. The Quesadillas and Chinese food are particularly good and relatively well-priced. If you’re going during the lunch rush get ready to wait on a few lines.

If you really like the ambience of Willard Straight Hall, Ivy Room is located right next to Okenshields and has much better food. Burgers and salads are the name of the game here, and there’s also decent pizza. Furthermore, as a part of the decor, you get to stare at the seals of the schools in the Ivy League, and if that’s not appetizing I don’t know what is.

Those are three excellent options that — although they necessitate BRBs — are completely worth the limited portions and not being able to use meal swipes. Although it’s a little bit less convenient, your taste buds will thank you. This policy of not eating all the time at Okenshields is an excellent one to apply to your Cornell life. Although one thing may seem more convenient and more familiar, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best and most exciting. I’ve provided three excellent options for delicious on-campus lunches, but I also recommend trying out different places and finding where you like to eat on campus. It’ll make your experience at the school (and your diet) much richer. So remember: Don’t eat at Okenshields.

David Fischer is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]. Fischy Business appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.