By no means do I consider my palate more sophisticated than that of the average metrosexual Upper West Sider, but I guarantee that my taste buds can differentiate between that which is pleasing and that which is, well, not. With this assurance, I hope you can place your trust in my judgment, and accept my conclusions regarding the West Campus dining halls.
In the following article, I will first give brief descriptions of each dining hall’s setup, both in terms of seating and in terms of food station placement. I hope to create for you, my readership, an image that will transport you to each location and allow you to practically taste the foods I will highlight. By the concluding sentence, I expect your mouths to be salivating and your stomachs rumbling, eager to jump out of your procrastinatory funk and head to West Campus for a snack to satisfy the senses and stimulate the mind.
Alice Cook House
Walking to the front entrance of Alice Cook’s Main House, you will notice an immaculately trimmed courtyard and floor-to-ceiling windows through which you can see the dining hall. Once you make your way into the dining hall itself, the flags hanging from the ceiling catch your eye, evoking thoughts of international culture and brightening the room with color. The room is somewhat irregularly shaped, with a raised platform toward the back and with tables, set up both in long lines and in squares, scattered throughout.
The buffet area is intuitively designed; it leads you in a circle, starting with hot dishes, then salad, then more hot dishes, then to a specialty station or pizza station. The desserts sit in the middle, the drinks on the side. Toward the right side of the dining hall, separated from the other food, lies the coveted ice cream and cereal.
Cook dining hall’s best meal is its Asian inspired night, when the chef serves up crispy, bright spring rolls and smooth, savory chicken dumplings. Dipped in sauce, your glutamate sensors will definitely pick up the umami. Free up your Thursday nights for this international sensation.
Carl Becker House
Similar to Cook, walking into Becker, you will see rows of tables on your right and food stations to your left. Again, there are floor-to-ceiling windows through which the full autumn glamour of the Ithaca valley can be seen. Light seems to effortlessly flow into the large room, creating a warm and comfortable eating environment. And with more seating than Cook, Becker usually bustles with energy and excitement.
The buffet area is designed like Cook’s, with only slight modifications. At the center, there are usually yogurts, fruits and some desserts, while the majority of baked sweets and fruits are housed near the entrance. The ice cream is once again separated from the rest, a sure sign that Cornell is hoping its students cut down a bit, don’t you think? Yet, there is still an easy circular path to take, and seats are not hard to come by.
My favorite dish here is the smoked salmon omelet from Becker’s weekend omelet bar. The fish’s smokiness when paired with some nice cheese and ripe tomatoes, gives me the jumpstart I need for a productive weekend.
Hans Bethe House
This dining room lacks some of the brightness and unique charm that others offer. But what it lacks in décor, it makes up for in size and food quality. Rows of long tables abound without overwhelming your senses.
Instead, your senses will be overcome by the food. My favorite meal here is, as I’m going to call it, ‘Murica night. Fried potatoes? Got ‘em. Fried onions? Got ‘em. Fried chicken wings? Got ‘em. Fried chicken tenders? Got ‘em. Fried mozzarella sticks? Got ‘em. The food is salty, sweet… gone. This classic dinner will truly make you wonder why America has an obesity problem. However, I find it an irresistible treat that is a must-eat if you are okay with gaining a few pounds in one sitting.
Flora Rose House
I must give this dining hall kudos for its design. It incorporates cement, adding a modern twist to the room’s aesthetic, which is furthered by lighted disks that mitigate the darkness that the concrete would otherwise create. Moreover, the buffet area is brightly lit and mostly white, a beacon of hope for those of you with two prelims tomorrow, in addition to an essay and two projects due next week. Standing at the entrance and looking outward, the walls appear to slope downward, the windows increasing in size as your eye moves toward the opposite side — a set of floor-to-ceiling windows. This shapely architecture creates interest for the eyes, setting this room apart from the other, more conventionally styled dining halls.
Again, the buffet leads you around in a circle, letting you pick up whatever suits your taste buds, often in spite of your stomach’s warnings. This happened to me one night, when Rose had its Greek night. They had lamb. Lamb! Together with pita, olives, rice and other Mediterranean-inspired foods, I ate with fervor, temporarily forgetting the stresses of Cornell life. I hope for your sake you also get a chance to have this soothing experience.
William Keeton House
Lastly comes Keeton, the often forgotten West Campus House, placed in the shadow of Noyes Community Center and hidden behind the behemoth that is the Hans Bethe House. Number one in décor, this dining hall blew away the competition in holiday spirit: pumpkins and zombies and cobwebs showed me that this dining hall cared about how I feel when I sit down to eat. Weirdly, however, the dining hall feels much like a high school cafeteria. The multicolored tiles fill the room with awkwardly juvenile color coordination, and the low ceilings create the illusion of a vast plane of seating. The room feels dark and somewhat cramped, while the buffet is slightly discombobulating: everything is ordered differently from how it is in the other dining halls.
But they serve iced coffee at night, affording me the chance to have dinner with a lovely glass of my own concoction of Cornell dairy chocolate milk and Keeton-style iced caffeinated roasted bean juice. Moreover, Keeton offers a mean beef gyro, that you’d think would dry out quickly, but actually retains its juiciness quite effectively. Delish.
Just go to one of them — you’ll be happier than you would be on North!