Poke with seaweed and tofu, green beans, green curry tofu and lemonade from Risley. (Julia Nagel/Sun Assistant Photography Editor).

May 6, 2021

Dining Hall Dinners That Got Me Through CHEM 2080

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As a self proclaimed foodie, I marveled over the idea of having a top rated dining program at my disposal. After getting through the initial excitement of being admitted to Cornell last year, I embarrassingly researched every single place to dine on campus. I imagined the dim sum Sundays at RPCC, the huge salad bar at Terrace and the dairy bar I would spend too much time at. With COVID, it’s no surprise that Cornell Dining had to make changes to ensure the safety of students and staff. 

Although there are instagram accounts like “Cornell food trash” which bash the new dining hall food quality, I don’t find the food to be all that bad. By no means do I think it’s fantastic, but I do find items that I enjoy. I’ve compiled a list of items that I look forward to eating when I examine the menu every night. Some of these actually get me out of the warmth of my bed and up the three flights of stairs to RPCC. 

Starting off strong is the gouda mac and cheese. Everytime I see this on the menu I sprint to the dining hall. This was on the menu the night of my CHEM 2080 exam, and I think I got some sort of high from the mac. I was literally dancing on the way to Barton. The perfect creamy consistency covers each piece of pasta like a blanket, and the mild cheesiness is not too overpowering, even after 10 servings. 

Next is the chimichurri chicken. I know — chicken. It seems like every night the dining halls serve chicken with some variation of sauce. But believe me, chimichurri is the best by far. I can always count on chimichurri chicken to be served for Sunday brunch. As I wake up at 1 p.m. with half of my makeup on from the night before and a pounding headache, the thought of the parsley and garlic slathered chicken thigh pulls me out of bed. My senses awaken, and after just one bite I am ready to start the day. There’s nothing like chimichurri chicken to cure my hangover. 

Two words. Garlic. Knots. Fresh from the RPCC pizza oven come the perfect doughy pillows of deliciousness. I’m not going to lie to you. They are not the absolute best garlic knots I’ve ever had. But for dining hall food, they’re a 9.5/10. The knots are either the regular sized ones that you typically get at a pizzeria, or the superior mini knots. The mini knots are too easy to pop in your mouth. I think I had at least eight the last time I was there. Just thinking about those garlic knots is making my mouth water. 

I’ve been quite a fan of Risley lately. At first I was a bit skeptical about the gluten free food, but I was pleasantly surprised. The smash burgers are actually the best sliders ever. They’re probably served three times a week at Risley for lunch or dinner, but I would gladly eat them five times a week. The burgers are unlike the char grilled ones from other dining halls that are literally hockey pucks. They’re perfectly seared, juicy and melt in your mouth. They aren’t served with a bun but either bahn mi style or with an apple compote on top — both ways are amazing. 

I’ll finish off my mini list with some dessert because there’s always room for dessert. Last week they served mint chocolate brownies, and all I can say is “WOW!” First off, the brownie was huge. I marveled at the size, thinking I wouldn’t be able to finish it but of course did. Despite it being gluten free, the texture was that of a typical brownie. Hints of mint paraded my taste buds but were not overpowering by any means. I will be racing to Risley the next time they serve these brownies.   


Ally Mark is a freshman in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at alm348@cornell.edu.