Eating on campus can be a challenge for a lot of students. It’s no secret that Montclair State University has been plagued by dining issues for the past few years. From raw chicken tenders to limited hours at some popular dining locations, students have been more than disappointed by the university’s dining services.
However, that’s not to say it’s all bad. The campus does have a few good eats if you know where to look for them. From the best burger to the best place for vegan options, here’s your guide to the ultimate campus dining experience.
Breakfast: Dunkin’ or Freeman Dining Hall
As college students, we probably don’t eat breakfast as much as we should. And when we do, it’s probably something small like a granola bar and a can of Monster. But if you want to start your day off being nourished properly, Dunkin’ or Freeman Dining Hall are probably your best options.
Dunkin’ is here for obvious reasons. You can get all your favorites here: a bagel with cream cheese, an iced caramel latte, a box of munchkins or a bacon, egg and cheese on a croissant. There’s a reason why so many students are willing to wait in that ginormous line in the Student Center every day.
Freeman is a sleeper here, but it truly has some good early-morning options. For one thing, their omelet bar hits the spot after an early morning workout. Plus, they have different made-to-order options day to day from blueberry pancakes to breakfast burritos, including a vegan option.
Burgers: Chili’s and Red Hawk Diner
The main advantages of these two locations’ burgers are the quality of the patty and the weight it has. The sorry excuse for burgers at Sam’s and Freeman taste fresh from a grease fire and are as thin as my meal swipes card.
The Red Hawk Diner, even though its hours are frustrating, is one of the favorite places to eat on campus for a reason. The burgers there taste like a burger you would get at any other Jersey diner. Juicy, beefy and well-seasoned, you can’t go wrong here. And of course, you can’t forget the curly fries that come with the burger as well.
Chili’s, being an actual chain restaurant, also has a leg up in the burger game. Not quite as thick as the patties at the Red Hawk Diner, but the Southern Smokehouse Burger at Chili’s is one of my favorite guilty pleasures on campus. The one downside to Chili’s burgers is that they take forever to make, but I’d rather have a good burger that I have to wait for than one that gives me stomach issues and tastes like burnt grease.
Sandwiches: Jersey Mike’s
This choice seems pretty obvious. Known as one of the best chain sandwich shops in the tri-state area, Jersey Mike’s is second to none when it comes to cold-cut sandwiches. Your order is made right in front of your eyes, and nothing is better than a fresh sub. My personal favorite is the number six, roast beef and provolone, made Mike’s Way with mayo. And when I’m in the mood for a hot cheesesteak, the number 26, the Chicken Bacon Ranch, is my go-to.
Pizza: The Pizzeria at the Student Center
This addition to the dining locations on campus was much needed after 2Mato was closed due to the pandemic, and it has not disappointed. Sure, it may not taste like your local Italian pizzeria down the street from back home, but it gets the job done, and it sure is better than the pizza anywhere else on campus.
Smoothies: Panera and The Venture Cafe
Smoothies are in the hands of students all over Montclair State, so it felt appropriate to cover where to get your smoothie fix. Although the Smoothie Lab just opened this semester, there still are better options for your smoothie fix.
Panera is probably the most popular place for smoothies. They keep it simple with classic flavors like strawberry banana and mango, and they also have the popular healthy option of green passion. In addition to their smoothies, they also have a frozen caramel cold brew drink and a frozen chocolate cold brew which hit the spot if you’re in the mood for something a little more sugary.
Vegetarian and Vegan Options: California Tortilla and Sam’s Place
University dining isn’t typically known for its flexibility when it comes to students who are vegetarian and vegan. But to its credit, Montclair State dining actually does have some options for those who choose not to eat meat or animal products.
California Tortilla allows students to customize their bowls and burritos, so as long as you steer clear of any meat there, you can actually create a tasty dish. Not bad for a chain restaurant on a college campus.
As much hate as Sam’s Place gets (and sometimes deserves), when it comes to vegetarian and vegan options, this dining hall does a job well done. Sam’s Place has an entire section devoted to vegan meals, with its own staff to prepare them for you. The salad bar at Sam’s is extensive as well, with tons of different vegetables to make your salad colorful and exciting. If you’re looking for vegan and vegetarian variety, Sam’s is the place to be.
Allergen-Friendly Options: Sam’s Place
Again, although Sam’s is known for its issues, it is the only place on campus that has an entire section devoted to allergen-friendly meals. The “Pure Eats” kitchen cooks without any of the top seven allergens including peanuts, tree nuts, gluten and dairy. The meat there is also halal, which is a big plus for any Muslim students. Personally, I find the food cooked there better for your stomach and much cleaner tasting than the main course. A hidden gem in Sam’s Place, the “Pure Eats” section is worth checking out.
The food at Montclair State may get a bad rap most of the time, but with this guide, you should be able to navigate the dining options Montclair State has to offer and make the most of what’s here. Now excuse me while I go to Jersey Mike’s and listen to my stomach rumble as they make my sandwich.