The ultimate guide to eating at Ohio University’s dining halls

I will level with you, dining halls just aren’t fun. After not eating dining hall food for a while they don’t seem so bad, but try eating at a dining hall every day and you will grow sick and tired of the same food every day.

Eating pizza, burgers, and more pizza gets pretty annoying, so this article will help you find variety and get to know the dining halls at Ohio University.

Boyd Dining Hall/The District on West Green:

The District on West Green at Ohio University.
Image from ohio.edu

A lot has changed since my freshman year, when Boyd was the ugliest dining hall paired with the worst food within a 100-mile radius. Today, Boyd is newly renovated and offers much healthier food compared to the other dining halls. On the flip side, Boyd is not where you go for pizza or burgers.

Boyd offers a sandwich station, a grill section with fairly lean meats, a pasta section, and a salad bar. You will learn really quickly as a freshman that eating healthy is difficult, especially considering the vegetable to fried chicken ratio in the dining halls. That’s why I would take advantage of Boyd, especially if you live on West Green since it will be close to your dorm. If you are looking for a healthy option in a much more modern and clean setting, Boyd is the dining hall for you.

 

Nelson Dining Hall:

The biggest dining hall on campus, Nelson offers all-day breakfast, a grilled food section, pasta, thin-crust pizza, Asian food, and an ice cream bar. Nelson is my personal favorite, and probably has the widest selection of any dining hall that OU has to offer.

Nelson Court at Ohio University
Image from ohio.edu

This means that you can go to Nelson a lot and, as long as you mix things up, not get too tired of the food. It should also be noted that Nelson Court is the only dining hall to offer all-day breakfast, which means waffles for dinner is now a reality for you. Also, there is a made-to-order omelette station, which is actually pretty cool relative to the somewhat bland offerings of Ohio University’s dining halls. Nelson is on the edge of South Green, and within very close walking distance to East Green as well.

 

 

 

Shively Dining Hall:

Shively Court is your standard college dining hall. It is okay, but nothing too special. There is a grill station, thick-crust pizza, pasta, salad bar, and a section dedicated to home-cooked style meals. Personally, I find Shively underwhelming, but you can decide for yourself which dining hall fits you best.

Shively Dining Hall at Ohio University
Image from ohio.edu

Shively, like Nelson, has an ice cream/dessert section that is pretty solid. One thing that Shively does hold as a strength is that it has a sandwich bar, as well as an extended building specifically for Shively Grab ‘N Go. Shively Grab ‘N Go offers sandwiches, soups, fruits, and chips. Placed right next to Morton Hall, Shively is the dining hall on East Green. So, if you live on that side of campus you will probably be making a lot of trips to Shively.

Other resources:

I think you will find the locations and hours of each dining hall helpful, as well as the menus on any given day. Hopefully you found this article helpful, and if you visit OU or end up coming here, let me know in the comments which dining hall is your favorite and why.

Saturdays and the scrambling Shively dwellers

2015-10-23 16.48.13Six out of seven days of the week, there is a line coming out of the Shively Dining Hall, tracking almost the entirety of Morton Hill. When it closes every Saturday, however, Shively residents are left scrambling to find a place to eat. They are filled with exhaustion, hopeless looks in their eyes and hungry bellies. What are they to do for food each Saturday?

For some people, the simple solution would be to just walk down the hill and eat at Nelson. Freshman biochemistry major and Shively resident Erika Stroh said, “I usually just go to Nelson.” Traveling to Nelson is not that simple of a task for a spoiled Shively resident. As a resident of Shively Hall myself, I can personally attest for how convenient it is to live directly above a dining hall. I am definitely spoiled as are my fellow hall mates. The trek to Nelson is seemingly short and effortless, but after a long week of classes, the thought of walking back up the dreaded Morton Hill after eating a big meal is entirely unpleasant.

If a fellow friend from Shively is feeling brave enough, it is a fairly common thing to walk up to Court Street for some food options there. Freshman Shively resident Katie Grace said, “I go to Nelson and [my roommate] and I usually eat out on Saturday nights.” Similar to walking to Nelson, it’s often too much effort for an exhausted college student. So if they somehow muster up the strength and desire, a Shively kid can be found with a Chipotle bag, pizza box or a drink from wherever they journeyed. Stroh also said, “If I’m feeling risky, I go to Chipotle.”

2015-10-23 16.58.29Another less popular but very real option is forfeiting the opportunity to eat a “real” meal on that one day. I know there have been a few Saturdays in which I’ve survived solely on saltines in my dorm. In a mix of being too comfortable in their beds to get up, not giving any effort to get food and not wanting to spend money, Shively residents can be heard rustling through their refrigerators and stashes of snacks for something to hold them over until Sunday.

There is a potential happy medium to all of these options: ordering food. Delivery, in my opinion, is one of the best inventions. My fellow Shively residents and I have found ourselves wondering what on earth we would eat on some Saturdays. But then someone in the group strikes genius and poses the option of ordering something. With this option, students can order their own things separately or split the total of a pizza to reduce the amount of money spent. It is glorious.

This coming Saturday, like all other Saturdays, my fellow spoiled Shively residents and I are going to be hunting for the best dining option since our beloved Shively Dining Hall won’t be operating. If a keen eye is kept, they can succeed in their search for food.

Dining hall grub: the better of two evils?

If you take a walk through east green around dinnertime, as you wind around majestic oaks and quaint, colonial dorms, you will most likely hear the grumblings of underclassmen about their “Shively shits.” Those of us who are past the days of meal plans can’t forget that peculiar gassy feeling that creeps up mid-stroll home following a campus-meal with your friends.

What really goes into the 3.8 million meals per year that OU Culinary Services feeds us?

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When I asked Culinary Services up-front if they used food preservatives or additives, they responded, “We do not use preservatives or texturizes in our products on campus.”

This, I had a hard time believing.

I asked Culinary Services for their ingredients, which they told me were on-line. Just for the record, the ingredients are not actually online.

This was their first lie.

I asked if I could come into the dining hall to snap a few pictures, also secretly hoping to check out some ingredient labels, but they denied my request, claiming that it would make students feel uncomfortable as “residential dining venues are a place for students to relax and refuel.”

So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I had an underclassman friend swipe me into Shively so I could have the full dining hall experience.

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Shively was just as homey as I remembered it – I loved feeling engulfed in the lazy atmosphere of a dining hall towards the end of a long school day. I let myself be lulled into the collegiate comfort of the warm room as  I watched the lazy strides of students whose hardest decision that evening was choosing between chicken tenders and grilled cheese. Then I sank into a cushiony, retro, crescent-shaped booth by Shively’s front entrance.

There was so much food that I didn’t have to cook, and I wouldn’t have to clean up after!

“Ahhhh,” the privileges of college dining.

I filled a freshly-washed white bowl with beef vegetable soup, grabbed some classic Shively garlic bread, and made a verry elaborateimagejpeg_0-6e salad.

Then for dessert. For Homecoming the dining halls served these cute football-shaped cookies, along with Shively’s impressive variety of ice-cream.

Once I had allowed myself to be wined and dined, I got down to business. I snapped photos of the ingredients tags of various dishes, including the beef – vegetable soup I enjoyed.

Here are my findings.

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According to the label, this Kosher and Halal-friendly soup contains disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate. Both are food additives, used as flavor enhancers, often times in conjunction with MSG. The soup also contains lactic acid, a preservative and curing agent used as a decontaminant during meat-processing.

This was Culinary Services’ second lie.

I don’t expect a dining hall to serve some bourgeois meal of organic beef, carefully raised on the pristine green pastures of New Zealand. Preservatives are arguably necessary when feeding students on such a large scale in order to keep food from spoiling.

But I don’t expect Culinary Services to lie to me about it, either.

ShivelyCourt_SaladBar
Photo courtesy of Ohio University Culinary Services

That being said, I don’t see Culinary Services as this evil branch of OU that’s out to torture students by giving them “the Shively shits.” In comparison with what most students eat once they escape the clutches of the meal plan, dining hall food is often times the better alternative. The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that at a midsize university in Oregon, 59% of students had experienced food insecurity within the past year. Students who are strapped for cash are more likely to go for calorie-rich foods like fast food and processed foods with a longer shelf-life. Jacqueline Duffy, a social-work student living off campus at OU, said, “I would buy healthy options if I had the money, but I have to buy in bulk and that kind of stuff (produce,) goes bad.”

Purchasing a meal plan helps a student allocate a certain amount of money each semester to their food budget – ensuring that he or she will have regular access to fresh food throughout the semester. And as less-than-perfect as some of the dining hall’s cooked dishes may be, the salad bars at OU are the bomb. Equipped with sunflower seeds, nuts, spinach, feta cheese, bell peppers, cucumbers, and sometimes even kale, dining halls have the resources to provide students with produce that’s replenished throughout the week; whereas a bag of spinach in your own fridge has to be eaten in a few days before it goes bad.

And while we’re on the subject of cooked meals, how many of us off-campus folk actually cook, at all? Most busy college students still choose take-out or an Easy Mac, out of convenience. Kelsey Gerard, also a student at OU, commented, “It’s easier to un-package something and eat it.” In regards to food additives, Easy Mac has just as many preservatives as that beef- vegetable soup that I broke down for you.

When all is said and done, dining hall food may not be as good as your Mom’s cooking, but is your cooking that much better?

 

Gluten free me, Athens, Ohio

By a show of hands, how many of you have been to a restaurant and seen the tiny font at the bottom of the menu that reads, “We will gladly accommodate special dietary needs?” I know I have! It has become increasingly popular. This is mostly because of the high growth of dietary needs.

Now let’s imagine for a minute that you are gluten-free. Most people who live a gluten-free lifestyle have celiacs disease. If you have celiacs, you can’t eat bread, pizza, or even drink certain beers. You can’t eat anything with wheat, barley, or rye grains. If you do consume these things, you can get very sick. This could make things increasingly difficult.

Luckily, the town of Athens, Ohio has many different options for people who are gluten-free.

Fancy Pants Veggie Plate , Photo curtsey of chelseasrealfood.com/
Fancy Pants Veggie Plate , Photo curtsey of chelseasrealfood.com/

Chelsea’s Real Food Truck

According to Chelsea’s Real Food Truck’s website they are a “full-service mobile kitchen, serving locally-sourced, made from scratch, gluten-free foods.” This unique truck gets most of their food from local Athens farmers so their food is always fresh and unique according to the season. You can find this option at the Athens Farmers Market, 1000 East State Street, every Saturday from 9am-noon. She also travels to many different festivals and events during the year.

Casa Nueva

http://joyousjoys.com/2013/08/12/joyous-joy-71-happy-as-a-little-clam/
Casa Nueva Enchiladas. Photo courtesy of JoyusJoy Blog.

Another very local Athens treat is Casa Nueva. While this restaurant is known for its Bloody Mary and music, it also houses its own gluten-free menu. You are guaranteed the best local products when you visit, which makes it even better. One of my favorite Casa meals is an enchilada with pulled pork and BBQ sauce, mixed with cheese and onions. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. The best part, it’s gluten free!  If that doesn’t strike your fancy, try something else on their gluten-free menu! Casa is at 4 W. State St.

Lui Lui

If you are looking for something a little different and higher end, Lui Lui’s in the place to go. With a wide variety of sushi and curry products, there are many gluten-free options. If you stop in, you should try their chicken jalfrezi. It will really get your taste buds working. They have many other options that you can browse here. They are located at 8 Station St. and are very accommodating if you let your server know.

Avalanche Pizza

The Avalanche Ranch Pizza. Photo Provided by avalanchepizza.net
The Avalanche Ranch Pizza. Photo Provided by avalanchepizza.net

Pizza is a huge staple in the lives of college students. Avalanche Pizza has trained its employees and is dedicated to serving gluten-free pizzas and subs. You can order a make your own 12” pizza with whatever toppings you can imagine on it. If you don’t feel like pizza, try one of their six subs. They range from veggie, to steak and are full of wonderful and fresh ingredients. You can take a look for yourself at all of the mouthwatering products they offer.

Last but not least

Boyd Dinning Hall

West Green Market is open for 3 meals a day and plays a part in the special diets on campus. Photo curtosey of Ohio Culinary Service
West Green Market is open for 3 meals a day and plays a part in the special diets on campus. Photo curtosey of Ohio Culinary Service

Ohio University spent all of spring semester 2015 renovating Boyd Dining Hall. Located on West Green, Boyd features new special dining options to accompany its redone look.  In the far back corner sits a station dedicated to serving students with special diets. Here, they serve gluten-free noodles, cakes, cupcakes, and sandwiches. They even have deep fryers dedicated to special needs. This is to help serve the growing population of gluten-free students on campus.

While there are many more places in and around Athens to eat and explore, these are some of the best choices for gluten-sensitive residents. Do you have a favorite spot that has a gluten-free menu? Comment below and share! Happy eating!