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Power Ranking Dining Options At The HUB

It’s the age-old question that generations of Penn State students have faced since they stepped foot on campus — where should I eat in the HUB?

Well, fear not, as we’ve come up with a comprehensive ranking system that tells you exactly which HUB dining option is the best.

There are 12 restaurants in the HUB, spanning from juice shops to ice cream spots. However, only one can claim the number one spot.

No. 12: Cow and Cookie

When it was announced that the Penn State Bakery and Creamery were teaming up to make a Dairy Queen Blizzard equivalent, I was very excited. The potential for it was through the roof! Unfortunately, it didn’t deliver. It’s by no means bad, but it isn’t spectacular either.

I was hoping to be wowed, and maybe that’s my bad. My expectations could’ve been too high. But, the reality is that I don’t have a pressing urge to order another one at any time in the future. If they transitioned all of their milkshake technology to the stand, maybe I would go back. Until that day comes, it’s just a restaurant I walk by.

No. 11: Jamba Juice

Speaking of restaurants that I walk by, Jamba Juice takes the 11th spot here on this list. Honestly, I would have it lower than Cow and Cookie on my personal list. But, since I always see a line for it, that means it has to have some popularity.

The truth is, when I go to the HUB, I don’t necessarily want a smoothie or fruity juice. It just doesn’t seem like the best place to spend your money. Alas, people do… at least more than at Cow and Cookie. That’s got to count for something, right?

No. 10: Blue Burrito

There isn’t really much to say about Blue Burrito, honestly. It’s a fine option, but not one that I would personally crave. It’s definitely the worst out of the four options in its little corner of the HUB, though.

To give it some credit, there is always a line, which means at least some people like it. The reality is that its line is always shorter than the other three food options there. So, while some people may enjoy it, it most definitely isn’t a crowd pleaser.

No. 9: Grate Chee

I love me a good grilled cheese. Grilled cheese is actually my comfort food. So, when I first came to Penn State in 2019 and I found out there was a restaurant that only served grilled cheese at the HUB, I was excited! When I finally got the opportunity to have it though, I was underwhelmed.

Maybe I had a bad sandwich at the time, which could be the case. A lot of people like Grate Chee, and they can make some fancy grilled cheeses. But, it isn’t the best grilled cheese I’ve had at Penn State, and the fact I have to go off campus to Panera to get a better one is disappointing. It’s not the worst grilled cheese in the world, but not the best either.

No. 8: Burger King

This is where I stop being so negative. Burger King has a lot of options that satisfy the fast food lover in me. It also doesn’t taste bad, which is a great trait for food to have. The lines can be a bit of a wait (though not as bad as others in this list), taking away from being a real “fast” food option.

While there is something for everyone here, the quality of food at Burger King just doesn’t measure up to other restaurants here.

No. 7: Soup & Garden

Everyone forgets Soup & Garden exists. Even I forget it exists sometimes, and I’m at the HUB a lot. But, it provides some quality food that goes under the radar in terms of popularity. And, did I mention how good Wing Wednesday is?

The knock here is that it’s extremely expensive. People could blow through so much money if they went to Soup & Garden every day for lunch. It’s good, but not “throw away all of your money” good.

No. 6: Starbucks

Starbucks was a tough one to rank. Everyone loves a good Starbucks drink, yet no one talks about the food from there. I think it’s actually underrated, but I very well could be in the minority there.

The overall issue with Starbucks, and why it doesn’t crack the top five, is because of the line. The line is unbelievably long, and I’m unsure if standing in that line is worth it, no matter how underrated I think it is. I know I don’t have time to be in that line, and if I had to choose only one restaurant to wait in a long line for, there are ones higher on this list I would choose.

No. 5: Slim Chickens

Slim Chickens had a tough task when it came to Penn State last year. It had to follow in Chick-fil-A’s footsteps. That is certainly not an easy task, and if you ask the majority of Penn State students, it doesn’t live up to that standard. But, that’s OK, because not every chicken place can be Chick-fil-A. For what it is, Slim Chickens is really good.

Its fries are top-tier, and I would argue they would at least belong in the top five of fries found in State College. People love their chicken sandwiches and will hold up the line for them. I’m more of a tenders guy myself, and those are pretty good, too. Plus, everyone raves about the sauces. It may not live up to its predecessor, but it’s great.

No. 4: Hibachi San

It’s time to be very honest here. I have never been to Hibachi San. The food that they serve here is not my cup of tea, personally. However, I strive to bring you the facts in this objective ranking, and the facts state that Hibachi San is popular for a reason.

There is usually always a long line for this place, and it’s a line that moves rather quickly. People know what they want and can adjust very quickly if what they want isn’t there when they get up to order. Its popularity locks it into the top four, but I can’t willingly give it a top three spot if I never had it.

No. 3: Sbarro

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Sbarro, in the top three? Are you crazy?” The answer is no, I’m not. If more people gave Sbarro a try, you would see why I’m not crazy. It’s one of the best because of its options more so than its quality of food.

There are so many things to choose from. There are pizzas, Stromboli, wings, pasta, chicken parmesan, salads, and now even its subs place is open. All of the food is good, too! You may have better pizza elsewhere, but that doesn’t take away from the quality that Sbarro brings. On top of all of that, its mobile ordering is quick. It absolutely deserves to be near the top of the list.

In all honesty, Sbarro would be higher if it were more popular. The two places ahead of it are so iconic that they can’t be ranked below it. But, one day, Sbarro will be in that conversation. And, I can’t wait for that day to come.

No. 2: McAlister’s

Eating at McAlister’s is like riding a roller coaster at Disney World. When you get there, it will be glorious. Just be prepared to wait in line for an hour before getting to the front of the line.

The food is great, and I don’t think many people would argue that point. But the lines, as well as the mobile ordering wait, is so long that it discourages people from eating there at all. Plus, I honestly forget it’s in the HUB sometimes because it’s packed in that weird corner behind Jamba Juice and next to Grate Chee, but not in the same area as Grate Chee. It’s a weird design.

If the wait was shorter, McAlister’s may have made a jump to the top spot. Sadly, that’s not the reality we live in.

No. 1: Panda Express

Speaking of long lines, have you seen the Panda Express line at around noon? It’s unbelievably long. Despite that, the line somehow moves quicker than one may think. Not fast, but quicker.

There is a reason why people are willing to wait in that line. The food is great. People love their Panda Express, and I don’t blame them. The food doesn’t feel like a typical fast food restaurant, even though it absolutely is. And because it doesn’t feel like it, people will treat themselves to it more. It’s a win for both parties — eating good food and earning a whole lot of money in the process.

The truth is, Panda Express is the go-to restaurant at the HUB. It’s easily the most accessible, especially because it is open more often and longer than most of the other places to eat. It’s like the most popular kid in school — everyone wants to be Panda Express, but there only can be one. And no one will ever top it.

Do you agree or disagree with this list? Feel free to reach out and let us know!

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About the Author

Owen Abbey

Owen Abbey was a Secondary Education major before he graduated from the wonderful institution known as Penn State. When he was not writing for the blog, he enjoyed rooting for the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, supporting Penn State basketball and softball, dreaming of all of the ways he would win the TV show "Survivor," and yes mom, actually doing school work. All of this work prepared him to teach his own class of students, which was always his true passion. He still can be found on Twitter @theowenabbey and can be reached for questions and comments at [email protected]

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