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Power Ranking Penn State Dining Hall Foods

Aidan Conrad

Eating at the dining hall is a rite of passage for all college students. Everyone goes through the same process of dining hall appreciation at some point.

The best word to describe the first month of dining hall food is excitement. There’s variety and freedom, and it feels like Pinocchio when he became a real boy. Who knew you could eat pizza and fries three times a day?

At the six-month mark, the story changes. In this case, the dining hall is just like Netflix. You’ve tried every show and have your favorites, but you prefer to watch HBO Max and pay extra for it.

Once you’ve hit a year or more as a meal plan user, you’re probably making fewer and fewer appearances per week.

Even if you’re less connected to the dining halls these days, it’s still good to keep an eye out for the standout meals. Here’s a list of some iconic dining hall foods that even the most jaded fourth years come back for.

10. Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Say what you want about the controversial veggie, but these bad boys hit every criterion. There’s just enough garlic in all the right places, they’re cooked decently well, and it’s a great way to get your veggies in for when your mom calls you to ask if you’ve even thought about eating something green.

9. Alfredo Pasta (Pollock)

While Piatto Felice in Redifer Commons is a strong food vending contender, Pollock’s buffet option can’t be beaten. The Alfredo sauce is always comforting and cheesy, and Pollock allows unlimited servings in comparison to South’s one portion per person rule.

However, due to the dairy component, the aftermath of consuming Penn State’s Alfredo sauce is inconsistent and can range from minor stomach aches to putting a bathroom stall out of commission.

8. Steak Frites Au Poivre

A personal favorite, the steak always comes with flavorful peppercorn sauce and french fries. This meal is always filling, and the steak is a nice protein switch from the usual chicken.

The only issue is the steak can be too well done and fatty. The meal also is rarely featured and normally shows up on the lunch menu, which makes it the ever-elusive protein punch.

7. Chicken Parm

No one can argue that this isn’t a strong contender. The chicken is normally crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside, and the sauce and cheese also top the chicken in perfect increments.

It’s been docked points for not always being featured with pasta and for Penn State Dining’s general inconsistencies with chicken. When it’s good, it’s great. When it’s bad, it’s full of tendons and causes a bad stomach ache.

6. Beef Stroganoff

When you see beef stroganoff, you know it’s going to be a good meal. A perfect mix of multiple food groups, this dinner has protein, mushrooms, and pasta. It’s easy to scoop and ideal for reheating as leftovers.

Similar to the prior foods, there is a risk of digestive issues after consumption. However, I think it’s worth it for the well-roundedness of the meal.

5. Chocolate Chip Cookies

While Pollock and Redifer often get praised for its food options, Waring Commons comes out on top for this popular dessert. The cookies always come out warm, gooey, and perfectly sweet. Many say they even rival the cookies from Insomnia.

Unfortunately, they only come in one cookie variety and don’t share the same late-night hours as Insomnia.

4. Popcorn Chicken Bowl

Similar to the steak frites au poivre, this entrée is also a strong, well-rounded meal. Unlike the steak, all components of the meal are absolute perfection. The gravy compliments both the chicken and the potatoes, corn can be added for some sweetness, and all parts of the meal can stand alone.

Much like the other meat entrees, the chicken is hit-or-miss. Personally, I don’t want to make a deal with the IBS devil every time I want dinner.

3. Hashbrowns (Pollock)

Redifer, Findlay, and Pollock each have the same delicious, McDonald’s-style, pre-frozen hash browns. But Pollock beats out Redifer and Findlay once again on quality, as Redifer and Findlay’s hash browns tend to either be burnt or stuck together. Easy to eat, and a perfect pairing with any breakfast meal, it’s hard to go wrong.

I would like to add that tater-tots and potato wedges are honorable potato-adjacent mentions.

2. Lion Waffles (Redifer)

Yes, there are waffles featured with the chicken and waffle meal. However, the make-your-own waffles tend to be bigger, fluffier, and have a damn lion face on them. One waffle is big enough for a full breakfast, and it’s kind of fun to pour in the batter and flip the waffle maker. I feel like I’m at a continental breakfast on vacation.

The only con regarding the Lion Waffles occurs when the limited batter runs out and ruins my morning.

1. French Toast Sticks

Absolute perfection. As Homelander from “The Boys” said, “I gotta tell you something. It was perfect. Perfect. Everything. Down to the last minute detail.”

The consistency and flavor are unmatched, and the time capsule feeling of being thrown back to kindergarten in a single bite rivals Anton Ego’s reaction to Remi’s dish in “Ratatouille.” The french toast sticks slap in all forms of the word.

A perfect breakfast, normally featured every Monday and Tuesday, starts the day off right.

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About the Author

Marie Moyer

Marie is a fourth-year student majoring in journalism and minoring in sociology. She loves being fiscally irresponsible at local farmers markets, watching niche documentaries on HBO, and going to Penn State hockey games as "self-care." You can reach her on Instagram - @_mariemoyer_ or send her suggestions (and cat photos) via her email - [email protected].

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