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Regardless of who you are, we all have one thing in common: our dependence on food. Even on the worst of days, a warm, filling meal just might be your saving grace. Although you’ll likely be miles away from the comfort of a home-cooked meal, Columbia does have a couple of tricks up its sleeve to keep you well-fed. Our small but mighty collection of dining halls might just win you over these next four years. And if you’d like another opinion, head on over to The Daily Meal and check its 2018 ranking of the colleges with the best food to take a look at which college holds the number one title. Take a guess. It starts with a “C.”
Note: During the academic year, daily menus of Columbia’s dining halls can be viewed on the Dining website, while the menus of catering options at Barnard can be accessed via the Dine On Campus app (available for download via the App Store or Google Play).
Diana Center Café
A student favorite for a freshly-baked pizza or burger between classes, the Diana Center Café, located on the second floor of the Diana Center, is a hotspot during lunch, dinner, and especially late-night hours. What it lacks in size—it is the smallest of all five dining halls—it makes up for in the variety of food it offers. At Diana, you can customize your meal and treat yourself to the sushi, sandwich, and pizza stations. What’s more, Diana has a booth that offers students a rotating seasonal menu. Past menu offerings have ranged from butter chicken and naan to fried chicken and mac and cheese. If you get caught up writing a paper and don’t make it to dinner until late, Diana offers its famous late-night smoothies, among other items, until 11 p.m. Students can customize their own smoothies with ingredients like sun butter, strawberries, kale, blueberries, orange juice, and yogurt. A note of caution: Most of the time, smoothies run out before 10 p.m., so head there as early as possible and expect long lines!
Although there is seating at Diana with views of Broadway and the Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning, it’s known as a commuter-style dining hall because the food served is packaged in disposable paper containers. One of the best features of Diana is that you can go in and check out what food is available without having to swipe first. If you don’t like what you see, just go to another place on campus. Beware: The lines at Diana can get insanely long around noon.
Ferris Booth Commons
Located on the third floor of Lerner Hall, the modern and quirky glass-walled building at the southwest corner of campus, Ferris is your go-to dining hall for getting a quick bite to eat while still enjoying a view of College Walk, Low Library, and South Lawn. It serves a plethora of pasta, stir-fries, pizza, salads, fruits, and desserts, which makes it a student favorite for satisfying cravings past noon. Two staircases in the lower level seating area lead to the second floor of Ferris where more seating options are available. The buffet-style stations serve food in biodegradable containers that can serve as takeout containers if you’d like to eat elsewhere on campus.
When Morningside Heights is blessed with good weather, you will find clusters of students eating their pizzas and salads on South Lawn and basking in the sun. On stormier days, you can always eat within the confines of Ferris, although it can get extremely packed during peak hours and a seat might be hard to come by. When that happens, if you’d prefer a less rowdy experience, you can opt to eat outside of Ferris on the seats on the Lerner Ramps.
Hewitt Dining Hall
After its recent renovation, Barnard’s one and only proper sit-down dining hall quickly became a Columbia staple. Hidden beneath Barnard Hall, Hewitt Dining Hall provides students with the most reliable kosher offerings and also serves halal meat. If you brave the long wait times during peak hours, you will be rewarded with an authentic homestyle meal, a juicy burger with a side of curly fries, and a dependable selection of vegetables and fruits. You’ll find a mix of students, from meat-lovers to vegans to students on a kosher diet, spread out across Hewitt, which has views of Claremont Avenue and a small glimpse of Riverside Park. Be sure to visit Hewitt if you thrive on a balanced diet of cooked Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, salmon, rice, and grilled chicken.
JJ’s Place is an essential part of the Columbia experience. It is the fast-food joint that serves everything from breakfast burgers to mozzarella sticks to the chicken tenders you find yourself craving at 3 a.m. Nestled underneath John Jay Hall is this homely den where you’ll find students coming together over greasy chicken quesadillas and chocolate chip pancakes regardless of the time of day. At night, it is a welcoming place to rest after dancing your heart out at a party and the perfect cozy spot to get to know a new friend with a mango smoothie in hand.
John Jay Dining Hall
The most traditional sit-down dining hall of Columbia, with long wooden tables fitted with clunky wooden chairs, is John Jay Dining Hall. Located above JJ’s Place and on the first floor of the residential John Jay Hall, it is the spot for a more proper and healthy meal. John Jay’s offerings of grain bowls, hot entrees, sushi, a salad bar, and famously gooey cookies are reminiscent of a warm hug on a winter’s day. Additionally, Kosher to-go options are available at the counter and the dining hall hosts a halal section.