A meal at the Vic Dining Hall. RUSABA ALAM/THE VARSITY

While most students who indulge in their local dining hall’s cuisine have a meal plan, there’s nothing stopping commuters or even students from other colleges from sampling the various college eateries on campus. This week, we reviewed four of the St. George campus’ dining halls to let you know what’s worth your time.

New College: Audrey Taylor Hall

New College Dining Hall. MALLIKA MAKKAR/THE VARSITY

New College Dining Hall. MALLIKA MAKKAR/THE VARSITY

New College’s Audrey Taylor Hall features a wide variety of options for the hungry student — pizza, vegetable biryani, beef goulash, grilled Italian sausage, an impressive salad bar, and a grill-your-own-panini station were all on display when I made my visit on Tuesday night. Each dish advertised its nutritional value, and posters advocated for locally sourced food.

The pizza was soft and not at all greasy, and the salad bar was a glorious array of fresh greens, protein-packed chickpeas, and hard-boiled eggs. I should have gone for an oil and vinegar dressing, which lurked at a different station — the one I chose looked and tasted alarmingly like melted raspberry sherbet.

NCdininghall-Mallika_Makkar-0015Desserts featured the always-present and never-wanted jello, ice cream cones, and an unimpressive coconut pudding, but all was ultimately redeemed with a selection of warm cookies.

Though I had to eat a considerable amount before feeling as though I’d gotten my money’s worth, I was quite satisfied with my New College dining experience. Open from 7:30 am to 9:30 pm Monday through Thursday, the hall is available to all regardless of regular mealtimes.

Cost: $13.25 for all-you-can-eat

Verdict: With its wide array of tasty options and attention to detail, New College’s dining hall seems to be the place to go if you’re concerned with what you eat. The only real obstacle I see to eating here is the somewhat steep price.

University College: Howard Ferguson Hall

My first impression of Howard Ferguson Hall, colloquially known as “Fung,” was complete chaos. I had arrived at the height of lunchtime, and there were long, serpentine lines slithering out from each station. For a first-time diner, it was very difficult to ascertain which line was for which dish and which for the cash.

From what I did notice, the dining hall offered custom-made sandwiches, make-your-own salad, chicken or vegetarian fajitas, beef tortellini with marinara or basil cream, hamburgers, and tuna Havarti quesadillas. These tasty-sounding options were offered at various stations, many with silly names like “stir craze” or “fun grill.” I chose the fajitas along with a chocolate-filled croissant from the well-stocked pastry case for dessert.

I took a seat and dug into my fajita — it wasn’t as cheesy as a good fajita should be, but was perfectly edible. The pastry I ate bore little resemblance to any croissant I’d ever had in the past. In the end, I was not impressed with University College’s food, but, to be fair, I had only two dishes and the hall is known to be hit-or-miss.

Cost: Approximately $9 for a main, drink, and dessert.

Verdict: While the food was less than spectacular, Howard Ferguson Hall does have a few things going for it: meals are available to go, and you’re encouraged to bring your own containers to save money and the environment. The pay-per-item system is ideal if you’re a light eater or simply aren’t too hungry.

Victoria College: Burwash Hall

The Vic dining hall. RUSABA ALAM/THE VARSITY

The Vic dining hall. RUSABA ALAM/THE VARSITY

Burwash Hall is structured so that diners file past that day’s options in a single line and serve themselves. While this system conveniently takes you past every option without the hassle of multiple lines, it does pose an ethical dilemma: is it socially acceptable for those who aren’t interested in the first dish to bypass the initial bottleneck and butt in near a different dish? Only experts in etiquette can say.

On the menu was carrot ginger or scotch broth soup, chicken curry, aloo gobi masala, warm naan bread, various hot vegetables, and pineapple upside down cake. Everything is self-serve, making it easy to get exactly what and how much you want. Unless you find yourself in the deepest pits of studying hell, I strongly recommend bypassing the coffee.

VICdininghall-Rusaba Alam-DSC_0009I opted for chicken curry, enough naan to render a fork unnecessary, salad, and a chocolate chip cookie (which I toasted illegally).

Burwash’s high ceiling and windows combined with its long wooden tables make it the perfect place to live out your Harry Potter fantasies (house elves not included). The butter chicken was excellent, but, full disclosure, I am a Vic student, so I know other nights to be less than appetizing (I speak specifically of meatloaf night, avoided by all). A good Burwash night is cause for celebration, but is certainly not the norm.

Cost: $13.50 for all-you-can-eat

Verdict: Burwash is a bit pricy for the average quality of the food, so go when hungry and with enough friends to wile away the hours. Its greatest downfalls are its limited hours (dinner is from 4:00 pm–7:30 pm on weeknights) and its sometimes too-greasy food.

Trinity College: Strachan Hall

The Trinity College dining hall. NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

The Trinity College dining hall. NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

Trinity College’s dining hall is a vision of wood-paneled opulence — a sort of Xanadu built from varnished logs, if you will. Coats of arms, which have neither jackets nor limbs, surround you as you try to eat your meal; a cluster of coats dangle precariously over the dining hall exit, accompanied by the haunting phrase, “Slow comes the hour; its passing speed how great.” I think that means, “Eat, and get the hell out.”

The façade of ostentatiousness crumbled ever so slightly when I looked at the menu; although advertised as “battered Pollock loin,” what arrived on my plate was little more than fish and chips. I eschewed the fajita station and went straight for the battered goodness, which came in a relatively tame portion size, but was nevertheless quite tasty.

NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

The coleslaw (for some reason labelled as “coleslaw vinaigrette,” which, let’s be real here, isn’t fooling anyone) tickled my palate and complimented the fish and spuds perfectly. In my travels, I had seemed to miss the broccoli cheddar quiche, but judging by the unenthused demeanours of the surrounding students who had plopped one on their plate, I figured I hadn’t missed a whole lot. I ate my meal in solitude, under the watchful – and somewhat judgmental – eyes of the painted alumni, including one former provost of Trinity College from the early 1900s who tossed me exorbitant amounts of shade.

Cost: $12 for dinner

Verdict: Strachan gets a bad rep on campus, and it’s not undeserved. Despite being perhaps the most beautiful dining hall, its food is over-priced and, despite fancy names, quite mediocre.

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