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Miami’s dining halls, ranked

Our food editor recently ate a meal at every dining hall after not eating there for two years.
Our food editor recently ate a meal at every dining hall after not eating there for two years.

As a general rule, I don’t eat at the dining halls.

I’m a senior who has lived on campus all four years at Miami (I’ve been an RA for the past two years).  I got tired of the dining halls after my sophomore year. Since then, I’ve gotten most of my meals at either Armstrong or off-campus restaurants.

It pains me a bit, though, to think about all the meal swipes I’m wasting by not eating at the dining halls. Sure, I’m getting better food elsewhere, but at what cost?

This past week, I decided to make a grand return to the dining hall lifestyle by eating one meal at each of them. To ensure I fully experienced each dining hall, I also required myself to get at least one food item from each station.

This list features the dining halls in the order in which I ate at them – the actual ranking is at the very end.

Western Dining Commons

I’ve lived in Stonebridge Hall on Western Campus for three years now, so Western is the dining hall I’m most familiar with. 

I remembered it being pretty good, so I was excited to see if my memory held up.

From Grill and Roast: A slice of cheese pizza, spaghetti with marinara sauce and cauliflower

They were out of the main Grill and Roast entree when I was getting my food, so I settled for the ever-present pizza and pasta. Cauliflower is my favorite vegetable, so I was very excited to see it was an offering at this station.

Overall, both the pasta sauce and the cauliflower was pretty bland, but there was nothing inherently wrong with it. I know the dining halls sometimes offer other pasta sauces that are less boring, so it was just bad luck that I came on a day they only had marinara.

This may be a hot take, but I actually like the dining hall pizza. Is it the most authentic, delicious pizza in the world? Of course not. Does it still kinda slap? In my opinion, yeah.

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From International Station: Sausage and chicken jambalaya and New Orleans style rice and beans

I absolutely love jambalaya, so I was simultaneously excited and nervous to see it in the dining hall.

Honestly, though? I was pleasantly surprised.

It was by far the least bland item I ate at Western, and the sausage in particular was actually really good.

The rice and beans, unfortunately, were pretty bland. But oh well – one outta two ain’t bad!

From Allergen Station: Artichoke and potato casserole

This just didn’t work for me.

It looked delicious and well-seasoned, but it was not. It kind of tasted like dirt.

The person who served me at the station was very nice, though!

From Deli and Salad: Fruit (cantaloupe and pineapple)

This may sound like a dumb thing to include, but anyone who has ever eaten dining hall fruit knows it can be a little suspect sometimes.

The fruit at Western, though, was the best part of my meal. It at least had an illusion of freshness, and it didn’t have that weird aftertaste that dining hall fruit occasionally has.

Overall, my meal at Western was OK. “Good” may be too strong of a descriptor, so I’ll call it “adequate.”

Rating: 6.5/10

Maplestreet Commons

Maplestreet always scared me as an underclassman because it was so massive and crowded. I refused to go there without friends because I felt awkward eating there myself.

Now that I’m a senior, though, that awkwardness is gone. Knowing you’re likely the only one in there who can legally drink gives you a sense of powerfulness.

From Maple Grill: Hot ham & cheese sandwich and cauliflower

It’s hard to mess up a sandwich that’s basically a grilled cheese with ham in it, but you never know with the dining halls.

The sandwich I had at Maple, though, was solid. I mean, it was just wheat bread with American cheese and ham, but it was good. It made me happy. No complaints.

As I mentioned in my review of Western, cauliflower is my favorite vegetable, and I am thrilled to report that the cauliflower at Maple was delicious. It was well-seasoned and just really tasty.

Overall, I could’ve made a whole meal out of just these two items if I’d gotten larger servings of them. That’s saying a lot for dining hall food, so mad props to Maple on this one.

From Stir Fry: Fried rice and sweet chili black bean and vegetable stir fry

Both of these dishes were … adequate. They weren’t particularly delicious and were a little bland, but there was nothing wrong with them.

That’s about all I can say about them.

From Allergen Station: Grilled chicken and vegan mac & cheese

The grilled chicken was delicious. It was juicy and flavorful, especially when paired with some barbecue sauce.

The mac & cheese, though, was a very different story. As a lactose intolerant woman, I really wanted to like it because it didn’t contain real cheese. Sadly, it had no distinct flavor aside from straight-up noodles (which were also pretty mushy), so I have to give this one a hard pass.

From Pizza Station: 2 slices of cheese pizza

The only offerings at this station were pizza and the same spaghetti and marinara sauce I had at Western, so I don’t have anything new to report for this one.

I still firmly believe that the dining hall pizza slaps, though.

Rating: 7.5/10

Martin Dining Commons

The only residence hall I’ve lived in other than Stonebridge is Marcum (formerly known as Presidents) Hall on North Quad.

Even when I lived on North Quad for an entire year, I ate at Martin maybe twice.

Martin is very small and has significantly fewer stations than all the other dining halls, which places it at a major disadvantage. That said, I still had no choice but to give it a shot for the sake of this article.

From Winning Seasonings: Sausage and chicken jambalaya, grilled chicken breast and mac & cheese bites

I know what you’re thinking – am I getting deja vu? Didn’t this girl just talk about jambalaya?

Yes, Martin’s main dinner offering was exactly the same as Western’s a few days ago. I could have just bypassed it, but it was Winning Seasonings’ main entree, so I figured I had to grab it. Plus, it’s actually pretty tasty.

The chicken breast is also a repeat, but the one I had at Martin was nowhere near as juicy and well-seasoned as the one at Maple.

The mac & cheese bites, unsurprisingly, slapped.

From Ciao: Cheese tortellini and a slice of cheese pizza

Ciao is the only other station at Martin, besides the salad bar and bakery area that are the same at all the dining halls, and I don’t really count those.

The cheese tortellini was pretty solid, if a bit bland (clearly a common criticism of all this dining hall food).

Per usual, the cheese pizza stole the show and was the best part of my meal.

Overall, the food at Martin isn’t any worse than at other dining halls, but there are just so few options. If you aren’t a fan of either of the entrees they’re offering on a given day, you’re basically stuck with the pizza and pasta.

Though this is true at every dining hall, the fact that there are only two stations increases the likelihood that you’ll struggle to find food you like.

Overall: 4/10

Garden Commons

When I walked into Garden, I was instantly transported back to my freshman year.

Given that I ate pretty much every meal at Garden that year, I’ve eaten there more often than any other dining hall by a pretty wide margin. Heck, I even wrote my very first TMS article in Garden over multiple plates of steaming hot spaghetti.

Nostalgia can cloud judgment, though, so I committed myself to holding Garden to the same standards as every other dining hall despite my fond memories.

From Comfort Thyme: Pork tikka masala, grilled chicken Caesar wrap, and mac & cheese bites

I’m not a huge fan of pork, so I don’t know why I even bothered grabbing a serving of the tikka masala. I guess I felt like I had to since it was the station’s main entree.

Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t a fan. The sauce was pretty good, but the pork was tough and chewy. Again, this could just be my personal preference.

The chicken Caesar wrap was tasty and refreshing – the servings offered at the station were tiny, but I would order a larger version of it as a meal.

Once again, the mac & cheese bites slapped.

From Zen Garden: Chicken szechuan stir fry over brown rice, topped with steamed broccoli

This was amazing.

The rice and broccoli may have been bland on their own, but when mixed with the tangy szechuan sauce, the meal was satisfying and delicious.

I actually grabbed a second helping to-go – that’s how good it was. I’m pretty sure that was my first time ever getting dining hall food to-go.

I also grabbed a fortune cookie at this station. Apparently I’ll be receiving good news soon – nice!

From Ciao: Herb and garlic tilapia and a slice of cheese pizza

Now, I know what you’re thinking – dining hall fish is a recipe for disaster.

You’re probably right. Tilapia is far from my favorite fish to eat as well. That said, this tilapia was actually pretty good – it was flavorful and completely different than everything else I’ve eaten recently.

You already know the cheese pizza was amazing, so I won’t dwell on it any longer.

Overall: 8/10

Final Rankings:

5. Martin Dining Commons (4/10)

4. Western Dining Commons (6.5/10)

3. Maplestreet Commons (7.5/10)

2. Garden Commons (8/10)

1. Bell Tower Commons (10/10 we miss you, legend)