Need to Know: On-Campus Dining Guide


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

A dining experience survey at Sargent Dining Commons. Sargent is one of five dining halls on NU’s campus.

Jordan Mangi, Digital Managing Editor

Evanston may be the dining capital of the North Shore, but Northwestern’s plentiful dining options mean students never have to leave campus for a good meal.

NU boasts five separate dining halls and several cafes, as well as rotating food vendors in the Norris University Center. 

As a freshman student living on campus, you will have an Open Access meal plan, which includes unlimited dining hall swipes, five meal exchanges per week and 125 dining dollars per quarter. This allows students to eat at all NU dining locations, which are spread across campus. 

But all those options can be confusing, so we’ve broken down how and where to eat as an on-campus freshman. 

Dining Locations

NU’s five main dining halls are Elder, Sargent, Foster-Walker East, Foster-Walker West and Allison. The first two are located on North Campus, the second two (commonly referred to as Plex East and Plex West) are housed in a mid-campus called Foster-Walker Complex. Allison is the only dining hall on South Campus but is newly renovated and boasts a teaching kitchen and two floors of seating. 

Most dining halls are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the academic year, and , Plex West is open for late night dining until midnight. All five dining halls can be accessed by swiping your Wildcard.

Campus also has two late-night cafes: Fran’s, on the ground floor of Willard Residential College, and Lisa’s, on the first floor of Slivka Residential College. Fran’s serves burgers, milkshakes and quesadillas, sometimes past midnight. Lisa’s, on the other hand, has a variety of wraps and hot food available all day, as well as a convenience store section called Plum Market. 

In Norris, a student-favorite dining location is Starbucks (most commonly known as Norbucks) where you can spend dining dollars on coffee and pastries. Downstairs, on the ground floor, there is a Dunkin’ Donuts, MOD Pizza (build-your-own pizza and salad), Patty Squared (burgers) and a couple other rotating dining options. These can all be purchased with dining dollars, regular money or meal exchanges for certain menu items. 

There are several other more “hidden” places to eat at NU, such as the sometimes-open cafe in the Kresge Centennial Hall lobby or Tech Express in the Technological Institute. My personal favorite is Brewbike, a student-run cafe which has several stationary locations as well as a bike that peddles coffee around campus in warmer months.

Dining Accommodations 

Dining on campus can be accessible, even for students with dietary restrictions or allergies. 

All dining halls at NU have a Pure Eats station, which is a section free of the top eight allergens, sesame and gluten. In addition, Plex East serves exclusively Pure Eats food, including frequent build-your-own stir fry days. 

If you have allergies or special needs that cannot be met by Pure Eats, you can reach out to the campus dietitian to arrange special-made meals.

Two dining halls have kosher stations: Allison and Elder. All dining halls serve halal meals at each mealtime. 

Tips, Tricks and Recommendations:

With so many options, choosing where and what to eat is difficult. Here are some final words of wisdom and advice.

  • Use your meal exchanges! In past years, Open Access meal plan students had only two exchanges (and prior to that, none at all). They are a great option, especially because most meals you can use it for are either grab and go (convenient!) or made-to-order. 
  • You can get mix-ins in any flavor milkshake at Fran’s, and I highly recommend the strawberry with oreo combination. 
  • Full menus at each dining hall can be found every day using the Dine On Campus app. 
  • Most dining halls serve breakfast food later in the day on Sunday than during the rest of the week. For that brunch time before homework and club meetings, the build-your-own omelettes at Allison do not disappoint.
  • Don’t spend all your dining dollars in one place. They can be used for all non-dining hall food and drink but often get used up quickly. To be fair, though, I spent all of them at Norbucks every quarter.

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Twitter: @jordanrose718