According to The Daily Meal, Duke is one of the best universities in the nation when it comes to food. It’s in the top 1% to be exact. When I first heard this, I was shocked. Duke? The best food? Although Duke food isn’t horrible, it doesn’t seem extraordinary either, especially with all the changes that happened over the summer. Duke removed several popular dining options including Chick-Fil-A, Armadillo Grill, and Subway, and added the Penn Pavilion and Red Mango. Students complain all the time about the changes that were made, but there is a lot to be thankful for here at Duke in terms of dining.
From Marketplace to Red Mango to McDonald’s, the servers are all welcoming and friendly. Duke has done an excellent job of finding employees who really know how to serve a college campus. Every Friday morning of my freshman year, I was greeted with “Happy Friday!” as I went to breakfast, and as a sophomore I continue to have positive interactions with the servers on West. As a gluten-free eater, I like to ask about other options, and the staff members are always willing to go ask a manager about my concerns. I’ve eaten on several other college campuses, and haven’t been anywhere yet where the servers are as friendly as they are at Duke. Here, I am always greeted with a smile, treated with respect, and served quickly and efficiently. So, for those Duke students who may not always enjoy the food they are served, at least the actual service is good.
Another aspect that puts Duke above other universities is its wide range of healthy options. Salads are always available, including pre-made salads for a quick grab-and-go, make-your-own stations at Au Bon Pain, the Penn Pavilion, and Marketplace, and freshly made-to-order salads at the Loop. Even the other options like sandwiches, soups, fruits, and yogurts are nutritious. Duke also includes caloric information on many of their menus, and it helps students to make better choices. If I can’t resist that chocolate cookie from ABP, at least I know what I’m putting in my body.
My absolute favorite thing about Duke food is the variety in gluten-free and vegan options. Gluten-free basically means no bread, no cakes, no bagels, no muffins, no pasta, no pizza, and many other “no’s.” I was a little worried when I came here if there would be enough for me to eat, but
Duke does a wonderful job of providing alternative choices. From time to time I get frustrated, mostly because I eat the same foods over and over again. But, in the grand scheme of dining at Duke, I can eat fairly “normal” food. They have gluten-free bread to use on sandwiches and hamburgers, gluten-free cookies at ABP, gluten-free spaghetti at Pitchforks, and at Marketplace they have an entire fridge filled with gluten free-bagels and desserts. Although I’m not vegan, being gluten-free has made me more aware of how hard it is to stick to a limited diet. Duke labels their gluten-free and vegan food as such, making them easy to identify. I know exactly what foods are safe for me to eat without having to make a huge announcement to everyone that I need “special” food.
Speaking of gluten-free, I had never eaten at a food truck until last week because I assumed I couldn’t eat very much from them anyway. They were mostly all bread-type foods, right? Well, the moral of this story is that we all know what happens when we assume. I was waiting in line with my friend at the crepe truck, when I decided to actually read the sign. In big letters at the very top, it said “We have gluten-free batter!” and I knew right then I would pay any price to try one. It was absolutely delicious, and worth every dollar to me. Sadly, the Loyo truck is gone this year, and I was never able to test it out. But, Red Mango is a more than suitable replacement because it’s here every day! I even eat there for dinner sometimes! Shhh… Don’t tell my mom! No desserts before supper.
And to end this delightful rant about Duke food, I’d like to give some shout-outs to my two favorite places: The Loop and Pitchforks. I’ll definitely miss them when I go home for break. The Loop reminds me of Red Robin, especially with the burgers and steak fries. But, they also have some great salads, soups, and milkshakes. And if the Loop is good, Pitchforks is even better. Their menu is enormous! They serve breakfast for most of the day, and they serve other food at all hours. They have gluten-free options for their sandwiches, and they don’t make me pay extra for it! From omelets to tacos to spaghetti to pancakes, Pitchfork Provisions has every meal covered, and the quality of food beats any other option on campus.
Although food here can be a tad bit pricey, I think it’s important to appreciate the positive aspects of Duke dining. The quality of service and the availability of healthy and alternative options should be acknowledged more than they are. Food has such a big influence on how we live every single day. Not only do we need food for energy, but it’s also a large part of social life. Duke really wants its student body to enjoy the experience here, and if it was ranked in the top 1% of universities for food, it must be doing something right.