The Real College Experience: 10 of the Best Off-Campus Eats

Written by: Alex Epstein

There are many factors to consider when applying to a college…What is the average size of classes? What opportunities are there for research? How big is Greek Life?  But the question nobody seems to ask on a college tour..... “How is the Food?”.  Fear not, guys & girls as we’ve researched the all-mighty question for people on the college-tour circuit. Whenever I follow a student tour guide walking backwards, I always ask my guide the hard-hitting questions: Where do the students eat off campus? Who has the best burger? Where can I find the best late night pizza? Who serves the best brunch? Where should I go to dinner when parents visit and are treating? The list goes on. I’ve toured some wonderful academic institutions with beautiful campuses, world-renowned faculty and (just as importantly) delicious options for food!!!

So after grilling the tour guides (pardon the pun) and experienced upper classman, follow me to some of the best Off-Campus Eats!


What better way to bring people together than “breaking bread”? Collegetown Bagels (also known as CTB) brings Cornell students together with its delicious bagels and sandwiches, conveniently located at the intersection of Collegetown and campus. This family-owned bagel shop is a longstanding campus tradition that is famous for its uniquely named bagels and sandwiches (mostly named by former students). It’s the perfect spot for a quick bite, study session (free wi-fi) or just a caffeine fix as it is also known for it’s excellent coffee.

What to Order?  Rosemary Salt Bagel, Nova Lox and Cream Cheese on a Long Island Bagel (CTB’s version of an everything Bagel), or a California Sunrise (scrambled eggs, avocado, red onion and melted Pepper Jack Cheese on a bagel)


University of Michigan Alumni Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinweig felt Ann Arbor needed a traditional Jewish Deli and opened Zingerman’s in 1982. Since then, students and locals line up daily to eat everything from thick deli sandwiches and  Jewish comfort foods (kugel, blintzes, knishes), to fresh salads and decadent cakes and brownies. Waiting on line for an hour or more is all part of the Michigan college experience! Rival football teams, visiting parents and even Oprah (her favorite #97, Lisa C’s Boisterous Brisket) and President Obama (#2 Corned Beef Rubin) are known to have dined at Zingermans.  Just an educated guess, Oprah and President Obama probably didn’t wait the hour-plus.

What to Order?  Corned Beef Reuben(#2), Pat & Dick’s Honeymooner (#27),   Smoked turkey breast, Wisconsin muenster & spicy honey mustard on grilled challah bread,  Tarb’s Tenacious Turkey(#72),  Turkey breast, fresh avocado spread, Wisconsin munster , tomato & plenty of Zingerman’s Russian dressing on grilled farm bread, Cuban Conundrum (#00). 


The go-to pizza joint among the students at University of Pennsylvania is Allegro’s.  Also a favorite for late night delivery, club meetings and study groups. Besides a whole slew of delicious specialty pizzas, they offer stomboli’s, hoagies, salads and a huge selection of pasta and Italian dishes.

What to Order?  White pizza, Allegro White pizza (tomatoes, ricotta, spinach and garlic), Buffalo Pizza, and BBQ Pizza are among student’s favorites.


Now open ‘till 4am, the best late night eats in Durham if you love Guac and large portions is hands down, Cosmic Cantina. Near East Campus, students love their huge burritos and guacamole whether eating it for lunch or late after a long night of celebrating a Blue Devils win!

What to Order? Burritos (any kind), Guacamole, chips and Vegetarian Chimichanga.


GW students love many chic restaurants that they frequent in metro DC, however, their favorite spot for breakfast/lunch/brunch (they serve dinner too) is Founding Farmers. The farm to table cuisine served in a trendy setting is ever so popular among these city students.

What to Order?  Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup, Chicken and Waffles, Eggs Benedict.  Also famous for their Lobster Mac & Cheese, Shrimp Grits, and delicious fresh farmbreads.


Hoosiers have been eating Mother’s Bear Pizza since 1973.  It’s ranked one of the best pizza joints in the US and has enjoyed notoriety since being featured in People Magazine. Even the New York and Chicago pizza-snob students love the pizza at Mother Bear’s.  Students love their thick crust, awesome deep dish, and cheesey cheese. Nightly specials are great for students on a tight budget. Don’t forget to try their salads topped with Goldfish crackers as croutons.  Leaving your mark on their walls is encouraged!

What to order?  The Pizza’s, silly.  The Archie (named for IU’s New Basketball Coach), Munchie Madness, Divine Swine, and The Dixie-Two Step (with Sweet Baby Rays Sauce). 


Syracuse students love the best BBQ in town at the best dive in town.  It must be.  It’s not walking distance from campus, the wait for table can be over an hour, the interior is worn, and the live music is loud enough to drown out all but the closest dinner conversation. But Dinosaur is THE GO-TO when craving great BBQ and fixin’s! Equally popular among locals, Syracuse students are always welcome!

What to Order? BBQ Ribs, Fried Green Tomatoes, Honey Hush Cornbread


Ask any Northwestern student where to get the best burger in town and they will reply Edzo’s, of course!  Three types of freshly ground beef, creative toppings, 10 different varieties of fries and delicious shakes are in high demand at this popular Evanston burger joint. Students love their pairings of signature fries and milkshakes such as Cheese Fries and Nutella Milkshake Combo.

What to Order?  Griddled or Char Burger, double the burger if hungry, and consider the much revered fried egg!  Truffle or Angry Fries, Oreo Milkshake.


Bing students love ordering a HOT Plate where you choose one entrée from Column A and a side dish from Column B and then have it topped with Hot’s homemade Rochester hot sauce.  Whether it’s lunch, dinner or a midnight snack these HOT Plates are a big hit.  These signature dishes along with their other menu items has earned Binghamton HOTS to be voted one of the most iconic college town restaurants in the US and one of the 10 Best College Town Burger Joints!

What to order? Bacon Cheeseburger and Fries, Red Hots, Pear,Peacan and Gorgonzola Salad


Nearly all Tulane students get to know the traditional dishes of New Orleans:  Jambalaya, Crawfish, Gumbo and Po-Boys must be experienced at least once.  But ask most students where they love to go grab a hot dog on a regular basis, and you’ll hear, “Dat Dog”. A colorful place built from an old converted gas station on Frerer St., Dat Dog is the hangout for Tulane students craving any number of featured “dogs”. Spreading Happiness is Dat Dog’s motto – “there’s nothing like a hot dog or sausage on a delicious steamed and toasted bun”, smothered  with any of their 30 free toppings to give you that true, “Big Easy” feeling.

What to order?  Traditional German Wiener, or Alligator or Crawfish sausage dog for those really wanting to taste the bayou.  Vegetarian Dog (for the non meat eaters), burgers and chicken are available.  White Trash Fries, naturally.