If you’re anything like us, a lot of time, you’re hungry on campus. If you’re even more like us, you have a tendency to stick with tried and true choices rather than branching out and exploring the plethora of dining options at UCI.
Believe us, we understand. College students just don’t have the time or money to burn sampling foods in order to find out which place does what better. So, the New U embarked on a taste test to discover where you can get some of the best grub on campus.
Best Pizza – Bene’s Pizza & Pasta. Not only are the slices at Bene’s easy on your wallet, they’re large enough to keep your stomach from interrupting that three-hour lecture with an embarrassing growl. The thick crust is really what makes these pies better than their flimsy counterparts on campus. Braided artfully and dabbed with just a hint of butter, it hits just the right spot. We also appreciate this pizzeria’s consistent tastiness including a wide range of their specialty pizzas (veggie, Hawaiian).
Best Salad – Phoenix Grille. In your excitement about all the dining options at the new-and-improved Student Center, you may have forgotten about that quiet restaurant between Social Sciences and Engineering near Aldrich Park. Aside from the menu, Phoenix Grille provides ample electrical outlets and comfortable seating, making studying while you eat breakfast or lunch quite simple. But where Phoenix really hits the mark is with their salads. The friendly employees are not remotely stingy with the portions, piling greens, veggies, proteins, and croutons into their large silver mixing bowl and tossing the ingredients with just the right amount of the dressing of your choice. We found the proteins Phoenix uses in their salads to be of especially high quality (you have your choice of chicken, steak, or Portobello mushrooms).
Best Alternative Choice – Sweet potato fries at the Anthill Pub & Grille. Didn’t know this unique treat was available anywhere on campus? It is indeed. We especially love the sweet potato fries’ combination of salty and sweet. Served with chipotle ranch dipping sauce, it’s pretty much heaven on earth. The Pub’s generous serving of the fries, reminiscent of fair food, is more then enough to share with a friend.
Best Atmosphere – CyberA Café. Just a short stroll over the Arts bridge, CyberA Café is a cozy campus gem where you can grab a cheap – make that very cheap – cup of coffee and kick back on a corner couch or the quiet patio overlooking the Arts Plaza. A self-declared “Fusion of Art and Technology,” our favorite facet of this coffeehouse is the “surf-station” in the back: computers with LCD monitors propped up like TVs, so you can run in and check your e-mail, or enjoy digital artwork with a group of friends
Best Coffee and Bagels – Einstein Brothers Coffee and Bagels in the Phoenix Grill boasts the best coffee and bagels on campus. The vanilla hazelnut coffee has a rich, sweet flavor that is never overpowering; the variety of bagels and cream cheese spreads is what makes Einstein Brothers stand out above the rest. Whether you want honey spread, strawberry spread, or reduced-fat plain cream cheese, you’re sure to find a tasty topping for that asiago cheese or pumpkin bagel.
Best Breakfast – This was a tie between the waffles at Pippin Dining Commons and the Anteater Breakfast available at BC Cavern on the Green. The waffles are scrumptious and hot and you get the hands-on gourmet experience of making them yourself. The Anteater Breakfast at BC’s includes eggs, hash browns, and bacon or sausage for under four dollars – but it is only available for early birds who make it before 10 a.m.
Best Gourmet Style Meal – The “Build Your Own Pasta” at Bene’s takes the cake for best gourmet style meal. This option allows you to pick from a variety of pastas, add vegetables, and choose between several different sauces, including pesto, marinara, and alfredo. It also includes a choice of protein, such as chicken, tofu, or Portobello mushrooms. Topped with Parmesan cheese and a roll on the side, this pasta is as close as you can get to Olive Garden without the trip down Culver.
These are just a few of the best dining options we’ve discovered on campus. They are some of the best places to get more bang for your buck while still getting a tasty meal on the go.