While typical American college cafeteria food can sometimes be greasy and unappetizing, the University of California, Los Angeles’ award-winning dining services are greatly loved by students, staff, and visitors alike.
Each of the dining halls and quick-service locations at UCLA specializes in a particular cuisine or concept and serves items from set and rotating menus.
Bruin Plate, one of the most popular eateries at UCLA, is a health-conscious dining hall that offers fresh, nutritious meals made from locally sourced ingredients. With a focus on health and sustainability and dishes made from scratch, Bruin Plate features ingredients that are not well known among many American students, such as farro (a type of whole-wheat grain) and amaranth (a pseudocereal that is actually a seed). Instead of reaching for traditional dorm favorites such as pizza, burgers, and ice cream, students can try healthier options such as roasted vegetables, healthy grains, and lean meats there.
Isabelle Lopez, a second-year electrical engineering student, said Bruin Plate was her favorite dining hall because oily foods don’t agree with her.
“I think it’s hard to make healthy food taste good but they do a good job with that,” she said.
Second-year molecular, cell, and developmental biology student Tiffany Yang said she enjoyed the salad bar at Bruin Plate the most.
“I think overall it is a super healthy option compared to other options [at UCLA] and I feel less tired when I eat there,” she added.
Feast at Rieber, a dining hall inspired by Asian flavors, experiments with a wide array of fusion dishes such as tuna poke tacos and Indian chai brulee, but also recreates authentic entrées and desserts such as Vietnamese pho and steamed red bean buns from China.
Katie Lam, a fourth-year microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics major, said she especially enjoyed the Asian beverages at Feast.
“[Feast is] a taste of Asian food and those are the cuisines that are comforting to me,” she said.
The other two dining halls at UCLA, Covel and De Neve, serve dishes that are typical of a standard American college dining hall but are well known for their wide selection of proteins. Both dining halls also offer meals that meet kosher and halal requirements.
As a testament to its positive reputation among students, UCLA Dining recently topped the rankings for Niche.com’s 2021 Best College Food in America for the fourth time since the ranking was created in 2015.
Niche is a website that uses student surveys and data from the U.S. Department of Education to rank American colleges and K-12 schools. According to the Niche website, high-ranking colleges in the Best College Food category offer a wide range of healthy, quality options across different cuisines and dietary preferences.
Late-night dining at UCLA
One of the most unique services UCLA Dining offers is late-night dining—or simply “late-night,” as many UCLA students call it—in which a special assortment of meals are served from 9:00 PM to as late as 2:00 AM, mostly at UCLA’s quick-service locations.
Getting late-night food is a popular activity that gives UCLA students a chance to take a break from studying or spend time with friends while indulging in meals and snacks such as chicken tenders, nachos, and green tea waffles.
Yang said she thought late-night was a good option for people who stayed up late or needed something to fuel their studying.
“It’s nice to bond over food with anybody, so the fact that [late-night] gives us the opportunity to eat and talk and stay up together is really nice,” she said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, only a limited number of students living on campus have been able to access the delicious food UCLA typically offers.
Second-year civil engineering student Christiana Wong explained that UCLA dining halls had a major impact on her freshman dormitory experience.
“UCLA dining food is unique and it tastes really good. As someone who doesn’t have access to that dining hall food during the COVID-19 pandemic, I truly miss it,” she said.
Banner image: Bruin Walk at UCLA (Michael Jordan/Shutterstock.com)