A week of eating exploration: Reviewing five campus dining options

| Contributing Writer
Several people sit at white tables and walk around inside a cafe.

Students sit at tables in Bauer Café in the Olin School of Business. (Photo by Jamie Nicholson/Student Life)

Monday: Bauer Café

I started my week by eating at the grill in Bauer Hall. With a growling stomach after a long dance class, the grill’s 20-minute wait time was almost too much to bear. My frustration was exacerbated hearing the kitchen calling out order numbers that were far behind mine. On top of this, I couldn’t use my meal points, contributing to my dwindling supply of Bear Bucks. 

Despite the challenges, however, the Mediterranean grain bowl I ordered was the best food that I have gotten on campus so far. While Bauer seating is hard to come by, that can be largely attributed to the backpacks laying claim to abandoned tables. The natural lighting from the walls is beautiful, and the entire space is breathtaking due to the high ceilings. There are many components to be distracted by — the hanging WashU signs, the greenery, the flashing screens of accomplishments — but the chattering crowd also serves as great white noise. 

Because of the lack of seating in the main area, I ate in the adjoining graduate lounge. It had a completely different vibe: eerily quiet — I could hear every crunch of lettuce or rustle of packaging, and I had to speak with a hushed voice within the warm brightness of the space. While Bauer Cafe is an absolutely beautiful place to study and eat, I don’t know if I would necessarily recommend going during the lunch rush.  

Tuesday: The Danforth University Center 

It’s a classic. We all know and love it. When I think of eating at WashU between classes, the DUC is the first place that comes to mind. Its centralized location makes it a great spot to meet up with friends. 

Because it is so popular, however, the DUC often feels a bit overwhelming during lunch. I felt like my backpack was hitting a new person every five seconds as I maneuvered through the salad bar line. The sheer amount of people present during the rush makes it feel like the heart of campus; you are bound to run into multiple people to say hi to. The people in the DUC are either in large groups of laughing friends at pushed-together tables or solitary eaters doing work on the outskirts of the hall. 

It can be tough to find seating, so I ventured upstairs to sit in the “fun room” directly above the main dining area. If the first floor is like that quintessential college dining hall that resembles Hogwarts, the fun room is like its more relaxed, Silicon Valley cousin. I sat on big floor pillows next to several students wearing AirPods while doing their work. It was a nice break from the hectic scene below, and I would definitely eat there again. 

Two students carrying backpacks stand across a counter from a chef.

Students customize salads at the Law Café in Anheuser-Busch Hall. (Photo by Holden Hindes/Student Life)

Wednesday: The Law Café 

With a convenient location right next to Seigle Hall, I got a slightly disappointing salad from the minimal lunch menu offered by the Law Café. However, the atmosphere made up for the lack of food. The Law Café is significantly less bustling than the other dining halls on campus and is instead full of law students in business casual attire looking at each other’s laptops and laughing over coffee. The skylight makes the room bright and airy, so I never felt claustrophobic.

Because of the subdued environment and general culture of work, I probably would not come here with a large group of people. Instead, this location serves the purpose of being a great place to get a bite to eat and study in between classes when you find yourself with an extra hour.  

Thursday: Parkside Café 

After a pretty traumatizing computer science studio, I ordered a salmon burger with avocado and cheese from Parkside Café via Grubhub. I would recommend ordering before making the long walk through Brookings because there is often a longer wait around the lunch rush. And I would not recommend ordering any extra cheese or avocado since the alteration didn’t add enough to warrant the extra charges. 

Parkside is the perfect place to go on a sunny day, with a greenhouse vibe and coffee shop culture. It feels like you are eating in a spaceship, but it can be a hassle to find a seat in the shade. Most people are in larger groups, talking and enjoying the views. There are a couple stragglers on their computers, but it is a generally low-stress, happy environment. If you do come, however, you also have to reckon with the fact that you will be making conversation with an architecture major at some point during your meal. It is unavoidable.  

Several chefs in white shirts and black aprons prepare food.

Dining Services workers cook up lunch at Parkside Café for students eating on the East End of campus. (Photo by Brian Cui/Student Life)

Friday: Bytes Café

Since it’s the newest dining option on campus, I had to check out Bytes in McKelvey Hall. I ordered a caramel pastry bar and a vanilla latte. Bytes is a café in one of the new engineering buildings on campus, so it doesn’t have a traditional dining hall feel. There is limited seating and everyone is studying. The upstairs area, where eating is not allowed, is eerily quiet and populated only by solitary studiers. The downstairs is a bit busier but still subdued. 

The food felt more grab-and-go style, so I would not come here expecting a meal. In fact, I wouldn’t expect anything other than what you would expect from a Starbucks. However, it is a beautiful, well-lit space that has a great view of Brookings. It is also a good people-watching spot because of the plethora of prospective students and families anxiously waiting in line to get a latte before their campus tour. All in all, I would say that the motivation to study was worth the long walk.

Read related stories:

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Accommodations and anxiety: Navigating WU Dining Services with food allergies


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