Ranked: What is the best NYU dining hall?

A senior’s ranking of NYU’s dining halls — take this with a grain of salt since the university’s dining options don’t have any.

Lorraine Olaya, Deputy Managing Editor

As a veteran of the NYU Eats dining hall experience, it’s about time I lend my four years of expertise to answer the long-debated question: What are the best dining halls?

With eight NYU Eats dining hall options on the Washington Square campus — not including the cafes and market convenience stores — there are almost too many options. But, of course, NYU students only care about which one has the best food and room to sit. And for my fellow picky eaters and those with dietary restrictions, it’s good to know which dining halls are suitable for us

So debate all you want whether Palladium, Lipton or Kimmel is the best, but from a senior that still has a dining meal plan, I’m here to offer my two cents.

Washington Square campus

Shelves of snack foods and candy are located in the foreground with a green encounter labeled “Burger Studio” in the background.
(Viola Ma for WSN)

8. UHall

Unless you’ve just been craving a chicken cone — yes, chicken in a cone — there aren’t a ton of reasons to go to UHall. There’s nothing special about it. They have burgers and all-day breakfast every single day, but you can get better burgers right next door at Palladium and all-day breakfast at Upstein — save for weekends, when Upstein doesn’t open until 5 p.m. UHall, however, is conveniently located, which is great for those like me who live so far from everything, and perfect for those late-night cravings. Other than that, there’s really nothing interesting going for UHall except the chicken cones that haunt my dreams. Don’t get me wrong, they could actually be really good, but I wouldn’t know because I have morals.

Some students sit on dining tables and chairs in the foreground. Other students stand with bags on tables. Food court vendors are in the background.
(Max Mimaroglu for WSN)

7. Upstein

Upstein has tanked dramatically in quality since the loss of our beloved Jamba Juice and Chick-fil-A. We’re now stuck with the “Walmart replacement” of Chick-fil-A, plus jarring renovations and additions that have ruined Upstein for me. However, their all-day bacon egg and cheeses came in clutch my first year when I needed food at 10 p.m., so they get some points from me for being open late. Upstein also has the Kosher Eatery — the only dining hall on campus with Kosher food — but instead of giving points to Upstein for that, I’m going to sin NYU for barely offering Kosher options anywhere else. Previously there was a lack of menu variety at Upstein, so the NYU Eats gods added a Global Eats station with a rotating menu this semester, which gave me such high hopes. However, all of the hope I had was dashed when I had to eat tacos with a fork since they literally fell apart in my hand. Not only that, but their trash cans are now ridiculously small, and there’s very little seating now due to the renovations. It’s disappointing knowing that Upstein’s glory days are now behind us.

There is an eating area with students eating and chatting at circular tables in the foreground and a buffet in the background.
(Kevin Wu for WSN)

6. Lipton

I will never understand Lipton stans. I get it, their desserts are the best, but I’m not wasting my meal swipe just to live off of cookies and cake. OK, that’s a lie because I totally would, but if I’m starving after skipping breakfast just to sleep an extra half an hour before my 9 a.m., I need real food. And the food is definitely not worth pushing through the crowd squeezed into the conveniently-located, tiny dining hall. Sure, Lipton is probably the best choice for those who are gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian or just trying to eat healthier — and I’m sure it tastes great — but that could not be me. I need food with flavor. That’s why Lipton is ranked one of the lowest for me, but they’re also the only dining hall that is 100% Halal certified, which deserves some recognition. The only reason Lipton is ranked sixth instead of last is because I’m scared of getting yelled at by my Lipton fan club friends. Though I refuse to step foot in Lipton again, I still think about how nice their seating is, despite having so little of it. 

A diagonal view of a bar top with dispensers of water with lemons or cucumbers in the foreground and glass cups in the background.
(Alyssa Craig for WSN)

5. 18 Below

I’d say the only reason to go to 18 Below is for the vibes, because it literally feels like you’re in an underground restaurant. I honestly never knew this dining hall existed until my junior year, and even when I found out, I always felt too intimidated to go in. It feels like you’re not supposed to be there, and since it doesn’t exactly work like other dining halls, you end up having to awkwardly ask how the process works, especially if it’s your first time. Why 18 Below is only open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays is beyond me — those are the most inaccessible times. Plus, they lack dessert and beverage options, and it seems like they only serve one meal, which — as I’ve heard — isn’t typically anything you want to eat. I got lucky because I went when they had pasta, but it wasn’t anything special. Downstein’s pasta is significantly better. The plating is super fancy though, and the serving size actually filled me up. If you want to live out your fantasy of eating at a fancy New York City restaurant, or if you’re cheap and need a dining hall to go on a date, 18 Below is the spot — just pray that the food is decent that day. 

Students walk and dine in an indoor space with dining tables and chairs in the foreground and there are food court vendors in the background.
(Kevin Wu for WSN)

4. Third North

Third North continues to mostly suck, but because I go there too much — it’s right above the WSN office — I’ve realized it’s not the worst. It’s really just a hit or miss with this one. It looks like they have a better menu so far this semester — nothing inedible yet — but the food quality continues to be sub-par and more often than not, I’ve just been disappointed. I don’t think I’ve ever chosen to go to Third North unless it’s been out of convenience. That said, their deli sandwiches, ice cream station (arguably the best out of the dining halls) and breakfast are probably the only reasons I’d choose to go there. The ice cream and chocolate chip cookies just keep me coming back. And if you do find yourself at Third North, you shouldn’t have the hardest time finding a table. Our Copy Chief raves on how consistent Third North is since you can really just get the same meal every day. If you need consistency, Third North is the buffet-style dining hall for you.

The Palladium dining hall with students shown eating.
(Samson Tu for WSN)

3. Palladium

Typically, Palladium would be the best dining hall because of their Sunday brunches, boba tea, sushi and seating availability are enough to catapult them to number one. And yes, I was a Palladium baddie my sophomore year when I Grubhubbed their mid-tier burritos during the pandemic semesters. However, it hasn’t been a dining hall I consistently seek out. I don’t know about you, but I still haven’t gotten over the fact that they failed their health inspection my first year at NYU — even though their grade eventually improved — not to mention the reports of food poisoning and rat sightings. The only reason I still go to Palladium is because of the brunches and the peer pressure that I’ve experienced to like it. The food is definitely better compared to other dining halls, but I still wouldn’t say it’s the best. Plus they don’t change up the menu enough for me. You can only have burritos and chicken tenders so many times. 

Centered in the photo are two students at a salad bar with dining tables to the right.
(Echo Chen for WSN)

2. Downstein 

Downstein is my personal favorite, but that’s probably because I’m a fan of the buffet-style dining halls, and Downstein is the best one. It has just enough variety in cuisine to keep your life interesting, but also enough stability that if you don’t like what they’re serving, you can stick to a burger. Most stations — typically the more home-cooked full-meal style ones — change their food every day, but for creatures of habit, they always have some form of pasta, pizza and burger that generally slap. I can’t lie, sometimes there are bad days, but I’d say nine out of 10 times, the menu is acceptable. When they have curly fries, there’s always a long line, and I still dream about the mac and cheese pizza they had one day during my sophomore year. But they also have healthy options and well-rounded meals. The food is decently seasoned most of the time and very filling, and while the drink machines almost always need to be refilled when I’m there, Downstein is my go-to dining hall. Their breakfast pastries are also unrivaled. It does, however, lose some points for how difficult it is to find seating during peak hours, and for the little rat chef they had running around last year. 

Students sit and eat at dining tables and chairs in the foreground. Food court vendors are in the background.
(Alexandra Chan for WSN)

1. Marketplace at Kimmel

Kimmel is my unproblematic queen for its quality and convenience. Their burgers and chicken are the best quality out of all the dining halls, and they are consistent. If you were lucky enough to have their popcorn chicken, you know what I’m talking about. Unfortunately, the Student Choice station was swapped out with Global Eats this semester, and after my experience at Upstein, I’m a little nervous about trying it again at Kimmel. But based on previous semesters, Kimmel’s food is the best quality. The sushi has always had good reviews, and Kimmel is the only place on the Washington Square campus that offers vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, Halal and pre-packaged Kosher meals all at once. Despite the insanely long lines, the food is definitely worth it. Not to mention the convenient location, complete with outdoor seating.

Brooklyn campus

No, I didn’t forget about my Tandon buddies!

Unfortunately for Tandon kids, NYU’s Brooklyn campus only has two options — Jasper Kane Café and Bridgeview Market — and, let’s face it, Jasper Kane Café is better. At least, that’s the only one I’ve been to in Brooklyn and I vaguely remember it being the most popular. 

But this semester, Café 370 was added to the mix. It’s giving more Starbucks, Dunkin and Peet’s Coffee vibes, which I didn’t rank for the Washington Square campus since they don’t count as dining halls — but I’m glad there’s finally a coffee place for our Tandon friends. Honestly, you can never expect too much from dining hall food. It’ll always be a little bad. But to make your dining experience just a little more bearable, find which one is the best for you, and stick with it.

Contact Lorraine Olaya at [email protected]