When the pandemic struck the restaurant industry, it hit college restaurants especially hard. Suddenly, students were taking classes online and college towns became ghostly versions of their previous selves. But these tried-and-true college town staples survived, and they are faring far better since the beginning of the fall semester. Students are known to flock here for good food, drinks, and the very essential memories that comprise their college experiences. Here are FSR’s top 10 legendary college restaurants.
Known for a 5am challenge in which students pledge to stay up all night to have breakfast right at its open time, Louis Family Restaurant has long been part of the scenery and history of Brown. It’s the perfect place to finish an all-night studying session or nurse a hangover from the night before. The family restaurant, which originally opened in 1946 by a 25-year old Italian immigrant named Louis Gianfrancesco, became semi-famous when it was featured in a 2009 episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Guy Fieri praised its barbecued chicken and cheese ravioli.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
With historical Chapel Hill memorabilia lined across the walls, this diner-style restaurant holds the record for being the oldest surviving restaurant in North Carolina. Opened in 1922, Carolina Coffee Shop has served UNC students, professors and Chapel Hill residents just off campus for nearly 100 years. The restaurant is less of a basic coffee shop and more of a mix between a diner and bar with creative cocktails, making it the quintessential place to go for a Tar Heel brunch.
Boasting 13 different types of tacos, The Rum House has made its home in New Orleans close to Tulane University. Tulane students are known to congregate in The Rum House for you guessed it, its drinks. The $2 tacos on Taco Tuesdays also gain a wide appeal in a place that is great for catching up with friends, date nights or parent visits.
University of Michigan
Sometimes students just need the taste of a deli Reuben in their lives. Zingerman’s Delicatessen has several: a Zingerman’s Reuben (corned beef staple), Binny’s Brooklyn Reuben (pastrami), and the Georgia Reuben (turkey). The Ann Arbor sandwich shop was founded by a University of Michigan alum, and to this day, students are drawn there for lunch time delights.
If you can eat five original “fat sandwiches” within 45 minutes, you can create your own sandwich to be added to RU Hungry’s menu. It’s a legendary challenge that has impacted the Rutgers’ student psyche since RU Hungry first started serving the college community in the 1970s. Whether you choose the cheeseburger and French fry-heavy Fat Cat, the cheesesteak, mozzarella stick and French fry Fat Koko or something equally as adventurous on RU Hungry’s expansive fat sandwich menu, you will definitely be satisfied.
One thing Yale students can pride themselves on is their proximity to the birthplace of the original hamburger. That’s Louis’ Lunch’s claim to fame from 1900 when the owner Louis Lassen put some steak trimmings in between two slices of toast. Ever since then, Yale students can’t get enough of the place that has become a historic institution.
University of Wisconsin at Madison
When you walk into Mickie’s Dairy Bar, it looks nearly exactly the same as it did when it opened in the 1940s. The diner is still known for inexpensive and hearty breakfasts, lunches and dinners that students came for generations ago. Just a walk away from campus, students can feast on milkshakes, burgers, sandwiches, pancakes, omelettes and more.
University of Alabama
It’s nearly a requirement that when you’re in town at the University of Alabama that you stumble over to the white shack that holds Archibald and Woodrow’s BBQ. The restaurant has been family-owned since 1961 and still uses the same hickory wood to cook its meat. Archibald’s nostalgic exterior and food are reminiscent of a Southern family legacy, and it’s one that keeps students and locals coming back time and time again.
Once in Harvard Square staple Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage, guests have the opportunity to try many creative renditions of the traditional burger. Currently on the menu are spectacles like the Dr. Fauci, a burger topped with mozzarella cheese, grilled onions, marinara sauce and parmesan or the Bernie Sanders, a burger with Vermont cheddar cheese, bacon, maple syrup, homemade coleslaw and spicy mustard. Meanwhile, every sandwich is named after a college. The Harvard community has been lining up to get into Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage since the 1960s.
University of Georgia
With an unpretentious name, The Grill has served students at the University of Georgia for 40 years, ultimately becoming an Athens landmark. Students are known to hunker for its late night fare, including legendary burgers, milkshakes and fries with feta dressing.