A Student's Guide to Dining

How to snag a fast breakfast, find the best brownies, never dine alone, and other observations about Smith dining

by Zoe Gioja '13

student dining at smith

Yu Dong ’14 in the Cutter-Ziskind dining room.

In the six years since Smith opened up its dining system, allowing students to eat in whichever dining room they want, student have embraced popular lunch innovations, like grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches, late breakfasts, and dining rooms that specialize in vegetarian and Asian cuisine. With all these choices it helps to know your way around. Midway through my sophomore year, I’ve figured out a few tricks about eating at Smith, and gathered advice from a few classmates, too.

Filling up at Hubbard Upon entering Hubbard, you’ll be given a tray so that the dining staff can keep track of how many students are coming in. Diners are restricted to five items: an entrée, and your choice of yogurt, cottage cheese, fruit, and salad for your remaining four. A typical entrée is an egg-and-cheese sandwich, but if they’re serving cinnamon, apples, and ham on a croissant, then the line will likely extend out the door and down the stairs. (Hubbard’s entrées often leave students wanting more, but if you want a second one, you’ll have to go through the line incognito.)

Follow your nose to Chapin Chapin’s brownies are famous. Sometimes you can catch a whiff of them baking before lunchtime. Its PB&Js are also a grab-and-go favorite, since they use real raspberry jam. “The ratio of peanut butter to jelly is just right,” says Decatur Macpherson ’13.  Another Chapin specialty is breakfast at night on Wednesdays, when they serve pancakes or waffles, egg strata, sausage or bacon, and cheese Danishes. Take a friend and head over early to make sure you get a seat. It’s popular, so be prepared for crowds!

Bond with your housemates Dinner is group time, and many houses informally gather in specific dining rooms. “I may go to dinner by myself, but there’s always someone to sit with,” says Mary McBride ’11, referring to her Parsons housemates, who always eat together at the “Parsons table” at Cutter-Ziskind. “It’s something to look forward to because it’s bonding time.” One way to be sure to find someone to sit with is to arrive with the crowds at 5:30 p.m.

Join the teams at Tyler Dinner gives athletes an opportunity to get to know their teammates. “This year, eating with the ski team was great,” Jessica Kalled ’13 says. “Eating dinner together at Tyler every night really improved team dynamics.” Many athletes opt to eat at Tyler House, both for its proximity to the gym and its later dining hours. “Practice went late, but Tyler is open really late, so it was super convenient,” Kalled says. “And they have cereal, so I could have Lucky Charms every night!”

Cutter-Zizking dining room

The Cutter-Ziskind dining room.

Stay indoors, Quad-style Since almost every Quad house has a dining hall connected to it, Quad residents don’t have to walk outside to go to dinner. “It’s so nice not to have to put coats on,” says Elizabeth Williams ’13. “I do like that you can look at the menu online and see if there’s somewhere that’s having breakfast or Asian food, but I like going to my house because it’s easier.”

Save your appetite for specials Sometimes, dining services breaks the routine by offering special menus for a day or a week. One week in February, the menus featured sweet potato specialties, including baked sweet potatoes, sweet potato pie, and sweet potato fries, which were “amazing,” according to several students. Another favorite was “Blueberry Day,” when all the dining halls served blueberry delights: blueberry muffins, blueberry sauce on pancakes, blueberry pie. Students look forward to the fall holiday dinner, when they serve maple butter at dinner and peppermint ice-cream cake for dessert.

Stock up for later It’s perfectly acceptable to bring some Tupperware to the dining hall and load up on cereal or cookies for a midnight snack. Just don’t take too much; you’ll get frowns from fellow students if you don’t leave enough cookies for their dessert!

Diversity is the spice of Smith
As dining services expands its international offerings, sometimes it has to call in the experts. After a Latino night last fall, for instance, students gave the food an “A” for effort, if not authenticity. “We knew we could do a better job with the flavoring,” said Kathleen Zieja, director of dining services.

She turned to Northampton restaurateur Martin Carrera, a former employee and now owner of the popular La Veracruzana eatery. “We knew students love his food,” Zieja said. Carrera worked with the dining staff on spicing, preparations, and menus.

The next Latino night in February was a whole different enchilada. They served Cuban chicken with orange, lemon, and cumin; starchy Yuca con Mojo; fried plantains with crème fraiche; homemade salsas (at times, muy caliente); and sweet horchata, a Mexican rice drink. They even de-spined 150 pounds of prickly-pear cactus to make Mexican nopalitos with tomatoes and onions. “Students liked it and ate it,” Zieja said.

Korean night got a makeover, too, thanks to Esther Hong ’14, who said the food just wasn’t quite like home. Hong contacted her own expert—Mom—and passed her advice along to the dining staff. Now when the staff at Comstock-Wilder serves Korean bibimbap, or mixed meal, it has the taste of authenticity.

SAQ Summer 2011
Photos Aynsley Floyd