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You don’t have to be in culinary school to enjoy good food in college. Every college has places that are especially beloved by its undergrads, but these 20 colleges are home to foods that are adored by students, parents, and visitors alike. Here are the best college towns for food in America.
Click here for the 20 best college towns for food in America
We wrote a list of the 10 Best College Towns for Food back in 2011, and research shows us that the towns we chose back then have culinary scenes that have stayed strong. Many have become even stronger with the addition of more ethical coffee shops and farm-to-table restaurants. We chose the newcomers to this list by examing the Spoon University website to find out what the student favorites were among the many colleges and universities that the website covers. After cross-referencing them with reviews from food critics and customers, we settled on our final 20.
Though there are a plethora of schools in America with excellent on-campus dining, there is something special about leaving campus to eat at a restaurant that has become a cult favorite among students and professors alike. Campus cult foods are usually optimized for a student budget, which is all the better for visitors on a budget. There are some college foods, like the doughboy in Saratoga Springs, that are really only good during college; after college, the appeal of cream cheese in pizza dough wears off. But hey, when in Saratoga, right? Then there are college foods that have universal appeal, like the donuts at Monuts in Durham, North Carolina.
There is also that familiar panic that all college students feel when they realize their family is visiting for parents’ weekend and they have yet to book a table. The good thing about college towns is that there is such a high demand for parent-friendly that many chefs have upped their game. The food at restaurants like Providence’s splendid The Dorrance and Savannah’s picture-perfect Olde Pink House is almost always great: they aim to impress.
So while you’re shuffling through acceptance letters or college pamphlets, keep these towns in mind — especially if you think with your stomach.
20. Brunswick, Maine
This list wouldn’t be complete without at least one college town in Maine. Where else can you find the best lobster rolls? If you have to choose just one place to get them, go for retro Fat Boy Drive In. Brunswick’s beautiful, coastal setting enriches a dining scene that does not go unappreciated by Bowdoin College’s small but robust community. The student go-to is Wild Oats Bakery and Café, a from-scratch bakery that prides itself on fresh, healthy ingredients. For the best views of the water, go to Frontier Café, which offers an artistic, cafeteria-like setting. Flipside Pizza, with its sleek décor, and Gelato Fiasco, featuring icy treats made with milk from Maine cows, take good care of the college staples of pizza and ice cream.
19. Amherst, Mass.
Amherst, Massachusetts, has the reputation of being somewhat of a hippie town, but since it’s the home of the Five College Consortium (Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke, Smith College, and U-Mass Amherst), you’ll find a lot more than excellent vegetarian and vegan fare here. Antonio’s Pizza seems to be popular across the board, with not-commonly-seen toppings like tortellini and crème fraîche. For a part-Southwestern, part-Jewish comfort food breakfast, check out The Lone Wolf. Go to Rao’s to study and drink great single-origin coffee — a necessity for any college student. Communal eating in a greenhouse is a very Amherst thing to do, and the best place to do it is at 30 Boltwood.
The 101 Best College Towns In America For 2021
While we could debate which colleges within the United States are the 'best,' that's not the goal of this post. In fact, depending on how you scrutinize the data, you could make that argument for about a dozen higher-level institutions.
Our goal with this data is a lot more fun.
We wanted to know which college towns are the best.
You know, the type of places where there's energy and stimulation, but the type of place you can walk around at night. Where sports fans thrive, but where kids actually graduate. The happiest, chillest, most downright fun places where you can send your kids off to college where you won't break the bank, or worry about their well being.
And using data, here are the 10 best college towns in America:
While some of these may not seem like a 'real' college town per se (hello, Seattle), when you look at the numbers, it's hard to argue against.
And for those who live in Morgantown, Laramie and Iowa City - we tip our hats to you. There's nothing else to do within a three-hour drive from your college town, so at least you have this!
Finally, if you live in Bakersfield, CA - it's officially the worst college town in America. Sorry, Bako!
It's a dangerous place with not a lot to do, and a really lousy basketball team. (While the Cal State Bakersfield men's basketball team had some pretty good years as a Division 2 program back in the day, it simply can't compete with the big boys in D1.)
20. Bellingham, Washington — Western Washington University
(Photo: Bellinghamhometour.com, 247Sports)
American Institute for Economic Research: "Bellingham has been described as a smaller, slightly less-eccentric Portland, Ore. The little city maintains a laid-back, environmentally conscious vibe. The beautiful area is rich in arts and entertainment venues, with an abundance of downtown eateries, coffee shops, food co-ops, and outdoorsy activities complete with intra-urban trails."
247Sports take: With nearly a quarter million people in Bellingham, this "town" is certainly not one of the smaller areas in this ranking, but has many unique qualities nonetheless. AIER slots Bellingham fourth nationally in Arts and Entertainment and inside the Top 15 for Bars and Restaurants. It is quite expensive live here, however. But you may not find a more scenic view from downtown.
Claremont may be part of SoCal—L.A., to be specific—but it’s worlds away on its own down-home, charming plane with cozy bungalows, Victorian houses, and sustainable-living communities stretching out from a walkable downtown known as The Village. Though there are seven different schools in the district, the student population is low, freeing Claremont of the wild party-crowds that define other academic cities. Programs like the Claremont Avenues for Lifelong Learning, which grant people 60 and over free class auditing, make this the perfect spot to hunker down for good.
Students at the United States Naval Academy will tell you that this is the place to be. All the menu items are named after Maryland politicians and public service notables. If you're looking to say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, stop by Chick & Ruth's because they'll be saying it.
Known for its "grease trucks", students at Rutgers University know to go to RU Hungry when they're craving some greasy grub. A former Rutgers student even got a sandwich named after him. Who knows, maybe you'll be next.
The 20 best college towns in America
Boulder, Colorado, is the top-ranked college town in the US, according to a list from the American Institute for Economic Research.
The city of roughly 200,000 (for its metro area population) earned the top spot thanks to its accessibility — more than 20% of commuters take public transportation or cycle around Boulder Creek Corridor — and diverse and educated population. Boulder also has an active bar-and-restaurant scene, with plenty of coffee shops and microbreweries.
AIER compiled its list using nine economic, demographic, and quality-of-life factors. It defines college towns as having fewer than 250,000 residents.
Aside from the overall ranking, we included cities' individual scores for noteworthy metrics including rent, earnings, and bars and restaurants. We chose the one metric where the city scored the highest out of the nine.
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If heaven is full of artists and hipsters, it will probably be something like Athens, where the downtown's designated historic area is also a music and culture hub. From there, the city fans out to incorporate other neighborhoods, notably Five Points, known for its mix of old Georgia mansions, upscale restaurants, and frat houses.
Why It Made Our List: Athens is to music what the Cannes International Film Festival is to movies&ndasha breeding ground for artists. Just ask Michael Stipe of R.E.M., who got his start here.
Don't Miss: A live show at one of two storied venues. The 40 Watt Club has hosted R.E.M. and the Indigo Girls. Its roster is rivaled only by the Georgia Theatre, which reopened last month.
Sophomore : I am a huge proponent of Bates College! Bates has extraordinary dining (serving anything ranging from grilled cheese to teriyaki tofu), beautiful brick buildings, an open quad that people use to chat and play lawn games in, a pond with outdoor seating and wildlife, and a couple of stunning athletic fields. The real magic is in the people on campus however, everyone is friendly, accepting, and passionate about their studies, sports, hobbies, or any other sort of extracurriculars. Even with this hard-work mentality, there are plenty of clubs, organized activities, and areas off campus to have fun with your friends. There&aposs even a ski mountain close by!
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The 51 Best College Bars In America
Part of a good college education should really involve in-depth research of the bars on and around campus &mdash let's call it a course in "social sciences" &mdash but lucky for the slackers out there, we did your homework for you. This rundown of the top college bars in every state will ensure you won't go thirsty.
Spicy wings, quick service, and plenty of TVs playing current games keeps Alabama students coming back to The Houndstooth. Roll Tide!
UAF crowds pile into The Marlin for a dark, intimate hangout that's pleasantly dive-y, plus occasional live music.
The open-air patio at Casey Moore's Oyster House is the place to be for cheap drinks and surprisingly good bar food &mdash get the potato skins and oysters with creamy horseradish sauce.
Less rowdy than some other student watering holes, Sideways boasts an extensive selection of beers on tap, including classics, seasonals, and micro brews, perfect for sipping while shooting pool.
Stanford students and alumni swear by The Dutch Goose in Menlo Park for its chill back patio. Order sliders, fries, and the famed deviled eggs and discretely carve your name into one of the wooden tables like patrons before you.
Grab a beer and a dose of nostalgia at World Famous Dark Horse. The casual joint is decorated with lots of dark wood and kitschy garage sale-esque items. Chow down on a breakfast burrito and stick around to watch afternoon football games. You won't be disappointed.
The Sports Bar in North Windham is the place to be and be seen on Thursday nights. UConn and Eastern students stay entertained with darts and pools inside, or hang out back on the outdoor deck.
The GW crowd can be found at Sign of the Whale any given night or weekend. Sure, it's got sticky floors and rowdy regulars, but the staff is friendly and drinks are cheap &mdash especially the fruity Whale Pail cocktails.
Smack dab in the middle of Main Street, Klondike Kate's has a spacious outdoor deck and amazing happy hour specials, so you can get a buzz without running up your bar tab.
USF students drink up at German biergarten-style Mr. Dunderbak's. The steins of beer pair perfectly with schnitzel and other German specialties, plus there's live music.
Those looking for a fun evening out, go to The Globe for fish & chips and a casual pub vibe. UGA students and professors even gather here for meet and greets during the semester.
Locals and students alike know Manoa Gardens is a staple. Not only has it not changed at all in all the decades its been around, but it also has good, cheap well drinks and plenty of pupus to go around. Chicken wings, lumpia rolls, and fries are favs.
Deadwood Tavern is just the right hybrid of a townie and student bar. While not overrun with drunk college kids, it's got a young, fun feel, complete with pinball, a jukebox and a pool table room. Make sure to order a Bloody Mary.
Whether you want margs and tacos or Bloodys and wings, Crescent "No Lawyers" Bar & Grill is a campus go-to. You can always find big sports game on TV, plus quality music and an outdoor patio for warmer evenings.
Prepare yourself for plenty a sticky floor, crazy-loud music and some unsettling smells, but Kam's is always packed despite it all. Order one of the wacky drink concoctions and that pro alone will outweigh any of the cons.
Linebacker Lounge &mdash fondly nicknamed "the 'backer" &mdash has been around since the '60s, and it hasn't changed much since. Patrons dig the giant beers, killer burgers, homemade chili, and free popcorn in the company of fellow Fighting Irish fans.
This colorful pre- and post-game spot has plenty of character and charm, and students always find there way to The Wagon Wheel for top-notch pizza and cold beer while they cheer on their Jayhawks.
College kids flock to Two Keys Tavern to guzzle beers and brightly colored "fish bowls" when UK games are on. The drink deals can't be beat, and the in-house jukebox or occasional DJ keeps the music pumping. Make sure to check out the patio.
Hum-drum bar food definitely isn't on the menu at The Chimes. LSU students watch their fill of ESPN while tucking into crawfish etouffée, shrimp, and oysters at this chill, Southern spot.
Charlie's Kitchen has been around for more than 30 years, serving up cheap burgers and beer via quick, diner-style service. Add an outdoor beer garden and extensive drink menu to the mix, and it's no wonder the Ivy League kids keep coming back.
The newly redone Common Loon Public House has something for students of every stripe. Hit up the downstairs bar to enjoy incredible pizza and wings, dance it off at the club upstairs, or shoot some pool on the third floor. Students pack in on snow days for celebratory happy hour specials.
Nachos and "Big Ass Beer" specials keep Terps fans fueled up at Cornerstone Grill & Loft. Those less inclined to watch the game can take advantage of pool tables and plenty of space for dancing in the bar.
This laid-back bar and eatery, decked out in Sparty memorabilia, is the perfect place to start and end the night. Get going with Crunchy's impressive pizza, burgers, and craft beers, and stick around for low-key karaoke.
There's a lot going on at the Kitty Cat Klub at any given time. Come for the drinks, stay for the badass live performances.
Broke students can still have a good time at Shiloh Bar & Grill thanks to the killer deals. It's the place to be for Sunday Funday &mdash bring your crew to catch a Cardinals game or order thin-crust pizza and post up at one of the tables on the patio.
Darts, trivia, and live bands make Dave's Dark Horse Tavern an ideal post-football hangout spot. Vegan and gluten-free visitors will love the varied menu, too.
Track down hidden gem, The Molly Brown, for fun in the form of bar games like pool, darts, and trivia. Any game you'd want to watch is always on, and the friendly staff keep your drinks coming.
Top of the Hill in a classic UNC watering hole, pouring house brews like Old Well White and Blueberry Wheat. Mingle with the crowd or browse the selection of board games behind the bar for a chill night.
Mosey over to Dempsey's Public House to catch live music or get behind the mic for karaoke on Tuesday nights. The Irish pub feel has a way of making anyone feel at home.
They're serious about the live music setup at Duffy's Tavern &mdash you won't hear any static-y sound here. Head over to watch a Huskers game and share one of the bar's crazy fish bowl drinks, and make sure to check out the fire pit out back.
Ranking the Best College Dining Halls
Whether they are small colleges or large colleges, public or private, institutions of all kinds are working to revolutionize campus dining. Of course, no such listing can be considered entirely objective. To qualify for the ranking, schools must have a Consensus score generated from their publisher rankings and student reviews. From there, College Consensus editors surveyed rankings of the best college dining halls to find the institutions most deserving of recognition for their innovations and quality in dining. The result is a ranking that highlights the very best colleges and universities, with an emphasis on their dining programs.