Survival guide: dining hall food


Caitlin Noe ’24 is a government major. In addition to working as the opinions editor for the Flat Hat, she is a member of Alpha Phi Omega, the service fraternity and works as a research assistant for AidData on the TUFF team. Email Caitlin at

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.

The food at the College of William and Mary is always a highly criticized aspect of the school, and generally for valid reasons. The criticism has reached new heights this year with the Virginia Department of Health recently finding health violations in campus dining halls. In response, Sodexo, the College’s food provider, has made corrections to address the violations and promised to make improvements to the student’s dining experience. The College also made noticeable changes by closing Sadler Center on weekends and expanding the options at The Caf. 

The closing of Sadler is not ideal. However, this past weekend, I noticed the increase in options and a slightly higher quality of food at The Caf when compared to previous weekends. While I appreciate these changes, this should just be the beginning. The number of food offerings should remain similar at The Caf and Sadler should be reopened on weekends. This does not seem like too much to ask of the College, especially considering the limited amount of dining dollars each student has to spend on the weekends. 

Given that significant changes to dining at the College are unlikely to occur in the short-term, here are some suggestions for surviving your dining experience. Some food options are on a rotating schedule in the dining halls. If you learn what you like, you can be very particular about when you choose to eat at each of the dining halls. It will also help you plan when to use meal swipes versus dining dollars. You may not always have time to plan meals, but I would suggest doing so when you have the time. As a disclaimer, I do not eat breakfast regularly, so I won’t mention suggestions for breakfast. 

Let’s start with lunch. I have some days a week where I always get the same lunch and use a swipe. On Tuesdays, I head to The Caf for one of my favorite foods on campus: General Tso’s chicken. On Wednesdays, I go to Marketplace for “Wing Wednesday”. Wing Wednesdays give students the option between wings or chicken tenders. They also give you a choice of barbeque sauce or buffalo sauce. The sides are mac n cheese, vegetables and fried cauliflower. On Thursday, I head to the Tribe Truck, which has a new food each week with two options, normally one meat and one vegetarian. Even though the food truck has something new each week, the options are consistently good. Last week, the Tribe Truck had a Mediterranean bowl. It was one of the best food options for a swipe you will find on this campus.

For Monday and Friday lunches, I do not have as strong of a meal preference. Therefore, I tend to go to whichever dining hall is closest to my next class and hope for the best on one of those days. Sometimes on the other day I use dining dollars at Cosi, Chick-fil-A, or Qdoba. I like the Cosi TBM sandwich, the Qdoba burrito and the Chick-fil-A spicy chicken sandwich. These options are a step up from dining hall food, but no one has enough dining dollars to be able to go to these very often. 

Moving on to dinner, I find it harder to plan this due to my club meetings Monday through Wednesday. I also find dining hall options disappoint me more for dinners than lunches. If I want to use a swipe, I try to go to Sadler Express. I’ll get dinner there once a week. You get a lot of pasta for a swipe and it is normally good. However, I would strongly recommend against going to regular Sadler for dinners. Sadler dinners tend to be my least favorite, although I know it’s somewhat better than the other dining halls for vegetarian options if you are looking for that. Marketplace dinners are good in quality, but you can get sick of them quickly. Caf has the most dinner options and you get the most for your swipe, but the quality can be low. Due to these reasons, I prefer to use my dining dollars for dinners more than lunches. Occasionally, I will order a pizza from Dominos with dining dollars. But more regularly, I go to Cosi, Qdoba, or Chick-fil-A.

On the weekends for lunch and dinner I tend to go to Caf since there are fewer dining options on weekends anyway and I am the most busy then. I also eat off campus the most on the weekends with my friends. I sometimes get food from the coffee shops on the weekends too because they are higher in quality than the dining halls and I like to do work while in the coffee shop atmosphere. The Daily Grind, Aromas Cafe at Swem and the Bake Shop are all open on weekends.

I recommend spending dining dollars at any of the coffee shops on campus because they are either Starbucks or Aromas products, all of which I love. On campus, we have Swem Aromas and The Daily Grind for Aromas coffee fans. We also have Starbucks at the Integrated Science Center and the Raymond A. Mason School of Business. Additionally, you can buy coffee with dining dollars at Bake Shop in Colonial Williamsburg. I consider coffee to be the only category in which good quality options are plentiful. But be careful if you are a fellow coffee lover; a daily coffee is the easiest way to run out of dining dollars. Additionally, Bake Shop food is good and you can get a breakfast or lunch there. The Goody’s Goodies bagel sandwich is one of my favorites. I also love the drop biscuits. The snacks and pastries at Swem Aromas and The Daily Grind are also good. I like the spinach croissant and chocolate muffin the most.

Another category I want to touch on is small dinners and snacks you can get with dining dollars. Tribe Market in The Caf and Student Exchange both have to-go-options that are fine if you want to change things up. For dinners, I sometimes get sushi from one of these two places just to have something different. The sushi is grocery store-like in quality, so it’s good but not great. Tribe Market sometimes has to-go mac and cheese that you can make in your microwave that is okay. Student Exchange sometimes has sandwiches that are fine. Both Tribe Market and Student Exchange have many good snack options, although you should keep in mind that everything is more expensive than they would be in a regular store. I find the higher price point is sometimes worth it for convenience. 

Overall, the food at the College is not good, but there are ways to make your experience incrementally better. I hope the College chooses to invest more in improving food quality. But since we cannot rely on that, it never hurts to plan your meals out more to get the best possible experience.



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