Welcome back to the ultimate list of favorite restaurants among college students across the country! We started this series visiting states in the West and Midwest. Now we’re finishing up our road trip with stops in the Southeast, Northeast, and New England. This part of the US is packed with great colleges and universities, plus tons of restaurants that cater to the hungry student populations nearby. First up…
Snacking in the Southeast
Let’s start this leg of our eating marathon with some down-home cooking in the Southern states.
Near the University of North Alabama in Florence, Trowbridge really puts the “sweet” in “Sweet Home Alabama” with its orange pineapple ice cream, the perfect refreshing treat on a hot day. If you want to take a road trip, All Steak’s buttery, sweet rolls glazed in an orange sugar coating are worth the drive. Closer to the University of Alabama, City Cafe is a must-visit with a menu that changes every day.
You wouldn’t think it could get much sweeter than the citrusy ice cream and sweet rolls in Alabama, but Hammontree’s Grilled Cheese by the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville has sweet potato fries that are the perfect combination of savory and sweet. They also come with an avocado ranch dip, adding even more flavor to the dish. For unique drinks like sparkling lavender lemonade and spicy iced mocha, visit Arsaga’s. They serve a variety of fun drinks as well as a wide range of menu options, from Nutella crepes to cheese fries. A morning caffeine boost is best found within the walls of Onyx Coffee Lab, a cute local coffee shop to meet up with friends for a study session. If coffee isn’t your thing, visit Savoy Tea Company; with so many tea options to choose from, you’ll never get bored.
Near Florida State College at Jacksonville, you have to visit Vale Food Co., nicknamed “Chipotle’s healthy sister.” Wondering who first attempted to serve the Florida Stone Crab? Head down to Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant near the University of Miami to taste the famous dish that started it all. If you’re looking for something sweet near Key West University, visit Blue Heaven for arguably the best key lime pie there is to offer. Not only is the food to die for, but the atmosphere is magical with live music, folk art, and various animals like cats and chickens wandering around.
The complimentary warm, buttery biscuits with sweet raspberry jam is the prime reason to dine at Mama’s Boy next to the University of Georgia in Athens, along with their farm-fresh menu that features everything from hash browns to tacos to chocolate cake for breakfast. Close by is Clocked!, a famous American diner featuring unique specialty burgers like the Aussie Burger with a fried egg and beet slices—a seemingly odd combination that tastes incredible. If you’re studying all night and want to grab a bite at 2:00 am, The Grill is open 24 hours and is known for its thick, wavy fries that come with a side of feta dip—heaven on a plate.
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Who doesn’t love free food? Located near Centre College in Danville, Melton’s Great American Deli offers a free chocolate chip cookie on your first visit! Another famous spot is Burke’s Bakery and Delicatessen, serving donuts that melt in your mouth. Grace Cafe is one like no other that never refuses a meal to anyone; they work with a “pay for what you can” method, in which there are no prices on the menu but suggested donations to help feed those who can’t afford it. Over by Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Jackson’s Restaurant is a small, family-owned joint with a warm atmosphere and delicious options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For a great study spot near Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Spencer’s Coffee is the place to go.
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If you’re visiting Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, be sure to stop by City Pork for a myriad of burger options or Elsie’s for delicious hand pies. Heading over to the University of New Orleans, Cafe du Monde is an iconic spot for both tourists and college students, serving the most delicious beignets that are best accompanied with a café au lait. And be sure to find Brennan’s if you’re looking for the best place for bananas foster—a dessert made with bananas, ice cream, brown sugar sauce, and cinnamon that originated in NOLA.
At the University of Mississippi, stop by Handy Andy for some delicious burgers or the Snackbar for insane charcuterie boards. City Grocery is great if you’re in the mood for fine dining—you may spy professors here or other students when their parents are paying the bill. For a relaxing place to study near Jackson State University, head to Cups Espresso Cafe to enjoy flavors like Pumpkin Spice, Irish Cream, Frosty’s Favorite, and Christmas Snow. Not only are their drinks delicious, but the message on their website states that this is “a place where laughing is encouraged, where people will accept you for who you are, a cafe offering more than coffee, a coffee shop who doesn’t take ourselves seriously, and a community who loves each other.”
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Top of the Hill at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is known for its delicious buttermilk fried chicken, refreshing drinks, and a great atmosphere for watching football and basketball. Near UNC’s rival Duke University in Durham, another iconic restaurant is Pizzeria Toro, which seriously tops all others with its unique toppings like fried eggplant and squash, plus desserts like homemade cannoli. Many argue that Slappy’s Chicken in Winston-Salem—home to Wake Forest University, Salem College, and many more schools—has the best fried chicken in town, with sides that turn regular old mac and cheese into a culinary masterpiece. Theirs has both a crunch and a warm, cheesy center due to the Cheez-It crackers mixed inside.
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A cute local coffee shop near the University of South Carolina in Columbia, Drip offers a unique assortment of drinks like the Honey Vanilla Latte and Honey Habanero Latte, which are seriously out of this world. Cafe Strudel in West Columbia is worth a visit for its great atmosphere and delicious brunch menu. Right next to campus, Tin Roof is known for their live musicians and great food. A popular snack is the Sloppy Nachos, or for a bigger meal, you have to try their Hot Chicken Sandwich.
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For amazing breakfast food near Vanderbilt and Belmont University in Nashville, head straight to Biscuit Love, known for their delicious bonuts—biscuit donuts coated with sugar, lemon mascarpone, and blueberry compote. On top of that, the East Nasty—a buttermilk biscuit with fried chicken and aged cheddar—was named the top sandwich of the year in 2015 by Bon Appétit magazine. Golden Sound Barista Parlor and Frothy Monkey are two incredible spots for studying and sipping coffee. Over at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, you’ll find Wicked Chicken, where the chicken sandwiches are truly killer, not to mention the assortment of sauces. Another iconic spot in Knoxville, Sunspot is known for its huge variety of dishes, making it impossible to ever grow tired of the menu.
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The Carter Mountain Orchard close to the University of Virginia offers a sensational experience filled with apple picking in the orchards, tasting the delicious barbeque at the Mountain Grill, watching the sunset series event, and eating delicious cider donuts. This place not only has beautiful scenery but offers amazing food. Students at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg love El Rodeo for their great, affordable Mexican food. A mile from the University of Richmond, The Shoredog Cafe in Henrico is another popular spot to grab a cup of coffee or sit down for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between!
Is breakfast for dinner your kind of thing? If so, Eat’n Park by West Virginia University in Morgantown serves breakfast all day, every day, from Belgian waffles with fruit and whipped cream to scrambled eggs and breakfast potatoes. Another iconic place for college students is Ogawa, known for its fun environment, smiling employees, and incredible sushi. If you’re not a sushi fan, they have a wide variety of other dishes, including ramen. For a sweet treat, go to The Cupcakerie. This shop has any flavor you could possibly think of, from pina colada to “Breakfast in Your Hand”—dark chocolate cake with applewood smoked bacon swirls, topped with maple butter cream and even more bacon bits. Drool!
Related: List: Associated Colleges of the South
Good eats in the Northeast
Ready to cool down? We’re heading up North to find more food along the East Coast.
If you’re looking for a great lunch spot near the University of Delaware, visit Home Grown Cafe, featuring a bustling environment and a variety of food options. Catherine Rooney’s Irish Pub is another great choice closer to the Delaware College of Art and Design, with music, pool tables, and delicious food. For a refreshing snack in between classes, Viva Bowl and Playa Bowls are popular spots in Newark to get acai. Both students and professors are fans of the Tropical Bowl, filled with granola, pineapple, and coconut!
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Tired of ramen packs with instant noodles? For some delicious, high-quality ramen, visit Ivy Noodles near the University of Maryland, College Park. When you’re on the go and need a quick breakfast, Bagels ‘n Grinds opens at 6 o’clock every morning, serving warm bagels with homemade cream cheese. They even make a strawberry cream cheese with fresh strawberry chunks. For a quiet place to study, a fun place to get together with friends, or a place to wake you up and start your day, The Board and Brew does it all. Not only does this cute shop serve delicious coffee and baked goods, but you’ll be immersed in a fun atmosphere with over 500 board games to choose from as you sip your coffee.
There are a ton of great choices within a mile of Rutgers University–Newark, including The Green Chicpea’s delicious Middle Eastern cuisine and Burger Walla’s delicious, uniquely Indian-styled hamburgers. Nizi Sushi is another popular spot a little further away from campus. At Rutgers–New Brunswick, Hansel and Griddle serves burgers, quesadillas, buffalo wings, and more. They’re perfect for a late-night snack since they deliver ’til 3:00 am. A little later in the morning, Hidden Grounds is a great place for delicious coffee with a relaxing, beautiful atmosphere featuring wood tables topped with succulents for centerpieces.
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A few blocks from New York University, abc kitchen offers pizza, pasta, burgers, and seafood, being most famously known for its farm-fresh ingredients. Del Posto’s cuisine in New York City is so well received that it’s noted to “bewilder and thrill” all who dine there. Located on the Upper West Side is Community Food and Juice, with delicious brunch options such as pancakes with fruit and powdered sugar that are almost too pretty to eat. Milano Market is another favorite, with sandwiches so good that any option on the menu will make you want to return every day for another. For a quick breakfast before heading to classes, Absolute Bagels has arguably the best bagels in New York. This list could go on and on, for college students in NYC are definitely spoiled when it comes to food options!
With noteworthy French toast, greasy but crunchy tater tots with eggs, and a lively environment, Sabrina’s Café is the go-to place for college students at the University of Pennsylvania and other colleges in Philadelphia. Han Dynasty is another popular spot, with delicious wontons in chili oil. Once you step into The Common, you’ll never want to leave; it has a bright atmosphere with colorful lamps hanging from the ceiling and delicious meals. Head to Pennsylvania State University in State College for flavorful burgers at The Field Burger and Tap, great music and Mexican food at Yallah Taco, and an amazing breakfast menu at the Original Waffle Shop.
While roaming DC, you’ll find many colleges and universities from The George Washington University to The Catholic University of America. You’ll also find yourself drawn to Ted’s Bulletin, with cinnamon rolls so large they could feed an entire family, decorated donuts, and homemade Pop-Tarts filled with delicious flavors. This place is not only notable for its amazing desserts but its entire breakfast menu filled with a wide variety of items. For coffee and gelato, head to Dolcezza, which feels like you’re walking through Italy and features unique flavors like avocado orange honey and chocolate. Another great spot is The Den Politics and Prose. At first glance, it appears to be a cute little bookstore, but as you continue walking inside, you’ll see that this restaurant is hidden inside of the bookstore, adding to the unique experience. The Den serves every meal of the day, from delicious avocado and cucumber toasts to various baked goods like matcha cookies and mocha Bundt cakes. If you thought Disneyland’s churros were the best, Boqueria will surely give them a run for their money. Their warm, gooey churros melt in your mouth and are filled with Nutella.
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Noshing in New England
To finish our trip, check out these great restaurants in college towns across the New England states.
The Washington Street Cafe near Connecticut College in New London serves a wide range of breakfast options, including their popular Huevos Rancheros. The state is also known for having some of the best pizza in the country, with amazing restaurants like Yorkside Pizza, Frank Pepe’s, Sally’s Apizza, and Modern Apizza close to Southern Connecticut State University, Yale University, and Albertus Magnus College in New Haven.
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With doors that open at 4:00 am, Becky’s Diner near the University of Southern Maine in Portland is a classic spot for great comfort food and good laughs with friends. Up north by the University of Maine in Orono, be sure to visit Pat’s Pizza, which offers great prices for student budgets. Kobe Ninja House by Husson University in Bangor is another economical choice, with delicious Japanese cuisine and a happy hour with everything half off from 4:00–8:00 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Boston is home to too many colleges and universities to mention, and they have a ton of great restaurants as well. For thick, authentic Sicilian-styled pizza slices, visit Pinocchio’s Pizza & Subs, or “Noch’s” as students call it. Cafe Landwer is another famous spot known for its Rosalach—small dough bites with hazelnut chocolate and powdered sugar. Freepoint Kitchen is a lively spot filled with art installations and colorful plates of food near Harvard University in Cambridge. They serve a wide variety of menu items from pork sandwiches to miso to avocado grain bowls.
With tea, coffee, and juices galore, Dirt Cowboy by Dartmouth College in Hanover is a student favorite. Located in the center of town, Lou’s is great for breakfast and lunch, while King Arthur Flour across the river in Norwich, Vermont, serves bread that’s so good it was nationally recognized. On a nice warm day, you can sit outside and bask in the sun at Umpleby’s, known for its delicious sandwiches.
Near the University of Rhode Island, the smell of waffle cones and homemade ice cream wafts through the air as you pass Brickeley’s in Narragansett, giving you the dire need to step inside. With flavors like chocolate brownie, coffee Oreo, and salted caramel, you can’t go wrong! If you’re up at midnight cramming for an exam and are craving a cheesy pepperoni calzone, head down to the Rhode House a little closer to campus in Kingston. Blue State Coffee is a favorite for students at Providence College; this place has not only amazing coffee but delicious cookies like the Elvis Cookie, featuring ingredients based on the King’s favorite snack of peanut butter, banana, and bacon. For a quick, affordable lunch, East Side Pockets is known for its falafel wraps that are only $4!
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For delicious chicken wings, visit Wings Over Burlington near the University of Vermont, with over 19 wing sauces to choose from. If you’d rather have Asian cuisine, Gaku Ramen is a great place to go, with locally grown ingredients filling your bowl with tons of flavor. Craving something refreshing? Go to The Vermont Juice Company for a fruit smoothie, juice, or bowl, which not only taste great but look amazing.
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Deciding where to go to college may seem like a daunting task, but now you know that wherever you end up, there are amazing restaurants across the country that will become the go-to spot for your new friend group at school. However, food is just one small (though important!) factor to keep in mind when it comes to making your final college decision. Be sure to take a campus tour and map out your future college town to ensure this home away from home fits all your needs for the next four years. Best of luck in your search, and bon appétit!
Interested to see where colleges rank when it comes to dining halls? Check out this list of the 75 Best Colleges for Food in America.