We all remember college being like an extended vacation, one we wanted to come home early from at times, and one we also hated leaving behind. Most of us can recall late-night study sessions and microwavable goodies, but after digging further into the surroundings of our great universities, it has come to our attention that college towns have so much more to offer the food enthusiast than we originally thought.
Start by checking out the burger scene. For as long as we can remember, burgers have not only been a college-student food staple, but an American favorite as well. Dyer’s restaurant in Memphis (and nearby the University of Memphis) is a great choice if you’re looking for a deep-fried burger. That’s right, deep-fried patties that float to the top of the oil when cooked to perfection, and are then ladled onto a warm bun. Even the cheese takes a dip into the precious grease before hitting the patty. But why is the grease precious? Dyer’s owner claims to still use the same batch of oil as when they first opened in 1912. Gross or grand? We’ll let you decide.
If you’re into food exploration with regards to trying wacky toppings on your burgers, stop in at Honest Abe’s near the University of Nebraska for a truly unique experience. What to order? Try the Reading Rainbow, which consists of a 6oz patty, topped with roasted – yes, roasted – grapes, bacon, cabbage, and crunchy peanut butter. If you thought the grapes were outlandish, the peanut butter will really throw you through a loop. But really, peanut butter on a burger? Just trust in our foodie knowledge, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with each and every bite.
Head to the east coast for amazing pasta at Johnny’s Tavern in Amherst, MA. It’s central to U Mass, Amherst College, and Hampshire College, so wherever you flock back to, you’ll be close enough to Johnny’s to enjoy a bowl of Beer Mac & Cheese or Black Spaghetti. Granted, they have an amazing menu with several selections outside of pasta that are definitely worth ordering, but Beer Mac & Cheese, with a beer béchamel and roasted garlic just sounds like a winner. The Black Spaghetti is served with a trio of seafood and a white wine Pomodoro. You can’t go wrong with that!
The Bier Stein is a great establishment, located near the University of Oregon, where you’ll eat, of course, but more importantly, drink your fill. Bier Stein has a seasonal menu and almost all of the craft brews from the local breweries either bottled or on tap. There’s no way you’re leaving in the vehicle you drove there in, so we suggest opting for a cab. Oregon is well known for their up-and-coming brewery scene, and if you haven’t checked out the lively college atmosphere that’s centered within the “beer boom,” then you’re missing out. Taste as many beers as you’d like, and when you need to soak up some of that alcoholic glory, try one of their specialties: Chicken and Doughnuts. What in tarnation?! This creation consists of beer and buttermilk brined chicken tenders with smoky doughnut holes that are served with a Sriracha-maple dipping sauce.
It wouldn’t be fair to talk up college menus without including the Slurping Turtle restaurant in Ann Arbor, close to the University of Michigan. The Slurping Turtle, and head chef Takashi Yagihashi, provide an eclectic (and more sophisticated) spin-off menu for the classic college staple: Ramen noodles. Our recommendation? Tonkotsu, which is homemade ramen in a pork broth, topped with chashu (slow roasted pork), bok choy, a chili oil, and a molten egg. Yum!