From fried chicken dinners to cookies straight from the oven, these items have become huge hits on their respective campuses—making them the type of offering operators would be hard pressed to cut from the menu without some sort of backlash. Here are 10 comfort foods that have built a cult following among students—and sometimes, the community at large.
1. Fried chicken dinner, Kennesaw State University
Every Thursday, Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., hosts a fried chicken dinner in The Commons. Introduced in 2011, dining staff realized the chicken was popular when they had to add an additional serving area to accommodate the influx of customers, and later, when they faced criticism from students after attempting to move the school’s fried chicken day from Thursday to Friday. Now a tradition, the fried chicken is the first meal accepted students are served on campus. The homemade chicken is hand marinated and served with smashed red potatoes, greens, from-scratch mac and cheese, green beans and homemade cornbread.
2. Mac and cheese, University of Connecticut
The menu item that spawned UConn’s viral mac and cheese incident in 2015 is served at the school’s Union Street Market. It took the No. 1 spot in a list of the top 10 foods on campus released by the university, beating out another favorite among students, the buffalo chicken wrap.
3. Peppermint stick pie, Wellesley College
Typically served around the holidays and at special events on the Wellesley, Mass., campus, peppermint stick pie has become a favorite of Wellesley College’s students and alumni. The official recipe calls for a graham cracker crust, peppermint stick ice cream and hot fudge; but over the years, campus chefs have put their own spin on the staple, such as using crushed Oreos for the crust.
4. M&M cookies, University of North Carolina
The dining team at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., didn’t realize the M&M cookies served in its Rams Head and Lenoir Dining Halls had such a following until its distributor switched to a different cookie dough recipe. After student outcry on social media, the school worked with the distributor to get the original recipe back and celebrated its return with a targeted geofilter on Snapchat.
5. Chicken parmesan, Davidson College
Referred to as chicken parma by students at Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., Vail Commons’ chicken parmesan is one of the most popular menu items on campus. The dish was a favorite of former student and current NBA player Stephen Curry, who featured it in a video he made about the dining hall.
6. BB2 BBQ melt, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Served from one of two food trucks on campus, the BB2 BBQ melt is a favorite at UMass. When dining staff replaced the food truck’s menu with Asian fusion fare, students began circulating petitions to bring back the old melt-centered menu. In response, the dining staff returned most of the original menu, making sure to include the BB2 BBQ, which is made with pulled pork and macaroni and cheese, and served with a side of tater tots.
7. Jersey dirt, University of Richmond
Consisting of pudding, crushed Oreos and whipped cream, Jersey dirt was introduced to the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va., during the mid-‘90s. The mom of a student from New Jersey submitted the recipe as part of a Recipes from Home contest put on by dining staff. The contest winner, Jersey Dirt, has been served in the university’s Heilman Dining Center ever since.
8. Honey fried chicken, Florida State University
A staple item among the football team at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla., honey fried chicken is served in the dining hall on Fridays for athletes and staff, and on Mondays during football season, so long as the team brings home a win. The fried chicken is even being used as a recruiting tool—one of the school’s newest football players, Marvin Wilson, says the chicken influenced his decision to sign with the team.
9. Cultivate house burger, University of Washington at Seattle
The house burger offered at Cultivate, a full-service eatery on the University of Washington campus, caught the attention of the surrounding community as well as the student body. The burger was rated by the Zagat guide three years ago and is considered to be one of the best burgers in Seattle. A blend of chuck, brisket and sirloin, the patty is topped with peppashire pub cheese and a smoky mojo slather, and is served on a pretzel bun.
10. West Hall chocolate chip cookies, Pennsylvania State University
Beloved by students, the chocolate chip cookies at Penn State’s West Dining Hall are actually made from the same dough as all of the chocolate chip cookies on campus. However, students say that West Hall’s cookies are the best since staff plan the baking schedule so that the cookies offered are usually warm and fresh out of the oven.