We were really fucking spoiled by the food selection at Dartmouth. Maybe you kids working at Google have it just as good—drinking lychee juice, munching on apricot chutney sliders, etc—but I will never eat as well as I did Dartmouth.
There were four major dining halls, each filling a distinct taste niche. You’re hung over and need the greasiest egg burrito smothered AND dipped in ketchup? Go to The Hop. You miss your mom’s mashed potatoes, but are on a health kick and want grilled salmon? Dinner at Homeplate. Drunk mozz sticks at 2 am? FoodCourt.
But looking back, I am in disbelief over Collis Café. It was too good to be true for college dining. Collis would have been the hipster café, except hipsters weren’t a thing yet, at least not on the East Coast. And in stark contrast with actual hipster cafés, the Collis employees were sunny and unpretentious. They served vegan baked goods and late night pho, but they looked like your aunts and uncles from upstate. Aunt Nancy blended you made-to-order mango smoothie with guava juice base. Uncle Jim, that burly man in a Sox cap, added Sriracha to your stir-fry (without saying anything racist, like your real Uncle Jim would).
The staff was generous with free samples, always offering tastes of the lunch entrée, which was half-baked, fusion slop like Tikka Masala Shepard’s Pie or Spanakopita Flan. And mac n’ cheese on Mondays.
There were mounds of baked goods that you selected with plastic tongs and placed in wax paper bags. My favorite baked good was the artisan bread du jour. I often had a hearty slice of spelt toast with soynut butter—not because of allergies or taste preference, just because I loved the idea of having a hearty slice of spelt toast with soynut butter. For a mid-morning snack (after 10s) I recommend a vegan corn muffin, washed down with Silk chocolate milk.
The salad bar was seasonal, with produce from the organic farm up the road. It featured jicama, kale, quinoa, whatever. If you weren’t in the mood for a salad (dressed just right by shaking it in a plastic to-go container), you could take a selection of veggies and hand them to the staff armed with skillets. They’d sauté them in an omelet or stir fry or pasta. Because some days you just need bok choy and lima beans in your omelet, you knowwww. The life of a Dartmouth undergrad.
And that was just the day goods. At Late Night Collis, they brought in Vietnamese chefs who hand-rolled sushi and made pho to-order. For a late night snack. At midnight as you finished your Gov paper [checked Facebook], you could saunter out of a study room and order a Dragon Roll. Do you know that at state schools, in this kind of situation, they eat Doritos from a vending machine? And there are no free samples of Chickpea Streusel on Thursdays.
Imagine if a place like Collis opened in the real world—in San Francisco or Soho or Cambridge, MA. It could charge exorbitant prices and we would line up out the door and around the corner.
Collis was absurd. Xoxo vegan corn muffins.