Much of a college education takes place far from any classroom. You’d never learn that you can eat a 3-pound burrito but not a 4-pound one in some tech lab. Every college has that one spot that is synonymous with the school. It may not have the best food, or even the cheapest, yet the very mention of it sums up the college experience for many alums. Here are 30 of those iconic places in the good old US of A.
- Shakespeare’s Pizza, Columbia, Mo. Recently named the best college hangout in America, Shakespeare’s has a proud tradition of offering Mizzou kids high-quality pizza made right in front of you.
- Nick’s English Hut, Bloomington, Ind. Nick’s has been serving pizza and strombolis to Hoosiers since 1927. Shoot pool upstairs or play “Sink the Biz,” a drinking game where players try to fill a floating cup with beer without sinking it.
- Ratsie’s Pizza, College Park, Md. Just down Highway 1 from the University of Maryland, Ratsie’s has been the go-to pizza shack for students for years. Reviews regularly call the pizza “terrible,” but there’s always a late-night crowd, because Ratsie’s is just where you go if you’re a Terrapin.
- Blondie’s Pizza, Berkeley, Calif. Healthy types who usually dine at Smart Alec’s on veggie wraps can be found late at night scarfing down greasy pizza from the original pizza-by-the-slice joint in Berkeley.
- Casola’s Pizzeria & Sub Shop, Miami, Fla. Casola’s has been catering to students from The U for almost 20 years, and many call it the best pizza in Miami. Staying open until 3 a.m. and serving enormous slices have helped cement its status as a college standby.
- Joe Bologna’s, Lexington, Ky. Not many pizza joints can claim to have 41 stained-glass windows. Since being converted from a synagogue in 1989, Joe’s has become part of the tradition for UK kids.
- The Airliner, Iowa City, Iowa Hawkeyes have been crowding into The Airliner for the half-price pizza and the cold beer since 1944. It’s right next to campus and there’s no better spot to celebrate an Iowa victory.
Burgers and Fries
- Eagle’s Deli, Boston, Mass. Boston College students flock to this famous food joint in Brighton. It’s also a masochist’s dream with its Chillerama Burger: 5 pounds of meat, 20 pieces of bacon, and 20 slices of cheese. Oh, and 5 pounds of fries. And a pickle.
- The Dixie Chicken, College Station, Texas “The Chicken” is a Texas A&M institution. It claims to serve the most beer per square foot in the U.S., and it’s where students first came to “dunk” their class rings on Ring Day.
- Good Time Charley’s, Ann Arbor, Mich. Charley’s has been an establishment on Michigan’s campus for 35 years. It comes pretty close to qualifying as a dive, but the beer is cheap and the food is decent.
- The Cooler, Eugene, Ore. Swing by The Cooler for some delicious breakfast on your way to Autzen Stadium , or watch the game there on the 15-foot TV.
- The Sink, Boulder, Colo.The Sink started out in the ’20s as a Euro-style restaurant, but it has since transformed into a Colorado Buffalos hotspot for oven-fired pizzas, burgers, and some of that cold Rocky Mountain beer you can’t get at the football game.
- Linebacker Lounge, South Bend, Ind. The Backer is a total dive, but it’s also a Fighting Irish staple. It qualifies as a food joint based on burgers and fries, but most students come to drink and get their groove on.
- Drake’s Duck In, Columbia, S.C. This place near the University of South Carolina has been around forever and is such a dive it doesn’t even have a website. What it does have is one of the best chicken sandwiches anywhere.
- The Swamp Restaurant, Gainesville, Fla. Serving up classic American food in the shadow of the Florida Gators’ football stadium, The Swamp is a must-see for visitors. The decks upstairs offer the best people-watching in town.
- Stan’s Drive-in, Provo, Utah Stan’s is as old as dirt, but way, way tastier. Students from BYU know Stan’s is the best spot in Provo for guilty-pleasure, diner-style fries and milkshakes.
- Rotier’s Restaurant, Nashville, Tenn. John and Evelyn Rotier opened this sandwich spot in 1945. Vanderbilt undergrads and alumni have been coming here ever since for cheeseburgers and the best milkshakes in Music City.
- TripleXXX Family Restaurant, West Lafayette, Ind.: XXX may have a dirty connotation, but on the Purdue campus it means pure, unadulterated American food. The only remaining original “XXX thirst station” in America, the folks there are still selling the soda made from cane sugar that they were when they opened in 1929.
- Spanky’s, Chapel Hill, N.C. UNC students head to Spanky’s for good homecooking like chili dogs, baby back ribs, and the fan-favorite guacamole burger. They’re family-owned and family- and budget-friendly.
- Maxwell’s, Morgantown, W.Va. Maxwell’s has been serving hearty breakfast fare like bread pudding and eggs benedict to West Virginia Mountaineers for 20 years.
- Mayflower Restaurant, Athens, Ga. For 61 years the Mayflower has been run by the same nice folks, and you’ll always find a healthy-sized crowd of Georgia Bulldogs chowing down on southern grub served up with a smile.
- The Camellia Grill, New Orleans, La. Started in 1946, The Camellia Grill is a relative newcomer to a town full of iconic joints. But for students, there’s no better place to get an omelet, some pecan waffles, or both.
- Bullock’s Bar-B-Cue, Durham, N.C. The Bullock family opened up shop in 1952, and today their restaurant is a BBQ legend in Durham. Duke students and locals mix here, eating tender pulled pork sando’s and fried okra.
- Dreamland BBQ, Tuscaloosa, Ala. Dreamland is not just the best college joint in Tuscaloosa, it’s the best restaurant in town. Alabama faithful inhale the falling-off-the-bone ribs at this 50-year-old landmark.
- The Mont, Norman, Okla. For a town with a scant nightlife scene, The Monterrey has been a Sooner standby since it opened in 1920. In recent years it has racked up awards like Best Appetizers and Best Mixed Drinks.
- George’s, Waco, Texas Thirsty Baptists from Baylor starting coming to George’s in 1930 for the “Big O’s,” the restaurant’s signature drink. The hungry ones come for platter-sized chicken fried steak and southbound fries.
Sausage and Steak
- Ol Stuga, Lindsborg, Kan. Lindsborg is home to the small liberal arts school Bethany College, and Ol Stuga (which means “beer cottage” in Swedish) has been local students’ stop for liverwurst and pickled herring since 1977.
- State Street Brats, Madison, Wis. A stone’s throw from University of Wisconsin, Brats is always packed with undergrads scarfing down bratwurst and cheering on the Badgers.
- Pat’s King of Steaks, Philadelphia, Penn. Pat’s is an all-around famous spot for mouth-watering Philly cheese steaks. It’s been pulling in students from nearby Temple and Penn since it opened in 1930.
- Kerbey Lane Café, Austin, Texas. Although reviews aren’t exactly glowing, any café open 24 hours a day right next to a campus is going to get a ton of college kids. The portions are big and they’ve got lots of vegan fare.