Being a college student comes with a lot of stereotypes. The typical quick and cheap foods eaten by students are no exception. If you’re living in a closet passed off as a dorm room with nothing except a microwave, maybe the stereotypes are true.
Whether you need a break from classic mainstays in your college diet or are desperately craving a cheat day from your healthy lifestyle, turn to these elevated options of the classics that can be found locally in Madison.
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Stereotypical Food #1: Mac and Cheese
Let’s face it, Easy Mac was practically created for students living in a dorm. Though a cup of Easy Mac never fails to satisfy, Graze brings a whole new level to delicious with their mac and cheese. Baked with 10-year aged cheddar and herbed breadcrumbs, this decadent dish is a crowd pleaser. And an additional bonus, pulled pork can be added to the cheesy goodness.
A bowl of mac and cheese from Graze will make you rethink that next pack of Easy Mac you are tempted to buy. At $10 a bowl, this elevated food option remains a tasty treat for lunch, dinner or as a snack. While you’re there, stay for the homemade, warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies and milk.
Stereotypical Food #2: Cup Noodles
Ramen noodle soup in a cup is a classic. But thanks to the relatively new Strings Ramen on North Frances Street, Cup Noodles just got a major makeover. Strings Ramen serves homemade egg noodles in a variety of soup bases. Unlike Cup Noodles, the broth and the noodles are just the beginning. These bowls topped with protein and veggies pack major flavor.
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Stereotypical Food #3: Chicken Fingers
Nitty Gritty leaves sad dining hall chicken nuggets in the dust with their options. Besides being known as a place for deliciously greasy burgers, Nitty Gritty also gives chicken fingers a run for their money. A fried chicken sandwich on a pretzel bun offers a more sophisticated take on the standard chicken patties found under heat lamps at Gordon’s. Pick your poison of flavor, there’s no such thing as a bad fried chicken sandwich.
Getting the most bang for your buck: Ha Long Bay
For those who haven’t ventured out to Ha Long Bay on Willy Street, they have no idea what they are missing. Asian food is by no means a college mainstay, but Ha Long Bay has earned its place on this list. An order from Ha Long Bay is almost guaranteed to be enough food for two meals. Leftovers — now this is starting to sound more typical. A personal favorite is the Pad See Eew, a mound of cloud-like, fluffy, sweet soy noodles with tons of broccoli, carrot and your choice of protein. The leftovers are by far the best part.
Late Night Munchies: Tornado Room
When that late-night slice of pizza just won’t cut it anymore, Tornado Club’s late-night menu has got you covered. Served exclusively from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., Tornado Club’s typically pricey menu becomes college-student affordable for steak, burgers, heaping portions of cheese curds and more. A fan favorite tends to be the steak sandwich — but be aware this popular choice sometimes runs out before 1 a.m. Try heading to the lower level seating for some serious jazz-like ambiance.
Quick Eats: Food Carts
Whether you want a step up from chicken fingers, a fancy grilled cheese sandwich or a taste of a cuisine you don’t typically indulge in, the food carts on Library Mall have more than enough options. Unique to Madison, a trip to the food carts is something to not miss out on. A personal favorite is a toss-up between the spring roll at Fresh Cool Drinks or a gourmet panini from Toast.
Madison’s food scene is vibrant and diverse. The constraints of dorm-room living are no challenge to the range of options in walking distance on and around campus. Easy Mac and Cup Noodles aren’t going anywhere — temporarily leave the stereotypes aside to see what Madison has to offer.