Let’s talk Tulane Dining

Lily Mae Lazarus, Managing Editor

It’s no secret that Tulane University offers slim pickings in its dining experience. In a city full of great food, there seems to be none on campus. Although the university’s culinary offerings look great on paper, here is an honest and comprehensive guide to Tulane Dining. Disclaimer: If I yuck your yum, I am sorry but these are my opinions. 

The Commons

Hannah Levitan

Built in 2019, President Mike Fitts once described the Commons as “spectacular.” It is Tulane’s largest dining space with more than 1,000 seats and features two stories and various food options. 

From a purely architectural standpoint, the Commons is beautiful. Its glass facade is perfect for people-watching and providing the ultimate natural lighting for Snapchat selfies. Be warned, however, the Commons is perpetually freezing and some of the seating options are not comfortable. Your best option is to bundle up and snag a booth with some friends. 

Turning to cuisine, the Commons has nine food stations: Carved, Garden, Grilled, Hearth, Simmered, Crafted, Simplified, Seasons, Chef’s Table and Al Dente. Although some of these options are a great improvement from the former Bruff Dining Hall, Tulane has yet to master the art of good food. This is disappointing given the high hopes for the Commons and the abundance of good food in New Orleans. The featured meals from Chef’s Table look phenomenal on @tulanedining’s Instagram, but their in-person execution is far from consistent.

For students with allergies and intolerances, the Commons is not the safest option. While they do offer vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free choices, cross-contact is more of a risk with mass produced food. The “safe” options provided by Tulane are never a guarantee, which can be frustrating for students with dietary restrictions. 

The Simplified station in the Commons is free of seven of the Big Eight allergens, but they only offer a gluten-free option a few times a week. If you are vegetarian and limited to the Simplified station, you are even more restricted because it serves mostly animal protein.

Some students may qualify for My Zone which is a special area for those with severe allergies. My Zone caters largely to people with gluten and nut allergies but is not helpful for many other students with severe allergies. My Zone also requires SplashCard access and is difficult to qualify for entry to the area. 

As a whole, the Commons is sub-optimal. Although it is pretty on the outside, the food itself is known to cause mild indigestion and is over-hyped by the university. However, its central location, acceptance of meal swipes and variety make it one of the most convenient dining options on campus. 

Green Wave Grille

Green Wave Grille is Tulane’s hidden gem. Well, it’s less of a gem and more of a pretty looking rock. Coincidentally hidden in the depths of Yulman Stadium, GWG is like the Commons but with a little bit of spice. Yes, it is meant to be the student-athletes’ dining option, but it is open to all Tulane students using meal swipes, Wavebuck$ or credit card.

Gabi Liebeler

According to Tulane, the menu at GWG is meant “to support the dietary needs of student athletes” whatever that means. The offerings were designed by a sport’s dietitian with the input of coaches and trainers. At the end of the day, however, a dining hall is a dining hall.

GWG has a rotating menu and far fewer options than the Commons, but the food itself objectively tastes better. It is a fairly “no frills” eating experience. Given the choices are small, it may not be the best option for picky eaters of students with serious dietary restrictions.

All that aside, the vibes are a little weird. There are no words to properly describe the feeling of being in GWG except for “locker room.” The hours are also not great for non-athletes, but we all must make sacrifices.

Lavin-Bernick Center Food Court

Colin Yaccarino

The LBC Food Court gives Denver International Airport a run for its money for the most knock-off chain restaurants per capita. If you thought it would be better than the Commons, you thought wrong. 

There are nine restaurants in the LBC: Wild Blue, Al Fuego, Dunkin’ Donuts, Freshens, Pickles, Star Ginger, Wall of Greens, WOW Cafe and Zatarains. Never in my 3.5 years here at Tulane have I seen someone go to Zatarains, but maybe I am not looking hard enough. Dunkin’ replaced the beloved Tulane Panera Bread, decreasing the amount of actual sustenance offered in the LBC.

Wild Blue feels boujee because it sells sushi, but it really is a solid 5.5/10. The fish itself is most likely frozen, and the rice to protein ratio is way off. Wild Blue exudes gas station sushi energy with NOBU prices.

Wall of Greens is basically the Commons’ salad bar, don’t be fooled by its Sweetgreen aesthetic. Similarly, Pickles is an almost identical experience to the Common’s deli station. The only thing I know about Al Fuego is it will give you worse indigestion than the Commons, which is impressive.

Star Ginger wants to be Panda Express but can’t measure up. The pho is super bland and the vegetarian option will stain your teeth. It is, however, the only place on campus that serves orange chicken. Freshens is the chaotic evil cousin of Smoothie King. No matter what you order there, it will be somehow grainy and too sweet.

WOW Cafe and Dunkin’ deserve their own respective categories because they each serve a unique demographic. WOW is the only late night dining option and definitely makes bank off of Tulane’s party culture. No one can pound chicken tenders and fries like a drunk college student. Dunkin’ is new to the LBC and hasn’t had enough time to make its mark on campus. But, the chain, in general, annihilates PJ’s Coffee in terms of baked goods and coffee quality.

As a whole, the LBC is not the safest option for students with dietary restrictions or allergies. The LBC serves some of the Commons Simplified food, but it is somehow less appetizing and more bland. Cross-contact is always a risk in food courts which makes safely navigating the LBC food court a potentially dangerous endeavor.

The LBC is not all bad. First and foremost, it has cool drink machines that let you customize various fountain drinks. The staff at the LBC are also incredibly kind. The location’s hours are another positive, and its central location comes in handy. But, if you are a slow eater, you will develop scoliosis from sitting in the metal chairs for an extended period of time.

Rimon at Tulane Hillel

Rimon is what Tulane Dining wishes it could be. The food is delish, and the vibes are immaculate. Rimon is not on Tulane’s campus, but it deserves recognition because they accept meal swipes for students on the Kosher dining plan. The restaurant also accepts Wavebuck$ as well as credit cards and is located inside of the Tulane Hillel on Broadway Street. 

Cecilia Hammond

Menu-wise, Rimon is a masterpiece. They offer farm-to-table kosher cuisine that is both well balanced and made with love. Although there is a wait during peak hours, it is well worth it. The date smoothie tastes like a peanut butter milkshake and is known to be life changing. 

You can’t go wrong with any of Rimon’s options, even if you have food allergies or dietary restrictions. Rimon is arguably the safest choice for students that need a little extra TLC put into their foods’ preparation. The restaurant offers vegan, dairy-free, vegetarian, gluten-free and nut-free options every day. They even offer gluten-free bread as substitutes on sandwiches and gluten-free pastries. 

The Hillel in general is good vibes all around. It’s plush couches, good wifi and mood lighting elevate it. Going to Rimon is comparable to taking a mental health day. You are well fed, comfy and not blinded by fluorescent lighting while you scroll through Instagram peacefully.

Provisions on the 13th Parallel

Provisions is best described as Tulane’s boujee convenience store. It may be the only spot on campus where students can buy Halo Top ice cream and a pregnancy test at the same time. Provisions is located on the Freret Street side of the Commons and is open from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. Students can pay with meal swipes, Wavebuck$ or cash/credit.

Hannah Levitan

Provisions is Tulane’s grab-and-go dining option. It offers a daily hot-food spread, fresh produce, PJ’s Coffee, soft drinks, snacks and convenience items. The store has three Quick Pick options: breakfast, deli and protein. The hot meals are not visually appetizing, and they are the same quality as food in the Commons.

The snack and beverage variety at Provisions is fantastic. It is not the healthiest choice, but it is much better than any of campus’ vending machines. Provisions has the best on-campus options for students with dietary restrictions. 

The freezer section has multiple dairy-free ice cream flavors and some gluten-free and vegetarian frozen meals. They carry dairy-free butter, milks, and cheeses. Provisions also sells many allergy friendly snack and drink options from known brands.

The convenience of Provisions and its variety of snack options make it one of the most reliable Tulane dining options. In terms of allergies and dietary restrictions, the store’s abundance of prepackaged allergy-friendly eats makes it a safe choice. However, the Quick Picks are not prime for picky eaters, food snobs or those who must be mindful of cross contamination.

Le Gourmet — Rollin’ n Bowlin’

For Tulanians with the patience to wait 15 minutes for a piece of avocado toast or a smoothie, look no further than Rollin’ n Bowlin.’ Rollin’ is next to Butler Hall inside Le Gourmet and accepts meal swipes, Wavebuck$ and credit cards. 

Hannah Levitan

Rollin’ is theoretically convenient, but there is almost always a wait in the early afternoon and the food is nothing special. It is, however, the only health-food focused dining spot on campus. The “healthiness” of super sugary smoothie bowls remains up for debate, but that is an issue for another time. Rollin’ does offer both a snack size and a meal size of their bowls and smoothies, which is great when you are not super hungry. 

The menu looks promising upon first glance, but the prices are suspicious. For $3.99 students can enjoy one slice of toast with peanut butter and bananas. For an extra dollar, you can substitute for almond butter. It would be cheaper and faster to buy the ingredients and make their toast offerings from the comfort of your dorm room.

Rollin’s smoothies and bowls fall victim to Tulane’s culinary curse. The smoothies, bowls and toasts look great online, but the taste doesn’t match up. It is also not an allergy friendly dining spot. Given Rollin’ uses shared equipment, cross-contact can occur easily. Rollin’ does redeem itself slightly by selling a few gluten-free, organic and vegan pre-packaged snacks.

Rollin’ also falls short in the seating category. First and foremost, there is basically no seating inside of Le Gourmet. In a city that sees an average of 63 inches of rain per year, this is a big “oopsie.” Yes, students can choose to sit at the metal picnic tables next to Butler Hall, but cold metal benches and McAlister Way pedestrian traffic is no one’s definition of comfort.   

PJ’s Coffee

Hannah Levitan

PJ’s is best described as the underachieving problem child of coffee chains. In complete and total honesty, all of the coffee they serve feels like decaf and tastes like mud-water. It is however a very convenient caffeine option that takes both Wavebuck$, cash and credit cards.

Not all PJ’s locations are created equal and there are four on Tulane’s campus. Taking the No. 1 spot is PJ’s on Willow Street. This location offers the best tasting coffee and snacks. The booth seating is great for studying late at night or taking a public nap. Be warned, however, during finals week you will have to camp-out for one of these luxurious alcoves one to three business days in advance.

In the No. 2 spot, not because it is good but because it isn’t the worst, is the PJ’s in the A.B. Freeman School of Business. First and foremost, the B School is freezing and can be intimidating. But, this location earns brownie points for being hidden, and it is always super clean. 

Coming in last and certainly least place are the PJ’s on Freret Street underneath Percival Stern Hall and the location in the Howard Tilton Memorial Library. These both have a purgatory vibe. Something about being watched by pedestrians while you order watered-down coffee and a mediocre pastry feels very humiliating and confusing. 

In terms of the food and drink options, PJ’s is nothing to write home about. The coffee shop offers fun looking seasonal drinks, but they often taste like battery acid and high blood sugar. The syrup selection is good, but the non-dairy milk options are mediocre at best. The most redeeming quality of PJ’s is its really cute merch. 

PJ’s is one of the worst places for people with food allergies. Most if not all of their baked goods and food have gluten or dairy. They handle nut milks and dairy simultaneously. If cross-contact is a concern, PJ’s is not for you. The walk to the Maple Street Starbucks is shorter and less expensive than an ambulance ride to the hospital.