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Livingston v. Busch: Rutgers dining halls, ranked

Livingston Dining Commons is popular for a reason, with high-quality food and a multitude of options that make your swipe worthwhile.  – Photo by

One very important part of the college experience is eating at university dining halls. And here at Rutgers, we’re lucky enough to have four dining halls to choose from.

Somehow, even though they’re all at the same school, Rutgers dining halls vary in quality and experience quite a bit. So how do they stack up against each other? Here is my personal ranking of all four Rutgers dining halls.

Fourth place: Brower Commons on the College Avenue campus

I’m sorry to say it, but Brower Commons really does live up to its reputation as the worst dining hall on campus. The food isn’t all bad — the pizza selection is a lot more varied than at some of the other dining halls, and it’s pretty good. But the other food is typically bland and sometimes even questionable in quality.

Brower Commons' setup is also very different from the other dining halls. It looks more like a mall food court than a dining hall when you first go in. And even though many of the food stations are clearly labeled with signs, the main hot meals are served in a tight space behind the stairs, which is honestly very confusing and kind of inconvenient.

It’s lucky that this dining hall is located on the College Avenue campus where there are tons of other food options because, unfortunately, it just doesn’t stack up against the other Rutgers dining halls.

Third place: Busch Dining Hall

I haven’t found Busch Dining Hall to be particularly memorable. The food is pretty good — not amazing but not terrible. There’s a good selection of options and definitely has more options available each day than smaller dining halls.

I personally don’t have as much experience with Busch Dining Hall, so I can’t say whether the food options get repetitive, but the nice amount of variety makes me think it would take a while for this dining hall to get boring.

But the setup at this dining hall is a little confusing compared to the others, which makes for a less convenient dining experience. There is a much further distance between the area where you swipe your ID and where you get your food, so it’s a bit more difficult to navigate Busch Dining Hall the first time you go. This is an extremely small detail, but some of the dining halls are just easier to navigate, so I have to take a few points off.

Overall, I’d say Busch Dining Hall is a good option, but there are still better dining halls to get a bite to eat.

Second place: Neilson Dining Hall on Cook campus

Neilson Dining Hall isn’t always the most interesting, but I’ve found it to be pretty reliable. The food selection is smaller than the other dining halls, so it can sometimes get repetitive coming here over and over again and finding the same food options. But since the food is pretty good, the repetition isn’t that bad.

Plus, the vegan desserts they have here are absolutely delicious and honestly sometimes better than the regular desserts, so that’s always something to look forward to.

In terms of atmosphere and convenience, Neilson Dining Hall’s smaller size makes it pretty easy to navigate. Despite the benefits of its coziness, when it gets busy, this dining hall can be nearly impossible to find a table due to the lack of tables available compared to the other options.

Neilson Dining Hall is a reliable, consistent dining hall. But while it's a good place to spend a meal swipe, there is one dining hall on campus that’s better.

First place: Livingston Dining Commons

Just like Brower Commons, Livingston Dining Commons lives up to its reputation — but this time, as the best dining hall on campus.

The food options are varied and delicious: From the burger bar to the fresh fruit station and the ice cream machine with a nice selection of toppings, there's something for everyone. The food is presented in well-organized sections, making Livingston Dining Commons easy to navigate. There’s something that just seems extra fancy about this dining hall, which makes it fun to eat there.

The atmosphere at Livingston Dining Commons is also unmatched. The fireplace and bookshelves make for an incredibly cozy dining experience. Though it can get crowded, there are also lots of tables here, and in my experience, it hasn’t been quite as hard to search for a table on a busy night as it can be at Neilson Dining Hall.

The combination of tasty food and incredible atmosphere makes Livingston Dining Commons the best dining hall on campus to spend a meal swipe at.

Of course, there are other places on campus that take meal swipes besides the dining halls, but if you’re looking for that classic college experience of swiping in and having access to unlimited food, I hope this guide helps you make the best use of your swipe!

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