As someone entering their final year at Rutgers—New Brunswick, when I heard about the opening of the Atrium on the College Avenue campus, I was extremely jealous of this new retail option for students. If you're near the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus, you can pop in and use one of your precious meal swipes at five different mini-restaurants.
The food ranges pretty wide, and they also offer similar packaged food items in the same way that Cafe West on the College Avenue campus or Kilmer's Market on Livingston campus do, but that's not what I'm focusing on.
After sampling an item from each of the five options, I've gathered my thoughts and opinions on whether the Atrium is worth your meal swipes.
I got two items from King's Hawaiian: the burger and the chicken sliders. While I was really looking forward to this option, it was one I was a bit disappointed by. I shouldn't be surprised that the burger patties were overcooked and dry, but they were, and somehow, I was.
On the other hand, the fries were absolutely incredible. I've seen a few different kinds of fries served by King's Hawaiian, but the ones I'm talking about are the waffle fries. They’re crunchy yet soft, and I really wish it was possible to buy them separately (but I understand that's likely difficult on a meal plan system).
The chicken sliders were definitely a step up from the beef sliders. While the chicken was a bit too nugget-esque, the pretzel bun itself was amazing. I do wish it came with sauce because it was a bit dry, so for this one, I recommend grabbing some barbeque sauce or ketchup packets before you leave. There are also six sliders in one meal, making this easily two meals and worth the price — especially considering there’s a side pickle as well.
This may have been my favorite mini-restaurant on the list. I went with their falafel pita as it combines two of my all-time favorite foods. Though the amount of tzatziki sauce can really vary (the first time, I was treated to maybe half a teaspoon, and the next, it was drenched), the toppings with the falafel and pita are all absolutely delicious together.
I highly recommend ordering this with the fry side, which are maybe the best fries in the Atrium. They're soft and chewy while still maintaining a crisp texture and are surprisingly well-seasoned. My new addiction is taking these fries, squeezing the lemon slices over them and dipping them in the hummus.
Falafel pitas usually don't run for $14, even with a side of rice or fries, but considering this is one of the best items on all five of the menus, I still think it’s pretty worth it.
I’ll be honest: Tacos are not one of my favorite kinds of food. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised. I tried the vegan tacos — now, fake meat is really hit or miss for me as a meat-eater but this impossible taco was dressed to impress. Dressed, specifically in extremely tasty guacamole and taco toppings.
With the cilantro and lime slices offered, each bite tasted fresh, which I was certainly not expecting. The meal also comes with a side of multi-colored tortilla chips that went great with the guacamole smothered on top of the tacos.
While this is certainly a worthy and delicious choice for people with a meal plan, three tacos and a side of chips are not worth $14.
Pi Pizza was a strange experience for me as its pizza occasionally reminded me of a cheese slice from Chuck E. Cheese, but at other times, it had the complexities of a well-made slice of pizza. I ordered the regular cheese pizza, and to me, it tasted like they were trying really hard to impress.
The crust was dusted in flour, and the taste of basil and oregano came through strongly. This was an average slice of pizza, disguising itself as something better.
For a meal swipe, it's not a bad deal, but considering it costs $14 without a plan, it's not worth it, especially when there are so many better pizza options surrounding campus.
Have you ever had mall food court Chinese food that you knew was not of great quality but that you still enjoyed? That’s what I'd liken Scarlet Ginger's food to.
I got the General Tso's Chicken, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it came with an egg roll, which was crunchy and super tasty. For this, there are packets of duck and soy sauce by the counter, so definitely grab someone before you leave!
In terms of the rest of the meal, the sauce was delicious, and the chicken made for a great bite — I had to go out and buy my own after the initial taste testing cause I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Considering the price of restaurant Chinese food and the fact that it comes with an egg roll and rice, this meal is totally worth it.
So, is the Atrium worth your money? That’s a tough call and really up to your personal tastes. One thing is for sure: It is certainly worth your meal swipes, at the very least.
Can the Atrium compete with the other amazing restaurants off campus, though? Not really. If you don't have a meal plan (like me), I think it's best to branch out and spend your money elsewhere. There are tons of great restaurants in the downtown area, just a short walk off the College Avenue campus, that are much better than the Atrium.
But if you are also like me in the respect that once in a while, you enjoy slightly trashy but nonetheless delicious and comforting meals, the Atrium might be the right call for you.