Around mealtimes, the Commons building has a magnetic effect on the entirety of the Bates community. The peaceful expanse of alumni walk transforms into a bustling superhighway of hungry students, and crowds zone in from every angle to get inside of the cafeteria. Whether it’s because of its versatile dining options, the unity it fosters by bringing Bates students all together in one place, or its gigantic wall of cereal dispensers, Commons is truly a magical place for Bobcats.
To an inexperienced commons-goer, however, the dining hall’s bustling atmosphere and diverse food selections may make for an overwhelming first impression. Questions like “What to eat?” and “Do I use a tray?” (answer: don’t) and “Why is everyone clapping?” (you’ll find out if you drop a cup or plate) often circulate the minds of new first years. With multiple hot food windows, a constantly rotating menu, and college students’ personal dietary preferences to juggle, it takes some trial and error to figure out what will be your cafeteria staples. To help get your footing, these are some tried and true reviews of the best Commons meals and custom creations that Batesies love.
For breakfast, it’s typical to see some sort of egg dish along with sides like crispy hashbrowns and breakfast meats. A notable aspect of Commons breakfast is the omelette bar on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Students can either choose fillings to go in an omelet made by the hardworking chefs behind the grill or get fried eggs in whatever style they please. Jacob Pribilsky (‘23) claims that the biweekly omelette bar “keeps him going” on cold Maine mornings. Commons-goers can also get creative with their eggs, utilizing other resources to chef up their breakfasts to new levels. Sophomore Gabrielle Brewer would often concoct an “open faced breakfast sandwich with two eggs from the egg guys with spinach from the salad bar and pesto sauce on a toasted whole wheat english muffin” to start her day.
If eggs and bacon isn’t your style, there are bagels and spreads, oatmeal, fruits, and pastries (complete with an array of donuts from Dunkin’) every day. Some students like to build their own breakfast bowls, like Ella Lungstrum (‘23), who gets creative with her yogurt. “When I’m not having a slice of Borealis bread with raspberry jam for breakfast, I usually make a yogurt bowl with almond butter, granola, honey, cinnamon and chopped up bananas. Sometimes I’ll throw in a honeycrisp apple too,” she shared. And if you still find yourself stuck on what to reach for in the morning, there’s always the illustrious cereal wall, whose options run the gamut from grape nuts to lucky charms.
Lunch and dinner offer a much larger range of culinary options. Certain fan favorites will have students forming lines that snake laps around the food service area. Chicken nuggets and fries, mac and cheese, and lemon chicken are steady hits among the student body. The Commons Vegan Bar is also responsible for many popular commons dishes among all students, not just those who don’t eat animal products. The vegan pad thai and vegan pho bar have made legendary names for themselves among the student body. Parker Caswell (‘22), a student who went vegan during his time at Bates, ranked the pad thai among his top three favorites, alongside falafel day and vegan pizza. Other vegan bar classics like sesame nuggets (mock chicken nuggets made out of a sesame base) and malibu veggie burgers deserve honorable mentions as well.
When it comes to dessert, I personally rave for the Euphoria Cookies, which are chocolate cookies with white chocolate and caramel chips. Many others praise the Magic Bars, complete with layers of caramel, chocolate, coconut, and peanuts sat atop a graham cracker crust. Every once in a while, Kolaches, a polish desert made of a buttery dough piped with fruit jam, are served at the bakery window and are gone within seconds. Outside of the bakery, one of the most stand out dessert options of the week is the Sunday sundae bar, a DIY-ice cream buffet with a host of unique flavors and toppings. If you can’t wait all week to quell your ice cream cravings though, the soft serve machine is also available at all operating hours of commons, which lends itself to some crazy ice cream concoctions.
Dining at Bates is a distinctive experience. Not only is an ample amount of care put into crafting the menu and forming meals, with the college sourcing ingredients from local farms as well as attempting to draw menu items from cuisines all over the world, but also Batesies truly get excited about eating in this shared space with their peers.