Ozzi Score: 5/5
Allison Dining Hall, or as we affectionately refer to her, the only dining hall that has to worry about Biden’s tax plan, is the gem of South Campus. Our first trip to Allison was jarring, to say the least. As we scanned our wildcards and picked up our gold-plated Ozzis, the humble green walls of Sarge faded from memory and the mist cleared to reveal a strikingly beautiful dining space that made me realize why my tuition is so expensive.
Allison dwarfs the other dining halls both in size and overall flair. Features unique to Allison include an herb garden, well-spaced out food options, and most importantly a MEZZANINE. That’s right, there’s an indoor balcony inside this triumph of a dining hall. We were sure that the South Campus royalty dining in Allison could sense that we were humble North Campusers, because we spent our entire dinner looking around starry-eyed and hoping no one discovered that we were imposters in a mezzanine-adorned promised land.
In terms of the functional aspects of the dining hall, Allison once again delivers. The different dining options are well spaced out, making it easy to follow COVID-19 guidelines and minimizing stress. The seating options are diverse, offering the comfort of booths, the social ambience of high tops and of course, your standard table.
The vibes in Allison combine the social atmosphere of Sarge with the comfort of Elder and the tranquility (of lunch specifically) in Plex. Points of contention over Allison’s five Ozzi rating include the recent pipe-bursting incident, which contrasts Allison’s apparent perfection, and how ostentatious the dining experience is. I personally find the extravagance a welcome respite from my Bobb lifestyle, but I’d encourage frequent Allison-goers to humble themselves at Sarge periodically. Anyways, five Ozzis for ‘Fancy Allison.’ Well played, South Campus.
Ozzi Score: 3/5
Sargent Dining Hall, colloquially known as Sarge, was the first dining hall we visited. The lime green walls and “Talk dining to me” sign welcome North Campus students seeking morning tater tots or excessive amounts of pineapple. Sarge feels like a high school cafeteria: it’s a bit chaotic but effective at its job.
There are some serious perks to Sarge, including the food layout, which features all of the food options facing inwards in a convenient circle, the perfectly placed Ozzi drop off, out of the fray of the eating space and right next to the exit, and the customizable music queue, which is often dominated by Taylor Swift and 80’s music fans. From what we’ve heard through the grapevine, Northwestern students that experienced the dining halls in their former glory have described Sarge as “the place to be” and “the best dining hall on campus.”
We beg to differ. Although Sarge’s food layout is stellar, the vibes aren’t as homey or relaxing as we’d like, and the high volumes of students and low volume of seating options generate a consistent uncertainty about whether we’ll even be able to dine-in, discouraging us from seeking Sarge out for a quick and casual meal. The scarcity of chairs and the chaos of the food pickup area at popular dining hours can be stressful, and in an age of incessant stress, why subject yourself to more? Many of the downsides of Sarge can likely be attributed to the pandemic, but as freshmen working only with present experience as our guide, we have to admit the allure of Sarge has faltered.
Overall, Sarge scores three out of five Ozzis. The food layout is one of the best of all four dining halls, but never once have we felt relaxed while dining. Sarge has space to create a unique flair like those that other dining halls possess, but unfortunately, it falls short.
Ozzi Score: 4/5
If you’re on the lookout for a more romantic, dimly lit, 80’s diner vibe, Elder’s dining hall is the place to go. Elder delivers the perfect mix of Allison sophistication and Sargent convenience. The food is lined up fairly well, with all of the options in sight at once, but the lack of space in Elder results in lines getting very long very fast. However, this slight flaw is redeemed by the fact that there is a separate dessert section placed perfectly next to the Ozzi drop-off. In other words, after eating a cookie with your dinner, you can stop by for a cupcake on your way out. Also, the man serving food in the Kosher section is an absolute delight. Though I am not Kosher, sometimes I stop by just to say hi and ask what’s on the menu.
What stands out in Elder the most, however, is the booths. Unfortunately, the dining hall staff have decided to close the booths to lessen any risk of COVID-19 transmission. Just another thing that this pandemic has taken from me.
As amazing as the booths are for the overall Elder vibe, it is impossible to give Elder a perfect Ozzi score due to its dangerous placement on the opposite side of Sheridan. I know that Allison and Plex are also on the other side of Sheridan, but there isn’t a stoplight between Bobb and Elder. I risk my life on the icy roads each time I decide to eat at Elder, and I consistently ask myself: “Is it worth it?” Somehow, the vintage charm brings me back time and time again.
Plex (Foster-Walker Complex)
Ozzi Score: 3/5
Tucked away between the dismal COVID-19 quarantine dorms is Foster-Walker Complex. Plex is a quaint, welcoming dining hall with extra culinary precautions for those with allergies and dietary restrictions. Plex is split into East and West sides, which ensures that the allergen-free food options are completely untouched by the potentially fatal ones. The East side contains the Pure Eats and Kosher sections, while the West is home to Comfort, Flame, and Homestyle. In terms of set up, Plex is extremely convenient. With each meal option side-by-side, it is easy to make your pick. However, this seeming convenience can become a hassle as soon as long lines begin to form.
The first thing I noticed about Plex, other than the prime setup, was the hospitality. I was welcomed in by a kind woman who complimented my sweatpants. I have no doubt that this made my food taste significantly better, and if we weren’t in the midst of a pandemic, I would have absolutely invited her to eat with us. While I enjoyed brussels sprouts and faint background music, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a treat that is unique to Plex: Frosted Mini Wheats. While all of the dining halls have pretty solid cereal options, the nostalgia from this particular Kellogg’s product resulted in an entire Ozzi increase in Plex’s overall score. Unfortunately, Plex no longer offers a dine-in option, but if you live down South and want a quick pick-up, I recommend it!
All in all, we have to commend the dining halls for their adaptation to the pandemic, their great food options, and the lovely people that work there. There were perks to every dining hall we visited, and if you’re motivated to brave the cold and the 15 minute walk to the other side of campus, we encourage you to do a little NU food tour of your own.