This list might spark controversy, but it has nonetheless been thoughtfully chosen so that all can make an educated decision in choosing where to eat on campus. 

#7 The Market at Heritage 

Whenever I’m in Duke Student Commons, I’ve noticed that the happiest students are those that leave the Market. I see their smiling faces as they hold their purchased tea of choice and thus, influenced by my peers, I walk into the Market hoping to obtain that same joy. However, the times I have gone into the Market, I never leave with anything. I’m simply not inspired to spend my precious flex dollars there. 

On one hand, the closed space is quaint, reminding me of the toy market scenes I played with as a kid. On the other, the lack of space could be the reason why I get overwhelmed by all of the options, pretend to look around and then awkwardly scurry out. 

#6 Paws ‘N Go

Out of all the dining venues that I would choose to be open seven days a week until 10 p.m., Paws ‘N Go would not be my first option. Still, I’m thankful for its presence. When I was homesick during freshman year and alone on the weekends, Paws was always there for me when I needed a late dinner. It wasn’t exactly a home-cooked meal, but the frozen vegan corn dogs became my comfort food. 

Additionally, while Paws has most of the same products as the Market, for some reason, I cannot resist buying the most random, unusual snacks and drinks at Paws ‘N Go. Paws introduced me to delicacies like Mochi, Chocorooms, Moon Cheese and Dipped Chewy Banana Bites. Unfortunately, I have noticed that the venue is not as well-stocked this year as it was last year, but I hope this will improve with time. 

#5 Hillside Grounds 

Hillside can definitely compete with Shalom Cafe. It now offers almost all of the same items, and with acai bowls and boba coming soon, it just might outdo Shalom. Located on west campus in Duke Commons, it’s the perfect place to meet up with friends after Monday and Wednesday chapel. 

Also, Hillside’s GrubHub images are much more enticing compared to Shalom’s. However, Hillside Grounds does not give me the same welcoming coffee shop vibes — maybe it’s my sensitivity to Duke Common’s air conditioning. Although Hillside’s service is great, its atmosphere feels a bit cold.

#4 Cougar’s Den Cafe 

I have to admit that I’m sentimentally attached to the Den. Not only have I made several friends there, but the Den gave me one of my first crash courses on adulting. 

During freshman year, when I had a lower meal plan, the Den was where I learned all I needed to know about budgeting. A hot dog (oh how I miss those hot dogs), half fruit and half fries was my go-to meal when my dining points ran low. I could always find the cheapest combination to fill me up. Plus, the workers always knew what I wanted. They knew my name, they knew my favorite fruits in the fruit salad and they knew the way I liked my hot dogs made. 

When I walked into the Den again for the first time this semester, I was saddened to find out it became a GrubHub-only venue. Another disappointment came when I learned that the Den no longer served breakfast. My heart breaks for those who have never tried the Den’s croissant breakfast sandwiches during a cool, peaceful morning. 

I no longer eat at the Den as often as I used to, but friends report to me that their food is greasier than the Grill (the near replica of the Den). I’ve also been told the wait times are longer than most dining services. 

With all that said, nothing will ever beat the variety of homemade pizzas Cougar’s Den makes. In fact, I think I’ll take a writing break to GrubHub a margarita pizza right now!

#3 Shalom Cafe 

When I walk into Shalom Cafe, I feel fully recognized and welcomed into the Shalom community. There might not be any seating in this cafe, but after receiving my friendly greetings for the morning, I’m ready to take my vanilla milk steamer and face the day. 

The service at this venue is simply unbeatable; it’s speedy and personal. Workers there will often ask me what I would like while I am still waiting in line, so by the time I make my purchase, the drink is in my hands. 

Additionally, because it is next to Cougar Walk, I’m always tempted to spend my flex dollars. When I study outside and it gets hot, I grab a refresher. When winter comes, Shalom allows me to stay outside with a warm drink. My one complaint is that Shalom isn’t open after Kaleo. After Kaleo, before I face my stack of homework, is when I need a cold brew with cold foam the most. 

#2 The Grill 

My first impression of the Grill was not good. I waited 45 minutes only to receive the wrong, undercooked order, and I wasn’t able to get a drink because the soda fountain flooded. 

Nonetheless, the Grill grew on me to the point where I eat there every day. It’s a miracle I haven’t grown tired of it. While the Grill mostly offers the same foods as the Den (with the addition of  Mexican where the Den makes pizza), there’s just something about the consistency of the Grill. The only time they stray off course is when they accidentally give me an additional side of fries when I just asked for fruit (they know my heart’s true desires). 

Speaking of fruit, the Grill is one way I find healthy options. When I feel like eating healthy, I get fruit and a burger with the added nutritional benefit of avocado. Lastly, while the Grill might have had its slow start, it now serves my meals to me more efficiently than any other venue. 

#1 1899 Dining Hill 

Sometimes you fall in love with something instantaneously. You’ll do anything to be with it, residing in its presence for hours, hoping it’ll pay off in the end. Other times, things steep in the friend zone. You attend to it only when it really needs you or vice versa. You take it for granted, not understanding its full glory. That was the dining hall for me. 

Last year, I went there only after multiple people insisted it would be good for me. I enjoyed it, but the ice cream machine was always broken, and it simply wasn’t worth my limited dining points. 

With the addition of meal swipes, however, things have changed. I’ve grown to adore it so much that I’m willing to spend my flex dollars on the buffet. I now spend hours there, just the hall and myself. There are some who wouldn’t think of eating alone, but for me, it’s the perfect place to watch a movie or to do homework with unlimited treats serving as entertainment. 

What attracts me to the Dining Hall is how it takes me on a new adventure every day. I never know who I’m going to run into or what I’ll find to eat. I could be served Fritos one day and gourmet sushi the next. Sure, I could look at the menu, but with the wide variety of options, I’ll take a chance on the surprise. 

The Dining Hall may not provide me stability, with the ice cream machine often being out of service and the dessert table not always restocked, but I’ll take it. Most options are of high quality (though I believe the dessert was better last year), and it’s one of the only places you can eat for breakfast. 

The reason I love the Dining Hall the most, however, is that it’s a pure, American experience,  like having Thanksgiving every day. It’s one big family — the APU family — coming together to enjoy one another’s company and eat an array of food from all different cultures. No matter who you choose to sit with, you’ll leave not only with a full stomach but a full heart.