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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

The Orion tries the dining hall

The food is plenty, the hours late and the price and convenience unmatched
Left side of table, Jenna McMahon, Nathan Chiochios and Jessica Miller sit with, on the right side front to back, Callum Standish, Molly Myers, Nadia Hill, and Grace Stark at Estom Jamani Dining Commons. Photo taken April 29 by a kind employee at the dining hall.

Imagine a reasonably priced restaurant, walking distance from your home with a wide variety of serviceable staples that your friends can meet at in 10 minutes. It’s an affordable urbanist dream and a student’s reality at Èstom Jámani Dining Commons

If you can find me a place in the entire state of California where you can get a main dish, a side, a drink and dessert for $10, — let alone all you can eat — I will treat us both to dinner there. The food is plenty, the hours late and the price and convenience unmatched.

The hallowed grounds of the dining hall are the battlefield and mess hall of freshman friendship. This is where dorm hall acquaintances are cemented into sophomore regrets. 

This is where students spend hours each day pouring over the minutiae of their lives, the goings on of campus and that damn RA that busted their pregame last week.

The dining hall is not merely a source of food but a place of great conversation and comradery. 

Molly Myers, managing editor

As a transfer student I never stayed in the dorms and I never got a meal plan. Still, any student without a meal plan can go in to the dining hall and pay to dine. They don’t check IDs, so I guess you don’t have to be a student? 

I got the bowtie pasta and mixed the alfredo and basil sauce. I’ve had this before. It’s hot and tasty. You just need to pile on the shredded parmesan cheese. 

Jessica, our food editor, was hella hating on it which really surprised me. I honestly crave it sometimes.

The fries are always good. I got a veggie-based chicken tendy and it was eh. I didn’t want to finish it and then I felt guilty about the waste. That’s another thing, the dining hall is a place where a lot of food gets wasted because it’s all you can eat and there is no incentive to finish your piles of food.

Next, I got chips with salsa, rice and beans. I thought it was really good and really salty, which I like! I don’t know, I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to food, especially with a lot of options.

The piece de resistance, the ice cream. Dining hall hack: you get the cereal bowl — because the ice cream bowl is too small — you put cereal in it, then ice cream and then go back and add the milk. Muah! This is my favorite part of the dining hall. 

The thing about the dining hall is that you pretty much always feel bad after. It’s just too much unhealthy food. Yes there’s a salad bar, but it’s the dining hall. I’m going to the pasta, chips and ice cream. 

Jessica Miller, food editor 

The Alfredo with bow tie pasta was mid at best. On the positive, it was warm and you can create your own pasta to sauce ratio, however, it tasted like the most basic Walmart generic noodle with canned pasta sauce. 

It is an essence of Alfredo, if you will. 

A true college student spread containing chocolate milk, pizza, Alfredo, chicken taco and cake. Taken by Jessica Miller on April 29.

I did proceed to eat the majority of it but with Alfredo judgment. You’re better off heading to Celestino’s if this is your meal choice. 

The pizza is the best Costco dupe I have ever had in my life. Excellent cheese quality and reasonable size per slice.

I easily could’ve eaten an entire pizza of this quality. Alas, I had too many other things to try. 

Thankfully, there was a saving grace of this meal as the spicy chicken taco graced my tastebuds. 

I consider myself a professional taco eater as a Northern California native whose favorite food is street tacos. I do not take my taco testing lightly. 

The meat was marinated in a lightly spiced salsa that gave the perfect flavor, paired with some of their toppings, it made for an excellent late-night meal. 

Moving to dessert, the cake was unfortunately horrendous. 

A blessing to the eyes for its cartoon quality but the taste was that of dried-out frozen … something. 

The best part of my meal was the chocolate milk. I would pay ten dollars just to stay for two hours and drink cup after cup. 

It is my favorite drink and around Chico it is very hard to find appropriately priced chocolate milk. The quality of the dining hall milk was fabulous. 

Overall a solid seven out of ten dining experience. 

Nathan Chiochios, sports editor

This being my first time in the dining hall in two years, I was very skeptical about eating here again. However, while it wasn’t great, it definitely wasn’t as bad as I remembered.

A spread of Buffalo chicken meatballs, chow mein with shrimp and two slices of cheese pizza. Taken by Nathan Chiochios on April 29.

I got the main stage meal, which was Buffalo chicken meatballs, which tasted pretty weird if I’m being honest, but the mashed potatoes were not bad. I got chow mein, which also had two pieces of shrimp. The chow mein was very average, and kind of tasted like Panda Express, but overall was alright. However, the shrimp was surprisingly good.

The pizza was easily the highlight, just like it was when I was a freshman. The pizza was the only food I’d eat, and it was just as good as I remembered. I put down two slices, and that was enough for me.

Nadia Hill, reporter 

Whenever I go out to eat, I usually order a safe meal of chicken tenders and fries and I did not stray from this tradition at the dining hall.

A safe meal of chicken tenders and fries. Photo taken April 29 by Nadia Hill.

The chicken and fries were just that — safe. The tenders were lightly salted, and the texture was the quality expected from any fast-food restaurant. They were quite filling and were put out fresh for students to self-serve. 

Without a doubt, the fries were the standout of the meal. They were thick, crispy, and seasoned to perfection, and they caused me to fail in my self-control as I devoured the plate. 

The Wildcat Sauce was the same as any other restaurant’s ‘special’ sauce, but what it lacked in originality, it made up for with a nice pairing with the fries. 

For dessert, I was craving a cup of vanilla ice cream. After sifting through the offered lineup of the world’s least-desired toppings that were too unmemorable to recall, I settled on chocolate chips. My expectations were too high I’ll admit. 

When I frequented the dining hall my freshman year, I remember always having the option for a candy bar topping, so that night’s selection bummed me out. 

Overall, the meal is worth the price, and the on-campus location makes it convenient. However, the dining hall favors variety over quality, which isn’t the best trade-off when you like to eat the same thing all the time, like me. 

Callum Standish, arts and entertainment editor

The vegetable chow mein was decent, with the provided chili oil it had good flavor and solid texture, but was cold. The onion and green beans were solid additions that soaked up the sauce well.

 In my time as a freshman in the dining hall, the pizza was very hit or miss — it all depended on the person making it. This evening the pizza was as good as the dining hall makes it, pretty standard and familiar. The cheese was nicely browned, and although the center lost a soggy battle with steam, the edge of the crust was crispy. It lacks umph, but is solid — imagine a really good frozen pizza. 

I was surprised to see “made-to-order” dishes on offer, and ordered a plant-based burger. Although the presentation was decent, the fake meat, likely beyond or impossible, was woefully undercooked. It made for an inedible, but tempting sandwich. 

For an always hearty and reliable meal, stop by the well-stocked make-your-own-sandwich bar, next to the soft-serve machine. There are myriad breads, veggies, meats, sauces and cheeses — including vegan options. The Tofurkey is a very welcome protein source for the on-the-go collegiate vegetarian.

The dessert station boasts a variety of options, and today’s white chocolate raspberry cheesecake was pretty tasty. The dark chocolate crust gave the impression of a brownie’s edge and the raspberry drizzle made a bright addition to the heavy slice. It was missing the characteristic sweet-salty tang of a good cheesecake and was a bit grainy, but really was solid. 

I want to briefly mention the self-serve French fries, which are literally restaurant quality. They’re hot, crispy, light and salty with a little of that mashed potato chew. These fries are textbook. From picky eaters to daredevil diners the dining hall has you covered. Also a special thank-you to all the staff, for working so hard to keep this machine running day-in and day-out. 

Ultimately, an all-you-can-eat buffet for this price is literally unheard of. On its own the food is 6.7/10, taking into account the value and convenience, this may be one of the better options in Chico. It earns an impressive 8.1/10. You could feed a family of four for $40, not have to tip and not have to go out for ice cream after. Where else is this possible? Do I need to repeat how good of a value this is? We don’t know how good we have it here.

The Orion staff can be reached at [email protected].

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