What’s It Like to Eat in Grinnell’s Dining Hall?

April 13, 2020

By Marnie Monogue ’21

I had a lot of questions about the Grinnell College experience before I arrived on campus for New Student Orientation, and some of the most pressing involved food. What if I didn’t like anything in the dining hall? Would I find anyone with whom I could sit? What if it all just tastes bad in general?! Luckily, those fears were totally unfounded, and eating at Grinnell has been an easy, and sometimes even enlightening, experience.

The Marketplace Dining Hall, better known to Grinnellians as D-Hall, is both a hub for social activity and the main source of sustenance for students on campus. Although some prospective students express fear that having only one dining hall on campus means choices for meals are limited, the D-Hall hosts a wide variety of options and takes dietary restrictions into account. All first-years are required to be on the full meal plan during their first semester at Grinnell, so it’s definitely a good idea to get familiar with all available options!

I’m a pescatarian, so my dining options are understandably more limited than someone who eats all forms of meat, but I’ve never had trouble finding something to eat in D-Hall. I’ve actually been exposed to lots more different kinds of food from what I would normally eat at home — I’ve discovered that I really love vegan meals like couscous with raisins, tofu tikka masala, and eggplant pizza.

Since going to D-Hall is one of the central parts of my day, let me give you a quick glimpse of my routine through food!

Breakfast After Your First-Year Tutorial

As my time at Grinnell has carried on, I go to the D-Hall for breakfast less often. However, it’s a great idea to eat breakfast after your early-morning tutorial during your first semester! The D-Hall regularly serves traditional American breakfast foods such as eggs-to-order, sausage, waffles, pancakes, oatmeal, and tofu scramble as well as reliable standbys like bagels, toast, yogurt, and a fully stocked cereal bar. This morning I had a protein bar and a clementine from my dorm room, but I also treated myself to a hot chai from the Spencer Grill.

The Grill is campus’s secondary option for student dining as well as a great place to hang out, work on homework, and chat with friends. The Grill serves hot food during daytime hours as well as snacks, baked goods, and hot and cold beverages. Students can pay with cash, campus cash, or dining dollars. Dining dollars are included with certain meal plan options and can be redeemed at the Grill by swiping your Pioneer One-Card, better known as your P-Card.

Here’s to the Grinnellians Who Lunch

Marnie's lunch a spinach salad, a turnover, a green apple, and a dessert bar
Marnie’s lunch one February day included a vegan, chickpea samosa and a white chocolate snickerdoodle bar

At some point during the late morning, I always check NetNutrition online to see what’s available for lunch and dinner in the D-Hall. NetNutrition is the online software Grinnell College uses to help students meet nutritional goals, manage food allergies and dietary restrictions, and plan meals for the week.

After my morning seminar, I went to D-Hall during the noon rush hour and got in line for mac and cheese from the plat du jour station, which is always a popular favorite. I also scooped a serving of sugar snap peas and a smaller serving of waffle fries from the Honor G Grill station. The D-Hall has a full array of fountain drinks as well as whole, skim, and chocolate milk, but I usually just drink water. Self-serve tea and coffee are also available and great for a caffeine boost.

Mealtime Is Connection Time

Outside of class time and extracurricular activities, mealtimes in the D-Hall are my main social hour. I’m guaranteed to see someone I know standing in line or sitting at a table even if I don’t go to the D-Hall during my regular times. A few of my friends and I even have a group chat to coordinate mealtimes so we have the chance to catch up on weekdays.

If you ever don’t feel like socializing in the D-Hall, that’s okay too! Sometimes when I have to eat quickly, I sit at one of the two-person tables overlooking Mac Field. These tables are also great for catching up with a friend one-on-one, hence why Grinnellians call them “date tables”!

Dinner Is Served!

I always make sure to block out enough time in my schedule to eat dinner before going to rehearsal or any other post-class extracurriculars. I often end up eating with the people who are also heading to those after-dinner activities! Today, I ate dirty rice, a spinach salad, and green beans from the vegan special — plus, I caved and had to get a serving of my absolute favorite Honor G Grill offering, mojo fries. I was in a rush to get to rehearsal in Bucksbaum tonight, so I didn’t grab any dessert; but any Grinnellian on campus will tell you that D-Hall desserts are unmatched.

Some of my personal favorites include the salted caramel butter bars, Bailey’s Irish Cream bundt cake, and scotcheroos. By the way, I always thought people across the United States were familiar with scotcheroos, but it turns out they’re a uniquely Midwestern delicacy! D-Hall also always has self-serve ice cream available in four different flavors at a time on a rotating basis. In my (somewhat controversial) opinion, the best flavors are cinnamon and peppermint.

You don’t have to wait until your first visit to Grinnell to check out the D-Hall. Grinnell’s dining plan options and NetNutrition site are available to peruse any time you please!


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