A Foodie’s Guide to the U-M Campus: A Look at Michigan Dining, Best Campus Eats, Where to Get Groceries, & More

From the dorms to off-campus living, every college student is charged with accessing affordable, tasty food that also meets their dietary needs. Read on to learn how this challenge is made simpler at U-M through services like MDining and the Maize and Blue Cupboard.

By Maryam Masood July 20, 2021
July 20 blog post

When I started college, one of my biggest stressors was not living away from home or making friends, but what and when I would eat. I don’t have specific dietary preferences, but I’ve always been a self-proclaimed “foodie” and appreciated being in close proximity to a fridge stocked with my favorite foods.

For both those who choose to dorm or live off-campus, knowing where and how to get food is key to staying healthy amidst the never-ending to-do list on your plate. Whether you’re a rising first-year student or a well-seasoned Wolverine, look no further for a comprehensive guide to eating well on the U-M campus.

All About MDining 

As campus continues to open up in anticipation of a nearly fully in-person fall semester, MDining — U-M’s on-campus dining and facility services consisting of 12 cafes, seven markets, seven residential dining halls, a line of Blue to Go foods, and the Michigan Catering unit — will also return to servicing students with dine-in options, in addition to carry-out services adopted from this past year.

When I lived in the dorms, I had the opportunity to try out five of the seven dining halls: Bursley, East Quad (where I dormed), Mosher-Jordan (MoJo), North Quad, and South Quad. While I couldn’t possibly break down each of the five dining halls in this blogpost, here’s my quick take on the five: Bursely, MoJo, and South Quad are your best bets if you’re a picky eater and like having options; North Quad is a great place to stop by if you’re looking for a quiet place to enjoy a meal; and East Quad offers a great selection of healthy and sustainable meals.

If you have specific dietary preferences or allergies, you can find out what each dining hall is serving and the nutritional content of meals online through MyNutrition. Usually, each dining hall (especially Bursely and South Quad) offers meals that meet a wide selection of dietary needs, but if your specific residential hall doesn't during a particular meal time, you can find another within walking distance that caters to your needs.

Here’s a sample dinner menu for South Quad that you can view on MyNutrition — I haven’t expanded most of the food stations, but it’ll give you a gist of the selection and labeling at MDining:

M-Dining
Sample dinner menu for South Quad on MyNutrition

Snacks to Keep in the Dorm

Like I said, I rarely went hungry while I stayed in the dorms, but it’s still nice to keep snacks and ready-made meals on hand. This helps with late-night snacking or days when you're too lazy to walk down to the dining hall. Depending on your dietary preferences and whether you have a fridge, what you keep in your dorm will vary. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of overnight oats and Popchips. Some dorms have kitchenettes where you can cook or bake, but most are located away from residential halls on the first floor, so chances are you’ll never use it (and probably won’t need to, either, since you’ll have a meal plan). Regardless, most halls have microwaves in the community lounges that you can use at your convenience.

overnight oats
Overnight oats

Best Off-Campus Eats for Your Buck

Chances are if you live in the dorms and have a meal plan, you’ll never need to eat out. But if you live off-campus or want to try something new, there are plenty of off-campus restaurants to choose from. A few restaurants offer discounts through the SnackPass app for first-time orders, but eating off-campus in Ann Arbor can still be expensive, regardless of whether you knock off 10% or 15%from a meal.

My personal recommendations if you’re looking for your next meal without breaking the bank are basic, but still noteworthy enough to list: Chipotle, located on S. State Street, and Panda Express, located in the Union. In my opinion, both offer the most amount of food for your dollar. Another honorable mention here would have to be the free first-order bagel from Brueggers. And of course, you can never go wrong with a $5 Hot-N-Ready pizza from Little Caesar’s.

pizza
Hot-N-Ready pizza from Little Caesar’s

It’s definitely tricky to eat out off-campus while maintaining a budget, but if you do a little digging, there are decent deals and locations that make eating out more palatable for your wallet.

My Favorite Off-Campus Eats

If you do get the chance or have the ability to splurge on a meal, here are my must-try picks that you can find near campus:

  1. The Jerk Chicken Pasta from Jamaican Jerk Pit: Usually you need to order food from Jamaican Jerk anywhere from forty minutes to an hour in advance, but it’s always worth the wait.
  2. The Chicken Biryani from Madras Masala: In my opinion, this is the best on-campus Indian restaurant, though it can be pricey. On the plus side, I always have leftovers after ordering anything from here to save for another meal.
  3. The Spicy Tempura Tofu Roll from Totoro: The best sushi on campus, hands-down. 
  4. The Seafood Rabokki from Rich JC: If you can handle spicy food, this stir-fried rice cake/ramen noodle hybrid is my go-to order from Rich JC.

Abokki
Seafood Rabokki from Rich JC

Where to Get Groceries

The Ann Arbor campus is notorious for being in poor proximity (i.e. walking distance) to large grocery stores, but it isn’t impossible to access groceries. Near and within Kerrytown, you can find a decent variety of food items at the People’s Food Co-op and Sparrow’s Produce, though outside of fresh fruit and vegetables, it can be a little expensive. (Though I completely support shopping from your local co-op and farmer’s market if you can.)

Here’s a simple five-ingredient salad I made in my apartment earlier this year featuring veggies I bought at the People’s Food Co-op:

People's food
Salad featuring veggies from the People’s Food Co-op

If you have a car, you can also drive to the nearby Meijer’s, Trader Joe’s, or Kroger. Even if you don’t, you can order groceries from any of these grocers through InstaCart, although you’ll have to pay a small service fee.

Lastly, you can also take advantage of the Maize and Blue Cupboard, a free food and items service operated by U-M and stocked with perishable and canned goods, cooking products, and more, by scheduling an appointment online.

The bottom line: food is plentiful and available to you at U-M!

Maryam Masood

Maryam Masood is a junior in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts majoring in Organizational Studies with a minor in Spanish. During the year, she keeps busy as a student employee for CommonGround and Treasurer for the Michigan Refugee Assistance Program. Outside of class and work, she enjoys to travel, procrastinating at the CCRB, and is most likely watching Kim's Convenience or Criminal Minds on Netflix.