By Joe Bailey, Assistant Features Editor–
Food has become a point of contention at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, with certain aspects of dining life being criticized by students, while others are praised.
One of the best ways to gain an advantage in the cutthroat game of university dining is to own a car. Owning a car means you can more readily take advantage of Chattanooga’s wide array of restaurants, and, more importantly, grocery stores.
For students without access to a car, their closest options consist of UTC’s dining facilities, which vary in terms of quality and reliability.
Crossroads, maybe the most readily available option for freshmen, is often criticized for its inconsistent quality. But with inconsistency comes variety, and I think that it’s this variety which is Crossroads’ greatest strength. Students who want something healthy have the salad bar, omelets in the morning and the ever-rotating dinner options in the evening. Additionally, students unconcerned with health can always stick to the omnipresent burgers, fries, and pizza. Of course, there are many other options I could have mentioned, which is, in itself, a testament to the variety at Crossroads.
I would be remiss not to also mention the legendary pantheon of brand-name restaurants dotted across campus. These are familiar sights for most students, even outside of school, so seeing them here provides a kind of comfort. But this is not to say that they are on equal footing with their outside-world counterparts. Many have criticized destinations like UTC’s Chick-fil-A and Moe’s Southwest Grill for being below the expected restaurant quality. Even so, they remain a popular, albeit costly, option.
UTC’s answer to the lack of a nearby grocery store are the P.O.D. Markets. The P.O.D., while open most of the time, is far from a replacement for a fully featured supermarket. The food selection is more comparable to a convenience store or gas station (minus the alcohol and lottery tickets). This limitation is understandable considering the small spaces the markets occupy, but the undeniable shortage of basic healthy options like milk, eggs and fresh produce leaves mostly snack foods behind. This can sometimes make it difficult for students to cook substantial meals at home, provided they are lucky enough to have a kitchen in their dorm.
These aren’t problems with easy solutions, and most, I assume, are necessary circumstantial compromises. But these limitations might actually be positive if you look at it a certain way. A kind of subculture has emerged around these quirks.
This phenomenon can most easily be seen at Dippers, where an all around lack of quality is offset by a vibrant sense of community and solidarity in students’ collective desire for late-night chicken strips. The oft repeated phrase, “We out of wings,” can bring joy instead of frustration because of the understanding that it’s part of the quintessential UTC dining experience.