Best of 2020: OSU on-campus food

Freshman Jacob Yen orders at Five Four One at McNary, one of the dining halls on campus that offers a variety of restaurants.

First place: Panda Express

Oregon State University students and the Corvallis, Ore. community chose Panda Express as one of the top three “Best of Food on campus.”

Sally Wang, a chemistry student at Oregon State University, said she goes to Panda Express to eat Chinese food, because she is Chinese and wants to eat Chinese food, and likes the food that Panda Express serves, even though it is a little different than traditional Chinese food. Wang said “My favorite dish is Kung Pao chicken, it is a little spicy, though.” 

Panda Express is located in the Memorial Union. Panda Express is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Monday to Friday. It is a fast food restaurant chain which serves American Chinese food. Panda Express, like other locations at OSU, accepts orange cash. Students using dining plans, Mealbux and other food services that involve Orange Cash would be able to purchase their food at Panda Express with a 10% discount using orange cash. 

Panda Express was founded by Andrew Cherng and Peggy Cherng. Peggy Cherng customized the restaurant’s operating systems. Their first location opened in Glendale Galleria in Glendale, California. Their flavours are inspired by the flavours of Mandarin and Sichuan cuisine. 

Jessica Zou, a business major at OSU, said, “My favorite dish at Panda Express is the pepper chicken. I eat at Panda Express because it is near my classroom. I think the prices are not that expensive, and are cheaper than other places on campus.” 

According to the Panda Express website, in 2014 Panda Express earned $2.2 billion in sales and closed the year with 26 thousand associates and more than 1,750 restaurants. In 2015, the Panda Express group was named one of the best employers by Forbes magazine and is honored with the Golden Chain award by the National Restaurant Association.

Will Statler, a mechanical engineering student at OSU said, “I don’t think it is the best food of the world, but I think it is pretty tasty. I chose it over Joe’s Burgers when the line is shorter, and the price is not too big of a difference. It just comes down to what I am craving on a particular day. Sometimes I get tired of the dining halls so I go to Panda Express.”

According to the Panda Express website, Master Chef Ming-Tsai Cherng developed the original orange chicken entree for Panda Express, inspired by the flavors of Hunan Province.

Kevin Murray, third year bio-health science major at OSU, said, he eats at Panda Express once every couple of weeks, or when he did not bring lunch with him because he lives off campus. “I like the consistency, because you always know what you are going to get. It is usually the same every time. I like their teriyaki chicken and their orange chicken, I would say that is my favorite.” 

In 2013, Panda Express created an inclusion council and chose a chief diversity officer to increase the inclusion in their business, and each of the facilities of Panda Express has to foster an environment of inclusion and belonging to increase the opportunity and growth of Panda Express employees, according to their website.


Second place: McNary Dining Center

Off Jefferson Way on the east side of the Oregon State University campus sits McNary Dining, one of the many dining options at OSU.

McNary Dining has been serving the OSU community for 60 years. This year, it was selected by the OSU students and community as a “Best of On Campus Food” location. 

McNary Dining is home to a variety of dining options, including the Boardwalk Cafe, which features breakfast items, a yogurt bar, a salad bar and a stir-fry bar; Five Four One, which serves Pacific Northwest cuisine like pasta and pizzas made from organic ingredients; La Calle, home to tortas, custom-made sandwiches and late-night Mexican food; the MainSqueeze, complete with smoothies, frozen yogurt and snacks; and Raintree Coffee Company, which serves Starbucks coffee, Teavana tea and pastries. 

With its variety of dining choices, McNary offers a number of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and Halal options.

Tara Sanders, the assistant director of Nutrition and Sustainability, said the mission of McNary Dining is to provide food customers can feel good about. 

“We aim to provide nourishing food with amazing flavors,” Sanders said via email. “Our primary customer is our students and our role is to provide food that will help them thrive.”

In response to being selected as a “Best of On Campus Food” location, Sanders expressed gratitude for McNary’s dedicated employees, and the dining hall’s customers: the OSU students and community.

“We are honored by this title and owe it to our amazing team that is so committed to our mission,” Sanders said via email. “Thank you to our customers who inspire us.”


Third place tie: Marketplace West

Marketplace West dining center has served the OSU community since 1960. The dining center is named after Oswald West, the 14th governor of Oregon. Located on the west side of campus across from Cauthorn Hall and the intramural fields, Marketplace West is home to a variety of cuisine options, from Italian to Mexican.

A large and spacious dining center, Marketplace West offers convenient dining to students housed in nearby dormitories, in addition to the broader OSU students and community. 

Marketplace West’s dining choices include the Clubhouse Deli, which serves sandwiches, salads and soups; Cooper’s Creek, which offers breakfast items, grain bowls and classic American fare; Ring of Fire, which features a menu of dishes inspired by Pacific Islander, Asian and Indian cuisines; Serrano Grill, which offers made-to-order burritos and bowls; Tomassito’s Italian Cafe, which serves pizza by the slice, pasta and salads; and the West Side Grill, which first opened in fall 2019 and offers breakfast items, artisan sandwiches and build-your-own burgers.

Marketplace West is also home to EBGBs, a small market and cafe that serves fair-trade coffee, smoothies, snacks, pastries and ice cream.

Third place tie: Bing’s at Weatherford

Bing’s Cafe, which is located on the first floor of Weatherford Hall, serves a wide variety of drinks, including hand-crafted espresso drinks made Starbucks coffee, and selections of Teavana tea. Additionally, the cafe is well-known for their breakfast sandwiches, made-to-order sandwiches and wraps, along with their pastries and snacks. 

The cafe itself is small and cozy, full of couches, chairs and tables for students and community members to grab food or coffee and rest between classes or during a lunch break. 

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