Dining Hall Debate: The Best Place to Grub

Avery Bilanin ’24 in Features | September 30, 2022

From the V Form’s Abbott Dining Roomthat resembles Hogwarts’ Great Hall to the sequestered strobe-lit cafeteria where II Formers make first introductions and friendships, Lawrentians have various eating spaces to choose from. Students have very strong opinions on the quality of Lawrenceville’s dining experience, with their grade playing a key factor. 
III Formers, who ate in the Lower Dining Hall in the downstairs of the Irwin Dining Center for the entirety of last year, seem to generally express negative attitudes towards the place, with one critic, Kiah Smith ’25, deeming it “dingy AF. Lighting: bad. Chairs: broken.” 
      Yet Sophie Bilanin ’26, a II Former who dined in Lower during her first few weeks at the School, had only positive reviews, saying, “[Lower] provides a safe space for [II Formers] to get to know each other and become accustomed to this dining setting.” While admitting that Lower could sometimes be an enjoyable experience, Smith’s argument against the dining hall was bolstered by the lack of a wok bar.
The presence of a wok bar is a critical part of the dining experience for many Lawrencians. If you have the patience to wait through the long line and the expertise to make an edible meal, you may just find wok to be your go-to meal in the dining hall. One wok enthusiast who eats it every day, Grace Osborne ’24, said, “Going to the wok bar is my favorite part of my day. Recently, I have been a little let down due to the lack of honey in the wok bar. Hopefully, the Tsai [Commons] wok bar will have honey, and I will be back on my A-game.” When positing the possibility of no wok bar in any of the dining halls, the wok fanatic declared, “I’ll riot. I’ll actually riot.” This yearning for a wok bar in the newly built Tsai Field House’s dining center is part of the reason why students so anxiously awaited the moment they could explore the dining space. 
All returning students were eager to find out how the new Tsai Commons compared to their previous dining experiences. To the outrage of many Upperformers, Tsai Commons was opened to II Formers two days before it was opened to III and IV Formers. Having eaten at Tsai prior to most other students on campus, Bilanin was able to offer an exclusive preview of the new dining experience: “It’s like the same, but nicer.” Bailley Georgieva ’23 and Lindsay Lee ’23 were able to offer more details on the space. “[Tsai] has such tall ceilings! And a panini maker! And tall cups!” they explained. They were also able to confirm the existence of a wok bar, and many diners raved about the quality of the new plates and utensils. “Fresh pans!” Lee cheered.
V Formers, however, also mentioned uncertainty on whether the whole student body would be able to fit in the space, along with concerns about how loud and crowded it might get with so many students packed into one room. Another gripe with Tsai that Upperformers have is that “it kind of takes away all the things that students look forward to in [the] Abbott [Dining Room],” according to Lee. Getting tall cups and a panini maker is a big deal to a student who spent their last three years with tiny cups and no paninis. Even though Underformers no longer have to wait until their V Form year to enjoy these commodities, many V Formers are sticking to their claim that Abbott is the best dining space on campus. Although viewpoints differ depending on the student, the consensus on campus is a hopeful outlook for the quality of dining in the Tsai Dining Center and a renewed interest in how this new space will alter Lawrenceville dining culture. 
From the V Form’s Abbott Dining Roomthat resembles Hogwarts’ Great Hall to the sequestered strobe-lit cafeteria where II Formers make first introductions and friendships, Lawrentians have various eating spaces to choose from. Students have very strong opinions on the quality of Lawrenceville’s dining experience, with their grade playing a key factor. 
III Formers, who ate in the Lower Dining Hall in the downstairs of the Irwin Dining Center for the entirety of last year, seem to generally express negative attitudes towards the place, with one critic, Kiah Smith ’25, deeming it “dingy AF. Lighting: bad. Chairs: broken.” 
      Yet Sophie Bilanin ’26, a II Former who dined in Lower during her first few weeks at the School, had only positive reviews, saying, “[Lower] provides a safe space for [II Formers] to get to know each other and become accustomed to this dining setting.” While admitting that Lower could sometimes be an enjoyable experience, Smith’s argument against the dining hall was bolstered by the lack of a wok bar.
The presence of a wok bar is a critical part of the dining experience for many Lawrencians. If you have the patience to wait through the long line and the expertise to make an edible meal, you may just find wok to be your go-to meal in the dining hall. One wok enthusiast who eats it every day, Grace Osborne ’24, said, “Going to the wok bar is my favorite part of my day. Recently, I have been a little let down due to the lack of honey in the wok bar. Hopefully, the Tsai [Commons] wok bar will have honey, and I will be back on my A-game.” When positing the possibility of no wok bar in any of the dining halls, the wok fanatic declared, “I’ll riot. I’ll actually riot.” This yearning for a wok bar in the newly built Tsai Field House’s dining center is part of the reason why students so anxiously awaited the moment they could explore the dining space. 
All returning students were eager to find out how the new Tsai Commons compared to their previous dining experiences. To the outrage of many Upperformers, Tsai Commons was opened to II Formers two days before it was opened to III and IV Formers. Having eaten at Tsai prior to most other students on campus, Bilanin was able to offer an exclusive preview of the new dining experience: “It’s like the same, but nicer.” Bailley Georgieva ’23 and Lindsay Lee ’23 were able to offer more details on the space. “[Tsai] has such tall ceilings! And a panini maker! And tall cups!” they explained. They were also able to confirm the existence of a wok bar, and many diners raved about the quality of the new plates and utensils. “Fresh pans!” Lee cheered.
V Formers, however, also mentioned uncertainty on whether the whole student body would be able to fit in the space, along with concerns about how loud and crowded it might get with so many students packed into one room. Another gripe with Tsai that Upperformers have is that “it kind of takes away all the things that students look forward to in [the] Abbott [Dining Room],” according to Lee. Getting tall cups and a panini maker is a big deal to a student who spent their last three years with tiny cups and no paninis. Even though Underformers no longer have to wait until their V Form year to enjoy these commodities, many V Formers are sticking to their claim that Abbott is the best dining space on campus. Although viewpoints differ depending on the student, the consensus on campus is a hopeful outlook for the quality of dining in the Tsai Dining Center and a renewed interest in how this new space will alter Lawrenceville dining culture.