My Davidson | A Student Blog Battle of the On-Campus Dining Locations at Davidson College

A group of students take a selfie together while sitting around a round dining table in a dining hall

Choosing a college with a variety of good food options is important. Emma Goldfarb ’24 ranks her favorite spots for dining on Davidson’s campus.

About the Author

Emma Goldfarb ’24 is a theatre major with concentrations in psychology and environmental studies from Farmington, Connecticut.

All hardworking Davidson students have one thing in common: a love of food! I personally crave chef-ing it up every so often by baking and cooking with my friends. My artisanal breakfasts are frequently composed of only the finest Keurig coffees, eggs with a slice of Kraft American “cheese,” English muffins with nooks and crannies baked by my lovely friend Thomas, scrumdiddlyumptious soggy Raisin Bran with communal roommate milk of indeterminate age, and straight-up plain uncooked Quaker Oats. For lunches and dinners, I feast on a charcuterie board of thoughtfully curated meats and cheeses (Lunchables Cracker Stackers), two-day-old bagged salad, pasta handmade by my personal chef Boyardee, and lukewarm meat, cheese, and sauce in crust, aka knockoff Hot Pockets. These are, of course, all locally sourced from the exquisite delicatessen more commonly known as the Food Lion.

Despite how mouth-watering my Michelin-star meals sound, cooking is a time-consuming endeavor and not always a practical option for a college student. Have no fear! Davidson Dining Services is here to save the day!

There are multiple places to grab a bite on Davidson’s Campus: Vail Commons, Qdoba, Wildcat Den, Commons Market, Davis Café, Summit Coffee Outpost (not part of the official roster of dining services), each with its own special quirks, pros and cons. As a rising senior and self-proclaimed professional snacker, I am here to give you the inside scoop about each dining location on campus.

Vail Commons

Want a dining experience where you can acquire a grilled cheese sandwich, pizza, tofu salad, waffle, yogurt parfait, custom Philly cheese steak, three cups of Peet’s Coffee, and various pastries, all in ONE sitting? Of course! Ah, yes! Good ol’ Vail Commons. Sometimes referred to as Commies, Commons is the main dining location on campus and a social hub for students, faculty and staff.

Commons is an all-you-care-to-eat dining experience for the price of one precious meal swipe. Arguably, this location wins in terms of pricing as you can eat your heart out as soon as you swipe in! Ever been in a dilemma where multiple friends want you to meet for lunch at different times? Well, if you’re on the “All Access Unlimited Plan” and Commons is open, you can enter and eat as often as you want.

Commons has a variety of seating options, both indoors and outdoors. Inside, there is what students call the “light side” (owing to the floor-to-ceiling windows that allow you to bask in natural light), which consists of rectangular, long tables, and the “dark side” (a cozier feel created by the overhanging entrance on the floor above), which has large circular tables perfect for group meals. Outside, there are many picnic tables with umbrellas where students can enjoy the fall and spring weather. In the winter, there are even heat lamps near the picnic benches to keep you warm and cozy!

You cannot enter Commons without bumping into someone you know, making it a great location for socializing. This is also a popular spot for department lunches, which are great opportunities to talk about academia while also bonding with professors and peers. If you’re feeling like having a nice little introverted meal, there are small high-top tables by the windows. I would NOT, however, recommend Commons as an effective study location unless you are great at maintaining focus. I have attempted to catch up on work while enjoying some immaculate eggplant parm and instantly found myself distracted by classmates.

Now, it’s time to discuss the best part of Commons. Drum roll, please…THE SWEET CENTRAL STATION! Commons is known for its dangerously delectable desserts. There are always 2–3 pastry options as well as an ice cream station. My personal favorite Commons hack is getting the mint chocolate chip ice cream (which some of my friends refer to as toothpaste flavor, but I remain undeterred) and topping it with Oreos from the yogurt bar. I also LOVE the DIY Commons waffle maker because first, carbs are great, and second, I get to feel like a professional pastry chef. Overall, Commons is a delicious dining location and the spot I frequent most on campus.


Do you ever just get a random craving for nachos? Well, don’t fret because Qdoba is here to meet that need! As the only national chain restaurant on campus, Qdoba is a fan favorite. Qdoba comes in clutch after classes, sports practices, club meetings or any other extracurricular activities, and it’s open until 9 p.m.! You can get your hands on quick-service burritos, quesadillas, nachos and protein bowls all under the Davidson meal plan.

As someone who has low blood pressure and has been instructed by my doctor to eat MORE sodium (no, I am not kidding), the mouth-watering salty chips paired with salsa and guacamole are a go-to for me. I can seriously polish off an entire bag in one sitting…they’re that good. Beyond the chips, Qdoba offers a wide variety of options for protein, including Impossible Meat for vegetarians and vegans. There are also seven different types of salsa at Qdoba ranging from mild to medium to hot for our real daredevils out there. Personally, I love the feeling of intense burning on my palate and opt for one of the two inferno offerings.

Qdoba chicken burrito bowls
Qdoba chips and dips

Now, the one caveat with Qdoba, unlike other dining locations on campus: there is no indoor seating and only minimal seating outside. So, if you’re planning to grab lunch with friends, I recommend swinging by Qdoba and then bringing your food to the Alvarez College Union.

Wildcat Den

Alright, a forewarning: I am going to be extremely biased as Den is my favorite lunch spot. A hidden gem on campus, Wildcat Den is located on the ground level of Baker Sports Complex and serves sandwiches, soups, salads, yogurt parfaits, smoothies, and excellent cold brew coffee (and I say this as a major coffee snob, caffeine addict, and employee of Summit Coffee). That cold brew leaves me wired like no other caffeine can, allowing me to conquer the day! Another benefit of Den is that you can order online ahead of time and then swing by and grab your food any time before it closes.

Wildcat den refresher
iced coffee and peanut butter and jelly

Now, since this is my favorite on-campus spot, I feel the need to tell you about my most-loved items. The Harvest Salad is spinach-based (yesss get that iron wooo) with a variety of toppings including sweet potato and CHEESE CURDS! As a (half) Canadian, these cheese curds allow me to satiate my constant desire for poutine in the form of a tasty and nutritious salad. Some of my other go-to choices include the SBR, which allows me to embrace my inner child with this elevated sun butter version of a PB&J, and let’s not overlook the chicken and waffle sandwich.

Alas, Den is solely a lunch location but this is probably for the best because I would just eat there all day, every day, if given the chance.

Commons Market

Basically Davidson’s version of an on-campus 7-Eleven, Commons Market is a convenience store located in the upper level of Vail Commons. Need to buy Kombucha, Airhead candy, deodorant, dried seaweed snacks, and tortilla chips all in one trip? It’s possible at Commons Market!

Commons Market, like Davis Cafe, has the best hours on campus, open late most nights. Many times, I have sprinted across campus five minutes before closing to buy a late-night snack for myself. Commons Market is also a great place to swing by for quick meals as you can procure chicken wings (for lunch), pizza (starting at 8 p.m. every night), sushi and various ready-made refrigerated meals. Granted, I have yet to try the chicken wings, but they remain on my pre-graduation poultry bucket list. In my mind, the messiest, most impossible-to-eat foods are always the best.

snacks on shelf
Wings on red checkered paper

As for the best part of Commons Market, you must try the cookies! Admittedly, I go absolutely feral for any and all fresh-baked, gooey, chocolate chip confections. Some have even gone so far as to say that I have a cookie problem. In my opinion, however, the problem is that I usually just don’t have enough cookies. Market is here to solve this vexing situation. Market’s cookies are so good that my friends and I text each other anytime we head over that way to alert each other if the cookies are there.

If I could survive by solely eating cookies, Commons Market would win Davidson’s Foodie Battle Royale. One-hundred percent.

Davis Café

I LOVE SOUP! I frequently refer to myself as a world-renowned soup connoisseur. How did I get this self-appointed title you might ask? Well, I made it a goal during my freshman year to sample every single soup offered by Davis Café, located in the Alvarez College Union. I can confidently confirm that the white chicken chili is the best.

Anyway, enough of my soup rant. Davis Café (more frequently referred to by students as Union) is the only location on campus where you can consistently acquire soup for both lunch and dinner, and for that reason alone, it gets 10 points on the soup scale (there is no soup scale, I made it up for dramatic effect).

Davis Café has freshly-made hot meals like burgers, sandwiches, flatbreads and grain bowls, as well as pre-prepared refrigerated meals, sushi and ice cream. Among my favorite menu items are the savory and spicy Cajun fries which taste very similar to Cookout’s cajun fries (Cookout being an off-campus eatery most worthy of its own restaurant review). My go-to late-night study combo is grabbing a Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso can and Dippin’ Dots ice cream and letting the copious (and some might argue concerning) amount of caffeine and sugar power me through any assignment.

Davis Café also arguably has the best location for socializing, studying, and overall people-watching as there are three floors in Union. I recommend eating on the second floor for more social vibes and finding a spot on the third floor to study (though there is some debate as to what qualifies as the third floor because there is a basement…SO, I’ll just call it the “top floor” to avoid any floor-related controversy).

Special Shoutout: Summit Coffee Outpost

a group of young men and women standing together around a wooden table with food

While not on the official roster of Davidson dining services locations, Summit Outpost, better known as “Nummit,” could not be left out because I am an employee here! Considering that I do get free coffee as a dutiful Nummit barista, I easily rank this as my favorite spot on campus. This dining facility (I guess we can call it that??) is not a Davidson Dining location per se; however, it does have food. Though some people may not consider avocado and almond butter toasts a “meal,” I, along with many other Davidson students, feast on these delicacies constantly. I truly believe in the promise of avocado toast as a meal. In fact, we sell so many toasts each day that we had to buy a completely new toaster because of the wear and tear to toaster 1.0. Technically, Nummit is described online as a “pub/coffeehouse.” I would say this is accurate because we have three different beers on tap as well as sparkling wine, to counteract your cappuccino from earlier in the day. Outpost is always bustling on Friday afternoons for “Friday night beers” for those 21 and up, but anyone can come in and join the fun ambiance.

You’ll find that both inside and outside, Outpost is a major social hub on campus. Many a student will claim that they are venturing to Nummit to “study,” but if you manage to effectively study in Nummit, I would be shocked; honestly, your performance would be award-worthy. Oh! I almost forgot to mention a major student favorite: Nummit Sunday brunch. On Sundays, we serve a variety of egg scrambles as well as fabulous French toast. It is always PACKED. I say this as a barista who has worked the dreaded Sunday Brunch shift. Do I like working it? Not in the slightest. Is it absolutely delicious? Yes.


This story was published in July 2023, and dining locations may have since adjusted hours. 

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  • July 24, 2023