Daily Meal’s recent listicle, “10 College Towns with the Best Food,” raised the question: Which college towns have the worst food? We scoured small-town newspapers, blogs, websites, free weeklies, chat boards, and student newspapers for data, seeking the lamest, greasiest, most average, or most boring things America’s college students come face to face with in red plastic fry baskets or clamshell takeout boxes. Here, in no particular order of badness, is the syllabus of shame:
1. Muncie, Indiana: Ball State University
The city’s official website lists Walmart as a shopping attraction. The same website also lists Baskin-Robbins under its grand total of four spotlighted restaurants, including “Muncie’s first Indian Restaurant.”
2. Ruston, Louisiana: Louisiana Tech
Not only is Ruston a minuscule town with little to do, it’s also semidry: Only restaurants can serve booze. Plus, one of the most popular student restaurants appears to be named Dawghouse.
3. Waco, Texas: Baylor University
Waco is so bereft of good restaurants that a local food blogger actually praised the food at Chili’s and Red Lobster. Options are so scarce that students routinely drive two hours to Dallas to visit the Cheesecake Factory.
4. Augusta, Georgia: Augusta State University, Augusta Technical College
Augusta is home to International Paper, which calls itself “one of the most productive paper mills in the world.” You like your meatloaf with a side of stench?
5. Gainesville, Florida: University of Florida
This tiny backwater, home to your reporter’s alma mater, is a snarl of generic sports bars with greasy wings and two-for-one pitchers of Bud. Florida’s bugs and humidity are horrifying, but at least you can usually console yourself with excellent Cuban, Jamaican, and Puerto Rican food and decent barbecue. Except you won’t find good versions of any of that here. More ammunition: The town’s longtime popular Chinese joint, located directly across from the university, was named Chinee Takee Outee.
6. Holland, Michigan: Hope College
Long John Silver’s and Pizza Hut are featured on the city’s official website. Did you know Long John’s specializes in batter-dipped fish? It’s true. Also, there’s a coffeehouse called Lemonjello’s.
7. Farmington, Maine: University of Maine Farmington
“Everything in Farmington, ME is horrible,” says tamerlanenj on the Chowhound boards. “Just a little warning in case you should find yourself passing through. Keep right on driving.” Seems the three best-known restaurants in town are a controversial soup place, a diner specializing in Sysco cuisine, and a pub that serves “universally terrible” dinner food, according to tamerlanenj. Not to worry, though: There’s also a McD’s, a BK, a Pizza Hut …
8. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama
It can’t possibly be a good sign that the town’s official convention and visitors bureau lists Bama Belle Riverboat under “fine dining.” Meanwhile, on the restaurant site linked to Tuscaloosa’s official city page, two of the five best restaurants in town appear to be a chain deli and a sports bar. More damning: The city’s newspaper doesn’t even have a dining section.
9. Erie, Pennsylvania: Penn State Erie
Dining options are so miserable in this podunk town that french fries appear on the plates of almost a third of photographed dishes reviewed in the local paper in the last few months.
10. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University
Aptly described by a wag on the City-Data boards as “just one giant strip mall,” this charmless city offers its residents an unceasing menu of chains (Applebee’s, Chili’s, two Quiznos, two Schlotzsky’s, six Sonics, and—dear God—18 Subways), undistinguished “cantina” Tex-Mex, and “college food” joints pushing pizzas, wings, and subs.