Touring AVI with Anna Silverman

Growing up, food has been my family’s love language and genuinely one of the greatest sources of happiness in my life. Since coming to college, I find myself imitating a familial type of love in introducing my friends to new foods and cooking for them to fill the empty spaces in my heart from leaving family traditions behind. As a third-year coming back to campus this semester after almost a year away, the food and dining culture I had previously grown to love has all changed. Both the pandemic and the transition to AVI Fresh have created an entirely new landscape for campus dining. No co-ops, no indoor dining, but a whole bunch of new options to choose from. 


In the past, I would share my dining hall tips and tricks with my friends when we got food together, and I got to cook for my friends and classmates in my co-op. Now, with to-go boxes and new safety measures, my expression of love through food has been suppressed, but I believe that the culture of food is meant to be shared no matter the obstacles. So here is my complete guide for navigating the current dining locations at Oberlin.


Before we start, let’s get on the same page. Here are the four essential ingredients for food-enhancement: 

  • Sriracha
  • Garlic powder
  • Sesame oil
  • Chili flakes

Keep these on hand in your dorm room at all times. They are staples of maneuvering dining hall living.

Clarity Dining Hall:

In my opinion, Clarity is one of the most consistently good dining halls. Clarity’s shtick is that it is allergen-free — so no dairy, no gluten, no tree nuts, etc. If I had to equate it to something, Clarity would be the vanilla ice cream of dining halls. Sometimes it really hits the spot but usually, it is simply just fine. Nothing that special, but a consistently yummy safe bet.


Lunch at Clarity Dining Hall on Thursday: Braised Short Rib Ragout, Potato Gnocchi, Roasted Green Beans and the soup of the day (Anna Silverman)

Pro tips:

  • If you see a sauce, always ask what it is and if you could have some. They sometimes forget to give you the sauces, and they make certain sauces to go with certain dishes. If you don’t get a certain dish, they won’t give you the sauce unless you ask.
  • They have really good homemade salad dressing, especially the balsamic. I always take extras. If they have the creamy pink or ranch dressing, I mix it with sriracha and garlic powder and use it as a dip for chips. Find them in the bottom left fridge.
  • Their pita usually feels like eating cardboard unless I put it in the dorm toaster when I get home.
  • Their soups always taste better than they sound. Get the soup.
  • I have not been impressed by any of the big chunks of beef they carve for you. Think corned beef, London broil, etc. Usually overcooked and underseasoned. 

Favorite dishes:

  • Portobello stuffed with ratatouille 
  • Thai green chicken 
    • Definitely not authentic, but if you don’t go in with the expectation of eating Thai curry, it is tasty and satisfies the craving for curry.
  • Chicken teriyaki 
    • More so chicken with sweet soy sauce and vegetables than teriyaki. Very good nonetheless.
    • I add a little extra sesame oil and sriracha to mine when I get home.
  • Balsamic glazed chicken with bruschetta topping and balsamic glaze
    • Circulates less often in the weekly menu, usually Sunday lunch. Take advantage of it when you see they are serving it!
    • Feels healthy, fresh. 
    • I’m not usually a white meat person, but they usually cook their chicken quite well, and the bruschetta topping adds moisture and tanginess.
  • Any bean risotto cake 
    • I know the concept seems bland and mediocre, but they have consistently been surprisingly excellent. 
    • Crispy on the outside, soft and light on the inside. Risotto lightens up the heavy bean mixture, making it well balanced and filling. Well seasoned too.
    • Get the sauce on the side or not at all — it makes the crispy outside soggy if you get it on top.
  • Vegan nachos (specifically corn topping)
    • Probably my favorite Clarity dish. 
    • Definitely doesn’t taste like nachos with real queso, but with a bunch of toppings, it is a delicious dairy-free alternative 
  • Braised short rib ragu with potato gnocchi
    • This dish reminds me of something they would serve at an overpriced bistro that upper-class white families go to when their in-laws come to visit. Interpret that how you wish, but I wouldn’t miss a short rib ragu gnocchi day.
Danny Valero, Staff Cartoonist

Lord-Saunders Dining Hall:

Lord-Saunders is housed in Afrikan Heritage House, and most of its dishes are meant to reflect the African diaspora. As someone who is a bit sensitive to dairy, I do not go to A-house as much as I’d like to, but when I do, I question why I bother going to other dining halls. When it’s good, it’s really good, but there are the occasional misses and sometimes not a lot of vegetables or tasty vegetarian options.

Anna Silverman


Pro tips:

  • If they are having a “special meal” — usually for holidays and such — it is always great and should not be missed. A recent success, A-house’s mac and cheese night during Melanin Mondays.
  • I believe every dining hall except Umami has meatloaf, and I have tried each one. A-house has the superior meatloaf by far. But in the end, it is simply meatloaf. So go for it if you like meatloaf, I guess.

Favorite dishes:

  • Banana cream pie 
  • Shrimp tacos!
    • They occasionally have both flour and corn tortillas. I would ask for corn.
    • When they have it, the Mexican street corn is so good. Not authentic, but creamy, rich, and delicious. I recommend putting hot sauce on it.
  • Nacho night is a must
    • Exponentially superior to Clarity’s nachos if you do not have any diet restrictions.
    • Hot take: Of the A-house meals that go in the regular weekly rotation, nacho night is my favorite.
  • Sunday night dinner
    • Duh.
    • I always microwave the mac and cheese when I get home and add garlic powder and hot sauce.


Azariah’s Café:

Azzie’s is the café in Mudd. It used to be where I would spend all my Obie Dollars on iced mochas and all of my time “doing work.” This year it is an empty café with much better espresso.

Avocado Toast (Anna Silverman)
  • Vanilla syrup has a superior flavor. 
  • Their cappuccino is superior to the latte. 
  • Oat milk is the best milk. 
  • I believe they use the same chai mix as Starbucks, so if you like Starbucks chai I’d recommend.
  • Their chocolate syrup this year sucks.
    • Maybe a “mocha” substitute could be hot chocolate with a shot of espresso? (I have not tested this yet.)
  • Avocado toast: My go-to order is to get the “everything” avocado toast.
    • What I add: red chili flakes and a packet of “Café Delight” lemon juice (found in Stevie and DeCafé — I always stock up). Lemon juice adds freshness that the premade avocado mix lacks. 
    • What I add (S-tier version): thinly sliced tomatoes and two fried over-easy eggs. Eggs turn it into a meal (I always get a dozen eggs from DeCafé), and tomatoes add freshness. 
  • When I use a meal swipe for a drink, I get a bagel with my remaining points. I store the bagels I don’t eat in a Ziploc bag in my fridge. I toast them for breakfast so I don’t have to leave my dorm in the mornings.
Danny Valero, Staff Cartoonist

Heritage Dining Hall:

Heritage is the College’s Kosher option now that the Kosher Halal Co-op has been permanently closed. Honestly, I do not go here very much because I have always found most of their food to be too salty for my taste, and their pasta is always overcooked and bland. But they do have a couple highlights worth mentioning.

  • Shakshuka
    • The eggs are nice and runny. Goes well with the pita they provide.
  • Chicken kebab pita
    • The chicken is nicely seasoned, a satisfying meal.
  • Matzo ball soup
    • Definitely not the best matzo ball soup I have had, but if you have a soft spot for diner-like matzo ball soup you will like this. Very salty though. 


As someone who grew up in an Asian household, it is so nice to have a place where I can consistently get rice dishes and noodles. I don’t think anything at Umami is necessarily great, but I feel comfort in the familiar flavors of soy sauce and sesame, and being able to get sushi whenever I want makes me

feel really rich.


A noodle bowl from Umami. (Anna Silverman)
  • Noodle bowl
    • I feel stupid for not realizing until recently that you can order noodle bowls. 
    • The noodles are freshly boiled and cooked well.
    • I think the spicy teriyaki tofu bowl is the best.
      • You have to ask for them to make it extra spicy if you actually want it to be spicy. 
    • I personally think their teriyaki sauce is too sweet, so I add a packet of soy sauce that perfectly balances the sweetness. 
    • I add extra sesame oil, garlic powder, and sriracha when I get home.
  • The tofu in general is great. It is quickly fried, so the outside has a nice added texture, and the inside is silky and soft.
  • The sushi is pretty mediocre, but I would say the tuna is consistently better than the salmon.
  • The crunchy California roll is always a safe bet.


Danny Valero, Staff Cartoonist

I hope you learned a thing or two from my dining hall takes, or at least got a kick out of my undying passion for food. Most of all, I hope I encourage other students to view food at school as a source of comfort and happiness. If you have any food tips that you would like to share, fill out this form!