Brody Square Dining Hall: Don’t Call It a Cafeteria

Brody Square Dining Hall: Don’t Call It a Cafeteria

During my Mitten Trip around Lansing, I enjoyed a surplus of incredible options for meals, snacks, desserts, and any type of food I could imagine. I saw duck fat fries and crack fries; breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast; every mouth-watering shape and variety of pizza, coffee and, of all things, popcorn. One location really stands out above all the rest though, and it may surprise you: Michigan State University’s Brody Square dining hall is the best place to eat in Greater Lansing.

Those of you who have not recently been on a college campus probably think I’m crazy. I understand. When I was a freshman, the most excitement anyone got from a cafeteria menu came from the fries shaped like smiley faces.

All of that has changed. Universities are racing to provide students with the most unique, unforgettable, and supportive experiences during their time on campus, and the Brody Hall renovations, completed in 2011, pushed MSU to the front of the pack.

Brody Hall received major renovations from 2009 to 2011. Photo by Joel Heckaman - Awesome Mitten
Brody Hall received major renovations from 2009 to 2011. Photo by Joel Heckaman

Brody Square comprises almost the entire second floor of Brody Hall, and the impressively spacious dining area provides a nearly endless variety of colorful open, private, booth, café, and other styles of seating. It’s not unusual to see staff meetings in the conference rooms every weekday and family outings at the large community tables every weekend—not to mention the students that fill the booths with friends and laughter or coffee mugs and study materials every semester.

The welcoming nature of the space may be what keeps people there, but it’s the food at Brody Square that brings them to the door in the first place. Everything is intentionally prepared and made-to-order in plain sight, where it can meet your specifications and exceed your expectations.

A chef sautés vegetables for individual pasta dishes. Photo by Joel Heckaman - Awesome Mitten
A chef sautés vegetables for individual pasta dishes. Photo by Joel Heckaman

An executive chef oversees nine independent venues within the dining hall, each with a recurring item or concept, and the menus change daily. Homestyle serves American cuisine, such as rotisserie chicken and mashed potatoes, while Pangea and Boiling Point offer build-your-own stir-fry or pasta bowl, respectively. Veg Out provides vegetarian meal options, and S2: Salad and Sushi has exactly what the name implies. If you have any room left after your all-you-can-eat meal, Dolce features Hudsonville ice cream, smoothies, cakes, cookies, and other freshly baked treats for dessert.

Perhaps the only thing more notable than what and how Brody Square serves its students and patrons is where some of the food items come from. A few hundred feet from the entrance to Brody Hall, the student-run Bailey GREENhouse grows herbs and salad greens for the dining hall kitchens.

The Bailey GREENhouse grows food for the dining halls. Photo by Joel Heckaman - Awesome Mitten
The Bailey GREENhouse grows food for the dining halls. Photo by Joel Heckaman

Bailey Hall, one of the buildings in the Brody Neighborhood, contains The Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment (RISE), one of several residential communities at MSU. The collaborative effort of six different colleges within the university, RISE provides students a living-learning experience focused on hands-on sustainability and environmental stewardship. This includes opportunities to study, volunteer, and work at the Student Organic Farm, on the far south end of campus, or at the Bailey GREENhouse, which is directly outside their dormitory and classroom windows.

However, that is only part of the cycle. Pre-consumer food waste from Brody Square is delivered to the Student Organic Farm to be used in vermicomposting (the kind with worms). The resulting vermicompost provides nutrient-rich soil for the Student Organic Farm and Bailey GREENhouse plant beds, where food is grown and delivered to Brody Square for the cycle to start again.

So the next time you’re thinking about where to eat in the Lansing area, Brody Square provides more than enough reasons to say, “Go Green!”

Do you remember the dining halls from your college days? Let me know in the comments! Read today’s Brody Square menu, or read more about my Mitten Trip to Lansing and other Mitten Trips in other cities.