…So Where Do I Eat?: A Guide to Dining at Barnard and Columbia

by Mariah Castillo

As Barnard students, we have a variety of dining options available to us on both sides of campus. We have access to Barnard and Columbia dining halls, but it’s important to note that each location has different times of operation and will take different forms of payment from Barnard meal plans.

Let’s first quickly review a typical Barnard meal plan. Meals plans consist of meal swipes and points. Meal swipes are your ticket into any buffet-style dining hall and are accepted in more locations, while points are the Barnard equivalent of Columbia’s Dining Dollars and are only accepted in Barnard facilities (Dining Dollars can be used at both Barnard and Columbia). Meal swipes do not carry over to the following semester, but points do carry over though they are forfeited at the end of the school year.

Barnard College Dining Options

Hewitt Dining Hall
By far the most convenient place to eat on campus. The food in the hot meals station is served by the dining staff so there’s little portion control, and the food is left out to be served until it’s empty so it can get cold. The salad bar and desert bar are both smaller than their John Jay counterparts, but both offer must-have treats from time to time. Hewitt has the biggest Kosher selection at Barnard and Columbia, and Halal options are offered as well. I personally like to go to Hewitt for Late Night (8:45pm-11pm) because it usually has really good comfort food and fresh fruit. The fruit and desserts always go fast!

Hewitt is always a safe option for Barnard students.

Monday-Thursday: 8am-11pm
Friday: 8am-8pm
Saturday: 10am-7pm
Sunday: 10am-11pm

Hewitt Dining Hall is closed from 3-4pm and 8-8:45pm everyday.

Food Rating: 8/10

Meal Plan: Can use both swipes and points. Students must use points to swipe in guests.

Seating: Always find a table with friends. On Friday nights, Saturday mornings, and Jewish holidays, one half of the dining hall is closed.


  • You can take out food, but you must bring your own containers since take-out boxes are only offered at lunch time.
  • When choosing what food you’d like on your plate, please don’t point and say “Can I have some of this?” There is a sign listing what’s available, and if you really can’t tell what’s what, you can politely ask before ordering.
  • The most crowded times are in-between classes during lunch (11am-1pm) and dinner (5-8pm), so plan accordingly!

Diana Center Café
Located on the second floor of the Diana Center, this cafeteria-style eatery offers different options from Hewitt Dining Hall. There is always a pizza station, a hot meals station, a salad station, and a parfait station. This is where I get my on-campus sushi fix (made fresh on Mondays!). You can also purchase brand name snacks and drinks, as well as cold lunches (pre-wrapped sandwiches and dishes). Breakfast is also served in the mornings, though due to my class schedule, I’ve never tried it. Rumor has it, however, that breakfast sandwiches (eggs, cheese, and bacon) are available before 10am for a meal swipe.

We’re not sure it’s ever been this empty.

Monday-Friday: 10am-3pm
Weekends: closed

Food Rating: 9.5/10

Meal Plan: Points and cash are accepted here (meal swipes can be used to purchase breakfast sandwiches before 10am).

Seating: Very limited. The seating areas in the Diana fill up quickly; I’ve seen some students even sit on the floor. Paper bags are available for take-out.


  • The Diana Center Café will reopen on September 3rd, just in time for classes.
  • It is really easy to use up all your points in a few sittings. If you want to eat here regularly, keep in mind how many points you have left. You can check how much you have at the register.

Liz’s Place
After entering the Diana, walk past the elevators and turn right, and you’ll find this little gem. A great place to get coffee in the morning and snacks throughout the day, it’s also a popular hangout spot. Before finals week, Liz’s Place becomes a stress-free zone, complete with snacks and karaoke every Wednesday afternoon! Liz’s Place brews Starbucks coffee for all you caffeine addicts. While there are similar, though fewer options to the Diana Center Café for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Liz’s Place is best for the morning coffee rush and in-between-classes snacks. The Anna Quindlen Room can be found inside Liz’s Place and is home to the office of the Student Government Association (SGA) at Barnard.

Whether here to study or sing karaoke, everyone loves Liz’s.

Monday-Thursday: 8am-2am
Friday: 8am-8pm
Saturday: closed
Sunday: 4pm-11pm

Food Rating: 7/10
Coffee Rating: 10/10

Meal Plan: Points and cash only.

Seating: Comfy but limited; there are several cushioned chairs and tables inside, but you’re more likely to find a seat somewhere else.


  • Liz’s Place reopens September 3rd!
  • The line gets crazy long in between classes, especially before and after the 8:40am classes. The best time to get your coffee is during a morning class time.

Columbia University Dining Options

It should be noted that Barnard students are welcome to eat at any of the establishments on Columbia’s campus, though only the dining halls below accept some sort of payment from Barnard’s meal plans. At all other locations, Barnard students must use cash (or have a Columbia friend willing to share their swipes and Dining Dollars).

John Jay Dining Hall
John Jay is the main dining hall at Columbia; if you are facing Butler Library, it will be to your left. The dining hall screams traditional Ivy League with its wood paneling and chandeliers but has been recently renovated. Some students say that the food in Hewitt is better, but personally I find there isn’t much difference. While Hewitt usually has better quality food, John Jay has more variety. There’s a salad bar offering specialty salads along with the usual toppings. There are also various hot meal stations and specialty stations with insane lines (omelet station, I’m looking at you). The drink selection is much bigger here as well.

It’s like dining in the Great Hall…sort of.

Monday- Thursday: 11am-2pm, 5pm-8pm
Sunday: 10am-2pm, 5pm-8pm

Food Rating: 8/10

Meal Plan: Meal swipes only!

Seating: Never enough. There are plenty of seats, but most tables are already partly occupied by students and faculty. You may have to share a table with a stranger or two. Sometimes only one seating room is open.


  • Barnard students have to pay $0.50 to get a take-out box (the swipe-in lady not-so-politely pointed that out to me) while Columbia students have that covered in their meal plan. I suggest you bring your own containers. Some swipe-in people are more lenient about this than others.
  • There is a specific method by which you’re supposed to throw away your leftovers. Read the sign by the conveyor belt!

Ferris Booth
If you have a class at Columbia around meal time, you must stop by Ferris. This eatery, while smaller than John Jay, is much more modern and serves more people. The salad bar, sandwich bar, and dessert bar are connected at the center of the serving area and always have staff on hand to take your order. The pasta station is my personal favorite; you choose what goes into the pasta bowl, which now also comes in smaller sizes. Only a few people can have their orders cooking at a time, so the line can get pretty long. There are also specialty dishes made every day, and the variety of food and drinks rivals John Jay. Very few stations allow you to get food yourselves; the salad bar, sandwich bar, dessert bar, and pasta bar are not self-serve.

The only gripe I have with Ferris is that it can get pretty hard to walk around the dining area during peak hours. The tables are arranged in rows, and there’s not much space to walk, especially when trying to balance plates, drinks, and utensils without trays (as are used in Hewitt). The upstairs dining room has more circular tables which can be tricky to maneuver around if all the chairs are pushed out.

Take the winding staircase very slowly when carrying food.

Monday-Friday: 8am-8pm
Saturday: 10:30am-2pm, 5pm-8pm

Food Rating: 9.5/10

Meal Plan: Meal swipes only!

Seating: Lots of chairs, though you may have to share a table with strangers.


  • Don’t see any chairs available? Check upstairs! You can also eat on the couches outside, though they’re almost always occupied.
  • It’s really easy to overeat here. A lot of good food is readily available.

JJ’s Place
I have only eaten here once, but I must admit, JJ’s is an experience. The ambiance is much different than all the other dining halls I’ve been to at Barnard and Columbia, complete with pool tables and TVs. Located in the basement of John Jay, you’ll find this laid back eatery makes you forget you attend one of the most stressful schools in America.

The food, however, is not exactly light. The burgers, wings, and curly fries fill you up pretty quickly, and there’s not much else that’s offered. I went a little crazy over the Jamba Juice smoothie machines, which are probably the healthiest option. This is one place you have to try before you graduate, but you’re going to have to work it off.

JJ’s Place: for when you want to eat like a bro.

Sunday-Thursday: 12pm-1am
Friday-Saturday: 12pm-8pm

Food Rating: 8/10

Meal Plan: Meal swipes only! Barnard students can only swipe in prior to 8pm, but once there you can stay as late as you’d like.

Seating: Tables and couches are scattered throughout. JJ’s Place is pretty small, but not everyone goes there on a daily basis.


  • Yes, you can turn off the TVs.
  • The pool and Foosball tables are usually occupied. You and your friends might have to wait if you want to use them yourselves.

Remember that these reviews are based on my experiences at each dining hall. I’ve been to certain locations more than others, and I prefer certain places more than others. I encourage you to visit all of the above and get a taste of what Barnard and Columbia have to offer. Happy eating!

Mariah Castillo is a sophomore at Barnard and the Food and New York Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of Columbia Spectator, Barnard College, Barnard College, Columbia Dining, Columbia Spectator, and Columbia Student & Administrative Services.


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