Picture this – it’s past noon and you’ve just been dismissed from your 11 a.m. class. You didn’t have breakfast, of course, save for that protein bar you scarfed down before rushing out the door, which means that it’s time to eat some lunch.
You make your way towards Lenoir Hall and the line to swipe into the upstairs cafeteria is already out the door. That’s alright, you didn’t want barbecue tofu anyway. You decide to treat yourself, which means using a PLUS Swipe at one of the seven places to eat at the bottom of Lenoir.
It’s a familiar experience for most UNC students and one that you – future Tar Heels – will undoubtedly experience throughout your first year here.
Not sure where to spend your precious PLUS Swipes? Do not worry. Without further adieu, here is my ranking of the seven eateries inside “BOLO.” Does anyone else call the bottom of Lenoir that? Just me? Okay.
1. Mediterranean Deli
Trust me, I agonized over which establishment would get the top spot in these rankings. But the longer I sat on it, the more confident I became that Med Deli is most deserving of the honor. There’s just not much that this place does wrong.
The PLUS Swipe options are all terrific – I often find myself alternating between the chicken shawarma, three-item sampler and falafel sandwich. The main attraction of Med Deli would have to be its deli case though, filled with dozens of food platters including a colorful assortment of salads, roasted vegetables, pasta and more.
Med Deli doesn’t skimp out on the portion size, either. The friendly staff piles the sides on high and throws some pita bread on top to complete a box that’s overflowing with food. It’s enough to leave you satisfied throughout the day, but still healthy(-ish) and nourishing in a way that won’t send you into a food coma during your 3:30 p.m. lecture.
The existence of CholaNad is what gave me so much trouble when deciding who should get the No.1 ranking. I’ll never forget the emotions I felt when I first sat down and ate the chicken tikka masala with Indian-style mashed potatoes and chana masala. It was a magical experience for my tastebuds, and that order is still my go-to when I get lunch at this Indian restaurant.
Like Med Deli, the portion sizes at CholaNad are massive. Unlike Med Deli, the menu is very simple. There are three protein options — chicken tikka masala, paneer tikka masala and chili chicken — which can be added to either white basmati rice or lemon rice. Then, there’s a rotating cast of sides and naan bread to complete the meal.
I think of CholaNad as the perfect on-campus lunch during the fall and winter months. It’s hot, it’s heavy and it has a slow-burning kick that will leave you warm even in the coldest weather. Fair warning: you may want to block out a 30-minute period in your schedule for a post-CholaNad nap.
There’s not much I have to explain here. Chick-fil-A may not be the most interesting establishment on this list, but you have to admit that the fast-food giant makes an incredible chicken sandwich.
The downside is that a PLUS Swipe will only get you one combo meal, which is considerably less bang for your buck compared to some of the other options in Lenoir. The Chick-fil-A does offer breakfast in the mornings though, which can be valuable for those with an early class schedule.
4. Village Juice & Kitchen
Last school year, I was ecstatic upon finding out that UNC would be adding another smoothie joint to campus. Before, there was only Port City Java inside Chase Dining Hall on South Campus.
And while Village Juice is good, one PLUS Swipe for a 12-ounce smoothie is a hefty price to pay. When I'm in desperate need of a kickstart to my day though, I usually choose the Super Blue or Green Coco smoothies. The sandwiches and bowls are decent, but nothing to write home about.
This Asian fusion joint is not shy about overfilling your to-go box with food. It’s another simplified PLUS Swipe menu – choose between noodles or rice, then select the veggies and protein to add in.
When craving stir-fry, Sushinara is the place to go. However, I don’t think it quite measures up to Med Deli or CholaNad, which offer similarly large portion sizes.
6. Italian Pizzeria III
Listen, this is in no way an indictment of the beloved pizza place on Franklin St., but IP3 in Lenoir is just not what I need midday between classes.
The PLUS Swipe option is weak — just two slices of pizza and a fountain drink. As for the other offerings, the pasta is decent, and I don’t think anybody in the history of the nation’s first public university has ever ordered a sandwich from here.
I have beef with BurritoBowl. And I don’t mean literal beef, because I would never be caught dead ordering from this place.
Why is this place here? Do the patrons of BurritoBowl realize that instead of using a PLUS Swipe on one burrito bowl, they can get an infinite amount of burrito bowls upstairs for one regular swipe?
Okay, maybe I’m being a bit harsh. But seriously UNC, please replace BurritoBowl with something else.
Nevertheless, I hope this guide helps you navigate your post-class hunger and fuels many late nights studying in Davis Library. May your PLUS swipes last you the whole semester and your 8 a.m.'s never be without Chick-n-Minis.
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