Maria Duan ’27
Hm … it’s almost time for dinner. Why don’t I check the dining hall menus to see where the best eats are? I always went through these exact motions, checking from left to right: Hoch, McConnel, Malott, and finally Frary. Without a doubt, Collins was always the one left out on my pre-dinner scroll.
I’m not sure where Collins, Claremont McKenna’s dining hall, received its infamous reputation as the worst dining location in the 5Cs. Upon arriving on campus this August, I felt like everyone, especially returners, had made it a goal to spread the word.
General statements about Collins usually go something like this: “Eh, it’s not bad, there are just way better options. Seriously, what is CMC doing with all that endowment money if it’s not being spent on better food?”
Alternate versions of these declarations echoed through my brain chamber constantly until one day, I surrendered to them and unconsciously made it my own opinion as well. Fueled by my preconceived notions of Collins and (perhaps) the slight grudge almost every 5C student harbored against the other schools, I avoided the CMC dining hall for as long as I could.
It was only when some friends of mine suggested going to Collins that I first stepped foot in there. Upon entry, one can see the impressive array of food stations: one for fresh fruits and salads, two islands for other cuisines, and about three more sections on the wall. My personal favorite feature was the dessert corner; how could one possibly choose amongst such a wide variety of baked goods, puddings, pies, and ice cream?
Aside from an extensive range of food selections, Collins’ atmosphere also entices students to join in a meal. There is ample seating at almost any time during meal service, and the room itself gives off a spacious and clean aura.
Four sculpture pieces surround the building’s front, newly installed just three years ago. The style is very much contemporary and open to interpretation, much like CMC’s overall architecture. Malott may have been a past art museum, but only in Collins can you munch on your meal whilst admiring “Four Loops” or “The Enigma of Pleasure” from your seat.
I had always noticed the extra time slot of 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. that Collins offers food on the 5C Menu app, but I never really thought to explore it. Surprisingly, from Monday to Thursday, CMC students can come to the dining hall at this time to enjoy even more food.
This perk can easily be accessible by non-CMC students, albeit at your own risk, since the dining hall staff rarely checks for student IDs, given the immense rush of students. Between the freshly fried onion rings, cereal, cut fruit, and dessert bar, how could one not love an evening snack?
Lastly, CMC offers an alternate avenue for you to partake in their food: the Athenaeum, also known as the Ath. Located on the opposite side of the Hub, it can often be overlooked if one doesn’t take the initiative to find it. Known as CMC’s signature program, all 5C students, faculty, and alumni can dress up and enjoy a fancy and delicious dining experience accompanied by discourse led by some of the brightest minds in their fields.
The Ath has a different team of caterers that prepare food specifically for the event itself, resulting in an overall more tasty and comfortable experience. In terms of the discussion topics, CMC makes sure to cover a wide range. Recent Athenaeum speakers have presented on the American Constitution, the U.S. Military in relation to the Ukraine War, feminist discourse in mainstream culture, and various original works of writing and film. Although the programming is pretty extensive with a general run time of two hours, there’s a lot to be gained from the experience both gastronomically and intellectually.
Whether it be Collins itself or the other eating opportunities that CMC offers, don’t hesitate to give them a try; sometimes, the best things happen where you least expect them, even if it is at the notorious Collins.
Image Source: Ellen Hu ’24