Every meal at Brien McMahon dining hall is an adventure. It’s an epic romance to bite into their samplings of novel world cuisine, a low-brow comedy every time you decide you really just wanted pizza or a sandwich after all, and a Greek tragedy to wait in line to return your stack of dirty dishes.
McMahon is at war with itself, amid a clash of the great and the terrifying, like Anakin Skywalker or Bill Clinton.
Their Tuesday night Texas Style Beef was quite probably the greatest meat I have ever tasted on UConn grounds. Not dry like North, not overcooked like Buckley and not drowned in glaze like South. It was a pleasure to chew; a satisfaction to swallow.
The Vegetarian Beef Moussaka, by contrast, deflated in my mouth and made me scared that I was somehow eating it incorrectly. As a beef substitutem it reminds one of a substitute teacher: lacking proper preparation and collapsing when you need it most.
McMahon’s single greatest contribution to college cuisine is its pizza. New Haven pizza is the only thing from my home county I get aggressively proud about, and McMahon’s thin-crusted, crunchy, lightly-sauced slices are the most convincing impersonation of New Haven’s greatest achievement for miles around. At least when they’re not crushed by the lunchtime rush.
The Deli Bar is the best of any dining hall. There are prepared sandwiches on display at all times of day, everything from the delectable Cubano to the classic bacon, egg and cheese.
The readily accessible toaster oven just makes everything better: toasted bread, melted cheese and piping hot meats can make even my shoddy ham, pepperoni and Swiss cheese constructions delicious.
McMahon, structurally, is beautiful to behold. The décor is sparse and modern, like the Space Age has graced Earth. All of the displays and sneeze guards work together to present each plate of food as if it were a trophy worth fighting for.
Even the plates themselves are beautiful. No other dining hall has McMahon’s same ceramic quadrilaterals with raised edges to lovingly cradle your dinner. They might be incredibly difficult to hold, but they’re so nice to look at...
The dining hall insists on preparing every single plate in stark contrast to the buffet-type environment at every other dining hall.
This is perhaps McMahon’s greatest downfall: the portions are one-size-fits-all.
Sometimes I’m going to want two slices of pizza and not want to carry two separate plates.
But also sometimes I just want to sample a little bit of everything (which the focus on international cuisine should encourage). Other times I’ll look at the food and really want some but know that if I go for all of it, my body will suffer the consequences and putting all of it into the dish return will make me feel guilty.
The recent addition of the conveyor belt to McMahon’s dish return is, however, a marked improvement. In earlier years those faceless hands behind the window always unnerved me.
McMahon is the Potemkin village shown off to incoming freshmen to get their hopes up before Buckley’s food or North’s rooms crushed them mercilessly.
McMahon was the first dining hall I visited at UConn. With its numerous wonders and just as numerous disappointments, McMahon still holds a special place in my stomach as the charmingly unreliable dream of limitless access to above adequate food.
Christopher McDermott is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.