The Daily Digestion: Whitney is the dining hall you want to be your friend

Students eat at Whitney dining hall, home to locally grown, vegetarian and vegan-friendly food options. (Rebecca Newman/The Daily Campus)

East Campus’ Whitney dining hall has more personality than any other dining hall at UConn. That personality? In two words: vegan pancakes. But in more words:

Whitney’s fare is locally grown, vegetarian and vegan-friendly. Breakfast for Late Night dinner is presented in a curious lovechild a of a friendly Midwestern 24-hour diner and a bohemian café.

The coffee is 100 percent Rainforest Alliance Certified Free Trade. All coffee at UConn’s dining halls is free trade, but it feels more free trade in Whitney. The tea chest with bags of Bigelow isn’t exactly necessary, but it’s not unwelcome either.

Whitney’s eggplant zucchini tort is a creamy, substantial triumph. It’s unambiguously delicious. Eggplant wears the meat-substitute hat like a pro. Plus, in keeping with Whitney’s sustainability-minded locavoring, you’re eating cage-free eggs from UConn Egg Farms and Mountain Dairy milk from Storrs.

The roasted garlic braised chicken, from Coleman Ranch, is a hero of the local chicken scene. It’s properly peppered, caressed with garlic and ready to be savored. Take that North!

And the lemon and tarragon scrod is another act of critically acclaimed spice jockeying. It has a crunchy, slightly salty exterior but a sweet and sensitive inside. Like a grunge musician.

Whitney, uniquely offers Tofutti, a dairy-free, soy-based product that delights in subverting ice cream’s cold dessert dominance. The chocolate Tofutti basically tastes like chocolate ice cream but slightly less sweet. Pleasantly so, in this critic’s opinion.

The Vanilla Almond Bark Tofutti I took to be just a novelty, but after a few tastes - sweet, stylish with just a hint of almond tart aftertaste – I think they might be on to something. Eating it with granola raisin trail-mix topping felt distinctly Whitney.

Whitney also conquers Late Night without competition, thanks to brinner. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, starring the most reliable food edible to humans, which is of course, eggs - locally grown eggs. But this breakfast epic has a breakout deuteragonist: vegan pancakes!

Buttermilk pancakes are an identity crisis in food form. Are they a bread-approximate? Are they a midmorning dessert? Flaky, fluffy and insubstantial, but with just enough food content to give you a bellyache.

But not vegan pancakes. Vegan pancakes know exactly what vegan pancakes are. Vegan pancakes are more like wheat bread. They’re substantial and curiously sturdy, even though you weren’t expecting it. You feel like you’ve been treated without having been condescended to in the way buttermilk does.

Whitney’s personality is tons of pictures of food taken in various lenses and color schemes. It’s beekeepers, smiling farmer families with smiling dairy cows, happy chickens in large pens, unlimited issues of the UConn Free Press and three pictures of college-aged people in flannel playing guitars at coffeeshop-style open mic nights.

Above the dish return reads a quote from famous gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin:

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.”

You’re vegan pancakes, Whitney - and that’s a good thing.


Christopher McDermott is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.mcdermott@uconn.edu.