In nearly three years at UConn, I tried out all kinds of food, ranging from several dining halls, to grab and go, to restaurants at Storrs Center and so on. There was just one place I had yet to try out, until Tuesday afternoon. That place is the newly renovated Putnam dining hall, servicing students in the Hilltop dorm area.
After renovations were completed and the dining hall was ready for the fall semester, I knew I had to try it out. Unfortunately, I never really had the time (or the effort) to make it all the way up to Hilltop just for a meal at a dining hall. Nevertheless, I finally mustered the effort and motivation to walk up the hill and grab lunch and see what everyone has been talking about.
While everyone likes having good food at the dining hall, truthfully a lot of it is pretty similar in quality, with a few exceptions that can make one location better than another. With that in mind, a big part of the dining hall experience is for it to look nice and clean while also serving at least decent food. Immediately upon walking in, I could tell Putnam had an extremely modern look to it. It was almost in-your-face with how modern the dining hall’s interior design looked. The windows let a lot of natural light into the building, while the paintings and setup of the tables, chairs and food stations made for a very open feel to the room.
Another first impression, and perhaps the most advertised feature of the newly renovated dining hall, was the staircase going downstairs where additional food stations and tables were placed to accommodate more students and increase the variety of food served. This was especially nice to see, since one of my favorite dishes from my Putnam experience was found downstairs.
As for the food itself, it happened to be taco bar for lunch upstairs so I figured I would try it out and see if it tasted any better than taco bar elsewhere. Although it was good, it was just another taco bar so it was nothing special. Unquestionably, the best feature upstairs at Putnam was the highly anticipated juice bar. The juice bar allows students to put several fruits in a cup and give it to an employee who will blend the fruits with a juice of your choice. I personally put together a cup filled with grapes, cantaloupe and peaches and blended them with apple juice. I had heard that the juice bar wasn’t going to be as great as advertised, but truthfully I actually really enjoyed the combination I made. Additionally, the juice bar always makes its own juice of the day if students don’t want to personalize their juice.
Downstairs, I tried out Putnam’s comfort food station, which included a grilled cheese sandwich with turkey and bacon and a risotto-stuffed tomato from the street section. The grilled cheese sandwich was as you’d expect it to be, and wasn’t under-grilled or burnt, which is a plus. The risotto-stuffed tomato, on the other hand, was absolutely fantastic. Although it’s a really simple dish, I was actually really pleased I went downstairs just because it was that tasty. I had never seen any other dining hall make it before so if nothing else, Putnam has one of my favorite dishes on campus.
All in all, I have to give Putnam four out five stars. Between the juice bar, the risotto-stuffed tomato and the overall modern look of the dining hall, there are a lot of positive features when it comes to Putnam. If there is something on the menu that you like, I absolutely recommend trying out Putnam and seeing what else it has to offer.
Chris Hanna is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @realchrishanna