The classic food haunts in Storrs are comforting, but I can’t help but feel a tiny bit jealous when I visit other college campuses, especially ones as large as Texas A&M. This past weekend, I attended a student government conference at “Aggieland” in College Station. Sometimes, bigger is better, and such is the case with the number of dining selections at Texas A&M, especially when they’re quality too. There’s a cool plaza similar to Storrs Center — except, as expected, bigger — near the campus called Century Square, which is where our large group ate most of the time. Here are some of the restaurants we ate at in Texas.
Multiple people we met in Texas recommended Torchy’s, a proclaimed Texas classic with “damn good tacos” — they said it, but I would definitely agree. They have a chill vibe with neon signs, polished outdoor seating in a cool patio area and a fun menu selection of tacos and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. The tacos ($3 to $5), which are pretty good sizes and served on your choice of a flour or corn tortilla, have fun names and unique combinations like the “trailer park” with fried chicken, green chiles, lettuce, pico de gallo and cheddar jack cheese with poblano sauce; the “crossroads,” with smoked beef brisket, grilled onions, jalapeños, cilantro, avocado and jack cheese with tomatillo sauce; and the “democrat,” with barbacoa, avocado, cotija cheese, cilantro, onions and a lime wedge with tomatillo sauce.
I ordered the baja shrimp with fried shrimp, cooked cabbage slaw, pickled onions and jalapeños, cotija cheese, cilantro and a lime wedge with chipotle sauce on a corn tortilla and Mr. Orange with blackened salmon, grilled corn and black bean relish cotija cheese, cilantro and a lime wedge with avocado sauce. In short, both were insanely delicious — even though both had long ingredient lists, each individual ingredient served its purpose in the taco and made for delectable choices. The sucker punch drink I ordered with Bacardi coconut rum and fruit juices made for a tasty companion — flavorful, not too sweet and the acidic taste of alcohol was almost nonexistent.
Another fast casual spot, this time in Century Square, MESS serves up comforting and fun brunch food like chicken and waffles, French toast and mac and cheese. I ordered the lunch combo with mac and cheese and a cookie butter waffle. The mac and cheese had one of my favorite kinds of pasta shapes, cavatappi, and the cheese sauce was perfectly seasoned and creamy. The waffle was buttery and not too sweet, the cookie butter serving as the perfect alternative for syrup. I would definitely frequent this restaurant if there was a location near us. The people who ordered the chicken and waffles and French toast raved about their orders as well.
I always like pasta, even when sometimes it’s not the most authentic — kind of like how I love Taco Bell, but let’s be real, it’s not the most authentic. Piada offers quick, Italian-inspired options including piadas ($7.99 to $9.29) — an Italian-style street wrap — tossed pastas ($7.49 for a small, $8.99 for a regular) and salads ($6.99 for a small, $9.19 for a regular). The menu offers premade combinations like the chef’s favorite piada with spicy diavolo sauce, romaine lettuce, mozzarella cheese, sweet peppers and spicy ranch; a farmers market salad with mixed greens, red cabbage, feta, avocado, strawberries, sweet corn and tomato, glazed pecans and lemon basil dressing; or carbonara with parmesan alfredo, bruschetta, pancetta, spinach and grated parmesan.
This fast casual spot is smack-dab in the middle of Century Square, and I was able to order quickly and easily. I ordered a custom pasta creation with penne, salmon, basil pesto sauce and grated parmesan. Seeing as how the staff assembles your meal in front of you with pre-made pasta and sauce, it’s not the most well-crafted dish, but I wasn’t expecting an intensely quality dish anyways. Despite being pre-cooked, the pasta had a good texture and the sauce was creamy, although I wish it was bit more salty. They cook the salmon fresh, which is a nice touch that’s worth the extra wait. I would be interested in trying their alfredo sauce, although I don’t know when I would get the chance.