Dining Hall Favorites - Owens and Hokie Grill
When asked what separates Virginia Tech from so many other universities around the country there are many academic and social answers that are legitimate, but in reality, there is only one answer all current and former Hokies can agree on: the food.
Virginia Tech’s on-campus dining is one of the best aspects about being a student. Simply put, the food is amazing.
Virginia Tech dining consistently ranks in the Top 5 nationwide for best on-campus dining. Most recently, Niche.com, which compiles thousands of reviews for all aspects of campus life for colleges all over America for outlets such as Business Insider, rated Tech as having the #2 best on-campus dining in America for 2021. UCLA ranked #1. Coming in second may be considered an off year for Tech, as they have previously been ranked #1 multiple times in prior years.
What is even more impressive is that most of the high-ranking schools on that list are tiny, except for UCLA, when compared to Tech which needs to feed over 36,000 students every day. “Wait, off-campus students use the dining halls too?” you may ask. Some pandemic capacity rules have been implemented which changed things a bit this year, but normally that is correct. Virginia Tech is a rarity in that it is one of the only schools in America where the majority of students have a meal plan for all four or five years until graduation.
What makes Tech dining so good? The secret may be hidden in the fact that they are one of the only schools in America that doesn’t outsource their dining program to a company. Everything is done in-house for Hokie students by Hokie staff.
All that being said, we here at Sons of Saturday wanted to explore what meals are our favorites. So, this article will begin a new dining hall series where we see which meals transcend the masses to reach the peak of dining hall greatness. Will it be the London broil and lobster from West End? Chicken parm from Owens? Fried Chicken from Turner? Brunch from D2?
The first dining hall(s) we selected our favorites from was Owens and Hokie Grill.
See our picks below and try not to salivate too much:
Adam Rothe - Chicken Parm
Call me basic, but I'm a chicken parm groupie. I would plan my weeks around it. Get it with alfredo sauce, marinara sauce, or whatever, it won't dissapoint. Then there's the breadstick on the side to dip in the sauce... oooh I miss it so much. Other favorites include the Fantastic Frank and General Tso's (another Owens classic)
Preston Huennekens - Blue Ridge BBQ
An underrated classic. A home run every time. Most people know Hokie Grill only for its two chains - Chick-Fil-A and Dunkin. No matter what time of day you go there, it is bound to be a complete pop off. So instead of sitting in an insane line and missing your lectures, head straight to the back of the shop and get yourself a platter from Blue Ridge BBQ.
Virginia Tech's website says it is "a Virginia Tech Dining Services original concept," whatever that means. All I know is that you can get pulled pork, brisket, corn bread, and sides all in a single meal, and most importantly on your dining dollars. That is outrageous! I lost count of the number of times I ate here, and it likely contributed to my horrific weight gain Freshman-Sophomore year.
Pat Rouleau - Dunkin'
My relationship with Dunkin' can be summed up in five words. This Degree Runs on Dunkin'. This phrase happened to be what I wrote on my grad cap (with the help of one of my friends, Rachael). While the venue didn't change, my order changed quite drastically from when I started going there sophomore year to when I graduated.
The original order started out as a very sugary hot or iced coffee and looking back on it, I do not know why I did that. It wasn't until the following year until the lightbulb went off in my head to reduce my sugar intake. The go-to order was, and still is, a medium iced (or large hot) coffee with cream and sugar, which can be replaced with a caramel or vanilla swirl if I want to change it up. I also think one of the women at the counter knew my order because I was such a regular but I cannot complain about that.
Chris Himes - Chick-fil-A
There's a reason Hokie Grill's Chick-fil-A has held the VT dining hall championship belt since 1997. No need to over think this people, the grab and go Spicy Chicken Sandwich combo with Waffle Fries and an Arnold Palmer style half black tea / half lemonade to wash down all of the perfectly fried greatness is a guaranteed 100% return on investment.
Justin Cates - Chick-fil-A/Pizza Hut
Almost every meal I had here was an ill-advised combo of chicken nuggets and a personal pan pizza. This is of course the most effective way to ingest 1500% of your weekly cholesterol ration in a single sitting. It's hard to imagine a better example of peak 18-year-old food choices. The good news is that you can subsist on concrete and batteries at that age and be just fine. Oh man, I think I ate breadsticks from the Hut sometimes too. I'm sorry arteries.
Grant Mitchell - Chick-fil-A
Chick-fil-A dominates their opponents every time they take the field. A box of spicy nuggets with some waffle fries, Chick-fil-A sauce and a lemonade is the ultimate attack in the fast food business. All other stations in Owens and Hokie Grill simply wish that their feeble menu could provide what Chick-fil-A does 24/6.
Joey Robertson - Blue Ridge BBQ
Blue Ridge BBQ is highly underrated. You don't have to wait in a long line for it. It's really good BBQ and you can order it the way you want. It's very filling and comes with a good amount of sides. Overall a well balanced meal.
Robert Irby - General Tso's
This was like picking between two of my children (if I had children). During my freshman year, I ate General Tso's and/or Chick-fil-A almost daily. Ultimately, I decided to err on the side of accessibility, as I can still get Chick-fil-A whenever I want (except Sunday), but I would have to drive three hours to Blacksburg and find a random student to swipe for me in order to taste that wonderful Chinese food once again.
Ryan Wilkes - Tazón
This was a tough choice, but I went with what I get the most. A bowl from Tazón with rice and sriracha lime chicken is simply unrivaled and extremely underrated. I highly recommend trying it if you haven't before as this is a Hokie meal that isn't talked about nearly enough.
Taylor Caskey - Chicken Parm
While chicken parm is debatably the best dish on campus, I particularly like this meal because it brings back great memories from my freshman year. My friends and I would have our Twitter notifications for VT Dining turned on and always planned our weeks around it.
For us, this was something that we could look forward to and gave us a reason to all sit around the table together and feast on breadsticks and chicken parm. On a semi-related note, the desserts at Owens are unmatched. Whether it be the giant cookies, frosted brownies, or slices of pie, I am always bound to find something sweet that I love.
Billy Ray Mitchell - Fantastic Frank | Honorable Mention: Tazón
Ok, first and foremost this has to be settled. The chicken parm "thing" is blown out of proportion. As a proud New Jerseyan I sincerely apologize to anyone that views a chicken parm purchased in South West Virginia as the best they ever had. This is patently ludacris. I do admire the tradition, but don't let emotions take over your tastebuds. Anyone interested in recalibrating their expectations, please let me know and we will find a way to get you a Tri-state chicken parm.
Ok, now onto the review. I had a serious dilemma choosing between Frank's Fantastic Frank and Taźon's bowls. I went with the Fantastic Frank because the pesto mayo makes this sandwich just fantastic. Plus, it comes with a side of chips *that are amazing* and a pickle *the OG sandwich co-pilot for delicatessens that know what's up*. That being said, my honorable mention goes to Taźon. They are a fantastic Costco brand Chipotle where I would add double absolutely everything and go to town on a burrito bowl in the to-go box, but eat it there so you could shake it up; *power move for all you youngsters out there.*
For Hokie Grill I would SMASH CFA and when I had some time, Blue Ridge BBQ was a great change of pace for a Thanksgiving-esque meal or a taste similar to my pops cooking.
Danielle Panico - General Tso's
General Tso's reigns supreme... and it's not close. Zesty, tangy, delicious. I lived in Cochrane Hall my freshman year, which means I could've simply walked downstairs in my pajamas to grab food at West End, but NOPE. I would take the trek all the way to Owens just for my beloved General Tso's. It was never a thought what I would be getting at Owens. I like what I like and that is Tso's.