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December 7, 2017

Berkshire is better

The typical college student, during their four-ish years here at the University of Massachusetts, will experience quite a bit out of life. Grueling all-night study sessions, Saturday afternoon football games, long hikes up to the Townhouse of Amherst Apartments for weekend parties and watching Quidditch games on the commons are just a few of the memorable practices that are forming this period of our lives. Although these are all important, the experience that will truly make or break our time as college students is clear: the dining commons (DCs).

The most important thing to clear up is which DC is the best. We need to remember that this is far from a blind comparison of Coke and Pepsi, but more realistically of Coke and salt water.

Yes, it really does matter which DC you’re eating at. Yes, there are drastic differences between them. And yes, I will persuade you in the next 650 words that the Berkshire Dining Commons is better than the Hampshire Dining Commons.

Before we even get to the actual food, we need to remember that atmosphere and ambiance play a huge role in our eating experience. The first thing you notice when walking up to Berkshire are the flashing lights and contemporary/modern entry way. On the contrary, the entrance to Hampshire’s DC not only sports brick walls, but also brick floor that screams, “Hello, and welcome to Shawshank State Prison.” Walking into Berkshire, on the other hand, is like entering a hip and exclusive night club that perfectly fits the aura of the Southwest Residential Area. Berkshire is able to capture the mood of excitement and fun before students even take a bite of food.

The first thing that one does (or should do) before eating is make a pit-stop at the restroom to wash up. A small but important point about Berkshire in regards to this hygienic habit: The DC sports automatic toilets, urinals and sinks. Hampshire on the other hand? Full on contact with every bacterially magnetic flusher and faucet that would give a heart attack to any mildly germaphobic individual.

I could spend the rest of this column talking about the superior ambiance of Berkshire. I could talk about how there are three plasma screen televisions that are placed so that no seat is out of eye-shot. I could talk about how the lighting dims and brightens with the onset of different times of day. I could talk about how there are comfortable booths – both party sized and regular – to eat in with friends. Heck, I could probably spend the entire column just ranting about the six-tiered rotating plate return that you never have to wait in line for.

But I won’t. Let’s move onto the food.

I don’t know if it’s the lighting, but something about the serving area makes the food just look better at Berkshire. In Hampshire, with the low light and high school cafeteria-style serving platform, the food looks mediocre at best. Presentation is key, and Berkshire displays its food wonderfully.

The main-menu meal is on a constantly rotating schedule, so you never see the same food two days in a row, or even two days apart. During my extensive field studies, I have encountered everything from buffalo wings, to shrimp scampi, to shepherd’s pie, to stuffed ravioli to full-out turkey dinners with all the fixings. Because all of the DCs share the same main-course menu, Berkshire can’t boast too much in it. But what it can boast is it “specialty areas” that remain consistent.

Berkshire has so many other great options that when the main-menu dish fails, your dining experience doesn’t have to as well. For the pizza fans, Berkshire has fresh oven-baked pizza with the wildest and most tasty assortment of toppings made all day. That’s right; you don’t have to go all the way to Antonio’s for your CBR (chicken bacon ranch) or Sicilian slice.

Berkshire also has a grill that is constantly pumping out burgers, seasoned chicken breasts and hotdogs right before your eyes. Not a fan of meat? Berkshire houses a 50-foot salad bar but a vegan center as well. This is something that Hampshire cannot claim.

If you haven’t been convinced that Berkshire is better than Hampshire yet, here comes the exclamation point on the whole sentence: late night. Hampshire closes at 9:00 p.m., but those of us on “college time” know that hunger doesn’t disappear when the DC closes. If you’re exclusively a fan of Hampshire, you’ll have to turn to alternative and more expensive means of food via delivery, which will take quite a bit of time. Berkshire fans don’t have to do that. The doors open for Berkshire late night starting at 9:30 p.m. running until 12:00 a.m. serving your favorite foods like bread bowl soup, “mozz” sticks and waffle Sundays. The popularity of late night has grown so much that fans receive a weekly message via Facebook with the menu.

So what are you waiting for? If you’re reading this and you’re in Hampshire right now, grab your friends and hit up Berkshire! (No financial incentives have influenced this writing, but some free meal swipes would be greatly appreciated).

Thomas Moore is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at tjmoore@student.umass.edu.

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