McGill University - New Residence Hall Cafeteria

Being able to dine in your slippers, and dine relatively well, can’t be beat when it’s -20° outside


The cafeteria serving McGill’s New Res, a former upscale hotel, has to compete with the bevy of student grub spots surrounding the downtown complex. It does so relatively well, largely avoiding the cafeteria cliché of warmed-over gruel and meats of debatable origin and vintage. Visitors first encounter a well-stocked salad bar complete with clementines, crispy noodles, dried red peppers, four different salad dressings and a nice lady who will prepare it all for you with pieces of shaved chicken breast for just under $6.

The cafeteria offers three sorts of sandwiches, all of which are prepared daily—though students can’t choose their own toppings. “Humans have been eating bread for 6,000 years” reads a sign on the counter; the sandwiches thankfully aren’t quite that old. The vegetarian selection, stuffed with cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes and veggie pâté, came together nicely once grilled between two thick slabs of 12-grain baguette in the panini machine.

The pizza at New Res is of the thicker crust variety, slathered with mozzarella and baked in a brick oven. It isn’t quite take-out quality, but close: a few more topping choices would be good. The adjacent pasta bar, meanwhile, prepares each order from scratch. The result is a choice of two pastas al dente in a tomato, meat or cream sauce. The accompanying salad is remarkably crisp. The roast beef suffers under an over-eager heat lamp—good luck getting anything but well done—and the rice, beans and sides are a bit limp. Anointed with a tangy red pepper sauce, the potato dumplings were as firm and chewy as they should be.

The grill offers cheeseburgers, steak sandwiches and fries, along with other student staples, ostensibly prepared on order. But the chefs probably shouldn’t be piling leftover cooked meat on the side of the grill: apart from being unsightly, whoever forks over the five dollars for a cheeseburger might not be pleased to get a warmed-over patty that might have first been cooked an hour before.

Desserts are numerous and some are healthy, but you’ll pay for freshness: a small bowl of fruit runs upward of $5 after tax. You wouldn’t come off the street to eat at New Res—you can’t anyway, limited as it is to residents—but being able to dine in your slippers, and dine relatively well, is a matchless advantage when it’s -20° outside.

— Martin Patriquin