The Best Meals on Campus

The author (right) and her friend, whose dumpling had just exploded. Photograph by Georgia Wilde.

The author (right) and her friend, whose dumpling had just exploded. Photograph by Georgia Wilde.

Lucy Tassell set out to write a listicle of dumpling and coffee hot spots. Instead, she found out something deeper - the fact that nothing brings UTS students together like sharing food.

It’s said that more than any of our other senses, our sense of smell triggers memories. Certain scents are inextricably linked to times in our lives when we were at our happiest or our saddest. For me, the heady perfume of UTS' resident dumpling restaurants – soy, vinegar, sweaty plastic – will always remind me of happy evenings on the verge of catastrophe. At any moment, a dumpling could burst, sending fillings splashing onto your arm. A wild gesture could hit someone squeezed in next to or behind you. Beers wrapped in their brown bags could spill off the tiny table and into the narrow aisle.

My experiences here are not unique. Most people on this campus have visited what I like to call the dumpling district, the collection of little restaurants around the block across from the Woolworths. But more than that, every person at this uni has memories of meals with friends, little islands in the stressful and tumultuous ocean of academic life.

So when I asked around for the best meals on campus, intending to make a catalogue of cheap and cheerful meal deals, I ended up with a collection of memories. Instead of the cheapest pad thai in Ultimo ($7 if you pay in cash at Jumbo Thai, by the way), I found myself looking at the spots where my friends had some of their brightest moments at uni, a kind of heat-map of love and friendship.

There were some commonalities: we like an unexpected freebie, especially if it’s ice-cream. We find the Thursday night noodle bar an oasis in the desert, the fuel necessary to finish an assignment. We stumble into Building 5 on a Tuesday morning for a 9am class to find a queue of people lining up for free toast and coffee. We’re lured into the alumni green by the promise of free donuts, whether or not we’ll actually remember the census date.

Most of all, our favourite foods are shareable – pizzas at Penny Lane, jugs of cider and bowls of wedges at The Underground, pulled pork fries at Brainwave. Do we share because it’s cheaper that way? Of course. But do we also share because we care? I think so. I think you have to like a person a lot before you share fries with them.

When you look at the map below, I hope you find a new favourite spot, but also somewhere you’d want to go with your friends.  After all, as the girls in Madeline told us: “we love our bread, we love our butter, but most of all we love each other.”

  • Chinatown Noodle Restaurant

This place has everything: a violinist who plays the same 15-minute set over and over again, pleather chairs with no backs, and the best special braised eggplant ever.

  • Jumbo Thai

$7 pad thai if you pay in cash. Need I say more?

  • Soma

The best coffee north of Broadway.

  • Glider

The best coffee south of Broadway.

  • The Underground

If you haven't had a jug and a bowl of wedges with your friends at like 3pm on a Wednesday, you might as well go to USyd.

  • Brainwave Café

I think you can divide your UTS experience as pre-Brainwave and post-Brainwave. The pulled pork fries are *chef's kiss*

  • Bluebird Noodle Bar

In the Tower Building, 5pm on Thursdays during semester. So much free food.

  • Bluebird Breakfast Bar

In Building 5, 8am on Tuesdays during semester. So much free toast.

  • Penny Lane

Daily. $10. Lunch. Specials. Need I say more?

  • Café 10

Get in quick to nab $6.50 rice paper rolls before they sell out.

Lucy Tassell is a third-year Journalism/International Studies student. She likes comedy podcasts, Marina and the Diamonds, and over-committing to uni societies.