Comparing dining halls at D.C. area universities

In some respects, the dining services at D.C. area schools are remarkably similar. You'd be hard-pressed to find one without vegetarian and vegan dishes, for instance. And some things never change: Even though schools have tried to ramp up healthful and gourmet-quality options, kids continue to line up for old favorites such as pizza, Buffalo wings and macaroni and cheese. Here are some details on that, plus other key things to know about the food services at eight area universities.

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University What's the selling point? Popular menu item(s) Basic meal plan, per semester (2010-11) Web site
American University Emphasis on "from-scratch" cooking using locally sourced food; no trans fats or MSG; hormone- and antibiotic-free meat and dairy; and cage-free eggs. Mac and cheese, fried chicken, meatloaf, pizza. $1,395 american.edu/dining
Catholic University Purchases locally sourced bread, dairy and produce. Taco Tuesday bar with homemade salsa and guacamole. $2,399 dining.cua.edu
George Mason University 2010 Whole Grains Challenge winner for providing whole-grain options at every meal. Pizza. $1,325 dining.gmu.edu
George Washington University All-you-care-to-eat Sunday brunch and Sunday-night dinners. Emphasis on flexibility and convenience, as well as easy access to off-campus options. $6.99 "Buff & blue"-plate special, often prepared by local guest chefs. $1,700 gworlddining.com
Georgetown University Popular meal plan; nearly half of total sales are from students who aren't required to participate in a plan. Chicken Finger Thursday (served with fries). $1,735 dining.georgetown.edu
Howard University Wellness Wednesdays encourage healthful eating and physical activity. Turkey burgers (served daily) and Soul Food Thursdays. $1,617 howarddining.com
Johns Hopkins University All-you-care-to-eat berries in season, fresh-squeezed orange juice. Huge convenience store has four full-time sushi chefs. Grilled chicken breast, General Tso's chicken. $2,680 www.jhu.edu/hds
University of Maryland Recipes From Home program incorporates parent-provided favorites into the dining-hall menu. Buffalo chicken sandwich. $1,895 dining.umd.edu

By: Jennifer LaRue Huget. GRAPHIC: Greg Linch and Wilson Andrews - The Washington Post. Published April 12, 2011.