251 North, the University of Maryland’s hot new dining site. (Michael Rosenwald/The Washington Post)

 Patrons are lining up by the hundreds — a couple weeks ago, during the grand opening, a line stretched around the building. There is very little parking. Most patrons walk there, in keeping with 251 North’s greeniness: the window coverings adjust with changes in the light outside, a rooftop vegetable garden is in the works, and the building has earned LEED Certified Silver status.

251 North is so exclusive that you cannot eat there.

Well, you can if you are a University of Maryland student. 251 North is a 600-seat restaurant in the Denton Community on Maryland’s campus, and it is probably the best thing to happen to college students there since the invention of the Playstation. I stopped by yesterday for dinner.

“This is the place you can come to if you are sick of chicken fingers,” Matthew Popkin, a junior from Rockville studying politics and government, told me. It was his first 251 North visit, and he seemed excited. Having consumed an excessive amount of chicken fingers in my college days, I was excited for him too.

Today’s college students are different from those even a decade ago. For one, because they can now carry phones in their hands on campus — tapping out IMs between classes — they are more likely to walk into trees. Also, they grew up in a foodie culture. If they’re not watching ESPN, they are vegging out with the Food Network.

 “Students have different expectations now when it comes to food,” said Joe Mullineaux, senior associate director for the school’s dining services. 

 The university hired John Gray, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, to create a rotating menu at five different dining stations. The food is cooked in the open, in front of students. It’s all you — err, not you, the students — can eat. It’s only open for dinner, and to spread the dining magic around, most students can only eat there once a week.

Below are some photos I snapped of what you’re missing — my dinner the other night. First up is a lovely fresh green salad with Korean marinated beef. In the back left corner is a wonderful mini-panini with boursin cheese and prosciutto ham. Next: a cornbread-stuffed pork medallion. Splendid. And then dessert: the deconstructed cannoli. I had two.

(Michael Rosenwald/The Washington Post)

(Michael Rosenwald)

(Michael Rosenwald)