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
Catholic University Purchases locally sourced bread, dairy and produce. Taco Tuesday bar with homemade salsa and guacamole. $2,399
George Mason University 2010 Whole Grains Challenge winner for providing whole-grain options at every meal. Pizza. $1,325
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
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
Howard University Wellness Wednesdays encourage healthful eating and physical activity. Turkey burgers (served daily) and Soul Food Thursdays. $1,617
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
University of Maryland Recipes From Home program incorporates parent-provided favorites into the dining-hall menu. Buffalo chicken sandwich. $1,895

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