Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

A Freshman’s Guide to Navigating Duke Dining

Eat, sleep, study, social life. Repeat.

There’s a reason why eating is first on that list. It’s the only thing you can’t technically get rid of. The other three, on the other hand, are debatable- ideally, you would have a healthy balance of all of them, but hey, two out of three isn’t bad.

As a freshman, getting the hang of the Duke food plan options and all the on and off campus eateries may very well take you your whole first year. But I’m here to speed up that process. Your stomach can thank me later.


Each week you get 5 breakfast swipes for Monday through Friday and 7 dinners/brunches for Monday through Sunday. “Wait…” you may say, “That’s only 12 meals for a whole week.” Yep, that’s right. Duke dining expects you to fend for yourself for the other 5-9 meals. Might as well accept that it doesn’t make sense now. One thing is for sure, weekend brunch = crucial.



Equivalencies are definitely something you want to take advantage of. If you have an early class on West, this one might be for you. In the mornings, you can use your MP breakfast swipe at the Great Hall for a $4 credit. $4 doesn’t sound like much, but it can get you pretty far at the Great Hall. There are pancakes.

If you happen to miss dinner on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday night, you can go to Trinity Café (right outside the MP) starting at 9PM and enjoy an $8 credit. This is great for study snacks or much needed caffeine. The credit only works for the night you missed dinner, so it won’t build up throughout the week. Also, make sure to get to Trinity around 9PM or as early as possible, because the line can get pretty long and a lot of the better food and drinks will go fast.

If you ever feel like you’ve just had enough of the MP (crazy, right?) head over to the Freeman Center, where you can use one of your dinner swipes. Thursday is the infamous mac ‘n cheese night.

Food Points vs. Flex

Food points are used to purchase food on campus, including food trucks and merchants-on-points. For a list of the vendors that deliver, check this link out: http://studentaffairs.duke.edu/dining/merchants-points *make sure you go ahead and set up your 4 digit Duke Verification Code if you haven’t already- and remember it! You don’t want to be that girl at the Loyo truck holding everyone up.

Flex can be used to pay for food; however, unlike food points, Flex can be used anywhere on campus- for books, Duke gear, groceries, or laundry. Both Flex and Food points can be added online or through the DukeMobile app.

Warning: Be careful with food points. Even though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, food points are real money. And just like real money, it can run out quickly… and it probably will. This means visiting Au Bon Pain every day might not be the best idea (I write this as I eat my delicious ABP Turkey Apple Brie salad- highly recommended).

When I was a Freshman…

… I really wish I would have known about:

  1. Pitchfork and Provisions– It’s definitely worth the trek out to McClendon Tower. Pitchfork is located in the basement space of McClendon on Floor 0. You get chocolate chip pancakes at 2am- what more could you ask for?
  2. Blue Express– Located in the LSRC (Levine Science Research Center) at the far end of Science Drive, Blue Express is cafeteria style, so it’s cheap, easy, quick, and also delicious. Definitely an upgrade from high school.
  3. Nasher Café- You guessed it, it’s located in the Nasher Art Museum. It offers an upscale menu that is a little more expensive than other eateries on campus, but it’s a great atmosphere and has really tasty desserts and coffee. I highly recommend the café for brunch on the weekend.
  4. Hospital Food Court- If your freshman year is anything like mine, you will spend some good quality time at the Student Health Center and the hospital trying to get cold medicine at the pharmacy. I only stumbled upon the hospital food court on my last visit of the year, but they offer a variety of different eateries if you ever get bored of things on campus or are in the hospital for whatever reason. ALSO STARBUCKS. Everyone who said we didn’t have a Starbucks lied to you.

Subway & Chick-fil-a

Take advantage of them while you still can. They are being torn away from us in May.

24 Hours

A lot of places on campus stay open pretty late and many vendors will deliver late too, usually up until midnight. When you get the late night munchies or want to take a break from cram sessions, check out Pitchfork and Provisions and McDonalds- they are both open 24 hours (McDonald’s does randomly close from 4:30am-5am, though, so you’re out of luck for that half hour). 

Really desperate and don’t want to catch a bus over to West? The BP off East campus is also open 24 hours for every need that a gas station could ever fill. 

Treat yo self

Aced your Evanth exam? Got that job you wanted on campus? Best friend’s birthday? Treat yourself at Plate and Pitchfork or the WA Duke, both upscale restaurants on campus. Plate and Pitchfork is only open for dinner (the space turns into the Faculty Commons during the day), but has a great menu with a variety of choices- it’s located above Alpine Bagel and Chick-fil-a. The WA Duke (Washington Duke Inn) is walking distance from West campus and offers a classy environment and fine dining for special occasions. There’s also Afternoon Tea from 2:3-4:30 pm Wednesday through Sunday.


On Twitter? Here’s some accounts you can follow for real-time updates from eateries on or near campus.

@LoYoOnThe Go @Refectory
@FoodFactoryDuke @dukebistro @wholefoods_drh
@FreeFoodatDuke (always keep an eye out for free food- it’s everywhere!)
@WashingtonDuke @DukeBonAppetit @Saladelia-Perk
@dukecoffeehouse (bonus: they are currently hiring first-years!)
@HerCampusDuke (shameless plug)

For more info, check out Duke Dining online or Food@Duke for hours and events, blog posts about eateries and nutrition, and information about sustainability and the Duke Farms and Gardens.
Photo Source: 1 2 3 4

My name is Sarah Haas and I am a sophomore at Duke University just tryin' to figure it all out! I'm from a small town in North Carolina called Granite Falls, right in the heart of the piedmont of the Appalachian Mountains. I'm passionate about social justice, gender equality, volunteerism, and the pursuit of a good cup of coffee. I love to read and write- with a special interest in poetry- and I'm always updating a blog or social media site- so, I love being a part of Her Campus!
Similar Reads👯‍♀️