Bruin Foodie's Ultimate Ranking of UCLA Dining Halls

UCLA is known for being the #1 top-ranked UC school, the college with the most national championships, the #1 most-applied-to school in the world and most importantly, for having the best-ranked dining hall systems in the nation. As a UCLA student, I can proudly and confidently say that I 100% concur this statement. In terms of food, I am never bored here at UCLA. They always provide an overwhelming variety of foods from a plethora of different cultures: Italian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Mediterranean, and the list goes on. Not only is the food diverse, but it is also fresh and sustainable. With so many incredible dining halls, how is one possibly supposed to choose? Covel? Bruin Plate? Feast? DeNeve? Well, have no fear. I am here with an unofficial, but thoroughly comprehensive ranking of all the UCLA dining halls.

Before I start passionately writing about the food from these dining halls, I want to explain the criteria I used when reviewing each one. I based my ranking on four main factors: variety, taste, authenticity and experience.

  • “Variety” refers to how many options the dining hall offers, and how often the dishes are rotated.

  • “Taste” refers to how delicious I think the food is and, if applicable, how authentic (how well the food accurately reflects/mimics the real dish from its perspective culture) the food is.

  • “Experience” refers to how long the lines are, venue, amenities and overall vibe.

Finally, for the ranking…

1. Covel

Variety: ★★½

Covel lacks in variety of food. They have pizza, pasta, burgers and fries every day. The pasta dishes vary for a couple of days but repeat each week. They also have their “Mezze Bar” every day, which includes a variety of Mediterranean-style dips, pickled vegetables and toppings. There are usually two dishes at the “Euro Kitchen” that change daily. It’s usually some kind of fried ball (falafel, fritters, kofta, etc) and some kind of protein-based dish (fish, chicken, lamb, etc). Overall, the variety is quite lacking, and I’ll usually only go to Covel if I am really craving pasta or Mediterraneann food. At least I know what to expect.

Taste: ★★★½

Covel’s food tastes pretty good—but not mind-blowingly amazing. Their pizza is pretty tasty but often times very greasy due to the thick layer of cheese. The pasta is okay. The sauce is often lacking in flavor or watered-down, and the pasta lacks that firm “bite” (or al dente for you pasta connoisseurs). Their falafels and kofta, although not completely authentic, are pretty good for dining hall food, as they are always crispy and warm. Their burgers are something that can be skipped, but their fries are very tasty (then again, how can you mess up fries?). Their desserts are standard, and they usually have the same ones as DeNeve.

Experience:  ★★★★

Covel’s atmosphere is very much the quintessential dining hall: not too big, but not too small, consists of wooden chairs and grayish-white granite tables, and it is quite cozy. They also get points for having minimal lines and extended operating hours. I also appreciate the fact that I’m always able to find seats too. I marked off one star because although Covel is cozy, it’s a little dated. Their frozen yogurt machines are often broken as well.

TOTAL = 10/15

2. Feast

Variety: ★★★★

Feast has a pretty good variety of food, as they rotate almost all their dishes every single day, with the exception of their soups and teriyaki chicken. It amazes me how many ethnic dishes they serve. From curry, tteokbokki, karaage and pho, to crab fried rice, udon, dumplings, and bao, the variety is endless. I did mark off one star because the options for that specific day is a bit limited. They could have a fried rice station, curry station and a pho station, but they only have two renditions of each dish—a vegetarian or meat option. Often times, the base and flavor of the dish is the same, but the toppings or garnishes is what makes each version different. I may be nitpicky at this point, but I take food very seriously.

Taste: ★★★½

This is definitely the unpopular opinion, but regardless, here are my unfiltered thoughts. I like Feast-a lot. Their food is very tasty and elaborate for dining hall standards. However, I marked off 1.5 stars because it isn't authentic whatsoever. It’s hard to explain why something isn’t authentic, other than the fact that the inspired dish doesn’t taste the same as the original one. Today at Feast, they had “grilled pork with rice vermicelli,” which was accompanied by a bar with shredded green-leaf lettuce, green onions, peanuts, cilantro, basic and fish sauce. I was assuming Feast was trying to replicate the popular Vietnamese dish, bún. However, the pork was not the standard lemongrass grilled pork with its signature char marks, but instead, it was a thin, boiled limp piece of pork. Although it didn’t taste bad, it was by no means authentic.

Experience: ★★★½

Feast is a fairly small venue. 90% of the time I have a hard time finding a seat, and the lines are always insanely long. I also marked points off because I feel like their portions are on the smaller side. Even though they may give an adequate amount of fried rice or noodles, there will only be a sprinkling of baby beef or chicken pieces scattered throughout. However, I did add points for its open space, filled with large floor-to-ceiling length windows, dark wood chairs and black granite tables, which make the space look sleek and modern.

TOTAL = 11/15

3. DeNeve

Variety: ★★★★★

DeNeve rotates their food every day. Despite burgers and pizza being their constants, they change up the flavors, which keeps things exciting. Their Mexican-inspired dishes, fried chicken sandwiches, soups, roasted vegetables, meats and pizzas are different every single day. Also, their “Flex Bar” is huge and has a plethora of salads, rices, vegetables, fish, chicken and soups. DeNeve always has something for everyone, which is why I gave their variety five stars.

Taste: ★★★½

DeNeve has pretty good tasting food. I love their panko kale salad, flavorful roasted veggies and tacos. However, some of their other food lacks in freshness and quality. Their fried chicken sandwiches, although pretty tasty, are made from frozen chicken patties, rather than fresh chicken breast. Also, their pizza, which shouldn’t be hard to mess up, is very bready and virtually sauce-less and cheese-less. In addition to quality, their Mexican dishes, in particular, are always overly salty and lacking in authenticity. Again, like Covel, it’s not horrible, but it’s not mind-blowingly delicious. Therefore, I give DeNeve’s taste a 3.5.

Experience: ★★★★  

DeNeve’s venue is basically a larger version of Covel’s. It’s spacious and pretty standard. There are a lot of seats, and the lines are never that long. However, like Covel, I took off one star for it’s outdated feel.  

TOTAL: = 12.5/15

4. B-plate (the winner!)

Variety: ★★★★½

B-plate has a great variety of foods: grilled chicken, tri-tip, salmon (everyone’s favorite), pastas, delicious flatbreads, tons of veggies, tofu bowls and the list goes on. Although a lot of the other dining halls also have a great variety foods, B-plate stands out the most (hence the extra ½ star) because all of their dishes are very unique, innovative and risky, but delicious. They pair ingredients that I would have never thought would make a good combo, but it is amazing. Their menu at first glance always looks a little questionable (ie. vegan lentil rotini bolognese, chicken tacos with freekeh, braised brisket with pigeon peas and tatsoi, etc). However, if you just trust the process and try even their most obscure-sounding dishes, you will be blown away.

Taste: ★★★★★

Along with B-plate’s innovation and unique flavor combinations, their food’s amazing taste and fresh, clean ingredients is what makes this dining hall deserving of five stars for taste. I have no idea what the B-plate chefs’ secrets are, but I don’t question anything. Everything is so flavorful, wholesome and fresh-tasting. I like how they use clean ingredients and their conscious efforts to keeping everything on the healthier side. I never feel gross or heavy after eating at B-plate, and despite the fact that their food is healthy, I never feel unsatisfied. They redefine what healthy food is and make eating clean, nutrient dense food interesting and extremely enjoyable. Not only their savory dishes, but their desserts are also incredible. Their moist, delicious sweet breads and tartes are always something I look forward to. In terms of taste, B-plate for the win.

Experience: ★★★★

The B-plate fan inside of me wanted so badly for B-plate to have a perfect score, but since there’s no such thing as perfect in an critical review, I had to take off one star for B-plate’s “Experience” category. They get the majority of the stars because their venue is incredibly gorgeous, modern and clean. There space is huge and has tons of natural light and tall, open ceilings. However, I marked off a star because of the insanely long lines during peak hours and the tiny servings they give per dish. It’s not very fun waiting in a 5-minute line over and over again for a tiny piece of fish or steak. B-plate is not a very quick, convenient place to eat, but their mouth-watering dishes are definitely worth the wait.

TOTAL = 13.5/15

After several months of frequenting the dining halls, I have finally been able to come to a consensus with my ranking of them. I am extremely passionate about food and do not take any of these decisions lightly. However, after reading this review, you can probably tell it is quite subjective. Therefore, in order to provide an accurate, objective ranking of the UCLA dining halls, I took a Facebook poll for the UCLA Class of 2022 to give you the opinions of the general UCLA public. Here are the results:

  1. B-plate: 405 votes

  2. Feast: 169 votes

  3. Covel: 106 votes

  4. DeNeve: 88 votes

As you can see, B-plate won by a (well-deserved) landslide, securing the popular vote. All I can say now is: Stay hungry, kids.