OPINION: A not-so-professional rating of the eateries in the Commons

Price Wilborn, Commentary Editor

Last Spring, the Commons at Helm Library opened for students for the first time. This followed months of delays due to COVID-19 and supply chain issues. Last semester, the final two restaurants opened on the ground floor.

I have now deemed it to have been long enough to rate the restaurants in the building. There is a wide variety of places to eat in the Commons, and I have finally had the opportunity to try them all.

Just a quick disclaimer: I chose not to include Spencer’s Coffee. I chose not to include it because there are no meal swipes and relatively few food options compared to elsewhere in the Commons. I also just don’t like coffee. Sorry if I’ve disappointed you, but not really.

I am also aware that there are many controversial opinions in this piece. I stand by them, but I would love to hear your thoughts.

With that out of the way, here we go.

#5: Road Trip America

When I first heard about Road Trip America, I thought it was going to be a restaurant with revolving meal swipes. I like chicken, don’t get me wrong, but there are so many places one can get chicken on this campus, and each of them are better than Road Trip.

I found the chicken to be difficult to eat and kind of bland. It was tough to bite through, and for what? A piece of chicken that could not stand alone but instead requires some kind of dipping sauce for it to be better. The sogginess of the chicken I have had there has left me disappointed, as well.

Occasionally the line for Road Trip America can be long, but I find this misleading. Sometimes long lines indicate the popularity of an eatery, but I believe a long line at Road Trip America is just a long line of people who are settling for it instead of waiting in line for any of the other places in the Commons.

The best part about Road Trip America are the fries and the signature sauce. Fries are difficult to do wrong, and Road Trip America does them right. Pairing them or the chicken with their special sauce, which is basically just Raising Canes sauce, is wonderful. The sauce is great, the fries are great, yet the chicken leaves me wanting more.

One more good thing about Road Trip America are their biscuits. I have had what is possibly the best biscuit I have ever had from this place, and it was wonderful. It was soft, sweet and made me think of home. It was wonderful.

#4: Moe’s Southwest Grill

I should say before I dive into Moe’s that I’ve only had it once and that it was an extraordinarily underwhelming experience. My food was cold, even though I was able to pick it up as soon as it was ready. It was my first time trying it, and I personally can’t say that I would go back.

Despite this, I do appreciate Moe’s for what it is and I am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. It provides the Commons with a nice variety of food options that isn’t terrible. It seemed to be quality food, and judging by the long lines we saw last semester and the long wait times we have seen on Dining Sidekick this semester, many of you would agree with me.

The chips and salsa one gets from Moe’s is a nice touch, as well. The amount of food one gets for a meal swipe is awesome. Between my chips and my bowl, I was unable to finish all my food. College students like to eat and eat cheap, and Moe’s provides a great option that holds you off until dinner.

Moe’s doesn’t rank higher on my list for three simple reasons. First, the wait time is not worth it for the food you get. Second, my Moe’s experience just wasn’t what I expected. Third – and most importantly – I just like the remaining eateries better than I like Moe’s.

#3: Panda Express

I love Panda Express. I didn’t try any Panda until my first semester of college. Of course, the Commons wasn’t open yet, so I frequented the Panda Express off Scottsville Road. It helped me get prepared and excited for the opening of the Panda Express on campus.

When the long-awaited opening of the Commons occurred, Panda Express did not disappoint – for the most part.

When I go to Panda, I get the same thing every time – Orange Chicken and Fried Rice. It’s so good. As with every Panda Express, though, the chicken and rice can be a bit inconsistent. Each time you go to Panda, you never know if the rice will be too sticky or too dry. Sometimes the Orange Chicken doesn’t have enough sauce. These are little things, however. A not-so-good Panda Express experience is still a great experience.

I don’t mind waiting in line for Panda occasionally, either. The line can tend to move slowly, but if I have enough time and I’m in the mood for some Orange Chicken, I’ll wait. It is still one of the best places on campus. It doesn’t allow you a quick option to eat, however, and that contributes to Panda’s middle ranking on this list.

What disappoints me the most about the Panda Express on campus – and I think many of you will share this opinion – is that Orange Chicken is not a meal swipe. It is widely acknowledged that Orange Chicken is the most-ordered entree at any Panda Express. At WKU, however, it is not a meal swipe. I wish that it was. If I get low on my meal plan dollars, I will not go to Panda. The lack of this meal swipe is one of the only things keeping Panda Express from taking a higher spot in my rankings.

#2: Rising Roll

I understand that this ranking of Rising Roll is probably the most controversial ranking on this list, but hear me out.

Three words describe Rising Roll: delicious, quick and consistent. The grande burrito breakfast meal swipe is hands down one of the best meal swipes I have had on campus. The combination of foods in the burrito was perfectly set off with the side of salsa served with it. Perfection.

I find Rising Roll’s lunch to be amazing, as well. Last semester I ate lunch at Rising Roll three days a week. The Ham Cheezer, which is ham, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and spicy brown mustard served on a multigrain boule, hits the spot each time I eat it. Each time I eat the Ham Cheezer it is the same. The combination of ham with the spicy brown mustard and mayonnaise give the sandwich a unique bit of a kick and flavor that cannot be found anywhere else on campus.

It’s also consistent, which I find to be one of the most important attributes of meal swipes on campus. The consistency provided by Rising Roll allows me to know exactly what I’m going to get when I get in line. Whether I’m in a hurry or I want a solid meal, Rising Roll is a go to.

The line at Rising Roll is never long, either. A long line for Rising Roll would be a short line for Panda Express or a short wait time for Moe’s. While I started eating Rising Roll because the line is almost always short, it quickly became one of my favorite places to eat on campus.

Rising Roll also has smoothies, cookies, brownies and other foods that are top tier. Until this week, I would have ranked Rising Roll at the top of this list, but a recent changed has changed everything for me,

#1: Eiffel Pizza

I first tried Eiffel Pizza when it first opened last fall. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan. The pizza was alright – some of the best on campus – but it still wasn’t great. After that, Eiffel wouldn’t have been high on my list.

On Jan. 18, that all changed, when the WKU Restaurant Group announced a new meal swipe option – a cheeseburger.

I tried the cheeseburger the week after the swipe was announced, and honestly, it was life-changing. A cheeseburger and fries has been my favorite meal for as long as I can remember. I could write a piece just ranking the burgers on campus – I’m quite passionate.

But you all, this burger was so good. It’s a smashburger, which in itself is an amazing genre of burger. But the workers at Eiffel make this burger with care. The cheese is melted on the burger. The buns are toasted on the griddle before everything is put on. There is some kind of special sauce that is put on while cooking, and while I don’t know what it is, it helps make the burger. Putting all of these together makes a burger that I literally cannot stop thinking about.

I haven’t even mentioned the fries yet, either. I’m usually not a fan of crinkle-cut fries in general, but these were really good. They were lightly seasoned and they weren’t soggy like crinkle-cut fries can be. There were also a lot of them in the meal swipe, which is amazing for a hungry college student.

This meal swipe is so good, and it has single-handedly changed the balance of power between the eateries in the Commons, and Eiffel Pizza now my favorite place to eat at the top of the Hill – and quite possibly on campus.

Commentary editor Price Wilborn can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @pricewilborn.