In a loose sense, Oregon State University — the centerpiece of Corvallis, Oregon — is built around food. The university boasts one of the top agricultural programs in the world, enriched by the state’s diverse environmental landscape. OSU makes its own cheese and ice cream, and the farmland surrounding the campus has even inspired a farm-to-student dining model at OSU’s Five Four One restaurant, with the majority of the kitchen’s ingredients coming from campus gardens, local farms in Oregon, and elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest.
The cafes and restaurants bordering campus also pull inspiration from the Willamette Valley, while the large population of international students has spurred the growth of a global food scene. On the outskirts of campus, primarily on Monroe Avenue, students can find a range of multifaceted fare, from mouth-numbing bowls of Sichuan hot pot to Hawaiian grilled meats. Walk 15 minutes off campus and you’ll reach Corvallis’s downtown, with elevated comfort food, Korean barbecue tacos, and the juiciest burgers represented by the waterfront.
Whether it’s enjoying syrup-drenched waffles while suffering from your first big hangover, spending an afternoon studying with boba tea in McNary Field, or sharing a thick-crusted pizza with your dormmates, here’s a beginner’s guide to dining at and around Oregon State University.
Eating on campus
OSU has three dining halls — Marketplace West, McNary on the east side, and Southside Station at Arnold. When choosing a home-base dining hall, students often praise McNary for its variety of meals, with restaurants like Five Four One, which serves house-made pasta and pizza made with flour from the nearby Camas Country Mill and veggies sourced through distributors like Hummingbird Wholesale. McNary is also home to Raintree Coffee Co., which offers espresso drinks made with Starbucks coffee and Teavana tea, as well as MainSqueeze for froyo, smoothies, and other snacks.
Reopening in the fall of 2023, Beavers will once again have a late-night option at McNary: La Calle, a taqueria serving tacos and other Mexican dishes. Corn tortillas arrive filled with things like beef barbacoa or chorizo tofu, served with lime wedges and various salsas; the restaurant will also have things like taco salads and bowls. The taqueria is open until midnight.
The student union across from Weatherford Hall on Jefferson Way has a small food court on the mezzanine floor, featuring the surprisingly affordable Rocket Burger for American-style fast food made with Oregon-raised, grass-fed beef, as well as a Panda Express. Located in the east wing of the Memorial Union, North Porch Café is considered by many students to be the best option, with the creamiest Thai iced tea, rice bowls, and serious banh mi — the sandwiches arrive stuffed with smoky-sweet meats or tofu, pickled veggies, cilantro, and sriracha aioli.
JavaStop, a cozy cafe on the first floor, offers some of the best coffee on campus, plus bagels and fresh baked goods from Corvallis’s New Morning Bakery. Filled with study tables, comfy couches, and a knockout view of the student union quad, it doubles as an ideal all-day study spot. Off the Quad has solid burritos, savory bowls, and comforting grilled cheese with tomato soup, but is unmissable for its flaky house-made biscuits — Off the Quad makes its own jam with Willamette Valley berries as an accompaniment. Get there early on weekdays, because they tend to sell out fast.
Dining Dollar cafes
Most restaurants, cafes, and stores located in dorms and campus buildings accept “Dining Dollars,” OSU’s version of dining points, and “Orange Cash,” money loaded on your student OSU ID card that offers a 10-percent discount at campus dining locations; and if you run out or forget your ID card, all take debit and credit cards.
Located in the International Living-Learning Center, Cascadia Cafe serves Corvallis-roasted Pastega coffee and Nutella crepes ideal for an early morning. Bing’s at Weatherford has the best breakfast sandwich on campus, and for late nights studying, Java II, open till 10 p.m. in the Valley Library, is crucial for a cup of coffee or chai latte.
There are five small on-campus markets at OSU: EBGBs (Every Bean’s a Good Bean) in West Dining Hall, Cascadia Market, the MainSqueeze, Bites, and The Dam. Cascadia Market is best for those wanting a wide selection of grocery items (or toiletries). It’s also the only market on campus that accepts SNAP benefits.
Introduced to the campus in 2020 to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on in-person dining, OSU has a fleet of Starship robots providing delivery service from many of its on-campus restaurants, cafes, and Cascadia Market to any outdoor campus location, so during those crucial last-minute final exam study sessions, you can still get some fuel sent straight to you. The Starship app accepts Dining Dollars, Orange Cash, and credit or debit cards, and can also be used for convenient mobile ordering with in-person pick up.
Dining off campus
Five minutes north of campus is Rice ‘n’ Spice, stocked with Asian ingredients like house-made kimchi and frozen tteokbokki. Students can walk about 10 minutes east of campus and land at a Safeway. Walk 25 minutes north, and you’ll find First Alternative Natural Foods Co-Op, a grocery store with a diverse array of vegetarian and vegan options that also offers a produce discount for students on Tuesdays. The Co-Op’s hot food and salad bar comes in clutch when looking for a quick bite when roaming off campus.
Caffeine refueling stations
For early morning coffee runs, the aforementioned JavaStop, located in the heart of campus at the Memorial Union, serves the best cup of coffee at OSU, as determined two years in a row by a survey in campus lifestyle magazine Beaver’s Digest. For an afternoon caffeine pickup, Bobahead on Monroe Avenue is a fan favorite, voted best boba tea in Corvallis by students in the same contest. While the line can get long — a testament to its popularity — it’s easily worth it for milk teas laden with chewy tapioca and popping boba. The bright bubble tea shop offers a few study tables and is open until 8 p.m.
For those hoping to venture off campus, Tried & True in downtown Corvallis is a 10-minute walk away with smooth, rich cappuccinos made with Bespoken beans, a roaster in town; those who prefer tea can opt for chai from Portland’s Tanglewood.
Also downtown is Greenhouse Coffee and Plants, a vegan cafe that doubles as a plant shop — ideal for those still decorating their dorm room or apartment. Owner Bryan Daniels uses a nitro espresso draft system for bolder, smoother, and less acidic coffee. The Flora is a must-order, an oat milk latte with chamomile, rose, and sea salt that’s gently sweet, floral, and undeniably smooth. While both Tried & True and Greenhouse Coffee and Plants are fairly small and not ideal for studying (unless you want to sit outside), the short trek to get a cup of coffee from either cafe is worth it.
A Corvallis institution, Coffee Culture has four locations scattered across town, offering a drive-thru option for busy mornings and ample seating for studying at its three other locations. The cafe sources and roasts its own beans since 2012 via its Holderness Coffee Roasters label. When not ordering coffee, visitors tend to gravitate toward the cafe’s seasonal pastries and its Metolius chai latte, a creamy mix of caffeine, cardamom, fresh ginger, and cracked pepper, with hints of cayenne and cinnamon.
Quick pre-class breakfasts
One of the best-kept secrets of Corvallis is Interzone, a vegetarian and vegan cafe on Monroe Avenue serving organic coffee and killer breakfasts just minutes away from OSU. The menu features items that are easy to grab on the way to class like various pastries — notable is the strawberry-cardamom muffin — and an assortment of bagel sandwiches stacked with fresh veggies. The artsy community space is also welcoming to those studying, with big tables and hours as late as 11 p.m., depending on the time of year. Hidden in a corner is a shelf dedicated to magazines, independent papers, and zines produced by community groups, in addition to an eccentric collection of books. It’s also worth checking out the Facebook page for frequent events, like concerts, open mic nights, and clothing swaps.
For standout doughnuts, Death by Donutz — located on the corner of 14th and Monroe — is beloved by students for its robust selection, from old-fashioned sour cream rings and airy French crullers to specialty flavors like creme brulee and marionberry cream cheese. For those not in a doughnut mood, the shop also sells house-made biscuits and gravy. For the best selection, get there early; Death by Donutz opens at 7 a.m.
Also located on Monroe is Pollen, a cafe primarily serving acai bowls along with smoothies, toasts — like avocado and caprese — and a few salads. Though on the pricier side, the cafe’s luscious acai bowls are loaded with generous toppings of fruits, nuts, seeds, and a sprinkle of bee pollen. For drinks, visitors can grab a straightforward espresso drink or try a glass of on-tap kombucha. While it’s a nice spot to get breakfast on the go, the big, bright space filled with tables makes for a great study spot, too.
Lunch on the go
On the edge of campus, on the second floor of a restaurant-packed building, sits a local favorite: Local Boyz. This relaxed, counter-service restaurant serves overflowing Hawaiian-style plate lunches composed of sticky rice, expertly marinated umami-packed meats, and peppery mac salad. Be sure to arrive with spare time, as the restaurant can get busy during peak lunch hours, with folks often lining up outside the door.
One floor below Local Boyz is another crowd-pleaser: Crystal’s King of Falafel Cuisine. This Mediterranean counter-service spot features gyros, shawarma, and other dishes well-suited to takeout. The lamb gyro packs saffron rice, juicy lamb, and a slathering of house-made tahini sauce into a warm pita, sprinkled with a generous helping of sumac. Be sure to add an order of the restaurant’s floral and nutty pistachio baklava.
For a budget-friendly, on-campus option, Trader Bing’s Cafe in Austin Hall serves velvety mac and cheese, loaded ciabatta sandwiches, and veggie-packed wraps for between around $6.35 and $9. Students can also find strong coffee and fresh smoothies here for a quick afternoon pick-me-up.
Dorm dinners and meetup spots
When looking for a spot to hang out with friends, Monroe Avenue is your best bet, especially if you live on campus. At Bombs Away Cafe, located on the west end of Monroe, you’ll catch sight of students enjoying good food, live music, and a tequila bar. The Southwestern restaurant makes standout wet burritos drenched in smoky roja sauce, with occasional specials like a buttery steak with an invigorating dose of hot sauce. Themed music nights — think: Taylor Swift, Tumblr, and Disney — and fill the space with dance, singing, and laughter on an almost weekly basis.
Also on Monroe Avenue, you’ll find some great pizza: American Dream, an offshoot of the Northeast Portland pizzeria. Groups of college students and families pile into booths for colossal, thick-crusted pies with toppings like pepperoni, jerk chicken, and smoked gouda. The dough has a surprisingly tasty yeastiness, not unlike that of a good beer, and it’s worth getting a side of house-made ranch for crust-dunking. Famously visited and enjoyed by Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign, American Dream also offers gluten-free and vegan options.
Arguably the best Thai food in Corvallis is also found near campus, just a few steps down from American Dream — Tarn Tip, serving dishes like yellow curry, crispy chicken with a kick, and a range of classic Thai noodle dishes.
For a stacked Jucy Lucy and a heap of bacon-cheddar tots, Cheesy Stuffed Burgers is the place to go. The spot started as a food truck on the outskirts of OSU’s campus and has since become a full-blown burger restaurant between campus and downtown — less than a 10-minute walk away. Barbecue-marinated, half-pound Oregon-raised beef burgers come stuffed with a blend of Tillamook cheese for juicy, thick patties. A relatively well kept-secret is that it’s the only place selling fresh-made — and seriously good — lumpia in Corvallis.
For some of the best takeout near campus, Evergreen in downtown Corvallis is unbeatable. While only open till 9 p.m, Evergreen is worth mentioning for its impressive South and North Indian dishes packed with warm masala spices. Crowd favorites include the chicken tikka masala with gorgeous charred chicken, silky saag paneer, tandoori chicken, and pillowy naan.
Open until midnight on Saturday (and 10 p.m. all other nights), the Beaver Hut, right on the edge of campus, is a student favorite for its $2 burgers, crispy sweet potato fries, and mountain-sized tater tot portions. Simply put, it’s the quintessential greasy — yet satisfying — college fare.
About half a mile from campus is Corvallis’s much-beloved, only 24-hour restaurant: Riva’s Taco Shop. The menu at Riva’s features taqueria staples like tacos, burritos, and tostadas loaded with cheese, guacamole, and sour cream; adding the complimentary salsa verde to everything is a must. Hands down the best item on the menu is the chorizo breakfast burrito, loaded with potatoes, spicy chorizo, beans, and eggs — it’s especially good at 2 a.m.
Taco Vino, on the corner of Monroe and First Street in downtown Corvallis, specializes in tacos with Pacific Northwestern ingredients and a global culinary palette. Beef bulgogi short rib tacos arrive topped with pickled veggies, and Painted Hills skirt steak tacos get a dose of radish-lime-habanero pico and avocado puree. All tacos, of course, are wrapped in warm, hand-made corn tortillas and are 100 percent gluten-free. Also on the menu are on-tap sangrias made with in-season fruit and several brews from around Oregon. During peak hours, expect to spend 15 to 30 minutes waiting for a table.
Common Fields is a kid- and dog-friendly taproom and food cart pod located in downtown Corvallis, and home to a few noteworthy carts. Kalamata Bistro, a Mediterranean cart stocked with Pacific Northwestern ingredients, offers dishes like falafel pressed in a waffle iron with a dollop of coconut hummus and smoky baba ganoush. Black Forest Kitchen serves comfort food inspired by German and Bavarian cuisine, including a knockout soft pretzel, served with sharp house-made cheese sauce. Salvadoran cart Pupuseria Del Valle serves thick pupusas stuffed with rich fillings, as well as tamales. The draft list at Common Fields offers 16 taps pouring lagers, stouts, IPAs, and wild and sour ales from independently owned Oregon breweries. It also hosts recurring weekly events, such as live music on Wednesdays and Thursdays. During peak hours, visitors can wait up to 15 to 30 minutes for a table.
Right off campus, you’ll find Lupe’s, a restaurant serving Mayan cuisine as well as broader Central and South American cuisine. Try the restaurant’s poc chuc, citrusy marinated pork served with smoky, sweet salsa and pickled onions. Lupes’s pollo poblano is another stunner, bathing succulent chicken in a silky poblano sauce. Lupe’s accepts reservations by phone and can be reached at (541) 207-3120.
Almost every day of the week, you’ll find Wise Cracks in downtown Corvallis — about a 15-minute walk from campus — filled with locals eating syrupy buttermilk pancakes topped with house-made jam, chicken and waffles, and hollandaise-drenched eggs Benedict. This homey, Beaver-decorated spot also offers the best bloody mary in town — a little tangy, packing a kick, and topped with a big piece of bacon. Just make sure to call ahead to get your name in the waitlist to avoid a 20- to 30-minute wait.
For those wanting to stay as close to campus as possible but still find a solid brunch, Downward Dog on Monroe serves cheesy breakfast burritos from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Beyond brunch, it’s one of the standout microbreweries around campus with great patio seating.
- When you have a few extra minutes for lunch, walk across Monroe Avenue to visit Tian Fu DIY Hotpot, a hidden gem serving mouth-numbing, customizable, single-serving portions of hot pot. The bowls show off fresh noodles and tender meats and are finished with a generous splash of chile oil. It’s worth spending a few minutes to sit down to truly enjoy the peppery, Sichuan-style hot pot — especially on one of Oregon’s countless rainy days.
- Corvallis is known for its farmers market. Every Saturday and Wednesday during the warmer months — typically early spring to late fall — local farmers and vendors fill First Street in downtown Corvallis from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It’s definitely worth going to buy fresh produce and still-warm pastries. Be sure to stop at the Naked Crepe, serving sweet and savory options — for those interested in the former, opt for the brandy-poached pear topped with a decadent dollop of brown sugar mascarpone and toasted hazelnuts; those who hew savory may prefer the smoked salmon with local greens and a garlicky dill sour cream.
- Don’t be afraid to get off campus and explore Corvallis’s various events and activities that boast a wide food selection. The Fall Festival, usually held at the end of September in Corvallis’s Central Park, books some of the best food carts in town — unmissable is Nick’s Soul Food for cheesy, buttery, salty shrimp and grits and sweet-yet-salty apple pie baked beans.
- Another noteworthy fall activity is visiting one of the local pumpkin patches, like Davis Family Farm, just off Highway 20 — about a 10-minute drive from campus. While the farm offers great year-round produce, there’s nothing quite like the warm sugar doughnuts and spiced apple cider available during October.