The Blue Danube
Ohio State University – Columbus, Ohio
Though it’s technically more of a bar & grill, the 75-year-old institution known as “the Dube”; has kept everyone from grad students to arty packs of high school kids caffeinated with mediocre coffee for decades. What makes the Dube special? It’s not the food, though their signature Greek salads and liver and onions have been on the menu since seemingly time immemorial. And it’s not the drink selection, though they now offer a selection of craft beers. Maybe it’s not even the deep red vinyl booths, perfect for slouching in as you pick over a communal plate of mushy french fries. A haunt for refugees from the nearby campus of Ohio State University, the Dube is a timeless spot for everyone who needs an idle, restorative conversation and greasy food late at night. —Sara Bir
Photo by Robbt/Flickr.
Indiana University – Bloomington, Ind.
For the students of Indiana University, B-Town; is a friendly, appetizing abode. Serving the Bloomington community stellar breakfasts and lunches, the diner is going 24/7 this coming fall. They even offer free lunch delivery (downtown only) Monday through Friday. Breakfast is always served, and they please their customers daily with challah bread french toast, so come with a big appetite. If you’re looking for some southern hospitality, try the fried chicken and waffles with yogurt sauce. Bonus: B-Town is also vegan friendly, offering up a Vegan Hippy Hash. —Virginia Croft
Randy’s University Diner
North Dakota State University – Fargo, N.D.
Randy’s University Diner is a hyper-local breakfast spot with a variety of quality breakfast options. Randy’s is known for its mouthwatering homemade coffee cake, along with carefully crafted sandwiches and rich soups. Close to the university, it’s a great place for an early, savory lunch before heading off to class for five hours. —Claire Woodcock
University of Minnesota – Minneapolis, Minn.
Al’s Breakfast; in Dinkytown, Minneapolis, near the University of Minnesota, is an institution. Zagat rated it;, The James Beard Foundation honored it;. Guy Fieri visited it (twice). Garrison Keillor lauded it. Paul Westerberg’s ex-wife wrote about it. This classic, cash-only diner is only 10-feet-wide, cramming in only 14 stools facing the open kitchen. For 65 years, Al’s has whipped up breakfast staples like buttermilk pancakes and omelets, but it’s the specialties like the José (a mess of hash browns, poached egg, salsa, and cheese) and the jelly omelet that have become the stuff that U of M bucket lists are made of. — Hilary Saunders
Photo by Peter Merholz/Flickr
Drake University – Des Moines, Iowa
It’s a classic ’50s-style diner; complete with neon lights and black-and-white checkered tile and those spinny lunch counter stools. But while the menu is ripe with favorite American classics like eggs and bacon and your simple cheeseburger, some of the best items to order are the least traditional, like the portobello mushroom strips served with honey jalapeno dipping sauce. Otherwise, if you’re shooting for an omelette, try the Whole Hog (aka, loaded with bacon and sausage), and for a burger, order the Maytag, a blue cheese favorite. But leaving without ordering a chocolate cake shake is nothing short of a sin at this diner. That’s one classic you can’t go without. —Meagan Flynn
University of Akron – Akron, Ohio
In the town better known for The Black Keys rather than a good plate of eggs lies Fred’s Diner;. Considered the best breakfast in Akron, Fred’s sees devout regulars and welcomes students seven days a week, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Featuring 11 cleverly dubbed specialty sandwiches including "Here’s Your Beef," "Kielbasa Kid" and "Steak-It-Out," Fred’s is a slice of small-town heaven. —Virginia Croft
Millikin University – Decatur, Ill.
Serving Decatur’s Millikin University is The Blue Spoon;, a cash-only breakfast hub with a surprising flair for the gourmet as well as the punishingly gluttonous. Their breakfast sausage is world-class, and if you’re not watching your waistline, you’ll want to order that sausage in the context of the “breakfast horseshoe,” a specialty of Springfield, Ill., just down the road. The Blue Spoon Shoe consists of, and I quote, “A plate full of our crispy, light and fluffy Spuds on top of an order of toast, drenched in two ladles of our house-made morning gravy with two eggs on top. Add meat and cheese to make it loaded.” The last suggestion is not optional. You’re already eating gravy-soaked potatoes and bread. Load that sucker up with sausage as well and prepare to spend the afternoon on the couch. —Jim Vorel
Iowa State University – Ames, Iowa
The Café; is Ames, Iowa’s prime brick brunch outlet. The perfect place for eating off campus, The Café serves quality for a reasonable price. A collection of wine decorating the wall tempts happy hour at all hours, and the intricately decorated baked goods on display entices hearty dessert, too. The menu changes seasonally—a spice that locals like. Whether for parents’ weekend or dates, it’s hard to go wrong with this restaurant. —Claire Woodcock
Mickey’s Dining Car
McNally Smith College – St. Paul, Minn.
When it comes to diners, Mickey’s; has repeatedly racked up cool points: For starters, it has appeared in multiple films, including The Mighty Ducks and A Prairie Home Companion. Plus, it made the cut to be featured in Pet Shop Boys’ music video; for "Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You)." Additionally, the literal dining car was manufactured in New Jersey and brought via rail to St. Paul. For students of McNally Smith College, Mickey’s is a haven, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. With menu items like Jumbo French Toast and Home-Made Southern Fried Chicken, you can’t go wrong. —Virginia Croft
Photo by Jerry Huddleston/Flickr
Shannon’s Five Star
Illinois State University – Bloomington, Ill.
Shannon’s Five Star; is a local favorite for students in Bloomington, Ill. Mostly because: an $8 breakfast buffet is pretty hard to beat.The service is friendly and the waitstaff’s priority is to keep your coffee cup full. Be sure to stop in on Fridays for the Walleye special at dinner time—battered and greasy, it’ll make your mouth water. Can I get a TGIF? —Claire Woodcock