Iconic. Showstopping. Spectacular. Incredible. These are just a few of the words that come to mind when Yale students are asked about what is arguably Yale Dining’s most iconic menu item: Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders. Countless memes have been devoted to them in multiple Facebook groups. Before the Pauli Murray dining hall got on board with serving them every other Thursday like the rest of the colleges, they were used as a bribe for students in the college to return their pilfered dishes and silverware. They even have their own website. It’s clear: Yale Dining chicken tenders are a force to be reckoned with, and they have a rightful seat at the table of culinary royalty.
“I’m only gonna have 6…or maybe 8? Is 10 too many?”
However, there is another menu item that has claimed the number one spot in my heart and my stomach. One that has too long been overshadowed by the chicken tenders hype. Served every other Wednesday (always the day preceding Chicken Tenders Day) is what is officially listed on the menu is Food Truck-Style Grilled Cheese. “Grilled cheese? But that’s so basic!” Yes, that’s what I thought, too. But I am here to tell you that there is something about these grilled cheese sandwiches that transcends everything you thought you knew about this classic snow day special. Eating one of these is a classic paradigm shift.
This isn’t your ordinary, coming-in-from-playing-in-the-snow, butter-soaked grilled cheese.
Until I looked it up a few minutes ago, I didn’t even know what kind of bread they used. (It’s batard. Apparently that’s a thing.) I did know it’s always perfectly crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The mix of shredded and melted mozzarella, cheddar, and provolone holds the two slices of batard together like hot, delicious glue. Bread and cheese: simple ingredients alone, but simply magicical when fused together in Yale kitchens twice each month. Imagine my disappointment when, one fateful Wednesday last year, I went to Silliman for lunch and, after waiting to pile my plate high with these squares of love, found that instead of bread, they were using tortillas. Of course, I still had three of these quesadillas, but that’s not the point. Without the batard, the magic was gone. I nearly cried, dear reader. Right into the salsa that I dipped my quesadillas into. I never said I can’t adapt.
If you really want to experience the optimal grilled cheese, go to Grace Hopper for lunch. The tomato bisque that they serve with the sandwiches is also top-notch: always piping hot, impeccably seasoned, impossibly creamy, and the perfect dip for what is sure to be the next meme-worthy Yale Dining menu item (and for good reasons this time around: ask a senior if they remember that one semester when “cape shark” was inescapable).
The Hopper dining hall, which every other Wednesday at 11:30 am becomes the sanctuary of Yale Dining’s crowning accomplishment
So yes, while chicken tenders may rule the conversation about on-campus dining, remember the underdog. Lose count of how many grilled cheeses you’ve had. Wash them all down with a Diet Coke (or maybe that’s just a me thing). And perhaps most importantly: believe that you can make it through the off-weeks with neither grilled cheese nor chicken tenders. Walking into lunch on a Wednesday and not being able to pile your plate with gooey goodness is definitely a trial and a tribulation, but I promise, it gets easier.