When NYU sent out the email that the university's newest dining hall, 18 Below, was slated to open the first day of classes, I dropped everything and ran over....once my class was finished. (Stay in school kids, don't cut class). Anyway, the NYU administration had described their newest campus addition as a relaxed lounge, but with a slighter more upscale vibe. There were also mouthwatering claims of seasonally rotating ingredients and flavors with a bounty of fresh options to choose from. Needless to say, I was stoked to eat something besides chicken breast off the grill, so I went to check it out with high hopes.

pork, turkey breast, barbecue, pepper, chicken breast, meat, chicken
Hayden Carder

18 Below is situated right below the Torch Club on 18 Waverly Place, somewhere I had admittedly never been before. I had glanced through the windows, but never actually gone in, mainly due to the fact that it always looked far too fancy for anyone wearing sweats on the way from their 8am (otherwise known as myself).

Nevertheless, I was one of the first 10 students allowed in, and descended into something akin to the wine cellar of an Italian restaurant, complete with Dean Martin being piped in from somewhere. Joking aside, I was honestly impressed with the classier ambiance and overall style of the place. With booths, stone walls, a fireplace, and even a bar (which served water only, sorry guys), 18 Below was definitely a notch up from the linoleum tiles and plastic furniture I had become accustomed to.

Evan Vehslage

The food was a bit of a mixed bag for me, to be perfectly honest. While the menu was definitely unique, essentially a Middle Eastern themed "build-your-own-bowl" with different bases like greens, rice, or a wrap, and protein toppings like Tandoori Chicken and Pork Vindaloo (they offer vegetarian options too), I felt like there could have been more options cuisine-wise. However, the lack of choices was somewhat made up for by the impressive presentation and speed of the food, which was served promptly in pristine white bowls and plates. 

Evan Vehslage

Now when I first went, it was about 10:30 in the morning, and my stomach wasn't exactly dying for some curry spiced heavy meat, so I didn't actually try the food. I've been back since then though, and I will say that while it wasn't Michelin-star quality, it was definitely a notch above your average salad bar and hamburger dining hall fare. The ingredients certainly tasted fresher, and while no place designed to feed masses of hungry college students will be overly focused on taste, the food was respectable, although it left something to be desired.

Evan Vehslage

All in all, 18 Below definitely impressed me with its decoration, fancy ambiance, and presentation, but felt a little bit lacking when it came to taste and variety. NYU clearly put a lot of thought into how the place would look, but considering the hype they generated about the place for its fresh and seasonal ingredients, I walked away a little disappointed. The whole place seemed, like sushi donuts, unreasonably decadent milkshakes, or the entire unicorn-food phase, designed less to provide an actual dining experience and more to give us millennial foodie-bloggers what we actually care about...those Insta likes.