Coming from a person who has a) moved thousands of miles away from home to come to school, b) loves food, and c) lived in residence during first year, I implore you: PLEASE GET OUT OF THE CAFETERIA.
Don’t get me wrong boys and girls, there’s nothing wrong with chocolate milk dispensers (which I still dream of), crunchy chicken wraps, and pizza days. In fact, those things are very delicious. But let’s be honest, the fact is, good, moderately healthy food is often a rarity in cafeterias unless you happen to be a rabbit that doesn’t mind eating leaves as sustenance. Things aren’t much different if you’re living off-campus in your first year, either. Unless you live with a veritable Jamie Oliver-type prodigy who’s willing to cook for you, or you’re the Richie Rich and/or Batman type who has a personal chef (lucky), or you just torture your parents into bringing you food every weekend, you’re going to have to either cook food well or get out there like the rest of us. So let’s get out there and see some of the best options KW has to offer!
46 King St. N, Waterloo
Speaking of grilled cheese, this place is the mecca of comfort food for drunken university students. Open late, as in really late (Midnight-3:30 a.m. to be more specific), Cheeses Murphy (functioning as the Princess Cafe during the day) pops up to accommodate (often drunk) requests for delicious grilled cheese with names such as “Cheese and Chong” and “the Sticky Frenchman.” They don’t skimp either, using ingredients that include the likes of caramelized apples, bacon jam, and of course, a beautiful array of fancy, fancy cheeses. Definitely a relief after a sticky night at one of the clubs and bars nearby.
150 Caroline St. S, Waterloo
For the love of everything that is good and holy, please go here if you love food in any capacity. I discovered this place a bit later in my university experience, and I wish I had known about it earlier; to be fair, it’s tucked away a bit behind a hairdresser and gallery. But once you find it, your hunt will have been more than worth it. One of the best grocery stores in Waterloo, this place is like a foodie’s wet dream as you end up sucked into a world of exotic cheeses, freshly made pastas, sushi, a bakery, imported chocolate, and some pretty amazing deli sandwiches. Vincenzo’s also has weekly specials on meals at pretty awesome prices which makes the trek out to Uptown Waterloo more than worth it. Also, why would you pass up the chance to impress all your friends by showing them what a real grilled cheese with applewood cheddar smoked five years is like? Hint: it’s amazing.
Abe Erb or Jane Bond
15 King St. S, Waterloo/ 5 Princess St. W, Waterloo
Look, sometimes you just wanna hang out with friends, wear a beret, and pretend you’re one of the members of Mumford & Sons. Or you know, just hang out with friends in a relatively cool environment. Cue these two restaurants: Jane Bond is both hipster and vegetarian-friendly and plays a bunch of cool tracks while you eat, while Abe Erb is more of a bar/gastropub (sorta). A really fun place to grab a burger or pork belly poutine with your friends, Abe Erb also has the added bonus of a comprehensive beer menu, much of which they impressively brew in-house. Bask in the golden glow of your amber hops with the warm company of friends here.
247 King St. N, Waterloo
I could not possibly get through a single food review of KW without mentioning Mozy’s. Trust me, I come from the Middle East, so bestowing compliments to a Canadian shawarma is a pretty big deal. Mozy’s Shawarma is an innocuous restaurant sitting on the restaurant strip right across from Laurier’s gym, but look in their windows and you’ll see a line of students waiting to receive their special wrap of heaven. For the full experience, all I’m going to say is that you’re going to get the Full Flavour Wrap with pickles, turnips, garlic sauce, a little hot sauce (if you’re into that), and fries. That’s it. Enjoy. You’re welcome. Just try to ignore the Laurier kids staring at you as you nom on your new raison d’ être; they’re just jealous and probably going to get a wrap later too.
Remember, these are just a few suggestions for you to try; ultimately, it’s up to you to create your own foodie adventures in Waterloo. Have fun with it, invite friends, and discover your own local treasures that’ll make you miss KW any time you have to leave.