Faith Talamantez / Daily Nexus

Carrillo: a dining hall, a home, a place where you feel extremely judged and, most of all, my favorite dining hall on campus. A controversial take, and surely not everyone will agree. However, Carrillo and I are ride or die, and I would put my life on the line in defense of it. In all seriousness, I regularly enjoy the food and the vibes in Carrillo and hope that this article isn’t so good as to flood Carrillo with all the people dying to try my recommendations. 

I eat pretty regularly in Carrillo, and their menu tends to cycle through similar dishes every week. Every once in a while, we get a real treat like sweet potato fries or the highly sought-after chicken parmesan. But usually, we stick to the same cycle. I’m not complaining (most of the time) — Carrillo has a pretty banger lineup.

What better to kick off my review of Carrillo’s yummy little menu besides their barbecue chicken pizza. I am biased, but it doesn’t even matter because this pizza is so good. On days when they have barbecue chicken pizza, you can catch my butt glued to a seat in Carrillo for lunch and dinner, absolutely demolishing as many slices as they let me. The barbecue sauce is on the sweeter side, which I think works well in combination with the rest of the toppings. I feel it is important to mention now that I am not the greatest cook myself and have a very limited knowledge of food and also that I hate vegetables. Anyways, whatever the green stuff they put on the pizza is (Cilantro? Green onion? Leaves from the floor outside?), it is just an absolute perfect addition to the flavor. Sometimes, when I am lucky enough to be grabbing a slice right after it comes out of the oven, I get to watch the chefs put the green stuff on the pizza. Total slay. Please go get a slice next time you find yourself at Carrillo, unless you see me also waiting for a slice, in which case let me get one first. Be sure to eat the crust, or everyone will think you are a baby. 

The Mongolian grill and I have a love-hate relationship. I do like a lot of the things they serve, but when the food misses, it misses by 1,000 miles. First, fortunately a total hit, is the teriyaki chicken stir-fry with brown rice. Anytime you see something that says “stir-fry” at Carrillo, know that you are getting 75% vegetables unless you get a lucky scoop that has more meat. I am one lucky little girl. My bowl had a good amount of meat in it, and I was happy to indulge my inner cavewoman and go ham. The rice was cooked perfectly and was very delicious. The only complaint I have about these bowls is that sometimes the mushrooms look kind of like chicken, and I almost eat them. I don’t know what I would do if I ate a mushroom. Probably die. 

Next, also from the Mongolian grill but much worse, is the stir-fry noodles with vegetables. Unfortunately, this was so awful. It was literally just a bowl of noodles with one red pepper in it, so it barely qualifies as a stir-fry at all. This usually wouldn’t be a complaint for me because I hate vegetables, but my god, the noodles were awful. They were undercooked and borderline crunchy. To make things worse, this bowl was absolutely DROWNED in sauce. Sometimes when Carrillo has a bad menu (not often), I think about how easily they can get away with it since they are the closest dining hall to DP and therefore serve the highest number of drunk students. Anyway, stay away from this “stir-fry” if you can afford to.

Keeping things consistent with the Mongolian dishes, next on my list is the pork stir-fry. Notice how often I am eating stir-fry. This is a call for help. Anyway, it was bussin. The sauce and the rice were both delicious. The pork was also good, for all of the two tiny bites of it that I got. This also happened to be my first meal of the day when I had it, and it was, like, 6 p.m. so it was especially yum.

Honorable mentions from the Mongolian grill that you can literally never go wrong with are General Tso’s chicken and beef chow mein. When either of those are on the menu, you can quite literally catch me at Carrillo’s door 30 minutes before they open to be the first to get my grubby little hands on one of those bowls. 

Moving away from the Mongolian grill and into some delicious pasta, I do have to admit my love for Carrillo pesto pasta and fettuccine alfredo. Both of these pastas will need salt, I assure you, but what doesn’t need salt in a dining hall? Like, seriously, who stole the seasoning? It wouldn’t hurt to add some. Anyway, both of these pastas are so delicious and yummy so long as you add salt. Don’t forget to add salt or your food will taste bad. I’m serious. 

Just down the road from the pasta, you can find chips and salsa. The salsa, of course, is served in a big fat bowl and looks really scary and suspicious, and the chips are usually super broken up because SOME PEOPLE don’t know how to scoop chips. However, I love the chips and salsa and eat them pretty much every time they have them out. Not many good salsas can be found around here, but Carrillo’s is usually pretty good. It should not surprise you that I will recommend that you add salt to the chips.

Now, we are entering Faith’s Carrillo Hall of Fame. Get down on your knees and bow down to our first award winner: the tortilla soup. Oh my god, you guys. I’m not normally a soup person until it comes to any soup that reminds me of home. As a Mexican student, it can definitely be difficult to believe that this is a Hispanic-Serving Institution when you see what the dining hall calls an “enchilada,” but this tortilla soup will make up for any and every complaint you have ever had about the other sorry excuses for Mexican food. It is so good that it tricks me into eating vegetables. It’s flavorful, warm and makes me feel loved. I would kiss whoever made this soup. I’m serious. The only thing that could make this soup better is sharing it with people you love. 

Next, and I know this may surprise many of you, is the horchata. I know — you’re scared, you’re confused and, most of all, you don’t believe me. But have I lied to you ever? No. Listen to me. It’s good. The horchata is good. It’s not like the homemade stuff you would get at your favorite taqueria, but it is good. It’s definitely just powder mix, but if you add ice and a little bit of extra cinnamon, it is delicious. It goes really well with the tortilla soup. Trust me, try it and add cinnamon to your liking. If you don’t like it, you can club me or something, I swear it’s pretty good. 

Overall, what can I say except that I love Carrillo. It is as much a home to me as my own dorm room, except with way more people who all look like they hate me. The vibes in there are like no other — absolutely chill and happy and perfect. If you aren’t lucky enough to live nearby, make the walk every once in a while to come and enjoy some of what Carrillo has to offer, and trust me, you will not be disappointed. Carrillo, with all my heart, I love you, and you will forever be my favorite dining hall. 

A version of this article was published on p. 10 of the May 5, 2022 version of the Daily Nexus.