What Makes a College Eat the Best?

In honor of March Madness, we searched out the top 32 Best College Eats from campuses around the nation. Now we're pitting them against each other, bracket style, to see which dish will come out on top.

During our research, though, we noticed some similarities between the dishes that kept coming up as college students' favorites. After some careful analysis (and sampling of the dishes) we identified these key elements when cooking up a Best College Eat:

Photo by: kerri brewer ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

kerri brewer, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

1) Carbohydrates

Let's be frank for a minute. A top college eat is likely a food being asked to surmount a difficult task: either prevent or cure a hangover. The first necessary element, then, is bread. From a sturdy biscuit holding together a delicious chicken sandwich to a pizza crust smothered in bbq pulled pork, we've got a range of carbohydrates on display.

Chicken Cheddar Biscuit UNC

Photo by: kerri brewer ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

kerri brewer, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

 Only a super sturdy biscuit can hold up to the amount of chicken in UNC's Chicken Cheddar Biscuit.

Photo by: kerri brewer ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

kerri brewer, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

2) Cheese

I think we can all agree: cheese just makes things taste better. And a Best College Eat is no exception. We're not talking French Camembert or a smoked Gouda. No, our dishes feature shredded Cheddar and slices of American at their best. Though to be clear -- we are not opposed to fancy cheeses. Just check out Michigan's Triple Play Reuben or Harvard's Viagra Burger.

The Southside Slopes Pittsburgh

Photo by: Kerri Brewer ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Kerri Brewer, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Two drizzly slices of American cheese are key to Pittsburgh's Southside Slopes sandwich.

Photo by: kerri brewer ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

kerri brewer, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

3) Grease

Do greasy foods really prevent hangovers? The science is still out but that doesn't stop college kids from craving a grease bomb after a night out. Bacon is a surefire addition to your dish but you don't have to stop there: follow the lead of Rutgers' grease trucks and pile on greasy mozzarella sticks, French fries and more.

The Fat Darrell Rutgers University

Photo by: kerri brewer ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

kerri brewer, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Rutgers' Grease Truck Sandwiches are a true test of just how much grease one sandwich can handle.

Photo by: kerri brewer ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

kerri brewer, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

4) Meat

Vegetarians, take note: There is a whole lot of meat happening in our list of Best College Eats. While meat is not a requirement to make the list, it does add  heft, making the dish more satisfying and filling (which is important when you're dealing with a college student's budget).

The Gut Pack Baylor University

Photo by: kerri brewer ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

kerri brewer, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Baylor's Gut Pack piles the meat high.

Photo by: kerri brewer ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

kerri brewer, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

1-A) Sweets

There is one category of dishes on our list that lack the above four elements -- the desserts. When studying late into the night, a case of the munchies can be cured by a good sugar rush. Whether it's ice cream, donuts or honey buns topped with ice cream, these dishes will satisfy any student's sweet tooth.

Toasted Honey Buns Syracuse University

Photo by: kerri brewer ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

kerri brewer, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Syracuse's Toasted Honey Bun Sundae pushes sugar consumption to its limit.

So all things considered, which on the list is the #1 Best College Eat? While we have our favorites, we're leaving the final decision to you:

Keep Reading

Next Up

Best College Eats: The Championship Game

We are down to the final two dishes in Cooking Channel's Best College Eats tournament. Marquette University's chili takes on Baylor's Gut Pak. Which dish will win?

Bracket Battle of Campus Eats: The March Madness of Food

March Madness brings out the best rivalries in college basketball. But college rivalries go far beyond the court’s end line. Check out our top picks for college town eats as rival dishes go head-to-head.

Chocolate Chip-Pecan Kentucky Pie for the Final Four

Make a warm chocolate chip cooke-pecan pie recipe -- a riff on Kentucky Pie, inspired by Derby Pie -- with this recipe from Cooking Channel.

Meet Darrell Butler, Creator of the Fat Darrell Sandwich

Meet Darrell Butler, the creator of the Fat Darrell sandwich that's available at grease trucks near Rutgers University.

On TV

Last-Minute Sides

So Much Pretty Food Here