Claremont cravings: The quest for the best taco at the Claremont Colleges

Two tacos are on a plate with limes and radishes. Next to them is a glass Coca-Cola bottle.
(Drea Alonzo • The Student Life)

Taco night at the Claremont Colleges is a night of long lines, hunger and even longer lines. I’ve had incredibly delicious meals — and some not-so-memorable ones. Some of those less memorable experiences made me want to give up on 5C tacos altogether, but then I decided that I couldn’t give up on the meal that my friends and I wanted most. And so, I tried the tacos at all five Claremont Colleges to review and better advise you all so that you don’t have to feel disappointed. For the sake of this article, the ratings out of five will be relative to other tacos on campus, and not all of the tacos in the world.

Pomona College — Frank and Frary Dining Halls

In my experience, the tacos at both of Pomona’s dining halls, Frank and Frary, are basically the same; for convenience, I will give these dining halls one rating. Even though the lines for tacos can be intimidatingly long, they move pretty quickly. I think this is due to the fact that the lines are self-serve, which is a big plus as I can put the amount of meat and salsa that I want on my tacos. The salsas are not very spicy, but Frank sometimes has a spicier salsa available by request. Another oddity is that instead of limes they usually have lemons, which my friend from Mexico finds very unusual. They usually have barbacoa and chicken for meat options, and I think that the chicken is probably the best-seasoned chicken taco meat on campus.

Overall, I give Pomona’s tacos three-and-a-half out of five stars (four out of five stars when they have the special salsa).

Scripps College — Malott Dining Commons

Moving up to Scripps, Malott, was the first non-Pomona dining hall where I tried tacos. Almost every time I have gone, the line has been ridiculously long. I will say that the staff at the dining hall at Scripps are very nice when they are serving the tacos and take great care to give out well-portioned tacos. I especially like the carne asada and carnitas tacos at Malott. The cilantro and onion that they have is consistently very fresh and well chopped.

Overall, I give Malott’s tacos four-and-a-half out of five stars.They are consistently tasty, even if they require a long wait in line.

Pitzer College — McConnell Dining Hall 

The first taco I tried at Pitzer’s McConnell Dining Hall was the Korean taco. I had heard many positive reviews, so even though the line was extremely long and slow-moving, I decided to wait it out. I have not returned for the Korean taco since, though, as I thought that it lacked seasoning and that the meat was dry. In fact, I did not return to Pitzer for a long time until I decided to try their Mexican tacos. The line for those was much shorter than that of the Korean tacos, and it moved much faster. I will say that I really liked the carnitas and thought that although they were not spicy, the salsas were more flavorful than those at other dining halls. I also liked the tortillas.

Overall, I give the tacos at McConnell four out of five stars.

Harvey Mudd College — Hoch-Shanahan Dining Commons

Even though The Hoch at Harvey Mudd is one of the dining halls that I frequent the least — none of my friends want to walk there — is one of my favorites. The taco line was surprisingly short compared to other lines I’ve experienced there. I tried the carnitas and chicken tacos. I thought that the quality of the meat was good. My favorite part of the tacos at the Hoch is the spice bar: a table with an overwhelming number of spices to choose from.

Overall, I give the Hoch four out of five stars as I can use the spice bar to make my tacos just how I want them.

Claremont McKenna College — Collins Dining Hall

Onto Collins, Claremont McKenna’s dining hall. Last week my friend reached out to me and said that she wanted to have Collins’ tacos. I was surprised because I had never heard anyone talk about the tacos at Collins, let alone rave about them. Upon entering, I was shocked at how short the line was. I only had to wait for a couple of minutes. At Collins they had limes and guacamole which was a nice touch. Also, if you ask, they have a special salsa that they warn you about. While it was tasty, it was not as dangerously spicy as they had claimed. I was impressed by the quality of the carnitas, and the chicken had more seasoning than the other 5C dining halls. The taco that I tried there was the birria taco, and even though it had a slightly longer line, it was worth the wait.

Due to the quality of the tacos, the sides and the lack of line, I must give Collins five out of five stars — making them the winner.

Isaac Warshaw PO ’25 is a student with a passion for flavor and a hunger to satisfy. He writes about food and cooking in Claremont to help fellow students make more informed culinary decisions so that they can improve their dining experience in college.

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