A few years ago, the popular Midwestern fast food franchise Portillo's moved into nearby Sycamore, and both locals and homesick students from Chicago flocked to it like it was the Second Coming. That's how desperate the off-campus dining situation is at NIU-students will drive 20 minutes for a hot dog. Forget good sushi or fresh seafood; you'll discover neither in DeKalb. What you will find is a lengthy stretch of chain restaurants like the popular Ruby Tuesday and Applebee's. Their atmospheres are relaxed, their entrees affordable, and their food edible, but distinctiveness and class are not served regularly. Johnny's Charhouse is deservedly regarded as the best restaurant in DeKalb, and while the prices are steep, the food is fantastic. If you're looking to impress a date, you can't do better in the area. Eduardo's also does a credible job presenting authentic Mexican cuisine at decent prices, and the Junction is the ultimate late-night eatery for hipsters, intellectuals, insomniacs, and people sobering up.
Off-campus dining is certainly more appealing than dorm food, but it's also a more expensive option, especially if you are already committing more than $50 a week to a meal plan. The quantity of eateries in DeKalb doesn't compensate for the lack of quality and diversity in most menus, but nearly all students end up finding a few places that satisfy their tastes.