Making the most of your dining hall experience

By Fatima Farha

Dining halls are full of various types of food in copious amounts, available for students to indulge in as they please during their meals three times a day.

It’s pretty great, with so many options it should be easy and somewhat enjoyable to eat in the dining halls. But what many students don’t know before entering college is how to take full advantage of the dining halls, especially when the food starts to become unsatisfying.

As the days go by, the meals start becoming repetitive, causing them to taste dull and the initial excitement over so much food begins to wane.

However, there are several ways to make sure your daily meals aren’t boring and you’re actually satisfied with your food; after all, the meals should be worth the money you’re paying for them.

There’s an app for that

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    First and foremost, you need the free University dining app. Not only does it show you the different menus for each dining hall, it also shows the menus for the different speciality meals that each dining hall offers each week.

    The app will also show you how many meals you have eaten for the week, along with how many credits you have left. With the dining app, you can pick and choose which one you want to go to, so you don’t have to be stuck with eating something you’re really not in the mood for.

    Taking advantage of all the dining halls

    One of the perks of having a meal plan on campus is having access to every single dining hall in the University residence halls. In total, there are seven dining halls on campus where students can swipe in with their meal plan during designated times for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    Considering which residence hall you live in, you’ll probably eat in that hall’s specific dining hall most of the time because of the convenience in location. But every dining hall serves different meals each day, so there may be a chance that another dining hall is serving food you would rather eat than the one in your residence hall.

    Using the dining app, you can see which dining hall is serving what, so you are free to choose for yourself.

    If you have to step aside from the menu…

    Panini makers and waffle machines are your friends. They’re your best friends. These are available at all dining halls, and they’re useful when absolutely nothing on the menu is fitting your mood.

    There is always bread and different meats and cheeses at any dining hall, along with tomato, lettuce, cucumbers, and so on, for a quick panini.

    The waffle machines are easy to use, since the batter is premade, and you can customize your own waffle with whipped cream, butter, chocolate chips, different syrups and any other way you want. These can be life savers when nothing else seems to be good enough to eat.

    All You Can Eat After Dark options

    The dining halls have set timings for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and dinner usually ends sometime between 6:30-7 p.m., depending on the dining hall.

    However, at PAR and ISR, there are All You Can Eat After Dark times, which run from 8 p.m.- 12 a.m., all seven days a week. The menus do differ each day, but they’re also available on the dining app.

    When it’s late, and you’re really hungry but not in the mood for spending money, the late night options are the best way to go.

    Other aspects to take advantage of

    Each dining hall has its own perks, which you will come to learn as you progress into the semester. All of them have salad bars with many options, so if you’re just looking for something light, that is always available.

    At Busey-Evans, you can make yourself quesadillas with the tortilla wraps they have available, at PAR you can make your own stir-fry and watch as the chefs prepare them with your choice of meat and noodles and at the Ike you can buy yourself a nice steak or burger from Don’s Chophouse with your credits. And these are just a few of the options.

    Once you start eating at the dining halls, you’ll start figuring out your favorite way of eating your meals. Be sure to take advantage of these choices and you won’t get too tired of the food you’re eating. But if you do, just try something new!

    Fatima is a sophomore in Media. [email protected]