Who says college dining has to be disgusting?

Originally published in The Diamondback’s 2012 College Park Guide.

By Jenny Hottle, staff writer

Although college brings the excitement of independence, night life and (optional) classes, students often seem to long for a home-cooked meal. There’s a stigma associated with college dining: It’s bland, boring and sometimes just plain gross.

But walking into this university’s dining halls can be exciting and overwhelming all at once — with hamburgers, pizza, sandwiches, soup, a pasta bar, salad bars and more, there seems to be something for everyone. Yet you’ll still likely find yourself settling into a boring and tasteless routine, and you’ll be tired of eating the same things every day after a month or two.

That being said, the dining halls really aren’t bad — the food is decent, even pretty good. The biggest complaints seem to be a lack of variety and not enough healthy choices, so we’ve compiled some tips to surviving, and even enjoying, college dining.

DO learn the best times to avoid the dining halls. Students pack the dining halls during the noon to 1 p.m. rush, when all students seem to have the same break between classes. After a week or two, you’ll quickly learn the best times to go to or avoid the dining halls. On days when you’re in a rush, consider getting your lunch to go, especially if you don’t have much time to wait around looking for a table. And don’t wait in line for the stir fry or pasta unless you comfortably have an hour to linger in the diner between classes or work.

DON’T go to Late Night every night. Even though it’s definitely a fun time to meet up with friends and grab some wings or dessert, you’ll find yourself quickly packing on the freshman 15 if you go too often.

DO try some student favorites: buffalo chicken wraps, Korean barbecue from the North Campus Dining Hall, stir fry from the South Campus Dining Hall, the made-to-order pasta and ice cream from this university’s
Dairy. After all, they’re favorites for a reason.

DON’T get the value meal every day. They’re not really a value; if you get it every day, you’ll find yourself out of dining points a month before the end of the semester. Certain value meals are by far better than others (get the buffalo chicken sandwich, avoid anything with fish), so don’t be afraid to try out the options and sift through them before deciding which ones are worth spending your precious dining points on.

DO keep an eye on your dining points, but don’t freak out if you’re running low. At the end of the semester, there’s always someone with extra points who will gladly buy you a meal. And if you’re that student with the extra points, treat some friends to dinner — maybe even at Adele’s, the sitdown restaurant in Stamp. And it’s a surefire way to score some more friends — not that you’re trying to buy your friends.

DO find a way to make the trip to 251 North, located in the Denton Community. Residents on North Campus have one 251 North meal per week, while South Campus residents are allotted four meals per semester. The all-you-can-eat dining hall undoubtedly has the best food on the campus, ranging from significantly better pizza to gourmet desserts, such as cannolis.

DON’T forget about alternate dining options. Even with three dining halls, there are nights when just nothing on the menu sounds appetizing. You can try being creative — a friend swears by putting peanut butter on the hamburgers instead of ketchup (not that I’d necessarily recommend that particular combination). Or you can switch it up by going to the Stamp food court or spending some Terp Bucks in one of the campus convenience stores. And if you just need to get away from campus for a bit, head down to Route 1 to grab a bite. If you’re just feeling too lazy to leave your room, order food online — many Route 1 restaurants deliver right to your residence hall.

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