Dining hall fatigue—you know it, I know it. At the beginning of the year, you enter HoCo or Philly every day hungry and ready to dig into the seemingly infinite array of food laid out in front of you. By the end of the month, though, the stainless steel starts to lose its shine. It feels like you’ve had every menu item a thousand times. You don’t want to buy food elsewhere and waste that expensive meal plan, but you can only eat so many waffles in a week. That’s where a little bit of creativity comes in handy.
Nearly everyone I’ve talked to has their own go-to creation, ranging from a simple unconventional combination to something approaching actual cooking. The tips and recipes below have been collected from others’ and my own experiments, and are of course only a small jumping-off point for those of you itching for something new and willing to put in the little bit of extra effort to spice up your next trip to the cafeteria. I am not a chef, but I do have an uncle who’s a chef, so I can speak with full authority when I say: when it comes to food, just do whatever. Find what you like. Go wild. Nobody can stop you (unless you contaminate the waffle-maker, of course).
TUNA MELT - Tired of tuna salad sandwiches? It only takes a couple minutes to make a decent tuna melt. Here are the steps I use. Get some peasant bread from the sandwich or breakfast station, butter one side of each slice with butter from breakfast station. Put two slices of swiss cheese on the unbuttered side of each piece, then tuna salad (get a good amount), and a few slices of tomato. This is the time for pickles/ peppers/etc. if you want it.
Put the assembled sandwich in the panini press and leave it in for about a minute. Flip it and leave for another minute, then remove.
Add in any lettuce or other produce that you want to have crisp in the sandwich, as they would get soggy if cooked in the sandwich. Enjoy!
ROOT BEER FLOAT - This is pretty self- explanatory. Put some vanilla frozen yogurt in a cup, add the soda of your choice, boom. obviously, but it’s a nice way to spice up that Mongolian grill bar. Get some rice in a bowl, add a meat of your choice, throw in whatever elements you like from the salad bar (for me, it’s edamame beans, shredded carrots, shredded cucumbers, shallots, parsley, bean sprouts and lime), drizzle with your preferred mix of the sweet sauces and get the breakfast bar to make you an egg sunny-side up to plop on top. Add some sriracha, mix it all up and you’ve got a fun new dinner!
LATE-NIGHT BREAKFAST BURGER - There’s no two ways about it: the burgers at Philly late night are not good. You can add a little extra by stepping it up to a Breakfast Burger.
Get a plain burger. Get an egg fried over medium or over easy from the breakfast bar, have them fry some bacon as well and put them on the burger. While you’re there, you could have them fry up some onions, peppers or whatever else you’d like from their section. Add whatever other breakfasty stuff you want.
I would recommend taking the extra minute to throw the buns in the toaster for a second while the egg is cooking, so they’re warm and crisp when you eat.
USE THE SPICES - They’re there for a reason. There is a veritable cornucopia of flavor nestled in those little shelves you pass by every day, don’t let them go to waste. Many of my complaints about dining hall food boil down to underseasoning, which makes sense given the wide range of pallets that the food has to serve. If that sounds familiar to you, I would absolutely recommend taking a couple minutes to add some depth of flavor with a sprinkle of paprika or herbs.
MIX AND MATCH - Don’t stay in one section! Never let the 10 feet between the sections stop you from expanding your options. This seems like common sense, but I’ve had a thousand times when I lamented the lack
of variety in sandwich ingredients, even while I walked right past the salad bar that had exactly what I wanted. If your salad is stale, grab some tuna salad from the sandwich bar and make yourself a nicoise. Go on a scavenger hunt for the right additions.