O-Issue 2014: Dining Hall Hacks

By Kristin Lin

The Unlimited meal plan is appropriately named, as it literally gives you as many meal swipes as you need to satisfy your stomach. But with great power comes great responsibility—or, rather, the need for great creativity. Because the dining hall can get monotonous—fast. As soon as you run out of your quarterly flex dollars and are constrained to eating three meals a day in the same room with food served on a more or less rotational schedule, you’re going to want new options. Here is what my house and I have found.


  1. Mixing and matching

Though the dining hall is compartmentalized by strange names like “harvest” and “global,” the best way to defeat monotony is to combine food from different stations. Use the parmesan cheese from the salad bar to garnish your pasta; put peas in your macaroni and cheese; add corn from the entrée station to your tacos. If you think of the food as ingredients rather than finished products, you can jazz up your dinner with very little work.


  1. There are two types of hummus, and one is better than the other

    The hummus at the kosher station tastes significantly better than its counterpart at the salad bar.

  2. No two dining halls are the same

    Though Cathey and Bartlett claim to have all the same goods, they don’t. There’s a hazelnut-flavored coffee at Bartlett, but not South. Captain Crunch is only served in Bartlett, but Cathey more consistently has Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Cathey is also home to the Mongolian grill on campus, where you can watch your vegetables and meat get stir-fried with the sauce of your choice.

  3. It’s all about the bressert

    Combining breakfast and dessert items can lead to an exciting dessert or a sugary start to your day. Put a cookie in the waffle machine with some waffle batter and you get a wookie. Replace sprinkles with cereal for your ice cream topping.

  4. Microwaves and toasters can perform miracles

    You’d be surprised how much better food tastes when it’s piping hot. Put your pita bread and chocolate chip cookies through the microwave or toaster oven.

  5. Waffle machines too

    During fourth meal, you can put tater tots in the waffle machines to make a potato waffle. It’s what some experts call genius.

  6. Maroon Dollars can take you a long way

    If you’re tired of eating in the dining hall, you can always use the 100 flex dollars set aside for you each quarter. Maroon Dollars can be used at all campus coffee shops except for Grounds of Being, the Divinity School coffee shop. If you go to Cobb Coffee Shop, you will find hot lunches catered from local restaurants like the Snail and the Nile.

  7. …so can meal exchanges

    The Unlimited meal plan will afford you three meal exchanges, which are essentially preset meals that seem like they cost you nothing. Many places on campus offer meal exchanges: Among these options, C-Shop offers a bagel and coffee, the BSLC has hot dogs (among other items), and Hutchinson Commons (aka Hutch) will give you three tacos at Qdoba. Look for a maroon sign at any place that provides food.

Follow these instructions and before you know it, you’ll be able to switch to the Phoenix plan.