Hello, baby Illini class of 2021!
In two months, you’ll begin attending the BEST university in the world! I hope you’re pumped out of your mind – but even if you aren’t, you’ll get there (I promise). Freshman year will go by in a blink.
The thought of going away to college, once it hits you that it’s actually happening, is both extremely exciting and mortifying. It is an interesting feeling. I’ll be writing many more college related posts, but today I wanted to discuss with you a few tips that I wish I had known about the dining halls before getting to campus.
Disclaimer: these are all simply my opinions, I aim to help incoming freshmen out by giving them the review that I would give a friend.
I also want to clearly state that I will not be discussing the “Freshman 15” that a lot of people are concerned about. Some people gain it, some people don’t. Eating is something that you need to do in order to fuel your body – what you decide to eat is your choice. I ate a lot of salads, but I also are a lot of french fries. I’m a believer in balance.
This guide is for students living in university housing (any of the Ikenberry dorms, Allen/LAR, ISR, PAR/FAR, and Busey-Evans), which is what I lived in. I lived in Hopkins Hall in the Ike, and I really loved it.
Ikenberry Residence Halls (Ike):
The Ikenberry dining hall is the largest of the university housing dining halls, and it is the dining hall that is the closest to the Ikenberry dorms (Hopkins, Scott, Weston, Bousfield, Taft-VanDoren, Nugent, Wassaja, Snyder, Barton, and Lundgren). It has several stations with a decent amount of variety, including a vegan station.
The Ike is good for its morning custom omelette station, the soul nights in February for Black History Month, the apple crisp, the large salad bar, the custom grilled cheese bar (I’m lactose-intolerant and they had vegan cheese options, and they also had pesto), waffle fries, and occasionally a few other things.
The Ike also has a cool little coffee shop called Caffeinator which has smoothies, coffees, and typical coffee shop things which you can purchase with your café credits. The caramel apple smoothie there is life. I actually think I’ll go back to the Ike and pay real money for one of those, even though I’ll be living in an apartment next year. However, there is so much more outside of the Ike.
Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Halls (PAR):
PAR has good custom stir fry, custom calzones, and for “light lunch” (1:30-3:00pm on weekdays) good sushi. PAR is known for “late night,” which is every night from 8:00pm to midnight. It is the only dining hall open late at night, so it’s usually pretty crowded. “Late night” has a weekly breakfast for dinner night which is somewhat of a social event among freshmen, and it has really tasty donuts.
Allen Hall (Unit One)/Lincoln Avenue Residence Halls (Allen/LAR):
Allen has really good vegetarian nights. I really enjoyed the noodle dishes at Allen, and I really enjoyed the variety of fresh fruit that was available for dessert. The Ike didn’t have a lot of fresh fruit, which was upsetting. I also never really experienced lines at Allen, which was nice if you needed to get in and out quickly.
Florida Avenue Residence Halls (FAR):
FAR has days when you can make custom subs, and FAR also has really good pizza once a week (FAR Out Pizza). FAR also has soul nights year-round with very tasty comfort food. I didn’t eat at FAR too much, and I regret it.
Busey-Evans Women’s Residence Halls (Busey):
On Fridays, Busey has really good stir fry/custom noodles called Oodles. I haven’t eaten at Busey other than on Oodles days, but from what I’ve heard, there isn’t much variety and there are very limited options for vegetarians.
Illinois Street Residence Halls (ISR):
ISR food is really bad, from what I’ve heard. I never went and I don’t think I missed anything.
Weekends In The Dining Hall:
I recommend using all of your meal swipes during the week, and eating out on the weekend because weekend dorm food at UIUC isn’t that great. I only ever ate at the Ike, and the dinners were all comprised of the “reject” menu items from the week that people most likely wouldn’t want to eat.
The only good time to go to the Ike on the weekend is for lunch, which is basically brunch. There are custom omelette bowls, which are pretty good. There’s also a lot of breakfast food, so it’s usually pretty decent.
I recommend experimenting with all of these dining halls and finding what you like. There is a UI Dining app that I recommend downloading to look at the menus (you can usually see them as early as a week in advance if you’re into meal planning).
Also, secret pro tip for y’all. Make friends with someone who lives in Hendrick House through private certified housing and get them to swipe you in to eat at their dining hall. They have gourmet chefs and everything tastes fantastic, especially the omelettes and the ribs. Their salad bar is insane. Ooh, and the bread pudding. Well, actually everything. Even the water seems to taste better over there. (Love you, Sam and Anumay, thanks for all the lunch swipes).
Please be sure to let me know what college or UIUC related posts you’d be interested in seeing, and let me know what you think of these tips!
Lots of Illini love,