There’s a lot to look forward to at the beginning of the semester – new friends, new classes, new activities, and new environments. Just as important, however, is figuring out how to carry on with old, basic habits. Like eating.
The USC dining halls can be a scary place for both new and returning students, but traversing the buffet lines at EVK, Parkside and Café 84 can be easier than you think.
1. Embrace the idea of eating alone.
While it’s always great to sit down and enjoy a meal with your classmates or roommates, or even try to make new friends by sharing a meal, it’s also not always possible. Different class and activity schedules mean you might end up squeezing in meals at weird hours of the day. Breakfast might be at 11 a.m., and lunch might be at 3 p.m. Eating alone may seem awkward, but it can actually be one of the most relaxing parts of your day. For 20 minutes, all you have to worry about is the food on your plate, and whether you want to get seconds.
2. Get creative with your meals.
Pizza and pasta everyday can sound like a great idea until you actually have to eat pizza and pasta everyday. The dining halls may not always have options that suit your tastes, but there are so many ways to personalize meals in the dining halls. Here are some of my favorite suggestions:
- Ask for freshly grilled items for a fresh salad.
You can ask the cooks to grill chicken or turkey burgers when they aren’t serving them that day. Get some grilled chicken, season with salt and pepper, place on a bed of leafy greens, and dress to your heart’s content with one of the many dressing options. For another healthy addition, pile some fruits and veggies on your plate.
- Root beer/Coke floats
Soft serve + Root beer or soda of choice. So simple, but so yummy.
- Banana and peanut butter
This combination goes well with toast, bagels, ice cream, or even just as a snack on its own.
- Bacon waffles
Get bacon. Put in waffle mix. Make waffle. Be super happy!
- Crepes at Café 84
Choose your ingredients, and decide if you want a sweet or savory crepe. My favorite combination for a savory crepe is tomatoes, chicken and pesto, and for a sweet crepe I usually go for the classic chocolate, banana and strawberry combination. They even have Nutella!
3. Time your meals accordingly
There are going to be times when the line into the dining hall is going to be out the door. If you’re eating on a tight schedule, make sure you steer clear of the dining halls’ busiest times:
- Breakfast rush: 9-10 a.m., right before everyone heads off to morning classes. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day!
- Lunch rush: 12:15-1 p.m.
- Dinner rush: 6:30-7 p.m.
You can also look up the dining hall hours here to make sure you don’t make the trek if the dining hall is closed. (Also some dining halls, like EVK, will take a 30-minute break between breakfast and lunch, which is 10-10:30 a.m. on weekdays. While you can finish you meal if you’re already in the dining hall, you won’t be able to enter until it opens up again.
Also be sure to thank the hospitality workers in the dining halls and keep your eye out for EVKitty. Happy dining!