Oh, first years. Remember when you did Days on the Lawn, and the dining hall food was actually really good? And UVA Dining somehow convinced you that they serve fettucini alfredo with parmesan crusted chicken all school year?
“How could I possibly ever get sick of this food?” we thought.
Well it’s two weeks in, and you are already making circles around Newcomb, trying to trick yourself into believing those “chicken tacos” (floppy tortillas with chicken nuggets and mysterious sauce on the inside) might be remotely appetizing.
The truth is, we all miss home cooking. We miss the independence of being able to hop in the car and go meet friends for dinner. We miss real food. And the idea of unlimited food and freedom to eat what you want just isn’t quite as appealing as it was a few weeks ago.
I’m here to let you in on a little secret: there are strategic ways to overcome O-Hill. If you follow these tips, I promise you will make it through the year, without the kicking and screaming.
The Salad Bar
A salad per day keeps the doctor away, right? You can never go wrong with the salad bar. Top your spinach leaves with feta cheese, pecans, berries, chicken, and balsamic vinaigrette; and don’t be afraid to get creative with some new toppings. Thankfully, we can consistently count on the salad bar to have a fresh, wide variety.
The Sandwich Bar
The make-your-own sandwich bar is my “go-to.” If all else fails, I know that I can order a sandwich just to my liking. There are different breads, cheeses, meats, and condiments to choose from, so you aren’t forced to eat a ham-and-cheese sandwich for 242 days straight. Unless that’s just how you roll.
Eat on the Corner.
If you can, try to save $15 per week allotted to eating on the Corner. You won’t regret it. Simply going off grounds and eating a meal at Basil, Lemongrass, or The Virginian with friends can function as the crucial break you need from the dining hall. It’s also a justifiable excuse to eat out, and an opportunity to try new restaurants or ethnic foods.
N2Go is the way to go.
To my first year dismay, I did not discover the gem that is N2Go until my second semester on Grounds. N2Go has various foods to choose from under a glass case, from lasagna to steamed veggies to wraps to quinoa patties. The best part? With a meal swipe, you can get one entrée, two sides, and a drink. The portions are more than plenty, and it undoubtedly beats eating at Newcomb.
You definitely want to substitute dinner at O-Hill for the PAV at least once per week. For one meal swipe, you can get a Chik-fil-A sandwich with waffle fries, a burrito, a quesadilla, a smoothie, a sub, a Caesar salad, or any of their other choices. Need I say more?
Find an upperclassman friend to cook for you.
It may not live up to mom’s home cooking, but if you can find an upperclassman friend who will make homemade spaghetti in their apartment for you, it’s about as close as you can get. If he is truly your friend, then he will sympathize with your dining hall struggles. (Note: If you are a girl who is considering rushing this spring, make sure to visit a non-Greek upperclassman girl, due to the ISC Contact Policy.)
Always. Eat. Brunch.
Without a doubt, brunch is easily the best meal in UVA dining halls. You can choose from scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, made-to-order omelets, biscuits with gravy, eggs benedict, bagels, and more. You are better off sleeping in on Saturday morning, grabbing brunch around noon, and saving.
The dining hall can be hit-or-miss. There will be days when you think, “This is actually not all that bad,” and days where you just want a make-your-own Chipotle burrito bowl line in O-Hill; really, anything but O-Hill food. But you’re not going to get by eating the same exact thing, every day, all year. Spice up your palate with different foods, innovative combinations, or simply something you haven’t tried before. You’ll be surprised when May rolls around, and you realize that you made it through without a scratch — and perhaps with a newfound appreciation for Mom’s homemade meatloaf that you used to despise.