Dining With Housing Pro Tips

With 4 all-you-care-to-eat dining locations, five retail locations and an amazing food truck, choosing where to eat with University Housing is no easy task. I still remember my freshman year like it was last year (which it was!). I walked into my first dining hall—Ikenberry, where I became hopelessly lost on what to eat or where to go since there were so many options. You can only imagine the amazement I felt when I learned that there were other dining halls each with their own variety of offerings. That being said, here are some tips to help you navigate the ins and outs of University Housing dining!

group of students and staff pose for a photo together in a kitchen


  1. Use the Illinois App: The Illinois app has everything you need to know: when dining halls are open, what they’re serving during each mealtime (including dessert!), special upcoming dining events, current dining dollar amount and nutritional information including allergen content. It’s also a great tool to keep up with everything Illinois and has information on campus wide events, activities, programs and more.
    screenshot of Illinois app dining locations section
  2. Eat at uncommon times: Nobody likes waiting in the dining hall lines during rush hour, which is why I’d recommend eating at more unconventional times such as a late lunch or early dinner. If there are special dining events going on, make sure to get there early too so that you’re first in line to try all of the special dishes!
  3. Experiment with different food options: Last year, my friend discovered a magical way of making cookies so that they were just the right temperature and texture—warm and gooey. To do this, she would put a cookie in a panini press wrapped in the panini press parchment paper. Or, you could also take your favorite ingredients from the salad bar (such as croutons, cheese, spinach, etc.) to mix with other dishes. These are just some examples, but it goes to show how you can experiment with different food combinations and methods to spice up your dining hall experience!
  4. Try to visit each dining hall at least once: just to see which dining hall suits your tastes and needs better. I discovered PAR stir-fry wayyyyy too late my freshman year (to this day, it was honestly one of the best meals I’ve had in dining because I got to build it myself), and once I realized how delicious it was I tried to go there at least once a week. Visiting other dining halls is great if you want to switch up your meals a little more and eat in different environments, and it’s also great to meet new people too!
    photo of stir fry with long noodles and vegetables
  5. Go to dining events: dining events are honestly the best part of living with University Housing! Some of my favorite events last year were Midnight Breakfast (exactly as it sounds—eating breakfast foods at midnight—and I also got to watch my boss dress up in a dinosaur costume and throw out housing t-shirts to students), the Taste of Illinois fest on the IKE Quad (where I tried my first deep-fried oreo! Not for me personally, but it was very interesting) and special cultural events for Diwali and Lunar New Year. I would highly recommend planning your meal swipes so that you can attend these events!
  6. For the convenience-minded folks: If eating in a dining hall is too time consuming, consider using a Good2Go Carry-Out box to take your meals on the go. Or, you could also utilize one of the retail locations for a quick lunch - the caprese panini is one of my favorites. I highly recommend checking out the food truck that has different culturally-inspired meals each week.
    students line up waiting for food next to the orange and blue Good2Go food truck

Those are my biggest tips for now, but I’m sure you’ll discover your own too! Honestly, the dining halls are where I made some of my favorite memories freshman year. They’re where I made lasting friendships over shared meals, discovered new foods that I had never tried before and immersed myself in cuisines different from the ones I’m familiar with. The dining halls’ convenience are definitely what I miss most now that I’m living in an apartment, and I hope that you can make the most of them while you’re living with University Housing.