Students in the dining hall.

A Freshman’s View On Dining Halls

One of the perks of University Housing is the flexibility of the meal plan. Rather than being confined to one dining hall, you have the option of choosing the location that best fits in your busy schedule. With almost one semester of life on campus under my belt, here’s my ranking of each dining hall based on my own experiences. 

Starting off in fifth and last place is FAR, or Florida Avenue Residence’s dining hall. 

I will begin this by saying that I haven’t had a bad experience at a single one of these dining halls. That being said, FAR has very limited hours (which is understandable during a pandemic) to pick up Express meals to heat up in your dorm, and even less hours to pick up hot lunch or dinner. However, FAR is the only dining location that offers an order online feature. In my opinion, you might want to check out what PAR is serving if you’re needing more flexible hours. 

In a solid fourth place ranking is LAR, or Lincoln Avenue Residence’s dining hall. 

Personally, I’ve had a really great experience at LAR! LAR serves the standard lunches and dinner, but they also have a separate kosher dining area called Kosher Kitchen. As a vegetarian, I’ve grabbed meals from Kosher Kitchen frequently because they have the absolute best macaroni and cheese and lots of tofu meals. Much like FAR, LAR doesn’t serve a separate breakfast, and the hot meal hours are not as flexible as the next three dining halls. 

Taking home the bronze medal is PAR, or Pennsylvania Avenue’s Residence’s dining hall. 

Coming from someone who lives in PAR, it is very deserving of its middle status on my ranking. The hours are significantly longer than that of FAR and LAR, and PAR serves breakfast daily! The other two also don’t have a gas station-style market. In PAR’s Urbana South Market, students can use their café credits to purchase items like chips and bottled drinks, pre-packaged meals like sushi and salads, or ala carte sandwiches or soft pretzels. PAR certainly has a lot more flexibility than FAR and LAR, but the menu does feel a bit repetitive at times. 

Runner-up for the best dining hall is the Ikenberry Dining center.

The Ike has similar times to PAR, but this facility is MASSIVE. There are three stations within the dining hall that each serve different menus, so it’s difficult to not find something you’ll like! Gregory Street Diner serves the standard menu, Prairie Fire serves pizza, and Soytainly serves vegetarian/vegan friendly meals. The Ike also has 57 North, which is their market, but they also have a café in the center called Caffeinator. At Caffeinator, you can use café credits to purchase baked goods, smoothies, and breakfast sandwiches. There are way more options to choose from in the Ike compared to the former dining halls mentioned.

And lastly, the very best dining hall on the UIUC campus is ISR, or Illinois Street Residence’s dining hall. 

I don’t think anyone is surprised by this ranking. ISR’s dining hall is brand new this semester, and it is gorgeous! Similar to the Ike, ISR has flexible hours and three stations you can pick from. There’s Grillworks, Latitude, and Saporito, all of which serve unique meals with fun dinners, like Chipotle-esqe burrito bowls on occasion. Also, much like the Ike, ISR has both a market and a café. Terrabyte is their market, while InfiniTEA is their café, which has a bit more extensive of a menu than Caffeinator’s. At InfiniTEA, you can purchase many of the same things Caffeinator offers with the addition of coffee/espresso drinks, teas and fresh-squeezed juices. At ISR, the options are truly endless!

Each dining hall has something unique to offer to students. Even in a pandemic, Illinois has given its students ample options to feed and fuel themselves for success! To keep on top of hours and see what each dining hall is offering on a specific day, download the Illinois app for the most updated information.  

Brooke

Brooke

Class of 2024
I’m a social work major with a passion for people and the betterment of society. Listening to my friends share their experiences sparked my love for the University of Illinois, so I can’t wait to share my own with prospective and incoming students!

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