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5 Tips And Tricks To Spice Up The Monotony Of Finals Week Dining Hall Food

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

UCLA has long held the title of #1 university dining in the country, but this doesn’t mean that 10 weeks of the same food doesn’t get old. Even with the high quality dishes served day in and day out, a girl can only eat so much Rende West before exhausting her taste buds and yearning for something new. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get crafty and treat dining hall food as ingredients to make new things. So, here are five pro tips (from a seasoned two-year Hill veteran) to jazz up your dining hall meals and make the most of your last swipes to push through finals.


If you love CAVA as much as I do, but your bank account doesn’t seem to agree, have no fear. You can make a similar bowl to satisfy your craving for the Westwood treat at Epicuria. First, take a bowl over to the pizza station (most of the time nowadays they already have them stocked by the pizzas, and I like to believe this is because of my trailblazing bravery in bringing my own from the salad bar for a whole year). Next, fill that baby up all the way with their Mediterranean Garden Salad. Now, go over to the hummus bar and load your bowl up on all your favorite toppings: hummus, tzatziki, baba ganoush, marinated feta, olives, pickled veggies — the hummus bar is quite literally your CAVA oyster. Lastly, head to your left to pick up some chicken, meatballs, steak or whatever protein is being served that day and round out your bowl.


It’s always been a mystery to me as to why the dining halls serve breakfast foods during the dinner period for Finals Week. Have they cooked too many breakfast items and need to hand them out? Are they trying to give us comfort food to stress eat during our last-minute cramming sessions? Either way, here’s how you can make those De Neve dinner waffles even more exciting. Grab your waffle before heading over to the fried chicken sandwich station. Once you get to the front, kindly ask the staff member behind the counter for a plain piece of fried chicken (this way, you’re not wasting the bread or toppings by grabbing a whole sandwich and discarding everything but the chicken). Smother that bad boy in syrup, and enjoy your makeshift De Neve chicken and waffles!

Spiced (Literally) Up Epicuria Hummus

I wish I could take credit for this next one, but I can’t. I saw a friend do it, and I was annoyed to not have come up with the idea first! Everyone loves Epicuria’s hummus, and I’ll admit that it’s almost perfect. But let’s take it up one more notch by putting a hefty dollop on your plate and traveling to the spice station at the pasta bar. I used to just pass by these spices and occasionally add parmesan and salt to my pasta. I completely disregarded the other shakers, and in turn, I deprived myself of a whole world of flavor. At the spice station, you’ll find olive oil, harissa powder, red pepper flakes, oregano and sometimes another surprise spices to complete your hummus and chips. Turn that bland dining hall dollop into a gourmet dip!

Deluxe Peanut Butter and Banana Honey Toast

One of my favorite comfort dishes to make at home is peanut butter, banana, honey and chia seed toast. Although I can’t include the chia seeds (even in the #1 dining hall in the country), I can get pretty darn close to the same dish with a little creativity. Head to De Neve and make a beeline for the toaster. Put your piece of bread in before grabbing other ingredients to ensure maximum efficiency seeing as the toasters tend to operate at positively glacial speed. While your bread is toasting, circle back to the pastry section where they keep the to-go fruits. Grab a banana and a knife before checking on your bread (it won’t even be halfway through the toaster yet, don’t worry). Slice your banana into medallions while you wait. Once the toaster finally shoots your bread out the bottom at warp speed in all its golden glory, it’s time to assemble. Spread on an even layer of peanut butter and lay your banana medallions out evenly on the toast. Finally, to seal the deal, head back to the yogurt bar and drizzle a healthy serving of honey all over the top. Even sans chia seeds, this hack is sure to satisfy that home breakfast craving.

Jocelyn Hsu / Spoon
Soft Serve Soda Float

We’ve all made an ice cream sundae at De Neve with the classic toppings, but have you ever had a soda float? Although the dining hall (criminally) does not offer any kind of root beer, a little bit of CocaCola or any other soda will do the trick just fine. Bring a glass over from the drink station to the soft serve machine and swirl in a generous serving of vanilla soft serve ice cream, leaving some space throughout the cup as you do so. Then, head back over to the soda fountain and fill the gaps in with your soda of choice. Enjoy with a spoon and transport yourself back to elementary school with the bliss of this nostalgic summer treat!

Although I find myself feeling thankful every day that I have the bounty of delicious food options offered at UCLA, I really do love putting my own spin on dining hall food. It’s a fun way to keep things interesting, give myself some small semblance of cooking and have fun trying new things with my friends. So, if you’ve been looking for the perfect way to use all those extra swipes you’ve accumulated this quarter, give these a try!

Ciara is a third year UCLA student from Oakland, CA who is majoring in Public Health. She loves to travel and explore new places; especially when there's any kind of ocean involved. When she's not busy workshopping her next Her Campus article, you can find Ciara sipping her morning coffee somewhere sunny, relaxing in her hammock, or chasing a sunset.