Students at VCU know that the school isn’t very well known for culinary excellence. Shafer Dining Hall is the only traditional dining hall on the Monroe Park Campus, yet some students still completely avoid it due to its bad reputation. While eating at Shafer may not be your first choice or your most ideal choice, there are things you can do to better enjoy your experience. Listed below are four ways to enhance your dining experience at Shafer Dining Hall.
Sit in the back areas
There is seating available (both tables and bar-style) behind the check-in station and away from all of the food. Sit here! While your trip to get more food will be a little bit longer, this area of the dining court is much less busy and the seats aren’t as close together. In this area, you will have more room to stretch out and it will be easier to maintain conversation, as you won’t have to talk over the commotion of the kitchen and the other students. This is also a great place to get work done if you go to Shafer alone; the tables are large enough to accommodate your laptop or your textbook (whatever you may be using) and you’ll still have room on the table for some snacks or a drink.
Get innovative with your food
Some of the meals served are a little bland, and might go better paired with something else. For example, Ram’s Grill (which typically serves burgers or chicken sandwiches) makes a great grilled cheese. It pairs well with the tomato soup that is served over by the salad bar, and you may prefer this as a side to the fries that are offered with the sandwich. Pay attention to everything that is offered that day and think of ways that you can combine the food to make it taste better! A student favorite is making your own sundae, just grab a to-go cup from next to the soft-serve machine and put a brownie or a cookie in the bottom of the cup. Add soft serve, and sprinkles & chocolate syrup as desired and voila!
Get your timing just right
After you go to Shafer enough, you begin to know the best times of the day to go. Typically, the dining hall is busiest around 12:30 due to the large amount of students getting out of class that are ready to eat lunch. Avoid Shafer at this time at all costs! The line to get in is very long, the seating is limited when you get in, and the food and dishes are very picked over. Also avoid Shafer around meal-shift times (like from breakfast to lunch or lunch to dinner) or an hour before it closes. The kitchen staff is often preparing for the next meal or getting ready to shut down around these times, so there usually isn’t a lot of food and the staff will get annoyed if you pester them.
Take advantage of extra-swipe meals
Every so often, Shafer will host guest restaurants to prepare meals for students. While these special events cost extra swipes, they are definitely worth it! Not only do you get more food on your plate than in a traditional Shafer serving size, but the food is also much higher in quality. Some of the guest restaurants featured are up-and-comers around town, so these extra-swipe meals are great opportunities to find new places in the community that are not necessarily included on the dining plan.
While Shafer Dining Hall does have somewhat of a bad reputation, it does have a few redeeming qualities that make it worthwhile for students to dine at. If you are strategic in your trips to Shafer, you will definitely enjoy your meal much more!