West Side and East Side Dining are the best options for students on unlimited meal plans. Both dine-ins offer different options such as the hot burritos available for breakfast at West Side Dining. ZACHARY DYER/THE STATESMAN

Dine-in is a mixed bag. Sometimes the food can taste surprisingly good. Other times it’s a dry, tasteless mess. But for the Seawolves stuck on the unlimited plan, East Side and West Side Dining are probably going to be their go-to spots for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here are some tips to make your experience better.

1. Know your options

Hungry Seawolves should know all of the options available to them every day. The daily menus for all dining facilities on campus are available online on the Stony Brook University Campus Dining website to help you plan your meals. For a change of pace from the same old cereal and eggs, the Oasis Grill at both dine-in facilities can have radically different options from the usual breakfast offerings, such as kimchi or cajun okra and corn. East Side Dining also has its signature omelet bar, which offers custom omelets filled with your choice of vegetables, meats and cheese fillings to your liking. West Side Dining’s Breakfast Grill serves up hot burritos every morning. It’s also hard to go wrong with the daily fruit salad options available at both facilities. Seawolves who are living in Roth and Tabler Quads can also get one free meal per day with the meal exchange system at Roth Cafe if they’re on the unlimited plan, giving them an extra option for lunch and dinner.

2. Try something new

Weekly Wednesday dinner specials are becoming increasingly frequent at both dine-in facilities. The Guest Chef series brings in special themed menus like French, farm-grown and Korean options, allowing Seawolves to broaden their culinary horizons. I personally found kushari — a Middle Eastern dish consisting of long grain rice, lentils and pasta topped with chickpeas and crispy fried onions — to be addictively delicious. It’s something I might have never had the chance to enjoy if I hadn’t gone that night. Another one of these specials, Prime Night, allows dine-in goers to try foods that would normally be out of their price range like steaks and crab au gratin with their meal swipes. Give it a shot if you’re in the mood for something different.

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3. Mix it up

The fastest way to get tired of dine-in is to eat the same things every day. Don’t fall into the trap of grabbing the same meals over and over for lunch and dinner. While it’s good to have a safety net of foods you can fall back on, it never hurts to visit another station you don’t normally frequent. Dig into a grilled cheese instead of a burger, or a soup bowl instead of a salad. When you’re bored with the pork chops, try the falafel. Sample the strawberry squares instead of the chocolate cake. If you keep yourself guessing, it’s a lot harder to get tired of what you’re eating.

4. Be creative

Take advantage of the fact that you can freely visit all of the available options as much as you want. If you’re in the mood for an icy treat, try filling a cup halfway with ice cream and pouring milk or soy milk over it for a DIY milkshake. If East Side Dining is offering smoky barbecue sauce at the Vegan Delights station, take some and spread it on whatever meats you like. If the chicken is dry, throw it in a bowl of vegetable or meat soup to liven it up or sprinkle on some Tabasco sauce if you’re feeling brave.

5. Let them know

If all else fails, then it’s time to let your voice be heard by sending your complaints to people who can help you make a difference. You can send your feedback directly to Campus Dining with this form. If you’re social media savvy, you can also text “TellSBUEats” with your comments to 24587 or leave a message on the SBU Eats Facebook page. The Residence Hall Association (RHA) also holds town halls with Campus Dining and other major entities on campus, allowing you to ask your questions directly to the officials. Be sure to get in contact with your RHA senators for more details.

If you aren’t comfortable with sending a direct message to Campus Dining, you can reach out to Student Voice on Campus Dining, an organization devoted to improving the dining experience on campus. They collect data and student feedback to bring directly to the Faculty Student Association, who in turn take it to Culinart in one of their scheduled meetings. Campus Dining itself also sends out sporadic surveys that often give Seawolves a chance to win free prizes if they fill it out, so make sure you check your email.

These are just a few tips to make your dine-in experience more bearable. While they aren’t perfect, they’re still worth trying to help make the best of your time here at Stony Brook.

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