New Dining Commons a Foodie’s Dream
By Jill Gambon
Piping hot rotisserie chicken and thick-cut fries. A farmer’s market salad bar. Fresh-from-the-oven cupcakes, cookies and cobblers. A cozy late-night café with a fireplace and comfy seating. Sounds like a description of a food court in an upscale shopping mall, but it’s not. These are just a few of the features found in the completely refurbished University Dining Commons in Fox Hall.
Under a multimillion dollar renovation, the dining space was gutted and rebuilt. Everything -- from the chairs, to the appliances, to the plates -- is brand new. Eight cooking stations, including a pizza oven, a bakery, a grill and a deli, have been added, so students can order food and watch as it’s prepared.
“University Commons will transform student life and the entire dining experience for our students,” says Larry Siegel, dean of student affairs. “The state-of-the-art facility compares with any dining hall that you will find on college campuses nationally.”
The makeover has been in the works for two years and is the result of a collaborative effort among students, faculty, staff and University Dining Services. A food services advisory committee provided feedback throughout the process. Students also provided feedback through focus groups.
“Student input was involved at every stage of this project, from the concept to the design to the food offerings,” Siegel says.
“I love it,” says incoming freshman Angela Wheeler, who stopped into the Dining Commons after moving into her Fox Hall dorm room.
Wheeler, a Hanover native who is majoring in nursing, said she likes the intimate feel of the small, round tables positioned throughout the Commons.
“It feels more personal,” she says.
Her mother, Linda Wheeler, agrees.
“It’s beautiful,” she says.
“It doesn’t look like anything I’ve ever seen on campus,” says Manning School of Business senior Nicholas Alexandropoulous, as he surveyed the light-filled room.
The Dining Commons, the largest dining hall on campus, will serve more than 3,000 meals each day. All students, as well as faculty and staff, can use their meal plans, River Hawk dollars, UCash, cash or credit cards to purchase food there.
A unique feature of the new space is the area for the late-night café. Tucked into a corner of the Commons is a gas fireplace surrounded by sleek, modern chairs. From 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., glass doors will set off the café area so students can gather for coffee, fresh squeezed juices and homemade desserts.
In keeping with the University’s sustainability efforts, the Dining Commons will feature all energy-efficient appliances and LED lighting. To make composting of food waste easier, a built-in composting extractor and pulper has been installed. The machine takes food waste, pulps it and extracts the liquid. Food will be served on new biodegradable bamboo plates that can withstand up to 5,000 washings.
University Dining Services is putting an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and will feature food grown close to campus when possible. Every day, a list of the locally sourced items will be posted in the Dining Commons.