Refreshing Campus Dining

June 06, 2011

Changes to J Street provide fresh options, late night and weekend hours.

GW students returning to campus for the fall semester will find new dining options and a revamped J Street eatery, with an emphasis on fresh, made-for-you choices, providing variety and convenience.

Nancy Haaga, managing director of Campus Support Services, said the changes were motivated by students’ ongoing concerns that GW’s dining options were not meeting their expectations. Meals at the renovated J Street eateries in Marvin Center will be priced comparably with meals at other restaurant establishments in Foggy Bottom, and new price cuts in popular items like salad and by-the-ounce hot entrees will provide students with more bang for their Campus Dining Dollars.

The most obvious changes to J Street will be two new concepts: a diner, which will feature a made-to-order grill, ready-to-go breakfast and lunch combos, salads, daily specials and coffee drinks and will replace Wendy’s; and a “homestyle favorites” venue, which will serve traditional American comfort food, including meals like meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans, as well as a daily Buff and Blue Plate Special. The homestyle favorites venue will replace Chick-Fil-A.

The salad, vegetarian/vegan, hot food and sandwich bars will remain, with the addition of a rotating selection of international food choices. The price for by-the-ounce food has been reduced from 50 cents per ounce to 48 cents per ounce for hot foods, and lowered to 42 cents per ounce for salads. Coffee prices throughout J Street will be cut to be less than the local Foggy Bottom market, and fair-trade Seattle’s Best Coffee will be served.

Other changes include an updated Freshens Energy Zone with the addition of tangy frozen yogurt as well as expanded menus at J Street’s Asian venue and kosher deli.

The diner in J Street will be open seven days a week starting in the fall, Ms. Haaga said, and several venues, including the homestyle favorites, will offer different lunch and dinner choices every day. The Little Italy venue will now offer made-to-order pasta all day and made-to-order pizzas at dinner.

In another notable change to GW’s dining program, sophomore students—those with 30 to 59 credit hours—will no longer be required to purchase Campus Dining Dollars. Instead, sophomores will be required to purchase $2,500 in Colonial Cash. Dining plan requirements for other classes will not change. Campus Dining Dollars, which are declining-balance funds, may be used at any Marvin Center venue, Duquès Hall and on the Mount Vernon Campus at Pelham Commons. Colonial Cash may be used at all Campus Dining Dollar locations and at more than 90 off-campus food and retail locations.

Physically, the layout of J Street will change as well, providing a wider variety of seating options to encourage interaction and a sense of community.

“These changes to J Street were driven by student feedback,” Ms. Haaga said. A dining working group, which included students as well as faculty and administrators, met throughout the spring semester to discuss and plan for the new options.

Jason Lifton, former Student Association president and current staff member in Student and Academic Support Services, was one of four students in the dining working group. He said the group started essentially with a blank slate and spent a lot of time listening to different opinions about food choices and pricing. Group members agreed that they wanted J Street to be a place where students would want to stay and create community—not just eat and run. They also wanted to focus more on real cooking, instead of fast food.

“The university is heading in the right direction with this,” Mr. Lifton said. “I think people are going to be thrilled. And as a staff member who’s staying on campus, I’m looking forward to it.”

Outside of J Street, other dining changes include updates to the menu of G-Dub Java coffee shop in Duquès Hall, and the permanent closing of WOW Café and Wingery on the fifth floor of the Marvin Center.

The decision to close WOW was based on the fact that both sales and student satisfaction were considerably lower than anticipated, Ms. Haaga said. While WOW was busy during televised major sporting events, the space was underutilized during most other times. The WOW space will not be used for another dining venue in the future, Ms. Haaga said.

Planned construction on J Street is expected to be finished in late August.

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