Opinion: Since the fall semester, dining on campus has greatly improved
New food options have made students much happier with dining
Fall 2022 was a rough semester for American University Kitchen.
After a complaint was filed with the D.C. Health Food Safety and Hygiene Inspection Services Division, many students were left disappointed, angry and confused about how to proceed with on-campus dining. The complaint cited health violations, food poisoning and undercooked or unsafe foods served in AU dining establishments.
As of the spring 2023 semester, the University has stepped up its efforts to be transparent with dining. For example, True Burger was inspected by a third party on Jan. 23 and received a 5-star rating. Additionally, other restaurants in Mary Graydon Center were inspected again on Feb. 2, and there were no violations.
With the new effort in transparency, the University has also been putting more emphasis on providing students with healthy, delicious and affordable on-campus options. There are 14 places to eat on campus, including Terrace Dining Room, two convenience store locations, two student-run coffee shops and 10 other on-campus restaurants where meal exchanges or EagleBucks can be used. Since the beginning of the fall semester, four new dining locations have opened on campus. These are a very clear indication of AU Kitchen making strides toward a much more pleasant experience.
The four new places that have opened since Sept. 2022 are:
- Freshens/CraveTown - Constitution Hall
Freshens/CraveTown is a new restaurant that opened this spring. Freshens is open seven days a week from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., with CraveTown open in the same location from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. The menu is vast at Freshens, including flatbreads, rice bowls, salads and smoothies — overall healthier options, with more fruits and vegetables than other restaurants at AU. The vast menu offerings are a nice change from other options on campus with extremely limited menus.
CraveTown has a smaller menu but is still a great late-night option for students who don’t want Starbucks or Subway, the only two other restaurant options open after 9 p.m. on campus. CraveTown offers flatbreads, pizzas, quesadillas, tacos, nachos, grilled cheese and more, and it is a super easy way to get food every day of the week.
- Hissho Sushi - Kerwin Hall
Although Hissho Sushi isn’t technically new on campus, they do have a new offering: poke bowls. After Kerwin Hall’s D.C. Eats closed last year and was replaced with Hissho Sushi — which moved from the Tavern in MGC — students were sad to see the poke bowls go, but in the fall, poke bowls were brought back. Now, students have a choice between various kinds of sushi or a build-your-own poke bowl for a meal swipe, and it is a great option.
- Baba’s Pizza - Mary Graydon Center
Baba’s Pizza was a new addition last semester and has been a hit since it opened. It is a build-your-own experience where students order at kiosks. Compared to the previous Build Pizza — which was located in Constitution Hall — Baba’s is fine dining. It has woodfired pizza ovens and uses fresh vegetables as toppings. Although the wait can sometimes be long, Baba’s Pizza is worth waiting for due to the quality of the pizza.
- Halal Shack - Mary Graydon Center
Halal Shack also opened last semester alongside Baba’s Pizza and is a great place on campus to grab lunch. It is also the University’s first “Halal-observant retail option,” according to a memorandum from AU’s Chief Financial Officer Bronté Burleigh-Jones. For a meal exchange, students can get a rice bowl, fries bowl or salad bowl with their choice of unlimited toppings and sauces. The line for Halal Shack can get very long but, in my experience, it moves pretty quickly as people cycle through. The amount of choices for toppings makes Halal Shack worth trying since every time you go you can try something new.
Although the future was looking bright for students with new restaurants like Panera and Qdoba on the way, the announcement of the new meal plan system has stalled the University’s efforts to give students a better dining experience. Pushing students toward TDR and away from other restaurants is a frustrating and confusing choice after going through all the effort to open up such good new places. In the most recent SG election, just over 40 percent of voting students said that their opinions of the new meal plans were “very unfavorable,” with about 20 percent saying that their opinions were “unfavorable.” So, maybe in the future, AU will finally listen to its students. Only time will tell.
Alana Parker is a freshman in the School of Public Affairs and School of Communication and a columnist for The Eagle.
This article was edited by Jelinda Montes, Alexis Bernstein and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis, Natasha LaChac.