South 40 dining enters transition as school builds new Wohl Center

| Staff Reporter
Nadeem Siddiqui, resident district manager for Bon Appétit, said that there will be a temporary first-floor dining area during South 40 dining’s transition period next academic school year while the second half of the new Wohl Center is built. (Evan Wiskup)

Nadeem Siddiqui, resident district manager for Bon Appétit, said that there will be a temporary first-floor dining area during South 40 dining’s transition period next academic school year while the second half of the new Wohl Center is built. (Evan Wiskup)

Over the past months, rumors have circulated on the Washington University campus about the dining options available to students residing on the South 40 next year.

The current Wohl Center is scheduled to be demolished this summer. Of the current dining facilities on the South 40, the only that will remain open next year is Ursa’s Café.

Despite the scheduled destruction of the South 40’s major dining area in Wohl, replacements for Bear’s Den and Bear Mart will be located in the new Wohl Center.

Those in charge of planning said students’ ideas have been taken into consideration in the process.

“The interesting part for me is that I think we know from you what you think,” said Nadeem Siddiqui, resident district manager for Bon Appétit. “We are still flexible in making some changes and adjustments to take care of the students for next year.”

The construction of the new dining facilities will occur in two phases. The first phase includes the construction of permanent and temporary dining facilities in the section of the new Wohl Center that is currently being built.

The second phase of construction involves the placement of a new wing for the dormitory where the current Wohl is located.

Next year will be one of transition for Dining Services. The basement floor of the new Wohl Center will hold the first elements of the permanent dining facility, including stations for the bakery, grill and sandwiches. There will be seating for 40 in this permanent facility.

There will be a temporary dining facility on the first floor of the new Wohl, which will house several more stations for a tacqueria, a salad bar and a hot kosher station. A temporary Bear Mart and seating for 300 will also be located in this part of the facility.

The temporary dining facility will be eliminated for the 2010-2011 school year. A kosher kitchen and various offices are expected to fill its space. An extension of the permanent facility will be built in the new wing of the Wohl Center.

“It is going to be one of the top food programs and living and learning concepts in the nation,” Siddiqui declared.

Food options will be broadened after adding the extension. These new options will include an Indian station and a Mongolian grill.

There will be no replacement for Center Court in the new facilities. Meals will be served a la carte only. A brunch buffet will be available on Saturday and Sunday, however. The dinner buffet option will be eliminated due to decreasing sales observed at Center Court.

Varied options for vegetarians will be available in upcoming years. Currently at Bear’s Den, vegetarian meals are prepared on the same grills as their non-vegetarian counterparts. The new dining facilities will feature a separate fryer and grill for vegetarian options. Plans are also underway to have at least one vegetarian option at each of the stations in the future.

Sophomore Meghna Srinath, a vegetarian, said she has seen her vegetarian food touch meat at Bear’s Den.

“I think that having the separate fryer is a good option, “ Srinath said. “Seeing my food touch meat is a personal turn-off to me. That’s really good that they are trying to be more sensitive.”

Kosher meal options are also being expanded. The kosher meal plan is being eliminated in an effort to make kosher food more accessible to students not on the plan. Hot kosher options will be provided daily instead of the prepackaged meals now offered. The kosher food provided on campus now is prepared at the St. Louis Hillel.

Starting in 2010, the permanent kosher kitchen in the new Wohl will allow for greater variety and freshness in the kosher options.

The University also hopes to continue its green streak with the new Wohl Center. The building is expected to be certified as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver.

Measures taken to make the dining facilities more environmentally friendly include the installation of power-efficient cooking equipment. Chinaware will be available for use beginning in 2010 to decrease the use of disposable tableware.

Tori Wesevich, a prospective freshman, said she does not mind that the dining situation will not be ready in its permanent condition when she starts at the University in the fall.

“I think that what will be there in 2010 makes the transition worth it,” Wesevich said.

Not everyone, however, is as enthusiastic.

“I don’t see why they have to tear this [Wohl] down,” said Brittany Esmaeli, an employee at Bear’s Den. “I haven’t heard the students complain about it.”

Regardless, the era of Bear’s Den and Center Court is in its final weeks. Construction of the building will be completed by July 15, when Bon Appétit will begin to set up the new dining hall.

“It is kind of bittersweet,” said Rick Turner, director of operations for Dining Services. “Bear’s Den has a history here with the students. It will be sad to see it go.”

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