07/08/11: Eating Atlanta

Capping off the last year of on-campus dining updates, the new dining hall at the North Ave. Apartments is nearly ready to open for regular operations on Aug. 31.

The LEED Gold Certified building is definitely far more impressive-looking than any other on-campus dining option. Most noticeable is that a floor-to-ceiling window, lavishing natural light on its occupants, occupies the entire wall facing North Ave.

The focus here is on seasonal vegetables from local farms, which are from no farther than Tennessee, according to GT Dining Marketing Manager Andrea Preininger.

Vegan and gluten-free options are also significantly improved, with a separate island holding foods like salads, fruit, bread and pastries.

Unfortunately, the distinctions stop there, and once you sit down with your plate, you realize not much about the food has changed. Of the whole range of food available, plates are filled with dishes of the familiar sort: burgers, pizza and ham-and-cheese subs, among other items.

The food stations here include a pizza/pasta counter, a deli, a chef line, a wok and a world fair. The last two stations are not found in either Woodruff or Brittain, and they will bring Vietnamese pho and a rotating array of foods from around the globe, respectively, when they open this fall.

Nearest the front is the pizza and pasta station; no more revolving glass boxes full of cold pizza. This is good news for those who need a grab-and-go meal.

Behind that is the deli counter, with pre-made sandwiches available on one side and a Subway-like made-to-order option on the other. The ingredients here are quite nice and are a clear example of the dining hall’s fresh-and-local foods mission.

Next is the chef line, which is the buffet-style meal choice typical of all the dining halls. The chicken pot pie and sides that were available for the visit were not quite the same quality as the Student Center’s dinner line, but it’s a bit of a step above Brittain’s and Woody’s.

The grill station is next, where chefs are constantly rolling out hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches. The hot dogs seem to have had an upgrade, as they are slightly bigger; however, they don’t quite taste too different.

Lamentably, the meal did not include the Wok station or World Fair, which are set to open this fall. In fact, those seemed like the most interesting offerings of the new dining hall.

Altogether, the food tasted much the same as could be had elsewhere on campus, even though the recipes have been updated and diversified. This is disappointing because GT Dining can do better and has done better recently, with the latest additions to the Student Center food court showing that mass catering can still be interesting, affordable and delicious.

It is upsetting to see that these lessons did not translate to the North Ave. Dining Hall, and overall it is a disappointing experience.

 

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