Anderson Student Center: 'You've got to eat'

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in an occasional series of stories that Bulletin Today will publish until the opening of the Anderson Student Center in January 2012.

As many a mother has insisted as her family rushes out the door, “You’ve got to eat.” It was true when St. Thomas operated its first cafeteria more than 100 years ago and is still true today.

Whether you’re the type of person who likes to sit down to a home-cooked meal or the type who would rather grab a sandwich on the go, eating is undoubtedly one of the most essential components of daily life. Today, there are a variety of food options on campus available at nearly all hours of the day to meet the needs most discerning eaters.

When it opens in 2012, the new Anderson Student Center will take food service to the next level with even more choices – from casual dining to grab-and-go to an overhauled student-dining-room experience.

But the array of choices headed to the ASC is a departure from where food service began when St. Thomas was founded.

In the early days of St. Thomas, the only place for students living on campus to dine was the cafeteria, which was originally in the Administration Building. It was moved to the new Science Hall when that building opened in 1900. It stayed there until 1925 when a cafeteria was added in the basement of Ireland Hall.

When the Ireland Hall cafeteria opened, an Aquin article at the time proclaimed “the latest type of kitchen and cafeteria equipment is now installed and the college boasts of one of the most modern eating places in the Northwest.” Read the full Aquin article “Improvements of campus led by new cafeteria."

According to a 1931 Aquin article: “The cafeteria belongs among the real elite of the restaurants in this town. It serves a complete range of substantial foods at moderate prices. …The most popular dish in the cafeteria is meat and potatoes, although ham sandwiches run a close second.” Read the full Aquin article “Some St. Thomas students eat to live while others ‘live to eat.’”

College of St. Thomas students at the college grill in the Armory building in 1946.

College of St. Thomas students at The Grill in the Armory building in 1946.

The Grill came a short time later. Like the cafeteria, as the campus grew The Grill hopped from building to building before landing in Murray Hall.

Times have changed, and the dining options at St. Thomas have grown. According to an Aquin article from 1929, 251,000 meals were served by 31 food service employees and 25 student workers. Compare that to 2010, when 990,000 meals were served by 74 food service employees and 300 student workers.

But some things remain the same, including the hunger pangs of students and staffers that still send people streaming to the various Food Service locations at mealtime. The new Anderson Student Center will soon be the hub of options to silence those growling stomachs.                                                                                                     

Although the new ASC food outlets will aim to carry the same cachet as the cafeteria of 1931, the options offered there will span much further than meat and potatoes and ham sandwiches.

  • The View will be a student dining room located on the second floor. It will feature a “scatter-style” layout with several food stations offering international, deli, grill and action options (like a stir-fry bar). In addition, diners will have access to a large salad bar, beverage stations, cereal, ice cream and a pizza oven. The space is designed for everything to be eaten in the dining room – no take-out boxes or bottled beverages. Adding to the enhanced dining experience will be perhaps the most inviting feature of the space: the large windows that will look out over Palmer Field to the north and the new plaza and the quad to the east.
  • T’s (short for Tommie's) will be a new option on the first floor, similar to The Grill. It will offer a large deli, grilled items, and a daily special. Food Service workers at T’s will be able to be more efficient with their services than they are at The Grill with the addition of a support kitchen. This will eliminate the need for food to be prepped in the main kitchen and transported from the second floor.
  • The Summit Marketplace on the first floor will include similar products to the C-Store but also will offer additional healthy options. It will feature a grab-and-go cooler for sandwiches and other cold items, as well as pizza and hot sandwiches. Adjacent to the Summit Marketplace will be the new Scooter's with expanded seating, lounge spaces, a stage and a dance floor.
  • The third floor of ASC will be home to The Loft. This space will be designed with the feel of a coffee bar and will offer smoothies similar to the Pit Stop.  

According to St. Thomas’ food service director Todd Empanger, the dining options in ASC will compare among the best offered by other colleges and universities. “The facilities will be very student-friendly. With all the customized choices, there’s no reason there won’t be an option available for most people’s tastes.”

The existing dining options in Murray-Herrick will close when ASC opens. The Pit Stop, Coffee Bené, Beakers coffee cart and Binz dining room will all remain open.

For an interactive map of the new Anderson Student Center’s floor plans, visit the Opening Doors Campaign.