After a semester-long facelift, the dining hall returns with fresh new features
With the greenhouse-turned-dining-hall N2 no longer obscuring Peabody Hall, a mass exodus back into the second floor of Newcomb Hall has begun. The newly unveiled renovation, which took more than a semester to complete, expanded the dining hall’s seating capacity by more than 400 seats, bringing the facility’s capacity to 1,200, University Dining Director Brent Beringer said in an email.
The “new Newcomb” includes eight new food stations, tables of all shapes and sizes, shiny new countertops and a massive television screen to greet diners entering the revamped space.
Students also welcomed N2GO, the reintroduction of a separate to-go dining hall. The renovated facility is now more able to reduce traffic in the main cafeteria during peak dining-hall hours and makes grabbing food on the go much less hectic. N2GO also brings late-night meal swipe options to central Grounds, allowing students to grab food until 10 p.m. on weekdays.
The pinnacle of Newcomb’s upgrade comes in the gourmet noodle bar named — in true tongue-in-cheek fashion — “In the Nood.” Four recent McIntire graduates, with the help of Asst. Prof. Janette Martin, developed the idea and helped launch the upscale dining option together with U.Va. Dining.
Though they do in fact require their customers to be clothed, In The Nood allows students greater dining flexibility, staying open until 9 p.m. on weekdays.
But students aren’t the only ones excited about the new opportunities Newcomb provides. Prep Chef Kathy Brown called the facility “off-the-chain nice,” and said her favorite part about the new system is that it allows for the food to come hot, fresh and made ready-to-order. Because of N2’s poor insulation, Brown said the food was rarely able to be served at the appropriate temperature.
Although the University may have dubbed this latest upgrade “The Fresh Food Company,” U.Va. Dining has kept the same food vendor throughout the transition.
The “fresh” aspect, then, comes from the revamped dining experience. Students can watch the food being prepared at most stations, including several grill installments that supply students with freshly cooked meals and ready entertainment. The facility’s open floor plan sits in stark contrast to the chefs and cooks at Observatory Hill and Runk Dining Halls who work behind closed doors.
“I feel like because you can see the food being made right behind the counter where you pick it up, you’re more sure about the quality,” first-year College student Allison Wang said. “[I know] a lot of people [who would] rather come here than O-Hill now.”
The dining hall’s larger floor plan has also allowed it to expand its offerings of speciality food items, with 60 percent of entrees served now available as a gluten-free option.