New O-Hill Dining Hall now open for business
|Photographs by Dan Addison
|The main O-Hill Dining Hall (above) operates from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays. On weekends, it is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for brunch and 5 to 8 p.m. for dinner. It is open to faculty, staff and students and is part of the student meal plan. It also accepts Plus Dollars, Cavalier Advantage, credit cards and cash. On the ground floor of O-Hill, Crossroads, which replaces the Tree House, is open from 8 to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 8 to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
By Matt Kelly
It’s not your parents’ dining hall anymore, where food was prepared in a mysterious back room and you got what was put on your plate.
Today, U.Va.’s newest eatery, Observatory Hill Dining Hall, offers students, staff and faculty dining options at seven state-of-the-art food stations, with open kitchen areas so they can watch the food being prepared. O-Hill, which opened this month, also boasts granite counters and terrazzo floors, spacious dining rooms, and terrace seating with views of the mountains.
“It’s a very bright new building, and it has an atmosphere that will make the dining experience more enjoyable,” said Brent A. Beringer, director of dining for Aramark, the contractor operating the dining halls. “It will give the students a sense of community.”
“I’m jealous of the first-years,” said Catherine S. Neale, fourth-year student and Board of Visitors member. “I’ll have to walk over here from the Lawn.”
The old O-Hill dining hall was too small for the number of customers using it, said Elizabeth B. “Libba” Bowling, construction project manager. Renovating the old hall, built in the late 1970s, was impossible because the foundation was insufficient for a second floor to be added. It had to be replaced.
Built next to the old O-Hill building, the new, $23.5 million dining hall has 905 indoor seats and 204 outdoor terrace seats, a 20 percent increase in seating. Upon arrival, patrons form a line on the stairs leading up to the second floor for the main dining facilities. They can choose to eat on the second floor or take another flight of stairs to the upper dining room. Elevators also provide handicapped access to both upper floors.
The facility’s seven food stations allow customers and dining services staff to interact. The stations are:
• Center Stage, with a changing menu of entrees;
• ’Hoo Street Grill, featuring hamburgers, hot dogs and grilled sandwiches;
• Traditions, with home-style comfort food such as fried chicken and mashed potatoes;
• The Deli, for cold sandwiches and wraps;
• Old World, with pizza, stromboli and a variety of pastas;
• Innovations, which will start out as a stir-fry station, but will change each semester.
• A salad bar and choices for vegetarians and vegans are also offered.
“We do whatever we can to accommodate diet considerations,” Beringer said. Diners with food allergies can meet with a staff nutritionist, who will help them make food choices. Special meals can be arranged on a case-by-case basis.
Diners’ tastes change with dining trends in the society, Beringer said. There are popular waves for different ethnic foods, and unpredictable trends, such as the current popularity of crispy potatoes similar to Tater Tots.
Menus are available at http://www.virginia.edu/dining
Steve R. Biery, 37, the executive chef at O-Hill, said Center Stage, with a large, shiny copper exhaust hood over the cooking station, is the focal point of the new dining hall. “People will walk up the steps and see that and say ‘Wow, I’ve got to have some of that.’”
The layout is “a fish bowl, with nothing hidden,” said Biery, a graduate of the Florida Culinary Institute, who has cooked at Bridgewater College, Wintergreen Resort and the Staunton Country Club.
The ground floor of the new O-Hill houses Crossroads, a convenience store and a food court with three ala carte dining options: Paos, serving panini-type sandwiches with secret sauces created by dining services’ executive chef Tom Fiammetta; a Sbarro pizza counter and the Stop Light Grill, serving burgers and fries, chicken strips and other grilled fare.
Construction took a little more than two years, after roughly two years of planning. The new facility’s design, Bowling said, is similar to a dining hall built at Cornell University.
The old dining hall was demolished in mid-June and the space is being landscaped for student recreational use.
Joseph D. Lahendro, historical preservation project manager for Facilities Management, likes the openness and natural light, giving it a “mall food-court feel,” appealing to students.
The new O-Hill is a “different animal” from when he was an N.C. State student in 1969. “You stood in line and got what was available that day. It was cafeteria food and complaints didn’t matter,” he said.