College cafeterias update their image and their cuisine.
It's a food court without the mall.
Ekdahl Dining Commons, known better as Mrs. E's, doesn't draw students in with flashy retail windows. Instead, those who enter are treated to a view of the Kansas University campus.
The cafeteria is in the basement of Lewis Hall on Daisy Hill and serves as the main eating area for some 3,200 students each day.
"We've expanded," said Sheryl Kidwell, dining services manager. "That was the whole reason for this facility. We wanted to extend our services and what we offer."
Gone are the days of the one-entree, institutional cafeteria line. Mrs. E's comes complete with neon signs, and choices ranging from soup to nuts.
Students who live on campus or are affiliated with the university can eat at Mrs. E's, either by incorporating a meal plan into their residence hall payment, or by paying as they enter the dining area.
Not your parents' dining hall
Kidwell said she works hard to inform parents that the dining experience they had 20 years ago is not the same one their children will have.
"Things have changed a lot," she said. "It's a lot nicer, and there are so many things to choose from."
Students can get prepared entrees and add to them with side dishes, or they can serve themselves or build their own Italian plate, burritos or sandwiches. A salad and dessert bar encourage students to select food they might not otherwise eat. A wide variety of vegetarian dishes also are served at every meal.
"We've done a lot in the past three years to accommodate our vegetarian population," Kidwell said. "Some students eat vegetarian food because they are vegetarians, and others eat it because it looks good."
Mrs. E's seats 750 students and serves students along with the two other KU dining facilities, which are at GSP-Corbin and Oliver Hall.
This is fast food
But Mrs. E's services don't stop there. There's also E's Express.
"We realize that student life is not like our life," Kidwell said. "They're on the go."
E's Express, which is in Hashinger Hall, prepares sack lunches that students can take with them when studying in their rooms or other places on campus.
"Grab and go is still the way students want to go," Kidwell said.
Between 800 and 1,000 meals a day are distributed from E's Express.
While students still have refrigerators, popcorn poppers and hot plates in their rooms, the revamped Mrs. E's has brought more students to the dining hall, said Nona Golledge, assistant director of Dining Services.
"They do take advantage of their meal plan," she said. "This facility is all-you-can-eat as long as you're here. It's a true dining experience."
And while Mrs. E's is unlike any cafeteria of the past, changes in dining services will continue to evolve, Golledge said.
"In the future we're looking at late-night options," she said. "We'll combine eating as well as socializing to give students an option of a place to come, since many of them are young."
Need a job?
The future may also bring a coffee house to campus, Golledge said.
"I think we'll see more of those as we plan for the future," she said. "It's something more and more universities are doing."
Mrs. E's also provides something else for students who may need a little extra cash but don't want to leave campus: a job.
"We're always looking for student help," Golledge said.
Mrs. E's is open daily during the academic year and when students are on campus.
For more information on Mrs. E's or job opportunities at Mrs. E's or in the dining halls at GSP-Corbin or Oliver Hall, call Nona Golledge, 864-7213.
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