New dining hall at Ondine nears completion

“The full puppy syndrome.”

That’s how Jenice Powell, registered dietician, describes the student experience in the new Ondine dining room when it starts serving lunches and dinners to students Sept. 19. Powell is director of resident dining for the facility. She explained that the daily menu will be varied, expansive and geared to an “all you can eat” philosophy.


At the moment, the interior of the new dining hall resembles a work in progress, although booths are in, the kitchen is in place and the serving line is anchored. Workmen continue to saw and hammer as the construction nears its final identity. Much of the interior will retain a slightly unfinished look.


“We’re aiming for a semi-industrial feeling,” said John Eckman, associate director of auxiliary services. He pointed to one steel-plated wall, which will remain unfinished. Seismic braces also will remain in open view. The ceilings, Eckman said, will retain a combination look of decorated and rough finished. The effect, he said, will be one of wooden clouds overhead.


Students will enter the dining room on the first floor of the Ondine through a massive open entrance. They will face an interior that offers both booths and open tables. Tables and chairs will be movable. Huge outside windows will lend a spacious air to the hall.


The serving line will consist of a series of installations offering varying menu choices in which the diner can pick and choose or try them all.


The first serving station is called “foods from home.” It will feature classic homestyle selections like meatloaf, carved turkey, carved ham and familiar vegetables. Next to that station will sit a pizza feature, and next to that a grill and deli station. Vegan, vegetarian and earth-friendly food will also be featured.


But, explained Powell, eating at the Ondine will not mean fat students. One station will be dubbed the nutrition station, described as the “Balance, Mind, Body and Soul” program that will aim to provide information about what constitutes vegetarian, vegan, carb friendly and well-balanced dietary food choices.


The program is the creation of Sodexho, the company that has taken over the campus food concession. Sodexho considers itself a good match for PSU, pointing to its Sodexho Foundation, started in 1999 and is “committed to being a driving and creative force that constributes to a hunger-free nation.”


Ron Callahan, regional operations manager for the company, will spend six months here to supervise the startup before returning to his home base in Southern California. Callahan explained that the hall will seat 290, with an expected per-meal traffic of 600 diners total.


Lunch Monday through Friday will be served 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday will have brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and dinner also 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Persons who dine at the Ondine must buy one of several available meal plans and faculty and staff may pay by day.


The Ondine service may do some catering and possibly feed some summer conferences, Callahan added. He said when the dining room opens September 19, the public will be invited to inspect the facility.


“Next year we expect to have breakfasts or possibly late morning features,” added Charlie Benson, on-site general manager.


Eckman said the Ondine’s second floor will become classrooms. He also pointed out that as the dining room nears completion, other food services on campus are being renovated. The Meetro coffee shop in the King Albert residence hall has been scoured to the walls and new carpet laid down. However, except for some new paint, the familiar comfort of the Meetro will be restored and it will reopen about September 12.


The University Market on the first floor of Smith Center also is shut down for renovation. Patrons hungry for candy bars are directed to go to Viking bowling and pool in the basement for their treats. University Market is due to reopen on September 26.