This school year has brought many changes to the UConn Storrs campus, and the Whitney Dining Hall renovation must be among the biggest. The changes to the dining hall’s look and menu have garnered criticism from some who preferred the well-loved hominess of the old Whitney, but I believe that Whitney has improved for the better.
Gone are the long rows of wooden tables and chairs. They’ve been replaced by several different, more modern seating options. At the counter near the buffet is a row of black bar-height stools for single diners to eat at, and along the far wall is a cushioned bench. Throughout the dining hall are simple tables that accommodate two to six people.
Though the modern seating is nice, the dining hall is still small, and it’s often hard to find a seat during busier hours even though Whitney is not among the most popular dining halls. Sometimes the seating area feels crowded, and people will take the first available seat even if it’s not the ideal size for the group they’re dining with. I’ve seen awkward seating arrangements where three people squeeze in a table for two while a single person occupies an entire four- or six-person table.
The Whitney renovation has added a beautiful skylight to the dining hall. Strings of lights now hang under the skylight and give the ambience of outdoor seating. A plant wall in front of the dish return also contributes to this effect. The new touches bring light and fresh life into Whitney, which before felt old and stuffy.
The renovation of Whitney’s back room has also been for the better. The concept behind the back-room’s renovation was a sort of relaxed, cafe vibe. Dining Services definitely accomplished this goal. All of the hot drink dispensers, creamers and sweeteners are on a counter in the back room. The white cabinets and dark wood of the countertop combined with the black metal of the light fixture and gray tiles on the wall are modern and inviting.
You can obviously still bring a meal into the room, but Whitney’s back room was meant for a more informal sort of hanging around. Cute yellow chairs face the fireplace, a bench hugs the far wall and a big table that looks like the cross-section of a tree dominates the middle of the room. Overall, the renovations have made the back room look like a modern sort of farmhouse, which is a style suited to Whitney’s mission of serving fresh, local foods.
The food-serving area also has its fair share of changes. In the Whitney of old, diners would encounter the salad bar right as they walked in. As they approached the front of the room, they would see a soda machine, desserts and then the actual main food dishes. If students wanted to make a sandwich, they could find deli meats and breads as well as cereals towards the windows, and if they were looking for something sweet, ice cream could be found in the back corner.
Now, the serving area includes an action station in the front of the room, a deli bar to the left and other hot dishes to the right. After the food and next to the windows is dessert and ice cream. In the back of the room is a salad bar and soup. Along the wall when you first walk in is an assortment of cold drinks.
In my opinion, Whitney is easier to navigate now that the food and drinks are confined to the perimeter of the room. However — and this is a small criticism — the hot food serving area is awkwardly laid out. It is stuffed into a literal corner, and students can’t seem to decide from which side to line up for the food.
Although some have said that Whitney has lost its charm, I believe that the dining hall has only gained more positive aspects. Whitney is now neater and brighter. It’s been modernized, but not at all in a bad way. It still has a rustic charm, with a slightly different spin.
If you don’t believe me, grab a seat under the string lights or at the big wooden table in the back room, take a sip of coffee and relax. Welcome to the new Whitney.
Stephanie Santillo is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.