Damen Dining is Open, as Unexceptional as Ever

Alec Karam | The PhoenixTwo students grab food from Damen Dining's grill section.

Damen Dining is a staple at Loyola — for better or worse. This semester, it’s open in an abridged fashion due to COVID-19. Pay the somewhat hefty $10 entry fee with Rambler Bucks, by cash or card and hop into the new normal of campus dining.

The staff are as charming as ever and helpful in easing students into the reinvented Damen Dining. Arrows lead students in a designated direction to the limited food options. 

The sections offer less variety than before, featuring two primary options: the salad bar and grill. The salad bar has premade food cups, salads, wraps and more. It’s nothing overly special but it’s a convenient grab-and-go setup. Without a meal plan, it’s not worth $10 to just grab some grapes though, so students shouldn’t feel scared to stock up.

The grill has the usual grilled chicken, chicken tenders, burgers, fries and a daily rotated selection, plus grilled cheese. The tenders and fries are as adequate as ever. Those who were fans of these options will likely continue to enjoy. And those who find Damen Dining’s food repugnant and mediocre will also feel the same, presumingly.

The chicken retains its synthetic flavor and the fries maintain the taste of wasted calories with their soggy, unsatisfying crunch. The roasted veggie side contained cauliflower, red peppers and brussel sprouts. The veggies do not taste good nor bad, but they’re healthy, so that has to count for something.

So much has changed but the food is as mediocre as ever, and that’s oddly comforting. Students shouldn’t hop on the Damen wagon daily — perhaps not even weekly — but it’s a nostalgic trip and an okay meal to boot.

The limited options make getting one’s money’s worth a consuming task, which is hardly a sell. At $10 a pop, a student might hope for a better meal than they could make using freezer items. Unfortunately, Damen doesn’t provide that.

While there remains limited seating options, Damen Dining is a ghost town and would be an uncomfortable place to eat alone. Juxtaposing the hustle and bustle the dining hall is known for, it’s now more reminiscent of a local buffet restaurant that has two loyal customers and perplexingly remains in business.

Alec Karam | The Phoenix

Thankfully, students can take food to go, as the food is all provided in containers, optional lids included. While the weather is nice, students can enjoy a nice meal (well, a meal) on the steps of Dumbach Hall or on the many benches on campus. Normalcy may be gone in most forms, but this can be a small way to enjoy the perks of campus in the pandemic age.

Alec Karam | The Phoenix

Of course, students can also do that with any other food. Maybe that’s a better option if a student doesn’t miss Damen Dining’s entrees.

A coffee dispenser, drink station and freezer full of ice cream are some of the amenities keeping Damen Dining intact, although the black coffee’s taste is unpleasant. The frozen yogurt and desserts are gone but don’t worry, Nature Valley bars are laid out. Fans of the messiest bars on Earth will get a kick out of that.

Plus, the cashier hands out Oreos on the way out. No, they’re not double stuffed unfortunately, but it’s a cute gesture that reminds students of the community aspect of campus — something this time severely lacks.

All in all, Damen Dining in its new form is lackluster if students enter with high expectations. But, keeping the bar on the floor allows for a surprisingly decent experience. With such an atypical semester where campus life is essentially nonexistent, it’s kind of refreshing to step back into the days of on-campus dining. It’ll likely remind students that they don’t miss the food options, but it’s still a fun way to break the monotony.

Damen Dining is open Monday to Friday for breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m, as well as on the weekend for brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

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