September 25, 2012

Dining halls

Tim and Nina Zagat write restaurant reviews. Or, they don’t. Actually, they send out surveys, which people fill out with their observations and opinions. These responses use words and phrases—“basic,” “industrial,” “hangover-curing”—which form the meat of a Zagat “review.” It’s sort of like a collage, or, rather, a “found poem.” There are many “quotation marks.” Get it?

So, how might diners talk about the U of C? And how, more importantly, would the Zagats reorganize what they say? Let us imagine:

“People with holes in the front of their heads” shouldn’t miss this Hyde Park establishment. Really, they shouldn’t. It’s “hard to miss.”

The offerings here are “various.” To start, there are three dining halls spread out north to south across campus. Each one serves, “more or less,” food. Students are “wont” to “stuff the holes in their faces.”

Bartlett Hall is centrally located, and is just steps from the Regenstein Library. Housed in an old sports auditorium, it is good for walking, seeing, and being seen. In fact, you will always be seen, often by everyone, from every angle. As you search for your seat, pacing, you will know this fact “with an abyssal, existential dread.” Partial walls in the back provide “respite from the gaze,” but tables there are usually taken, and you shouldn’t intrude. Those people have “gone through enough.”

Cathey Dining Commons, formerly named Something Else, caters to residents of Burton-Judson, South Campus, and some Other dormitories. Other diners are, of course, welcome to eat with these students—encouraged, even. Cathey Dining Commons, “cozy Cathey,” is just that kind of place. It displays “just the right amount” of glass and steel. The atmosphere is “toasty” and “unlike a hospital,” and makes you almost think that music should be playing overhead, music that “may or may not be Lenny Kravitz.” The pizzas are “piping hot,” and people love the Kosher station.

Pierce Hall is in a basement. Diners who live in the dormitory above it are “spry and bright-eyed,” and are “always dressed in a manner appropriate to the hour of day—no pajamas at the table here.”  Helpfully, there is a long salad bar; it will “cancel out” the bowls of all-you-care-to-eat Mongolian grill and the “interminable bouts of tear-stained excess.” A dollop of peanut butter with your vanilla ice cream “helps to take the edge off.”

Most establishments close at 8 p.m. or earlier, which, if it’s a Wednesday, is fine, because then you can just go to Bar Night, “even if you’re a fourth-year, or, hell, even a fifth year—I mean, Jim here’s a fifth year, and I graduated in ’09—and it won’t be, like, creepy or whatever, because we’re all friends, you know, and you can just chill and drink 3-1-2 and talk to the first-years! Which I think is fine. Because, they’re pretty cute, like, really really cute, you know. And it’s not weird.” Like, “at all.”

Author’s note: Tim and Nina Zagat are completely unaffiliated with the Maroon and had little, if anything, to do with the writing of this article. If they ever ate at the U of C, it was probably at the Div School (which is decidedly not a dining hall).