New Dining Hall Serves up Food and Fellowship at Western
Jan. 26, 2010 -- Taking the “Keating Beating” — the sarcastic phrase Western State students coined long ago in reference to their dining experiences at the now-retired campus cafeteria — is a thing of the past.
Dining with a view. (L-r) Jill Hall, Claire Carris and Laura Winslow enjoying the view and the food at Rare Air Cafe.
When students returned to campus to begin their second semester of classes on Monday, delicious scents of fine cuisine wafted from the doors of the new College Center. The Rare Air Cafe has officially opened its doors for business, with top-notched residential dining as just one of its major ambitions.
Within its confines — located upstairs in the spacious, open building — vibrant lighting casts a warm, inviting tone on the contemporary interior architecture. Large flat-screen televisions display the menu items of the day as a Sodexo employee pulls a fresh, fire-baked pizza from the oven at one of six different food stations.
The drastic improvements made in the quality of dining at WSC have many students rethinking their regular routines. Sophomore communications major Glenn DiNicola is even considering turning the Rare Air Cafe into his new date-spot.
“I never would have taken a girl to the old Keating,” said DiNicola, after eating a grilled panini at lunch. “The atmosphere here is way different, way cleaner and way more energetic.”
It is exactly that type of setting that WSC administrators hope the cafe and new College Center will provide. The new facility is to serve the purpose of bringing students, faculty and the community together. According to president Jay Helman, speaking at a breakfast meeting with community members in the new facility on Tuesday, “it’s already working.”
The west facing wall of the dining hall consists of numerous windows, offering a gorgeous view of the Palisades rock formation and beyond. A variety of tables and booths, strategically designed throughout three dining rooms, offer seating options for parties of all sizes.
Thornton Reese, who has worked in purchasing at WSC for two years, sat next to the large wall of windows reading a magazine after lunch on Tuesday. While he commended the food quality for being like that of a “real restaurant,” he believes the largest asset the Rare Air brings to the table is its ability to provide a meeting place.
“I think as more students discover it, it’s going to become more of a hub for friends to meet up,” said Reese. “With the furniture, the layout and design, the windows ... and then throw in the food on top of it, it’s fabulous.”
Students who frequently dined at the old cafeteria in Keating Hall have also been quick to win over. Holly Henning, a senior from Leadville, had a meal plan her first three years of going to school at Western and was most impressed with the functionality of the new space.
“I think a lot of it is just being able to hang out with friends over a meal,” said Henning. “There’s not a lot of space in the dorms or the campus apartments and there’s plenty of table space here ... almost like home, in a way.”
But the experience isn’t just limited to members of the campus community. Casual diners from the greater Gunnison community are also invited to the Rare Air Cafe’s regular business hours. Cost is $6.50 for breakfast, $8 for lunch and $8.50 for dinner.