What’s Changed with On-Campus Dining in the Post-COVID Era

PHOTO CREDIT/ Brooke Mosca

PHOTO CREDIT/ Brooke Mosca

The fall semester on the Queens campus has finally arrived, and life on Utopia Parkway is beginning to look more and more as it did prior to the coronavirus pandemic. While the in-person population is still masked up, for the first time in over a year, the hallways are packed with laughing students, large social events are being held on the Residence Village strip as well as the Great Lawn and the Freshens line is wrapped around the Marillac Cafeteria.

While long lines in Marillac may not seem out of the ordinary to upperclassmen, the recent changes in on-campus dining options may be contributing to these amusement park-length lines that much of the student population has never witnessed before. Since mid-fall of 2020, the D’Angelo Center (DAC) food court, home to student favorites such as Taco Bell, Mondo Subs and Smoked, closed its counters. Heartbroken at this change, students across campus hoped this closure would be temporary and that the food court would reopen at the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

To the dismay of the greater student population, the DAC food court not only remained closed for this fall, but the restaurants have been completely boarded up, suggesting that these dining options will be unavailable until further notice.

Scott Lemperle, Executive Director of Auxiliary and Conference Services, told the Torch on Aug. 30 that “the concepts in the D’Angelo Center Food Court will remain closed for the foreseeable future as the space has been repurposed.” 

“As someone who loved eating at DAC frequently throughout the week, I’ll miss going to Taco Bell after class and doing homework with my friends,” junior Sports Management major Hailey Pomara said. 

PHOTO CREDIT/ Brooke Mosca

This once great spot for studying, hanging out with friends and grabbing a quick bite to eat wasn’t the only dining fatality of 2020. The Red Storm Diner, one of the most beloved food establishments on the Queens campus, was taken out to be replaced by a health sciences center. With its classic retro décor and menu staples, like the buffalo chicken sandwich and brownie sundae, the Diner was a late-night sanctuary for countless Johnnies. Located in the rear of St. Vincent Hall, which will be torn down at the end of September, the Red Storm Diner is yet another on-campus restaurant that St. John’s students have kissed goodbye for the new school year.

While much of the student body is still mourning the loss of the DAC food court and Red Storm Diner, on-campus dining options are far from doom and gloom. This fall, the Marillac Cafeteria welcomed two new places, Revolution Noodle and Piccola Italia. Home to diverse menu options, including sushi, chicken teriyaki, lasagna and a variety of pizza slices, these new restaurants are already receiving high marks.

“The chicken teriyaki bowl from Revolution Noodle is a fun new take on the Asian dishes that had previously been offered in the DAC Cafeteria,” junior Biology Major Maggie Scott told the Torch. “It met all of my expectations!” These refreshing supplements to other Marillac staples, like Dunkin’, Freshens and Subway suggest that the Marillac Cafeteria will be the hot food stop on campus this semester.

To compensate for the closure of the Diner last year, Montgoris Dining Hall extended its hours and was open until 1:00 a.m., serving classic late-night bites. This change is one that many students are happy to see stay for the 2021-2022 school year. While many Diner stans were hesitant to embrace this change at first, many have come around to the idea of late-night Monty’s, especially now that mozzarella sticks are included with a standard meal swipe.

PHOTO CREDIT/ Brooke Mosca

While much has changed with on-campus dining in the past two years, students seem to be cherishing the simple ability to dine indoors once again without capacity restrictions or limited hours. Thomas Carmody, a junior Qualitative Risk and Insurance major, commented on this idea.

“The time that we’ve been separated from each other during [the COVID-19 pandemic] has made us celebrate smaller moments such as eating meals together, and I think it has brought us closer as friends and as a St. John’s community,” he said.

At the end of the day, what’s most important is not where students are dining or what they are eating, it’s something many of us took for granted prior to the pandemic: the ability to physically sit around a table with a group of loved ones and celebrate the things that bring us together.