Upon returning to Dartmouth this fall, I know that many students (besides the freshmen; ignorance really is bliss) were frustrated with the numerous Dartmouth Dining Services changes that happened over the summer. In particular, the new Hop café menu outraged students. When you first walk into the café, the aesthetic changes seem to be for the better. We all knew the café was in desperate need of some TLC, and the fresh paint, new counters and streamlined checkout area make the Hop a more pleasant place to look at. The chairs and tables in the dining area still appear to date to the ’80s, but hey, maybe next summer. This façade of improvement quickly breaks down when you make it to the front of the lines, which have only grown in length.
First, the grill menu is suddenly shaming you for wanting some French fries. As I skimmed the menu, I noted new healthier options, the most noteworthy being avocado toast. I suddenly had a flashback to my summer spent in Palo Alto, Calif., where comparable fad dishes are often the specialties of local establishments. In such places, one can typically find an overpriced latte, man buns and layered clothing much too warm for the weather. However, I am a sucker for avocado. So despite the social implications of eating this avocado toast, I decide to give it a try. However, when I receive my ultimate hipster dinner, I find that there is a lack of seasoning and the avocado has the gritty texture that can only be acquired by being frozen. Now not only am I frustrated by a “healthier” menu that denies students the joy of eating grease in peace, but said menu has failed to deliver on taste in the healthy options.
After students try the new grill, they quickly make their way to the reliable sandwich station. This sandwich station, previously the only spot on campus to find built-to-order subs and nachos, is now a fully revamped salad bar with starches nowhere to be found. I have to admit the variety of salads is quite impressive. The salads themselves taste better than my previous attempted avocado toast. However, the produce once again suffers from being near-frozen. I suggest purchasing your salad while you wait for your friend who just has to have a tender queso; the grill line moves so slow your salad may just have enough time to defrost.
Some other less severe tragedies that other students may have not yet noticed about the Hipster Hop café: The real sodas made with sugarcane are gone. In the morning, the Goose and Willie’s fresh bagels cannot be found. (It is worth noting that you can now find these particularly delicious bagels in Foco, in lieu of Foco’s old grocery brand packaged ones. However, when you have class in the Vac walking to Foco for a bagel is irrational.) The freshly cut fruit that used to be available in the Hop fridge is now replaced with fruit that appears to be pre-packaged. The waffle maker is gone. I am not sure the waffle maker was ever regularly used, but I personally found the option of a sugary breakfast comforting. I am sure this list is incomplete as it reflects my personal eating idiosyncrasies. However, I should go on to state some minor accomplishments of the Hop redesign.
First, you can now get a hot beverage, creamer and the appropriate lid in one place. This is much better than spilling boiling water down your hand as you balance a plate of food on your forearm and wait in line to pay before walking another 10 feet with this potential cup of mass morning destruction exposed. Secondly, the grill has sweet potato fries. I believe the administration may suffer delusions that these are much healthier than normal French fries, but either way I enjoy the variety. Third, there are some new ziploc munchies, such as trail mix, that were previously only available inconsistently. Lastly, the “Bobs are back from vacation,”which is a testament to the power of the people. In a mere two weeks disgruntled students brought back this essential grill menu item.
After lengthy consideration and debate among peers, I conclude that the café may have been redesigned with good intentions, but it deprived patrons of the campus cuisine niche the café formerly filled. Dartmouth students are extremely health conscious. The amount of kale consumed in Collis on a daily basis I would bet is double the national average; if students desire to eat greasy food once a week, who is DDS to deprive them? I understand the concern for student well-being, but I respect students’ freedom to choose what to ingest. Clearly, the Hop café’s attempts to force “healthier” dishes upon the student body is only marginally successful and receiving a great deal of pushback.