Old Jester Buffets Give Way to Sleek Modern Dining

Grab a bowl and heap it with your chosen veggies, from broccoli to mushrooms to peppers. Hand it off to a chef, who tosses in tofu or meat, then spicy Schezuan or understated canton sauce according to your preference. Then try to keep from salivating as you see and smell your own personal wok cooking in front of you.

This is today’s Jester dining experience.

The mauve-and-teal color scheme—and the same old buffet lines—that had marked Jester Center’s second-floor dining since at least the ’80s are giving way to something sleek, modern…and yes, tasty.

This semester brought the opening of J2’s remodeled dining center. Phase 1 includes a series of chef’s stations, a gourmet VIP line, and bright new seating areas, among other offerings. Phase 2, which will begin next month and finish by spring semester, will finish off the refurbishment.

The new feel is lent by stainless steel hoods, silestone countertops, glass tiles, and huge windows where Formica and painted plaster walls used to be.

But it’s the variety of cook-to-order lines that signal J2’s new taste. There’s the Macaroni Bar serving up ample noodles and sauces, and the Rise & Dine Line offering breakfast all day.

It’s still all-you-care-to-eat, so you could do like three guys spotted at lunch Thursday and have a wok, then go back for an omelet and mondo sweet roll.

If you’re a bit sophisticated for that, try the VIP line, which debuted this week. There, for an extra $2, you can feast on shrimp scampi, Italian stuffed chicken breast, or New York strip steak with garlic mashed potatoes and a wedge salad.

Most of the food preparation, including the chopping for the salad bar, has been moved out in view of diners. “We’re letting people know it’s fresh—we didn’t open a can,” Food Service Director Scott Meyer says.

The changes are already paying off—J2 is serving 1,300 lunches a day and 1,450 dinners, Meyer says, its business up 30 percent over last year.

It’s all part of the Division of Housing and Food Service’s plan to make campus dining “trendier, hotter, healthier, and better,” as Meyer puts it. For more on the improvements and plans, read “The Way They Ate,” a history of food on the Forty Acres.

For dessert, if you can pass up the made-on-site cobblers and pies, know that a Freshens held its grand opening Wednesday on the first floor of Jester, too.

Photos by Jeff Heimsath


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