A Never-Ending Food Evolution: Two Perspectives on the Notre Dame Food Scene

Author: Martha Zaytoun and Caroline Ashworth

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Written by Martha Zaytoun

The closing of Recker’s after the first semester of my freshman year was momentous for several reasons. It forced us to find a new late-night food spot, sure, and deprived my friends and I — living in McGlinn, a short walk to the rear of South Dining Hall and the chicken tenders and fries it held — of a convenient post-going out gathering place. But more than that, though we did not yet know it, it was indicative of the years to come and the changes that would befall campus, and particularly, its eateries. 

I am now in my fifth year as an undergraduate at Notre Dame. It’s my victory lap, you might say. For various reasons that are not overly complicated but also not overly important, I have one more year. The return to campus was weird; with the graduation of most of my friends last spring, coming back for my fifth year meant a significant loss to my social circle. More than that, though, and more than ever — although I do believe the changes have been coming on gradually throughout my time here — I was struck by the great difference in the landscape of campus when I returned this fall. Perhaps this is partially due to the fact that I haven’t actually lived on campus since spring of my sophomore year, when we were abruptly sent home at the start of the pandemic. But mostly, I think it is a testament to the evolution of this place, a continuous and unending reality. 

After Recker’s closed, the basement of LaFun assumed the role of the post-game location. In the spring of my freshman year and throughout sophomore year — before the pandemic sent us home — our nights ended with a “long” walk back from LaFun and all that TacoHut had to offer. Having never eaten from Taco Bell and not wanting to break that streak, my go-to was the breadsticks from the “Hut” half of the location; or, occasionally I would make my way upstairs to the Huddle for a bag of chips, or perhaps a white paper bag of candy from the candy wall (which was also a casualty of the pandemic, I’ve heard, but haven’t entered the Huddle since to confirm). Standing in the checkout line, I would watch as some brave souls picked up “quarter dogs” from the rotating grill along the back wall. I’m a vegetarian, but even if I wasn’t it would’ve taken a lot of convincing for me to spend even as little as 25 cents on one of those. 

My time here has seen the closure of a good number of the independently-owned restaurants on campus: Subway, Star Ginger, Einstein’s and the Pizza Hut portion of TacoHut. It has also seen both the opening and closing of Pizza Pi, the wildly unsuccessful replacement for Recker’s, the opening of ChickFil-A and the conversion of the bookstore Einstein’s into The Gilded Bean — a Starbucksserving extension of Campus Dining. Not all of the changes have been bad — I was by no means sad to see “quarter dogs” go — but they’ve been changes all the same. The campus that I arrived at when I was 18 years old is vastly different from the one I will leave in the spring at 23. Each year, new buildings are constructed and the old are torn down. But after all, college is supposed to be a time of growth and maturation, and the changing landscape of this place is a testament to that. 


Written by Caroline Ashworth

A lot of my memories from the fall of 2020 involve eating soggy pasta or a plain cheeseburger in a to-go box while sitting on the grass of North Quad. I ate as quickly as possible to avoid being stung by the bees that swarmed around me. When the bees became too much to handle, I instead sat inside the dining tent, eating with just one other person who I was unable to hear across the seemingly mile-long table. And we can’t forget about the raccoons. It sounds crazy, but bees, raccoons and questionable food was the reality of the Notre Dame dining experience during the height of the pandemic. 

The one good aspect of the food scene during my freshman year was Star Ginger. Their hours were limited, but that made it all the more exciting when I did get to eat their orange chicken or lemongrass tofu. Star Ginger became my go-to place when I wanted to spend Flex Points for lunch. 

Slowly, the dining scene began to improve. With loosened COVID-19 restrictions, we could finally eat inside, which was a game changer. My friends and I started a tradition of going to Einstein’s every Sunday morning for brunch. It was a wholesome way to debrief the weekend, fight the Sunday scaries and start our week together. And the coffee and bagels gave us some motivation to get out of bed and not sleep past noon. Another of my traditions was going to Subway whenever my family came to visit campus. We would order sandwiches and chips and sit in our favorite booth (second from the back) in LaFun. 

Yet, the dining scene has once again changed, putting a halt to those traditions. Star Ginger was replaced by Chick-fil-A, which elicited both celebration and controversy among students. The comforting Subway and Einstein’s were recently replaced by Flip Kitchen and The Gilded Bean. I attempted to make The Gilded Bean a new usual spot of mine. I went there with my sister one day before our 9:30 a.m. classes in Debart, hoping to get drinks that were tasty and boosted our energy. However, what we didn’t ask for was the fly that ended up in her iced coffee. Flip Kitchen, on the other hand, has exceeded my expectations, but also unfortunately exceeded my Flex Points budget. I’ve gotten a variety of bowls, wraps, flatbreads and smoothies. They have all been tasty and filling, but, sadly, expensive. 

While I no longer can enjoy my orange chicken at Star Ginger, my Sunday mornings at Einstein’s and my family gatherings at Subway, I have begun to explore and appreciate the new dining options on campus as well as the options that have been here all along. I’m definitely late to the game, but within the past year I have developed an enormous appreciation for Starbucks and their iced matcha lattes. 

In part because of the changes in dining options and restaurants on campus, my freshman year and junior year feel completely different from each other. Some changes have been good, but others will always upset me (R.I.P. Star Ginger).