No anger, just sadness at the new Blue Room

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 9, 2009

With Faunce House under construction all year, the Blue Room has reopened in temporary quarters in the old mailroom. But students say it’s just not the same.

“Two years without focaccia (expletive) sandwiches?” asked Carolyn Brown ’11, who visited the new cafe recently but didn’t make a purchase. “That’s just wrong.”

In fact, if all goes according to plan, the popular eatery will have a new permanent home one year from now, President Ruth Simmons announced in her Convocation welcome Tuesday.

For the interim, the Blue Room settled into its new space and officially reopened Aug. 31. The cafe will have slightly shorter hours — opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 4 p.m., rather than 5 p.m.

The new version is smaller and has different equipment, so it will not be carrying any food that needs to be prepared on-site — including soup, freshly made breakfast sandwiches, or the focaccia sandwiches for which it was famous. (The new cafe does not have an industrial-size oven on site for making fresh bread and muffins.) 

Instead, the new cafe will have a wider selection of pre-made sandwiches, wraps and salads, as well as the pastries and bagels offered in previous years.

Students said they were disappointed by the lack of focaccia sandwiches in particular.
“I wish they made sandwiches like last year — the foccacia things,” said William Strecker-Kellogg ’10.

Molly Cousins ’11 was saddened by the disappearance of fresh soup.
Even the absence of full kitchen amenities should not be an obstacle to fresh, delicious soup, Cousins thought. “I think it would be reasonable to get a hot plate for soup,” she said.

Nanaho Kamei ’10, a supervisor at the Blue Room, said the lack of custom-made sandwiches had disappointed some people, noting that workers can’t accommodate requests for special condiments or vegetarian versions of sandwiches.

“There’s been no anger per se, but a lot of frustration and disappointment,” Kamei said.
Kamei also said there has been a bit of confusion as student workers and professional staff get used to the new setup. “A lot of us are trying to orient ourselves,” she said.
Aaron Zick ’11, another supervisor, agreed. “Things are going to be less efficient while supervisors figure everything out,” he said.

There do appear, however, to be some upsides to the new setup. Kamei said the new muffin tins are shallower and wider, resulting in pastries with a higher proportion of the much-loved muffin top.

Zick said he had tried one of the new sandwiches and was satisfied with it. “The pre-made sandwiches are pretty good,” he said, noting that they are made fresh every day by Brown Dining Services.

Kamei also said the new Blue Room’s space — a sun-filled and spacious multipurpose room with an outdoor patio — was better than the location administrators originally targeted as a temporary headquarters, the lobby of the Salomon Center.
“It’s a lot better than Salomon lobby,” she said. “We actually have space and aren’t on top of each other.”

“It’s a poor alternative, but it could have been much worse,” she added.
Allie Gips ’10 said she was happy the new space had room for seating. “I’m pleased they managed to preserve a space on campus for people to come together — a community space.”