I had the opportunity to walk through the new Garden Commons and speak with General Manager Tim Schomberg about the future of Miami University’s newest dining hall.
East Quad is currently undergoing a transition. A renovation from the buildings of old to the spacious and bright living spaces of new. Garden Commons, the new East Quad dining hall, sits at the center of that renovation. Not literally, as the new dining location finds itself nestled behind Farmer School of Business, merged with the former Symmes Hall, but nonetheless the new dining hub is a big deal. Not only to those who will move-in on East Quad this fall, but those across campus who find themselves around Farmer, Pearson Hall or the Psychology building, looking for some variety in a beautiful, convenient setting. And while the Garden Commons still has a ways to go before it officially opens its doors, the vision is there and, boy, it is quite the sight to behold.
The layout of Garden Commons feels open and spacious, even with the construction equipment scattered about. The main entrance, through the doorway facing Farmer, leads you into one of the two serving areas. There are four total stations that will offer a wide variety of options for students when the dining hall opens this fall with the first you see being a salad/soup/fruit bar, just off to the right when you walk in. Then there is a station that will offer sandwiches, wraps and comfort food to your left. To the far right, there is a large seating area, which is actually the old Symmes Hall structure, complete with the old Symmes windows. This area has a lot of space and has a unique, comfortable feel already. It is the primary seating in the dining hall and although it is really recycling much of the old building, it still feels very new and fresh in how it is laid out.
The front entrance for the Garden Commons
Taking us back to the front entrance, you reach the second serving area by walking forward, splitting the first two stations, and continuing into a large, towering room in the middle of the building. In the renovation, they opted to match the high ceilings of the old building, which has a nice feel in the second area. With the high ceiling, there are high vertical windows that give the room nice natural light. The area is supposed to offer some seating, but the primary purpose for the serving area is… well… serving. A fireplace is located along the back wall, open to both the serving area and the closed off Garden Room on the other side.
Now, the Garden Room is what could be the most visually appealing room in the entire dining hall, with a number of large windows facing out over the distant Formal Gardens. The area is meant for those who want to sit and relax. It is also nice that the room is somewhat cutoff, away from the open serving space, offering a little quiet from the bustle.
In the second serving area, students (and staff) will have another set of options and variety. The Asian food station is more centrally located in the vaulted room and will offer Asian cuisine (egg rolls, spring rolls, General Tso and a sort of “make your own” Wok option) among other options. That station is supposed to have two chefs when things get kicked off in the fall for cook-to-order options as well.
Finally, you have the fourth food station, located near the back entrance and the Garden Market (more on that at another time). This fourth and final station will be Italian, focusing on a variety of pizzas, calzones and pasta options. The plan there is to offer specialty pizzas, standard go-to’s, for both pizza and calzones, and then a variety of sauces to pair with pasta options.
Garden Commons is to be primarily a self-serve experience as a buffet-style dining option, much like Harris Dining Hall or the recently “out of commission” Martin Dining Hall. This is an appealing option for students who sometimes experience the “I’m going to starve if I don’t eat everything” sentiment. Regardless, Garden Commons is on track to be an incredibly appealing visual dining option and a place where students could comfortably relax or spend social time with friends. However, it also is a location that offers a delicious variety of food in a buffet-style setting. There is a lot to like about what Garden Commons will offer as the new East Quad go-to dining hall.