by Crystal Wong
Mesa Court Towers stood tall and proud under the night sky, six floors of gleaming light pouring out and illuminating the plaza. First-year students roamed the court — some resting and chatting on the cement benches, others hustling to make their final lecture of the day.
Sandwiched between the dance studios in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts and the old Mesa Court sit the new Mesa Court Towers, complete with brand-new housing for freshmen, a fitness center, study rooms, a new coffee house and the ever-so-anticipated dining common, The Anteatery.
Over the summer, The Anteatery replaced Lot 5, which used to be the default dining common for students living in Mesa Court. Two years ago, I had taken comfort there as a first year, and now with the grand opening of the new Mesa Court Towers, I had to see for myself if the new was anything like the old.
With an industrial chic feel to the towers came a new theme for The Anteatery. Replacing the traffic and road work themes that decorated the walls of the old Lot 5 trailer lay a bigger cafeteria with a more Southern California theme.
The dinner menu of the night greeted me the second I walked into the dining common. A quick glance at the menu showed that I had a variety of foods to choose from. The menu ranged from classic pizza and burgers, a fresh salad section, and the usual dessert station filled with baked sweets.. A fee of $13.95 granted me entry, and I found myself surrounded by the chaos of hungry college students slinking their ways to tables and food stations.
Polished white tables and loud orange chairs occupied the center of the cafeteria, some tables vacant but otherwise filled with chatty students. Green booths lined the side of the room, but what puzzled me the most was that there were no tables to accompany them. It implied that this section was to be used by students looking for a quick snack before heading out to class. Circular tables with lemon yellow chairs for two were situated off to the opposite side of the cafeteria.
The food stations at hand were similar to what students had been used to at Lot 5 and the dining commons in Middle Earth. Besides the usual Home, Sizzle, Oven and Bakery Stations were the additions of new food stations called Fire & Ice, Farmer’s Market and Taza Station.
The recent addition of the Fire & Ice Station is comparable to the usual Home Station. Both stations served main course meals, the first serving Mexican food and the latter serving stir-fry and pasta. However, what made the Fire & Ice Station stand out more in comparison to the Home Station was the Mongolian grill situated behind the counters.
The Farmer’s Market Station stayed true to its name. Rows and rows of fresh melon and pineapple lined the table with a colorful display of healthy choices. Nearby was an open salad bar, followed by two choices of soup and a tray of cold sandwiches and wraps waiting to be handed out.
The Taza Station is what made The Anteatery unique. Situated near the entrance, the Taza Station offered lattes and espressos to students in need of a caffeine kick. Those who wanted to order from the station were required to have a Taza card on hand, which students are able to request after swiping in. The Taza Station also serves those who pass by on the other side of the wall for a couple of bucks.
There was no doubt that even at 8 p.m., The Anteatery was humming with activity. Compared to Lot 5, where the food stations were situated away from the tables, the buffet-style stations in The Anteatery surrounded the tables. This made for easy access to get up and grab more food and made the atmosphere seem more welcoming.
Wednesday’s dinner menu was full of flavor, ranging from spicy chipotle turkey sandwiches, to creamy cavatappi alfredo with broccoli, and ending with syrupy Belgian waffles packed with smooth vanilla ice cream on top.
The cavatappi alfredo with broccoli reminded me of comfort food, with its noodles cooked al dente and little bites of ham giving just enough flavor to the alfredo sauce. The chipotle turkey sandwich had just the right amount of spiciness to it and was one of my favorite dishes despite the simplicity of its ingredients. The vegan chipotle chicken taco left a strong tang of salsa in my mouth, making me forget that the “chicken” was not actual meat.
Craving something sweet, I opted to make my own Belgian waffle and topped them with sticky maple syrup, plus two scoops of vanilla ice cream on top. Gone were the old soft serve machines of the past; in their places were actual tubs of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream that workers scooped for you.
The variety of food served from the six different food stations was abundant enough. Nutritional highlights were met and vegetarian and vegan options were offered. There wasn’t much to complain about, considering what you were eating was nonetheless dining hall food — no matter how hard they tried disguising it.
In comparison to Lot 5, The Anteatery definitely shows improvement in atmosphere, quality and variety. Now that I have to cook my own meals and no longer have easy access to eating whenever I want, one tip I can suggest to all the first years is to enjoy The Anteatery as much as they can before having to pay the costly price of entry.