Ryan Chartrand

Garden Grille, the made-to-order salad, sandwich, pasta, and hamburger restaurant that came to Cal Poly in 2005, is gone. The garden-themed restaurant was replaced over the summer with the modernized, train and subway-themed 19 Metro Station.

The change was just one of many recent dining renovations which include the facelift of Baja Sol, previously named Veranda Café, the replacement of Tapango’s by the Dexter lawn with Rockin’ Bar-P-Q and the opening of Starbucks in the University Union.

The driver behind these sweeping changes is campus dining’s energetic director Thomas Welton, who started the job in November 2007.

“Tom’s a shaker and a mover,” said Cindee Picanso, 19 Metro Station’s unit manager. “He’s trying to improve the status of campus dining and raise the level of service and food.”

The menu is the most notable difference at the new restaurant. Campus dining’s main kitchen, which acts as a hub for most of the restaurants on campus, have changed its food processing system to feature the “batch-cooking” concept. In order to offer food with a homemade taste, portions will be cooked, seasoned and served in smaller portions.

“We’re still serving thousands of students a day but we’re cooking smaller amounts more often with fresh herbs and ingredients,” Welton said. “It’s like the difference between fresh food and frozen Swanson’s dinners.”

Despite this new system, the station has cut order wait times to ten minutes by preparing food using an assembly-line technique. Students previously had to wait up to 30 minutes for certain orders from Garden Grille.

“Garden Grille was good but we are executing a vision in seeing how we can do it better,” Welton said. “It was really about streamlining. The trick is, ‘How can we get guests out in a reasonable amount of time and have quality food?’”

Like Garden Grille, 19 Metro Station has five stations, each offering different types of fare. LCD screens have been installed at each station and flash the current menu options, allowing for frequent menu updates and eliminating the old printed menus.

Field of Greens features the ever-popular salad in enough varieties to keep both vegans and carnivores satisfied. Round Trip Fare features soups, sandwiches and wraps. Homeward Bound offers foods like your mother would make. Pasta Stop, delivers as the name suggests: pasta entrees and side dishes rotated by time of day. The Grill offers everything from classic hamburgers to a vegan burger.

Each station has a main entree which starts at 5 p.m. and feature daily specials.

One of the fastest and most noticeable additions to the location was Sweet Destinations, a dessert shop featuring delicacies including eclairs, cheesecake, and lemon bars alongside standard fare of cookies and ice cream.

“This is brand new,” Picanso said. “I actually left on a Friday and there was a wall here. I came back on Monday and the wall was gone. It turned out really nicely.”

In order to create a better dinning environment for students at 19 Metro Station, Welton and his staff addressed what they saw as the antiquated décor of Garden Grille. They replaced the wooden lattices with LCD screens and broke up the dull silence with strategically placed speakers. New furniture and a fresh coat of paint also completed the redesign. Subway maps and photos of train stations add to the sleek ambience of the station.

The renovation was a collaborative effort of staff and the student workers under facilities manager Nestor Arguilla who directed construction.

For roommates, liberal studies freshmen Kaley Gelineau and industrial engineering freshmen Neggin Tavana the new dining experience passes muster.

“I like it,” Gelineau said. “No bad experiences yet, knock on wood. They have good fruit and salads.’

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