Taco Tuedays. Microwavable samosas. The Chocolate Extravaganza. Legitimate Halloween decorations. Draconian enforcement of the “take only one food item out of the cafeteria” rule. Food smuggling. The gourmet burger and ice cream sundae bars. Fried calamari without the calamari. The Jesus table. C-room. The deli line. Trays. Beer on tap — just kidding. Seriously, though, I miss Downer!
But before I go any further, here is a disclaimer: Yes, underclassmen, this column is about Downer. So if you hate hearing seniors and overclassmen reminiscing about Downer, you should probably stop reading. Or, you could continue reading and learn something about yourselves in the process.
After all, we are all Downer. That vacant, quasi-art gallery, soon-to-be-film-studies building is a part of our Lawrence identity, and it’s up to you to carry on the tradition. Also, don’t you feel a tinge of guilt when you call Andrew Commons “New Downer” without truly understanding what Downer means?
A lot of our current discussions of Downer revolve around a superficially straightforward question: Does Bon Appétit serve better food? In my view, Bon Appétit’s food is consistently good, but Downer’s food was deliciously inconsistent. Downer was worse overall, but it had this fun, grab-bag-like quality.
Some days they’d serve virtually uneatable entrees — like the seafood on Fridays — and they hardly served anything but cold cuts on weekends. But just when you’d promise to never go back for anything except those mediocre frozen pizzas they made during late lunch — yes, Downer was open for late lunch — Downer would throw down some Martin Luther King Day soul food, delectable “gourmet” burgers, Chocolate Extravaganza chocolate and tasty Mexican food.
And Downer served awesome Mexican food every Tuesday night in B-line. Some creative genius started calling this “Taco Tuesday,” and for some strange reason the name stuck. While the Mexican food itself—ground beef, refried beans and tacos — was decent, the best part of Taco Tuesdays was the salad bar. There was always guacamole, sour cream, mediocre salsa and lettuce. Also, the guacamole was vegan — I think.
Bon Appétit has Taco Everyday now, which is pretty excessive. It’s overwhelming when it’s also actual Taco Day and there are two taco lines. How am I supposed choose? Although the quality of the food is fairly high—and I’m definitely down with the regular cilantro and limes — Taco Everyday offers what Eli Hungerford calls “hipster Mexican food.” I’m all for high quality Mexican food, but sometimes college students just want to dump a bunch of guacamole and sour cream on ground beef. Downer encouraged this indulgence.
I also miss the trays. Bon Appétit doesn’t use trays for some environmental reasons, I think, which is fine. But they were so convenient! Instead of making multiple trips to and from the food-lines, you could just load up your tray with unreasonable amounts of samosas and spinach and chow down. Some cool upperclassmen even forwent plates and just put all their food directly on the trays. And, as Jacob Horn alluded to in one of his earlier columns, trays were great for sledding.
Finally, Downer had a really fantastic layout. In addition to being architecturally stunning, it offered three different rooms to eat in: A-room, B-room and C-room. Each room had a slightly different vibe. A-room was large, loud and hectic. It also had these long tables dispersed throughout, similar to the Andrew Commons layout. One table, fondly known as the Jesus table, extended along an entire wall and faced the rest of A-room. The hockey team usually ate at the Jesus table, but sometimes the percussion studio would get to dinner early enough to preempt them. After pouting and looking confused, the hockey players would go to other tables and eat with non-hockey players — just kidding.
B-room and C-room were quieter. B-room allowed for more intimate conversations, while C-room was frighteningly quiet and featured terrific views of Kohler Hall. Downer also had a few fancier rooms for more formal meals. The Teakwood Room regularly put five-star restaurants to shame. I think Jill Beck even ate there once.
I’ve heard some completely unsubstantiated rumors about Senior Dinner being at Downer this year. That would be wonderful. Maybe we can have the after-party at the grill.