Marissa Fretes: Give J Street new, meaningful traditions

The University is trying to make J Street a destination dining option for all students – not just those with Dining Dollars. The student dining venue improved on the variety, healthiness, and most importantly, quality of the food offered there. But how does the University begin to change the reputation that J Street has among students?

If the University wants to truly improve J Street’s appeal, it has to begin by convincing students, especially upperclassmen, to eat there – even though they don’t have to. To do so, the University should start having more events at J Street, such as all-you-can-eat buffets each week.

Establishing some J Street traditions will help make it a destination for students and perhaps reverse its negative reputation.

Freshmen like myself never experienced the storied horror of what J Street used to be. Today it’s something of a hangout spot: I sometimes meet friends there for dinner; I get a salad and do homework; I grab a coffee and run to my 9:35 am class. I like J Street. Sometimes I even love it.

A lot of upperclassmen, on the other hand, don’t. They remember the J Street that was more like a mall food court. And I’m not sure my freshman peers love it enough to return when they aren’t required to go there anymore.

A recent University-wide survey indicated that satisfaction with the revamped J Street is up by 11 percent (however, they only provided the increase and declined to release overall satisfaction so this survey means little). But there’s more to be done if the newly overhauled J Street wants to endure as a go-to campus spot.

Part of the issue lies in the fact that upperclassmen have other options. With kitchens and Colonial Cash, why bother eating at J Street when you can get cheaper food of similar or better quality?

The Mount Vernon Campus provides students with an option that might just bring the upperclassmen back. Every Sunday, the dining hall in West Hall holds a buffet, offering all-you-can-eat brunch options, such as eggs, waffles and salads. While it obviously caters more to students who live on the Vern, students on Foggy Bottom are sometimes enticed to jump on the Vern Express to join them.

After all, it takes Dining Dollars, it’s all-you-can-eat and it’s brunch. What more could you ask for?

J Street could use really use something like this.

And by keeping it consistent, perhaps having it on a weekly basis like they do over at West Hall, J Street can have staying power in students’ minds. “J-Brunch” could become something of a tradition – wake up Sunday morning, head over to J Street, recap the weekend, eat pancakes. Or waffles. Whatever you prefer.

Last semester, the J Street restaurant Thyme offered a Thanksgiving dinner and a crab night—attracting students who wouldn’t usually set foot into J Street. But events like these didn’t happen often enough. These sorts of events – nights when J Street offers special menu items or themed dinners – grab people’s attention and draw them to J Street.

Getting students, especially upperclassmen, to try J Street and start thinking about it differently, means J Street will become a competitive dining option and not just one that’s required. GW just has to work on getting upperclassmen with bad memories of the former J Street to try it, realize much has improved, and maybe even start coming back.

But even more important is convincing current freshmen that the dining hall they enjoy today will still be worth their money when it’s no longer required.

Marissa Fretes, a freshman majoring in English, is a Hatchet columnist.

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