By Joshua Rizkalla
It’s easy to be impressed with Sheehan Hall. Even before you enter the dining hall, this $60 million building stands out. Sheehan looks like a building that was transplanted from a school with a higher budget and could catch the attention of even the busiest commuter who has adjusted to a life where lunch is Starbucks in one hand and a Special K bar in the other. Opening the glass doors, you are presented with an impressive foyer with crescent shaped couches and a large paneling of leaves in assorted colors.
With the buffet style dining service, it is difficult to develop a clear consensus of the ever-changing menu and wide array of options. In the span of a week, I visited Sheehan Hall three times with nothing but positive expectations provided by nearly everyone who had eaten there.
“Is it really that nice?” I’d ask. It wouldn’t be hard to outshine the old Lancer Loft.
Sheehan replaced the old dining hall above the food court in the Student Center; it was a cramped, third floor nook that offered food that could be described adjective-free and the atmosphere and depression of a mall food court. Seats were positioned on one side and a tight circle of stations served the basics on the other side. The word that best described the entire situation was tolerable. Worcester State was never really been known for its dining prowess. Starbucks, chicken salads, or Papa Gino’s pizza summed it up.
Sheehan takes the same ideas that went into the old eatery and opens it up from the floor plan to the food. Sheehan spreads out each dining station giving it some much needed room to breathe and the seating is peppered throughout the room. Glass windows make up the entire outer wall of the building giving the room an infinite feel and the position of everything creates a flow that can handle a full house with ease. White columns and a salad bar with seemingly no end split the room in half. The lighting brackets are abstract and the color scheme gives this room personality. This is the future, Mattel Hover Board and inflatable jacket be dammed.
I paid my $8 and was clueless on where to start. TV screens indicate what food is being served at each station. I was confused why only some of the TV screens were on and why the chefs were cleaning up rather than cooking more. I had just missed the scheduled lunch period and was at continental lunch something in comparison to the actual lunch servings was table scraps. Don’t get me wrong, the brick oven pizza and sandwich station that stayed open served good food, but I couldn’t help but feel cheated paying the same as the lunch rate for a quarter of the content.
The brick oven pizza with handmade dough was good enough. The cheese lacked enough sauce to make the leap from cheesy bread. The broccoli alfredo pizza was ambitious but ultimately bland. Other than the pizza, the options were limited. An all-day cereal bar, ice cream machine, and a half stocked salad bar along with the sandwich station rounded out the options. After a while, the pizza station produced an untitled ziti dish with a mix of vegetables and sweet sausage that tasted like next to nothing for the medley of ingredients it had.
A few days later I decided to give the breakfast menu a shot. This was a simple set up with one station offering both an omelet bar and a spread of common breakfast staples. In the back of the hall there is a station of different cereals, a waffle maker, and a toaster, but these are not exclusive to breakfast.
I filled my plate with eggs, home fries, bacon, a muffin and cantaloupe. French toast was also offered. I regretted not trying the omelet bar but was not disappointed by my choice. The food was satisfying and an excellent value with all options considered. A medium coffee and breakfast sandwich would run you $5.50 in the Learning Resource Center while this breakfast only cost $6.
Finally, I carved some time out of my schedule to try the lunch menu. The best thing about Sheehan is certainly the selection. On this day, the options ranged from roasted eggplant ciabatta to chicken apricot curry stew. I decided on a plate sampling the macaroni and cheese bar, seasoned curly fries, seasoned yellow squash along with my roast beef horseradish aioli sandwich. The sandwich convinced me of just how great this dining experience can be on a daily basis. The meat was tender, the aioli sauce was strong, as any horseradish base would be, but it blended with the entire sandwich to provide a unique bite each time. Although one might be disappointed by the size of the sandwich, the idea that quickly dissuades any bother is that it is a buffet and the staff could only watch in horror if you decided to carry five sandwiches on top of a piece of carrot cake with a cup of cheddar broccoli soup on the side. The structure begs you to get out of your comfort zone and to try at least a bite of something you’d ignore as a full meal commitment elsewhere.
The possibilities are endless and it is rare to find such a place at a state school with a majority rule of commuters nomadically moving from class to class. There is no time in their schedule to have a sit down meal. With Sheehan Hall as an option, it is advised you make time. Not everything you eat will inspire the next great American novel or leave you suddenly blind in awe, but the potential for a great meal is always there. Sheehan takes what works, puts it next to a fantastic view of the football field and surrounds the busy stations with innovative and modern furniture. It’s easy to forget the security cameras that would be unsettling in a place that didn’t combine so much food with the any amount of friends that surround you. If you don’t have the time, it is even possible to order to-go. Sheehan Hall is worth the walk beyond the dining options you often settle for and should be the number one option on anyone’s list.
Prices for Commuters: