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A review of ‘New North’

| Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The grilled chicken was so tender, it pulled apart with just a slight effort on my part and a fork.

Which was fortunate, since the only utensil North Dining Hall deemed sufficient to cut its food were knives that were in reality just butter knives, and butter knives being a generous term for shreds of steel with about one in 50 boasting just the slightest hint of serration.

This mixed bag of highs and lows were representative of “New North” as a whole, with the highs outnumbering the lows overall.

The first meal I had at the newly renovated dining hall was paella. Having studied abroad in Spain, one of my favorite memories was being welcomed home from school with the smell of freshly cooked paella and the sound of my host dad humming reggaetón tunes as he bopped around the kitchen for spices.

With paella being so closely intertwined with these fond memories, I was nervous that trying North’s paella would taint them. However, I was pleasantly surprised — it was edible. Not only was it edible, it was okay.

What made North’s paella particularly enjoyable was the shrimp. I braced myself for the “shrimp” that North usually put in their stir-fry or their pastas — a sprinkling of something pink and curled up that kind of resembled a shrimp, but that dissolved on your tongue immediately, as though it were ice. I’m still under the impression that it might have been.

But the shrimp on the paella was not this. I was pleasantly surprised to have to peel this shrimp, and to see a juicy, pink thing underneath the skin that I can say with confidence was definitely shrimp. Overall, North’s paella might not have added any additional fond memories to my experience with paella, but it didn’t add any negative ones either.

The pasta stir-fry at North, a crowd pleaser that was one of old North’s redeeming qualities, delivered yet again. While North was under renovation last semester, we had to part with this beloved dining option for several months. It came back with a vengeance this year and greeted us with an assembly line of ingredients and the pesto that could shatter any hesitations anyone had about pesto coming out of a squeezable tube.

While the pasta stir-fry itself had the power to make any day, bad or good, just a little better, the process of getting one dulled that effect. As usual, the line for pasta stir-fry was long, which was to be expected, but its central positioning at the dining hall meant more congestion and interference with the other food stations. This was especially irritating if you were not in line for pasta stir-fry but had to weave your way through the hoard of people that were in line in order to grab some mashed potatoes from the home-style line or broccoli from the veggie station.

As for its new infrastructure, the new tables, chairs, high tops and booths added refreshing diversity to North that was nowhere to be found in its past of laminated wooden chairs and grey tile. The silver touches added modernity, and the glass plates and glass cups made you feel adult in a way that parietals and the new six-semester housing rule never could. The new glassware was a step up aesthetically from the cloudy plastic cups of the past and the plastic plates that always seemed to have a slight film of grime; though it would be interesting to do a count at the end of the semester of how many plates and glasses were accidentally dropped and broken.

The semester-long wait for this new North was worth it, and the previously inferior dining hall is now up to par, and maybe even better, than South. Not only did North receive a facelift in terms of its appearance, but the food has improved with it.

Just be sure to bring your own knife.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Selena Ponio

Selena Ponio is from Dallas, Texas and is currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame. She is the Associate News Editor for The Observer. Selena lives in Breen-Phillips hall and is majoring in International Economics with a concentration in Spanish and is minoring in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy.

Contact Selena