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Ask The Observer: What happened to Quarter Dogs?

March 2020 marked the beginning of a two-month hiatus away from campus for Notre Dame students. It also marked the beginning of an indefinite, and potentially permanent, hiatus of a campus culinary staple: Quarter Dogs. 

Quarter Dogs were hot dogs sold for 25 cents after midnight in Huddle Mart housed in LaFortune Student Center. Students would file into the Huddle, load up a paper tray with as many buns as they wanted, grab the franks from a heated tray, apply their desired toppings, pay for the subsidized late-night meal with flex points and then loiter in the 69-year old student center while enjoying their meals.

“There was a culture about it,” Pasquerilla West resident assistant (RA) Jade Fung said.

Campus Dining director Luigi Alberganti said in an email it is unlikely that Quarter Dogs will return at a similar pricing model due to today’s “inflationary environment and increased labor costs.”

Stanford Hall assistant rector John Hale would make the short trek to LaFortune Student Center about three times a week as an undergraduate. Though the low price helped draw customers, Hale said the value lay outside the affordability.

“They were a huge part of my Notre Dame experience,” he said.

After a late night of studying, hanging out in LaFortune and eating quarter dogs was a great way to initiate “cross-campus dialogue,” Hale said. The student center is located near the center of campus and draws students from all parts of campus, he added.

“My kind of philosophical take on [quarter dogs] is that human beings need companionship, we need tradition,” Hale said. “I think that if you eliminate wholesome traditions, I think they will be replaced with less wholesome things. So I think quarter dogs are a super innocent, fun, good way to promote culture within the dorms.”

In Alumni Hall, resident Dawgs often avoid eating hot dogs.

“You don’t eat dogs in Alumni. You eat sausage. You eat brats,” rector Jay Verzosa said.

There was one dorm-sponsored exception to this rule: a Sunday night tradition called Grotto Dawgs. Each Sunday night after Mass, Alumni residents traveled to the Grotto to pray as a community and then hike over to LaFortune to feast on Quarter Dogs.

The tradition began in Sept. 2014 and lasted until the suspension of Quarter Dogs in 2020. 

Quarter Dogs never appealed to Nathaniel Burke, a senior RA in Alumni.

“I always say to people, whatever money they’re saving [by eating quarter dogs], they’re going to have to pay back in paying for colon cancer treatment or something like that,” Burke joked.

Though the processed meat involved doesn’t appeal to Burke, he said Alumni residents loved the tradition. 

“There’s a lot of attraction to it just because it’s kind of a hilarious idea,” he said. “I know there are dudes that enjoyed the concept and did eat them.”

Alberganti estimated about a thousand quarter dogs were sold each week. The dogs were subsidized in an attempt to keep students on campus.

During her freshman year, Fung initially found Quarter Dogs gross.

“In the beginning, I was like, ‘that sounds nasty,’” she said.

One day in the second semester, she tried a Quarter Dog at the urging of her friends and was surprised to find she enjoyed the experience.

Fung said the elimination of Quarter Dogs reflects a change in the campus culture following the pandemic.

“I think there’s a lot of things that happened before COVID that are just gone on campus and the culture of campus has just changed,” she said. “I feel like being on campus was definitely way more fun and engaging and random [before COVID].”

It’s unclear whether Quarter Dogs will ever return in any capacity, but if they do, Hale said it is crucial that they are called Quarter Dogs, regardless of the price. He said he would pay up to $2 a piece for a “Quarter Dog.”

“Even with inflation and everything, if they became 50 cent dogs I don’t care,” he said. “I just know, no matter what they cost, they should always be called Quarter Dogs.”

Contact Ryan Peters at rpeters5@nd.edu.

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Ask The Observer: Are grab-n-go point values fair?

Notre Dame’s grab-and-go lives up to its name for convenience, but some students are questioning how the point-based prices are determined.

Open between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., the grab-n-go locations in North and South dining halls offer quick meal options for students on the run, including snacks, drinks and pre-packaged sandwiches. Each swipe is worth 7 points, and items in the grab-and-go are labeled based on how many points they cost.

Some students walk away with a sandwich, a side and a drink. Others leave with a Body Armor sports drink and a mandarin orange cup.

Osman Heredia, a freshman living in Keenan, said he likes to stop at the grab-n-go for extra snacks and to use up meal swipes. He said not all item point values are created equal.

“It’s a little unbalanced when this coffee is the majority of my points,” Heredia said, pointing to his plastic bottle of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. 

Cole Noss, a junior, appreciates the grab-n-go service even though he said the items are not exactly a good value.

“It’s pretty sick. Essentially, I don’t use all my points, so I might as well get the free food,” he said.

But when it comes to point-value fairness, Noss isn’t sold.

“When you actually do the math for like three peanut butter and jellies… it gets you to like six or seven points, so mathematically, no [it’s not a fair system],” he said.

Reggie Kalili, director of student dining, said there is no dollar value assigned to each swipe because meal plans are included in the holistic, $16,710 total for room and board.

“It’s part of room and board, so we don’t have that [swipe value]. It’s part of one fund,” he said.

Still, guests who visit either dining hall will pay $17.85 for a lunch meal.

Students access that same dining hall meal — or a visit to the grab-n-go — for the cost of one swipe.

Compared to the $17.85 estimated swipe value, the value of the items in the grab-n-go falls short of what guests pay for a swipe.

If dollar values are assigned to grab-n-go items based on a guest lunch meal swipe, price premiums emerge for nearly every item.

An RX Bar that costs $1.84 per unit at Target costs 4 points — comparable to $10.20 — in the grab-n-go. Other items from Pop-Tarts to Pringles have point values that quadruple the retail price available to consumers shopping at Walmart, Kroger or Target. Pudding cups, which cost $0.27 per unit or one grab-n-go point, include a 1772% markup.

The Observer analyzed the retail prices of grab-n-go items and compared them to the value of a guest lunch meal at North or South dining hall. Maggie Eastland | The Observer

Kalili said the point values are determined by the cost of the items and by a review of how many items a student with a meal plan can take home with a single swipe.

“Those are determined by the cost of the items,” he said. “It’s really the cost of the item, and the cost of the item equates to so many points.”

Before 2020, when meal plans gave students a given number of swipes per week, students could use more than one swipe at once at the grab-n-go. Now, students have a block meal plan and can only swipe into the grab-n-go every 45 minutes.

Prior to the change, students flocked to the grab-n-go each Friday to use up remaining swipes and fill their makeshift dorm pantries.

“The 45-minute pause was put in place, and that was really to prevent that,” Kalili said. “That really wasn’t what the meal plan was for. It wasn’t just so people could use up all their swipes and stock up on orange juices as mixers for a party that weekend.”

Campus Dining tries to limit this kind of stock-up behavior, Kalili explained.

“The way that the grab-n-go was originally designed was to be an alternative, not a replacement for the meal within the dining hall,” he said.

When it comes to what items make an appearance in the grab-n-go, Kalili says that they are chosen by popularity, request and vendor agreements.

“If you look in grab-n-go, there’s a lot of choices, and those come from, primarily from students, and what they take and don’t take, but then we also deal with our vendors,” he said.

Kalili said this year’s guacamole cups reflect a collaborative effort with a new vendor. The Quest and Pure Protein bars were recently added by student request, he added.

“If somebody has an idea or a suggestion, we would definitely look at bringing that in,” Kalili said.

Contact Maggie Eastland at meastlan@nd.edu

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On-campus farmer’s market gives students a taste of South Bend

The Notre Dame student government South Bend engagement committee held the first on-campus farmer’s market this past Friday, Sept. 16. The event featured local South Bend restaurants, artisans and vendors.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Fieldhouse Mall, students could purchase food from Vegan Bites by Jas, Purple Porch and Mom’s Keiflies. They could also shop for handmade jewelry and art from Skye is the Limit and Gems of Pride.

farmer's market sign
Student Government director of South Bend engagement Quinn McKenna (middle) and other students pose by the On-Campus Farmer’s Market sign at Fieldhouse Mall on Friday. / Courtesy of Notre Dame Student Government

Student government director of South Bend engagement and senior Quinn McKenna said items available for purchase ranged from kombucha to handmade jewelry to Polish pastries.

“Purple Porch had a variety of food including, but not limited to, premade sandwiches, brownies, blueberries, paw paws — a fruit native to Indiana, kombucha and specialty sodas,” she said.

The farmer’s market was the first event held by the South Bend engagement committee, a new body added to student government by the Lee-Stitt administration this academic year.

McKenna said the goal with the farmer’s market — as well as with the South Bend engagement committee as a whole — is to expose students to what South Bend has to offer.

“This department aims to pop the ‘Notre Dame bubble’ and move students to engage with the community in ways other than service,” McKenna said. “South Bend has a very vibrant and creative community, and this department was created to expose students to more of that. Therefore, this market acted as a means of introduction to some local businesses in the hopes that students would venture into the community independently to explore more of what South Bend is all about.”

Sophomore Andres Alvarez, a South Bend native and member of the committee, said about 500 students, faculty, staff and campus visitors checked out the farmer’s market Friday.

Alvarez said many vendors sold out more quickly than expected due to the event’s higher-than-anticipated turnout.

“Some [vendors] were creating more products as they were sitting in their chairs because they were selling out so fast, and others had to return to their shops to get more inventory,” he said. “We learned from the farmer’s market that the Notre Dame community wants to shop locally.”

He said the popularity of the event was encouraging for his committee as they plan future events to engage students with the South Bend community this year.

Currently, he said, the committee is in the process of creating a “South Bend Passport”, which will serve as a guide to introduce students to off-campus restaurants, coffee shops, shopping and other local businesses.

Alvarez said they are also working to invite local community members to campus to teach students about the history of South Bend

“Even though we are Notre Dame, we all should take the time to listen to some prominent voices in the neighboring community.”

Contact Claire at creid6@nd.edu

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ND campus dining opens for a new semester, improves student experience

Luigi Alberganti, senior director of campus dining, said he was excited for the school year to start back up again.

“Speaking for the staff, we couldn’t wait until we could go back to our activities,” he said.

This year, the Notre Dame campus hosts three new dining options. The Gilded Bean, located in the Hammes Bookstore, features a café menu with bagel sandwich options. Rollin’ and Bowlin’, a new concept featuring smoothies and acai bowls, will be served at the Hagerty Family Café in Duncan Student center.

Sophomore J.P. Polking’s favorite new addition is FlipKitchen in LaFortune Student center.

“I love FlipKitchen. I’ve been probably like four times already in the past week and a half which isn’t good because I’m spending too much money, but it’s really good food,” he said.

At FlipKitchen, which replaced Subway, Alberganti explained the menu will be shifting throughout the year.

“There’s a core menu but then there is also a section of a menu that gets changed every three weeks in provide variety and excitement about that,” he said.

Dining Halls

Notre Dame’s wage increase has allowed the dining halls to also be more ambitious, Alberganti said.

“The university changed their compensation policies, allowing us to budget for a little bit more labor,” he said. “It’s all about the labor at this point.”

Executive chef of North Dining Hall (NDH) Matt Seitz said the University’s increase in wages has allowed the dining halls to increase performance by increasing worker productivity.

“We are paying (workers) an adequate wage. Because of that, we have simply asked that they do a little more,” he said.

With higher productivity, Alberganti said the dining halls are cooking more fresh food.

“We eliminated 20% of prepared convenience foods so we’re actually cooking from scratch a lot more now,” Alberganti said.

At the Welcome Weekend first-year dinner, which the dining halls served for free, Alberganti said the dining hall capabilities were tested, yet remained strong, when they provided “about 7,000 meals in a matter of 35 minutes.”

Sustainability and Supply Chain

Increase in personnel has also allowed the dining halls to increase sustainability programs once again, according to the campus dining director of supply chain and sustainability Cheryl Bauer.

“Some of the things that we’re really working to this year is bringing back programs that we had in place pre COVID-19,” she said.

Two major sustainability initiatives, Grind2Energy and Leanpath, are now being used again by the dining halls to monitor again and reuse food waste. The labor shortage during the 2021-22 year and the prior year’s COVID protocols weakened the initiatives, Bauer said.

“This year, we’ve taken the steps to really focus on those and get them going back up to where they were previously,” she said.

One step that is being implemented according to Bauer is signs at the dining halls telling students not to throw away food waste, which allows staff to scrape it and use it for the waste management programs.

Bauer also said the dining halls have had a smoother supply chain than last year.

The one exception to this year’s positive supply chain, Bauer said, is turkey. Due to the avian influenza wiping out turkey flocks throughout the country, she said there will be a shortage of deli turkey.

“You won’t see it on the deli bars in the dining halls. We’re putting roast chicken breasts out instead,” Bauer said.

Student feedback leading to improvements

Seitz mentioned that QR codes in the dining halls allowing students to give feedback on the dining hall experience has been helpful in improving the dining hall experience.

“I had one the other day that was, ‘can we please have pesto added back to the pasta line?’ That’s not an unreasonable request, so you’re going to see pesto added back to the pasta line,” Seitz said.

Another improvement Seitz noted was the chicken that is available every day. After hearing bad reviews of the chargrilled chicken last year, the staff changed the standard process to sear the chicken instead of grilling it to retain more of the chicken’s moisture. The improvements, Seitz said, is already evident in numbers.

“We used to go through between 400 or 500 pieces of chicken per meal for lunch and dinner. We’re actually upwards now to 1100 to 1200 pieces per meal.”

Lingering complaints along with positive reviews

Junior Emily Kirk, who mainly eats at NDH, said the dining hall experience compared to years past has been overall better, but that she still believes there’s improvements to be made, such as long lines.

“I’ve had friends who like wait an hour in that line,” Kirk said of the stir-fry line at the dining hall. “Most people don’t have time to do that. So, although it is a good option for food, it’s not always a practical one.”

Kirk said she also felt the salad offerings were not adequate.

“I like to get like a salad as like a backup option, but I feel like the salads are not that fresh,” she said.

Polking said, though he was happy with the overall dining experience, he has also experienced long lines.

“The lines are really long,” he said. “I don’t really know how you fix that, but at dinner last night, I waited for like 20 minutes just to get pasta.”

Despite this, Polking said he was not bothered by the overall dining hall experience compared to last year.

“I’m happy with it,” Polking said. “I don’t really have too many complaints.”

Sophomore Lucy Ordway, however, felt as though the dining hall experience has improved significantly from her first year.

“I think that the selection is better, and I also think that the quality of the food is better,” she said. “Tonight, at dinner, they had a much wider variety of vegetables and things that felt like I was eating healthier.”

Liam Price

Contact Liam at lprice3@nd.edu