The long anticipated and newly restored De La Guerra (DLG) dining commons is luring a large number of students away from neighboring dining facilities, generating long lines at the facility and empty chairs at the Ortega amenities.
DLG, located across from San Nicolas residence hall, opened again this September after two years of construction for seismic retrofitting and interior redesign. Though DLG has a capacity of 500 people and Ortega only 450, DLG has been consistently more crowded. Director of Residential Dining Services Judy Edner said between 1,300 and 1,500 students eat at DLG for lunch and dinner daily, while only 200 to 400 eat at Ortega, which is only a two-minute walk away. Since DLG reopened, the university is able to offer four different eateries to students, including the Ortega and Carrillo dining commons as well as the newly available facilities at Francisco Torres residence hall. Unlike in previous years, students are no longer limited to eating in a particular dining hall.
Despite the discrepancy in attendance between Ortega and DLG, Edner said there is no desire to reinstate the old policy in which students were assigned to a specific dining common.
“The only reason we did that was because one facility was closed and we didn’t feel like students would evenly divide themselves,” she said. “Now that all four facilities are open, we no longer have any reason that students can’t make their own choices.”
Edner also said that although fewer students go to Ortega compared to DLG a day, the number of students going to Ortega is increasing every day. She said the four dining commons open this year allow students to choose their preferred facility.
“There is plenty of access to all the facilities, so students can eat anywhere at any time,” Edner said. “There are more options for students than ever before.”
The number of students in each dining common varies from day to day, Edner said. Since DLG is not open for breakfast, more students attend Ortega in the morning, she said. Students cannot, however, eat at Ortega on weekends and DLG is the only dining common with late night dining.
Students use DLG more often out of habit, Edner said.
“Initially students didn’t find Ortega because it wasn’t open on the weekend of move-in,” she said. “So they got in the habit of going to DLG.”
Alex Flores, a first year psychology major, said the discrepancy in food quality accounts for the difference in attendance. Flores said he walks by the dining commons every day for lunch, often seeing Ortega empty and DLG with a long line, despite DLG’s farther distance from campus.
“The lines are always longer at DLG because the food at Ortega sucks,” he said.
However, first year law and society major Sara Rosenblit said she often goes to Ortega for lunch.
“I don’t have enough time in between my classes to wait in line at DLG, so I have to go to Ortega,” she said.
Contrary to the numbers, Resident Assistant of San Miguel residence hall David Landes said many students consider Ortega the superior dining common.
“A lot of my residents are devoted Ortegians,” Landes said. “Ortega generally has a better atmosphere; it’s quieter. The circular table yields much better social dynamics and interaction. … The experience of eating in DLG is like being in an ant colony that has just been blown on.”
Edner said even though more students seem to prefer DLG, Ortega offers some meal choices that DLG cannot.
“I would love for more students to come to Ortega,” she said. “It’s quiet and has more personalized items that are cooked to order [such as] cookies and sushi. Ortega is also the only dining facility that offers a takeout menu.”
First year Germanic and Slavic Studies major Eric Hedlund said he preferred Ortega and believed it had greater food variety.
“[Some students] are going to say there’s more selection at DLG,” Hedlund said. “But really, there’s more selection of crap.”
Landes said variety is an important component of how he chooses where to eat.
“I really like that there’s consistency [at DLG],” he said. “There’s always pizza, there’s always Mexican food. However, Ortega has a superior cereal selection. Where DLG has four [cereal options] Ortega has eight. It’s a two to one ratio of cereal variety… and that’s important coming from a person who eats cereal three times a day.”
Edner said she encourages students to vary the dining commons they utilize.
“Students should mix it up and try different facilities,” she said. “On-campus students should even go check out Francisco Torres. That way the food can stay interesting.”