Still fresh after all these years
James Gallagher for TRW

Still fresh after all these years

A brief history of True Grit’s

Andrew Mayn

Contributing Writer

amayn1@umbc.edu

True Grit’s has undergone drastic changes to become what it is today. The dining hall of old would be unrecognizable to most current students.

The clatter of forks and knives, the indistinct babble of a dozen simultaneous conversations, the hiss of the soda fountain — dinner at True Grit’s is in full swing. Students steadily stream through each entrance and add their bodies to the frenzy at the center of the cafeteria, before breaking up neatly into lines at each dinner station. As they wait, they slap the warm plates against their palms, shift from side to side and stare hungrily at whatever is steaming under the bright lights ahead.

With empty stomachs and a full day of studying behind them it’s no wonder that the students are focused on pizza, chicken parmesan, cookies and anything else on the menu. However, with so much attention on the food itself there is less to spare on the facility that serves it.

The dining hall of the past was a very different place. “It looked like an everyday elementary school cafeteria,” said Miss Valerie Mack, an employee who has worked to keep the dining hall running since 1991. “It was very plain.”

Mack has seen many changes over the years, including the renovation in 2001 that helped make the dining hall into the True Grits we know today.

In the past, a student wanting to enter the dining hall from the Potomac entrance would have had to walk through a brick wall first. The entrance to Outtakes — and Outtakes itself — was not there. Instead, a student could walk through the pair of double doors near the current entrance to pick up food at the Grab and Go.

At the Grab and Go, formerly located where the Kosher Korner is now, students could call ahead to have a brown-bag salad or sandwich prepared in advance. Additionally, the Grab and Go sold candy in bulk (think Candy Kitchen), and, yes, that included gum. According to Mack, the candy was first-rate. “I don’t like gummy candy,” she said, “but I would eat that!”

In the dining hall of old, hamburgers, veggie burgers and hotdogs were an evening staple. Pizza was, like now, available every night, but back then students did not have the luxury of a full pizza bar.

The layout of the building was quite different as well. A serving line used to wrap around the area where there is now a soda fountain, silverware and the sandwich station. Because there wasn’t quite as much room, this line handled everything: hot food, desserts and trays. Prior to the opening of the Skylight Lounge, the faculty and staff eating area took up a portion of the building.

Not every change over the years has gone entirely as expected, though. One chef explained that after new lights were installed on the dessert side of True Grit’s the staff did a walk through and were a bit disappointed, to say the least. “They looked up and said, ‘Whoa, these are ugly.’”

However, the students who sit beneath them every night don’t seem to mind. More important is the quality food, the quality atmosphere and the soft hum of the frozen yogurt machine, and these, it seems, aren’t changing any time soon.