About The Gazette Search Back Issues Contact Us    
The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 2, 2003 | Vol. 33 No. 1
Bold Makeover Transforms Levering Dining Facility

Students, staff and faculty flocked to the new Levering Food Court as soon as it opened for previews last week.

"In the coming months and years, we are going to put tremendous resources into improving the dining experience here ... and this is step one."

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Whether chomping on a freshly made calzone, digging into an overstuffed burrito or sipping a cup of coffee underneath an Andy Warhol print, one thing quickly becomes abundantly clear: The dining experience at Levering will never be the same again.

Sporting a new Manhattan-chic look, the eatery formerly known as the Marketplace at Levering is now the Levering Food Court.

What's new? In short, everything. This Homewood dining facility has undergone a complete and radical metamorphosis. In just 10 weeks, the location has gone from a 1970s-style generic-looking cafeteria into a dynamic, colorful, hip, mega sound system-equipped joint. Not only has the space been gutted, however; so has the menu, which now features a streamlined array of freshly made edibles.

The transformed food court, whose grand opening is this week, is part of a larger effort to update and upgrade the dining experience on the Homewood campus, in terms of both physical appearance and food quality.

Susan Boswell, dean of student life, said that Homewood dining was in sore need of an image makeover.

"Food options and the appearance and character of the dining halls have been an issue that students have voiced a lot of concern about over the years. They thought both could and should be better," Boswell said. "The new Levering Food Court is part of a real, concentrated effort on food. In the coming months and years, we are going to put tremendous resources into improving the dining experience here at Johns Hopkins, and this is step one."

The Levering dining hall had undergone a number of small alterations in the past, Boswell said, but the basic look and feel had remained relatively unchanged. This time around, she said, the rallying cry was, Let's go for it.

"We wanted to do something bold in terms of design," she said, "so that when people walk in, they simply say, 'Wow.' "

If there is one prevailing theme to the Levering Food Court, it's color--and lots of it. Nearly every shade of the spectrum is represented, from sage green-painted columns and blue-tinted sconces to electric purple seats and multicolored floors and hanging lights.

The space, which was designed by New Jersey-based Rocco Mariannni and Associates, also features a myriad of seating options, including diner-style booths, movable tables and chairs, bar-style stools and counters and cozy couches and chairs.

The walls are adorned with framed prints of works by da Vinci, Matisse, Picasso, Warhol and other famous artists.

H. Carol Mohr, senior director of Housing and Dining Services, said the goal was to create an environment where students, staff and faculty would want to gather.

"We really wanted to update this space. People felt it was very outdated both in terms of how you moved around it and what was available," she said. "We hope this place now becomes a destination, not just for lunch but [as] a place that people will want to spend some time in between classes and perhaps after work."

The Levering Food Court features four main retail food stations--nationwide brands of Sodexho, the university's dining-service provider--each of which has a signature appearance, right down to the uniforms of the staff behind the counter.

The stations are:

Pete's Arena — Italian specialties like traditional pizza, pasta, strombolis, salads and sandwiches.

Salsa Rico — Baja-style Mexican food including one-pound burritos, taco salads, quesadillas and daily made salsa.

Sky Ranch Grill — a place for grilled-to-order burgers and chicken, portabello and steak and cheese sandwiches.

Sub Connection — made-to-order subs with garden fresh toppings, meats and cheeses.

There is also a grab-and-go station, which has prepared foods ranging from tuna fish sandwiches to sushi.

Hours of operation have been expanded to provide service through dinner on weekdays and during the midday hours on weekends. Beginning today, Sept. 2, the facility will open on weekdays at 7:30 a.m. and offer breakfast at the Sky Ranch Grill and grab-and-go station. From 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. all four food venues will be open. Each evening, the grab-and-go station and one of the four stations will remain open until 8 p.m. Saturday hours are 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Sunday's, noon to 2:30 p.m.

In addition to the renovated dining hall, a coffee bar called Jazzman's Cafe will open in Levering's lobby later this semester. Jazzman's will offer specialty coffees, teas, smoothies and some food items, including baked goods, panini sandwiches and soup.

Now that the Levering Food Court is complete, up next is the renovation of the Terrace Court Cafe in the AMRs complex, which Mohr said the university is hoping to complete during the intersession break. Like Levering, the Terrace Court Cafe will be given a new dynamic interior and revamped food selection.

"And then after that we will address Wolman Station," said Mohr, in reference to the dining facility located in Wolman Hall, which sits on the corner of North Charles and 34th streets. "What we are focused on now is updating and upgrading all of our dining facilities and resident hall dining programs. We plan to continue this process over the next year and a half."

Mohr said that she hopes the Johns Hopkins community likes both what they see and eat.

"Over the past two years we have elicted a tremendous amount of feedback from students and staff. We heard the complaints. We really wanted to turn that around and become one of the institutions where people say, 'Wow. The food is really good here.' "


The Gazette | The Johns Hopkins University | Suite 100 | 3003 N. Charles St. | Baltimore, MD 21218 | 410-516-8514 |