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DUSDAC tours West Union, sees construction progress

The full West Union is expected to open this summer

Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee toured the West Union and viewed the spaces for the 13 new eateries in its final meeting of the year Monday night. 

The West Union—slated to have a full opening July 1—will provide students with a variety of new dining options in a space that combines Gothic architecture with modern fixtures, such as glass spaces and skylights. As previewed at “Taste of West Union” events throughout the year, Enzo’s, Sitar Indian Palace, Saladelia, Three Seasoning Catering, Sushinara and Campus Coffee of Durham are the vendors that will be operating the venues in the West Union. Au Bon Pain will also be moving to the West Union from the Bryan Center. 

“This will be a wonderful social space, study space and also dining with the 13 new venues,” said Robert Coffey, director of dining services.

Much of the original structures from the 1920s were preserved and have been interwoven with glass spaces in order to provide a sense of airiness and natural light, explained Will Senner, Pratt ’06 and project manager for Skanska USA Building, the company renovating the West Union. 

The Great Hall’s original wood wainscoting has been preserved and the plaster surface above is currently being “worked on,” Senner said. The woodwork of the Cambridge Inn, which formerly housed Alpine Bagels, has also been maintained. An 18-inch-thick structural masonry wall that once supported the roof has been replaced with steel frames to create open rectangular cutouts that promote connectivity between spaces and increased light.

“I think that the main thing that campus has been lacking lately is a place where students can convene in a relaxed environment, and I think West Union will definitely help create that,” said junior Nicole Kozlak, a member of DUSDAC. 

During the tour, Senner also highlighted a two-story streetscape and six steel glass bridges that join the core and perimeter spaces to add vibrancy.

“The walking surface on the bridges are all glass planks with an opaque coating to them,” Senner said. “It is a really sleek, clean, modern look. As the stair continues up from the second floor up to the mezzanine level, that will have the glass floor treads as well there.”

Kozlak also added that DUSDAC members were told that construction is scheduled to finish on time. 

Devil’s Krafthouse, operated by Geer Street Garden, was the first venue in the West Union to open Feb. 29. The pub is located on the ground floor and has been open to students while construction work has continued on the rest of the building. 

Au Bon Pain will be the final space to be finished in the building and is slated to open by Orientation Week. 

Several new venues, featuring restaurant-style equipment and a range of offerings, will be housed in the West Union. The use of new technology, such as iPad ordering, will allow for better service and lower wait times, Coffey explained.

Sushinara will operate Ginger + Soy—which will serve East and Southeast Asian cuisine—and Gyotaku, which will offer sushi. Il Forno, operated by Enzo’s, will be located in the interior of West Union and will serve hand-crafted pizza and Italian dishes. 

A series of American, home-grown dining options, including the Farmstead and Sprout, will also be available. Both are operated by Three Seasoning Catering, headed by Fares Hanna—the owner of Twinnies and Blue Express. 

The Skillet will provide Southern comfort food, and JB’s Roasts & Chops will offer finely cooked meats. Both are operated by Campus Coffee of Durham, which is run by Sam Clowney and Chris Holloway—the same partnership that runs Café de Novo in the Law School, Bella Union and Café Edens. The Café, operated by Saladelia, has been designed as a quick stop for coffee or pastries. 

One new, unique feature of the West Union is the The Chef’s Kitchen—a “pop-up restaurant,” which Coffey noted will be a versatile space that will allow students try out new foods and experiment with an array of options in addition to attending culinary classes or showcases.

The old Faculty Commons will be transformed into The Commons Dining Room, which will be a student-oriented space open for dining and private events. 

“It will have the upscale buffet lunch and then seated, wait-service dining,” Senner said. “It has the fancy Ruth’s Chris broiler.”

Rachel Chason contributed reporting.


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