Students express frustration with lack of Science Drive food options

After sitting through a complicated, hour-long lecture on mechatronics in Teer Hall, what’s the one thing all students want? Food. 

Unfortunately, Blue Express’s closing last spring has left those who frequent the Engineering Quad hungry for more options. Since the Mediterranean eatery in the Levine Science Research Center shut its doors in May, the only vendor in the area is Twinnie’s, which many complain has long lines during class changes. 

“I really think they should open up some other consistent food options since I know a lot of engineers and science majors and pre-meds struggle with not having time between classes to run and get something to eat,” junior Francia Fang said. 

She noted that since most of her classes are in the Levine Science Research Center, not having Blue Express is inconvenient and forces her to make time to walk up to either Twinnie’s or West Union during her already busy schedule. 

Junior Hailey Prevett said that the line at Twinnie’s is frequently out the door between the peak lunch hours of 11:45 a.m. and 1:25 p.m. She added that although she likes the sandwiches at Twinnie’s, she grows tired of eating them day after day. 

“They don't have the manpower nor the food options to accommodate the volume of people that eat there during that time,” Prevett said. 

As a result, she often turns to the Divinity Cafe, which has limited options especially for those following vegan diets. Junior Audrey Ellis also said the Divinity Cafe has become her replacement for Blue Express.

Sophomore Rachael Lau said that she has also faced difficulties getting food from Twinnie's in between classes. She noted that when she has classes on the Engineering Quad, she often has to pack her lunch or go without eating since the line at the eatery is so long. 

"This is no fault of Twinnie's," she said. "It just happens that Twinnie's doesn't have the infrastructure to support the needs of the entire E-Quad as the only dining option between classes."

Robert Coffey, director of dining services, wrote in an email that Twinnie’s has seen a “modest increase” in business this year as a result of Blue Express's closing. Fares Hanna—former owner of Blue Express and current owner of Twinnie’s, The Farmstead and Sprout—is incorporating some favorite dishes from Blue Express into the Twinnie’s rotation, Coffey noted. These include chicken cordon bleu, chicken and pasta in cream sauce, shepherd’s pie, curry chicken, spanakopita and gyros. 

In addition, Duke Dining is piloting the Qspresso food truck near Environmental Hall. This Cuban-themed truck offers options like empanadas, quesadillas and yucca fries. 

“Duke Dining is working with the Duke community in that area to make decisions on other possible truck rotations from the Duke Dining truck lineup,” he wrote. 

The truck may not have made a significant impact on campus yet—Fang and Ellis said they haven’t noticed it. 

Senior Julia Medine, chair of Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee, explained that Duke Dining is waiting to hear sales results and student feedback on the new truck before making decisions going forward. However, she thought it had been doing well so far. 

Blue Express’s closing was disappointing for many students, she said. She explained that DUSDAC and Duke Dining were also sad to see it go, as the decision was not a choice either of the entities made. In May, she told The Chronicle that Duke Dining was consulted about the decision but never would have chosen to close the eatery. 

“Blue Express was not only spacious and convenient but also pretty reasonably priced, and I think that even more than students, it was an important staple for a lot of faculty and graduate students,” Medine said. 

She noted that designing food options is difficult because of restrictions like space and fire lane regulations, so building a new eatery is often harder than it may seem. There will always be competition over space in buildings, especially between academic and nonacademic stakeholders. 

DUSDAC welcomes comments from students about Qspresso as well as ideas they have to improve the Engineering Quad’s food options, she said. 

Pawel Charasz, a Ph.D. candidate in political science, noted that he would like to see more choices for food on campus in general. He said he liked Blue Express because its hot meals changed every day and their prices were cheaper than comparable options in West Union. 

"My general feeling is that having geographic diversity of options on campus is a good thing, and it leads to a more diverse of offering of the merchants,” he said. 


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